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1961

February 21, 1961

The first Dodger minor league player to ever win a gold medal in the Olympics is in camp. Jay Arnette, an outfielder, played guard for the University of Texas basketball team and was selected on the 1960 U.S. Olympic basketball team. He played in the Dodger minor league system from 1961 to 1964, rising as high as Double-A with Albuquerque in 1963. He scored 23 points in the eight game Olympic tournament as the USA defeated Italy in the gold medal game, 112-81. Arnette's teammates on the 1960 USA gold medal basketball team included Basketball Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, and Jerry West. He would leave baseball and play two full seasons (1963-64 and 1964-65) and three games of the 1965-66 season with the Cincinnati Royals.

February 21, 1961

John Roseboro was not on the initial flight to take the Dodgers from Los Angeles to Vero Beach, Florida for Spring Training. Roseboro's wife Jeri gave birth to Roseboro's second daughter. The catcher sent a telegram to Vice President Buzzie Bavasi that read, "Have daughter, will travel-when possible." 1

February 21, 1961

James Wong Howe, a two-time Academy Award cinematographer, is in Dodgertown, Vero Beach, to work on a documentary entitled "Biography of a Rookie." The film was to showcase a baseball rookie's Spring Training in the attempt to make the major league club and the subject was Dodger center fielder Willie Davis. The documentary was to be directed by Mel Stuart, who would later direct "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."  2

February 22, 1961

The Yomiuri Giants baseball team from Tokyo, Japan is expected to be the first passengers on the Los Angeles Dodgers' DC-6B plane purchased from Western Airlines. The Convair 440 airplane, formerly the Dodgers' plane, had been sold to an agency in Spain. The plane, modern for its time, would have an automatic pilot and be equipped with radar. 3

February 23, 1961

Frank Finch of the Los Angeles Times writes how differently the history of baseball would have been changed except for events in March, 1959. The Dodgers had assigned Maury Wills on a conditional basis to the Detroit Tigers. If Wills made the Tiger squad, the Tigers would pay $31,500 to go along with the $3,500 they had paid the Dodgers for the review of Maury. Maury Wills hit .478 in spring training for Detroit, but they returned him to the Dodgers. Wills would later join the Dodger club during the 1959 season and lead them to a World Championship that season and then to World Championships in 1963 and 1965. 4

February 23, 1961

Walter O'Malley explains the contributions of the Dodgers to the City of Vero Beach regarding a dispute of the 21-year lease signed by the team in 1955. O'Malley reminded the city, "In the 14 years we have been operating Dodgertown we have spent three million dollars on maintenance, supplies and salaries of local employees. In that time we have taken in $122,000 in gate receipts." 5

February 25, 1961

The newest gadget in baseball instruction is demonstrated at Dodgertown. A pitching machine known as "Fireball" is displayed. The machine can throw a vast repertoire of pitches as curve, screwball and sinker. The device can be arranged to throw from the left side or the right side of the pitching rubber. The Dodgers used the machine to play intrasquad games before the pitchers were ready to pitch in a game. Bunts were not permitted in the game and one or two extra outfielders were permitted. The machine pitched a shutout 1-0 and was the winning pitcher and the losing pitcher. 6 The device helped the Dodgers play a seven inning intrasquad game in 35 minutes and a nine inning game in 52 minutes.  7

February 28, 1961

The Yomiuri Giants arrive today in Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida on the maiden flight of the Los Angeles Dodgers new DC-6B plan. Also on the flight is future Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider who had remained in Los Angeles to continue treatment of an injury. 8 As the plane landed, the doors were kept closed for a just a few moments so the Dodger plane could be christened "Dearie" by Mrs. Marie "Dearie" Mulvey, a Dodger stockholder. 9

March 5, 1961

New Dodger coach Leo Durocher had won three consecutive intrasquad games, so Dodger Manager Walter Alston and Vice President Buzzie Bavasi decided to end the winning streak. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Durocher's team was the visitors and the game was scoreless. Bavasi told Alston that if the home team scored in the bottom of the sixth inning to end the game at that moment, ensuring Durocher's defeat. As Durocher's opposition then scored a run in the bottom of the inning, Alston ended the game. Durocher said, "It's a Bavasi plot and I could smell it a mile away." 10

March 7, 1961

The "Leo Durochers" defeated the "Clay Bryants" in a Dodger intrasquad game, 9-4 as the two Dodger coaches ran their clubs. The starting pitcher for the Bryants was Ritsuo Horimoto, a 29-game winner in 364.2 innings for the Yomiuri Giants in 1960. Horimoto pitched two scoreless innings. Another Yomiuri Giant pitcher, Sho Horiuchi, pitched three innings for the "Bryants", allowing three runs. Horiuchi made his second visit to Dodgertown after previously visiting as an invited guest for Spring Training in 1957. 11

March 9, 1961

The final intrasquad game played by Dodger personnel was called off after playing six innings because of high winds. The wind affected play so badly that there were 16 walks and 11 stolen bases in the six innings. First baseman Gil Hodges was a catcher in the game and threw out two base stealers. 12

March 10, 1961

The Yomiuri Giants defeated a team of Dodger minor league players, 4-0 in a game at Holman Stadium. 13

March 11, 1961

The first exhibition game of the Dodgers' season in Vero Beach was highlighted by the playing of the Japanese and American national anthems during pre-game ceremonies. Famous sportswriter Sotaro Suzuki, accompanying the Giants to Dodgertown, threw the first ball. The Giants won the game 1-0 defeating the Dodgers minor league Spokane Triple-A team in a five inning preliminary game before the Dodgers' exhibition game against the Kansas City Athletics. Walter O'Malley had the recording of the National Anthem of Japan purchased from a Los Angeles record shop. 14

March 15, 1961

Football Hall of Famer Harold (Red) Grange is present at Holman Stadium as the Milwaukee Braves defeat the Dodgers in 11 innings, 4-3. 15

March 15, 1961

The Dodgers presented two documents to the City of Vero Beach showing their lease for the property of Dodgertown had been approved by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (forerunner of the Federal Aviation Administration) in 1955.

March 16, 1961

The Dodgers have a new brother pitcher-catcher battery in camp. Already on the major league club are pitcher Larry Sherry and his brother, catcher Norm Sherry. The team has added bonus right hand pitcher Joe Moeller and his brother, catcher Gary Moeller. 16

March 17, 1961

Gil Hodges is in the starting lineup as catcher for the first time since the 1948 season. Manager Walter Alston wanted to create more flexibility for the 1961 season and the team could save a roster spot if Hodges could be used as the third catcher. Hodges threw out Detroit Tiger outfielder Al Kaline trying to steal second, but Hodges had to be removed from the game in the second inning after being struck on the side by a pickoff throw when he was a base runner. 17

March 17, 1961

LIFE magazine in this issue writes of the Yomiuri Giants' Spring Training visit to Dodgertown. "An entire Japanese baseball team disembarked at the Vero Beach, Florida training camp to prepare for the 1961 season. They were welcomed by a clubhouse man (John Griffin) in a long kimono….." The article contained photos of the Giant players running wind sprints and Maury Wills playing banjo while Giant catcher Shigero Fujio played a shakuhachi, or windpipe. 18

March 18, 1961

Sportswriter Sotaro Suzuki writes a column in the Los Angeles Examiner to express his appreciation for the invitation of the Yomiuri Giants to hold Spring Training in Dodgertown. "The magnificence of this 110-acre site was overwhelming," wrote Suzuki. "The scenic beauty of the camp was almost unbelievable." Suzuki saw the Brooklyn Dodgers play in the 1920 World Series and was present at Yankee Stadium when it opened in 1960. When Matsutaro Shoriki wanted to begin professional baseball in Japan, he turned to Suzuki to write the constitution that would form the Central and Pacific Leagues beginning in 1929. 19 Suzuki concludes his column by writing, "I think this is the great merit of baseball through which I am sure we will create better understanding and friendship between the two baseball-loving nations of the United States and Japan."  20

March 18, 1961

The City of Vero Beach notifies the Los Angeles Dodgers they will waive their notice of dispossession from the Dodgertown lease. The city had filed a notice to dispossess the Dodgers of their lease in Dodgertown on June 14th of the previous year. 21

March 20, 1961

The New York Yankees defeated the Dodgers, 11-8 in a game played at Holman Stadium. Dodger rookie Willie Davis hit an inside-the-park home run in the first inning, but a later home run by Mickey Mantle helped the Yankees win. 22 Among the visitors at Dodgertown that day are Yankee Hall of Fame player Joe DiMaggio, a special instructor for the Yankees, and Mrs. John McGraw, the widow of Hall of Fame manager John McGraw. 23 Also, Dodger Manager Walter Alston told his players they would be making more bus trips in Spring Training if they didn't improve their efforts to pick up after themselves on the Dodger plane. 24

March 22, 1961

In appreciation for the efforts of Dodger employees, Walter O'Malley announced at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida, the organization would establish a profit sharing fund. O'Malley told team personnel in a staff meeting that "I want you all to know that we are proud of the job you all have been doing. We think we have the finest organization in baseball." 25

March 22, 1961

To break up the routine of Spring Training, Walter O'Malley flew team personnel and guests to a day trip to Montego Bay in Jamaica. The trip was made in the Dodgers' new DC-6B plane and had a brief brush with the Cuban government. As the Dodger plane flew to Jamaica, it flew over a tip of the island of Cuba. Cuban aviation officials thought the plane was a commercial brand and questioned Bump Holman, the Dodger pilot, on the identification of the plane. Holman answered, "Los Angeles Baseball Club", and the question was re-asked. After six tries of his first answer, Holman thought quickly and said, "Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club." At this response, the word from Cuban aviation was, "Fine, go ahead." 26

March 23, 1961

It is a Dodger exhibition game that becomes the stuff of legends. Sandy Koufax pitches seven scoreless innings and does not allow a hit as the Twins rally to defeat the Dodgers, 5-4. The team had flown to Orlando for the game and was short on available pitchers when one expected relief pitcher missed the flight. Koufax loaded the bases on walks in the first inning and catcher Norm Sherry advised him to not to overthrow to improve his command and last longer in the game. The left-hander settled down and baseball experts credit that game as the moment when Sandy Koufax began to become the future Hall of Fame pitcher. 27

March 25, 1961

Walter O'Malley writes a telegram to Pierre Salinger, Press Secretary for President John F. Kennedy, to invite the President and his family and the White House press corps to attend a game at Dodgertown either on March 27 against St. Louis or on March 29 against the Chicago White Sox. O'Malley tells Salinger in the telegram, "Half hour away via our DC 6B (plane) can fly party of 66. No publicity this end. Sincere invitation for change of pace. After all, as his father knows, he almost became President of the Dodgers." The final sentence refers to an interest by Joseph Kennedy to purchase a controlling interest of Dodger stock in 1950 in order to place his son John in charge. 28

March 26, 1961

Dodger starter Johnny Podres pitched nine scoreless innings to shutout the Baltimore Orioles in a Spring Training game. It is thought to be the first complete game shutout in an exhibition by a Dodger pitcher since Carl Erskine in 1955. 29

March 29, 1961

Vice President Buzzie Bavasi talked of the value of the Dodgers' Spring Training in Vero Beach, Florida. "We've had all kinds of pressure on us to pull out of Florida and train in the West. They want us at Palm Springs, among other places-but we're going to stay in Vero Beach. We have too much invested to leave. In 14 years we've built a stadium, our other practice fields and kept up our quarters (which are the finest in baseball). We think we have the ideal spot, so why move?" 30

March 31, 1961

The Yomiuri Giants depart from Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida after being the Spring Training guests of the Dodgers. Sportswriter Sotaro Suzuki was quoted as saying, "Our training trip here has met with gratifying success. We are thankful to Walter O'Malley, to his organization, and to Los Angeles writers for their friendship and assistance." 31

March 31, 1961

The Rev. Billy Graham makes an appearance in Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Florida for a Good Friday service during his Florida crusades. 32 He is joined by a Crusade choir of locals numbering 400. 33

April 1, 1961

Matsutaro Shoriki, publisher of Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and owner of the Yomiuri Giants thanks Walter O'Malley for the invitation to have the Giants conduct Spring Training in Dodgertown. "Thank you deeply for the kindness extended the Yomiuri Giants' Baseball Club. Through the efforts and perseverance of you and your staff, the Yomiuri Giants Baseball Club now is a rejuvenated club, and I am sure, by learning 'The Dodgers' Way of Playing Baseball' at Vero Beach, the Giants will not only make a fast get away but will eventually capture the pennant; and while doing so, implant in the other Japanese teams, the American way of playing baseball." 34

April 9, 1961

"Biography of a Rookie," a documentary on the 1961 Spring Training season of Dodger rookie Willie Davis in his bid to make the major leagues was scheduled to be broadcast on this date. 35

April 12, 1961

Sandy Koufax pitched in the "getaway" game from Spring Training in Florida as the Dodgers defeated the Twins, 7-3. Koufax continued a string of 22 consecutive scoreless innings. Catcher Norm Sherry predicted, "Sandy will win 20 games this year." Sherry was not too far off as Koufax would win 18 games in 1961. Koufax noted where his improvement began. "It took me six years to get through my thick skull," said Koufax. "I'm not taking such a big windup. I'm throwing easier and I have more confidence now."  36

April 12, 1961

Bob Hunter writes a feature on Edward "Cowboy" Rogers, the Western Union operator at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Newspaper writers in 1961 filed their copy with Western Union personnel as the fastest and most reliable way to transmit their stories to the respective newspaper. Rogers told Hunter this spring was an all-time record for filing stories as Dodgertown was covered by Los Angeles and Tokyo sportswriters. The Tokyo writers were there to cover the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, invited to Dodgertown for Spring Training by Walter O'Malley. 37

1 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, February 21, 1961

2 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, February 21, 1961

3 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, February 22, 1961

4 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1961

5 ^ Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1961

6 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1961

7 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, February 28, 1961

8 ^ Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1961

9 ^ Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1961

10 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, March 5, 1961

11 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1961

12 ^ The Sporting News, March 22, 1961

13 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, March 10, 1961

14 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, March 22, 1961

15 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1961

16 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, March 16, 1961

17 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, March 18, 1961

18 ^ LIFE magazine, March 17, 1961

19 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, March 18, 1961

20 ^ Sotaro Suzuki, Los Angeles Examiner, March 18, 1961

21 ^ Los Angeles Examiner, March 18, 1961

22 ^ The Sporting News, March 29, 1961

23 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, March 20, 1961

24 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, March 20, 1961

25 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, March 22, 1961

26 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, March 22, 1961 

27 ^ The Sporting News, April 5, 1961

28 ^ Walteromalley.com, This Month in History, March 25, 1961

29 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, April 5, 1961

30 ^ Chester Smith, Pittsburgh Press, The Sporting News, March 29, 1961

31 ^ Bob Hunter, Los Angeles Examiner, March 31, 1961

32 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1961

33 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 30, 1961

34 ^ Matsutaro Shoriki Correspondence to Walter O'Malley, April 1, 1961

35 ^ Frank Finch, Los Angeles Times, February 21, 1961  

36 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, April 12, 1961

37 ^ Bob Hunter, The Sporting News, April 12, 1961   

For more on the history of the Dodgers Spring Training visit walteromalley.com