The Rites of Spring - Sports Illustrated Vault |
Publish date:

The Rites of Spring

In a lovely, lazy setting under the sun, ballplayers battle for jobs—and for pennants still to be won

In the spring of 1886 old Cap Anson took his Chicago White Stockings to Hot Springs, Ark., and Harry Wright sent his Phillies to Charleston, S.C. in order to toughen up the winter-softened muscles of their athletes in the heat of the southern sun. By so doing, they stole a march on the rest of baseball. In the years since, however, no ball club has been able to sneak off to spring training alone. Today the mass migration of more than 500 big-league ballplayers to 16 camps in Florida and Arizona has become an annual ritual almost as much a part of the game as the World Series itself.

For years spring training was often maligned as a place where healthy young men spent their days lazily throwing a baseball around against a tropical background of palm trees and blue lagoons and their off-duty hours in revelry at the beaches, golf courses, nightclubs and horse tracks. "Spring training camps," Frankie Frisch once said, "are country clubs without dues." Nowadays, however, spring training is an all-out effort to get ready for the season ahead. In more than six weeks of tough, daily workouts and in enough exhibition games to fill one-fifth of a regular schedule, veterans get in shape, rookies play above their heads to win jobs, and managers plot and plan and experiment to patch up the holes which everyone now knows existed the year before. "Pennants," Branch Rickey has said, "are won in the spring."

Perhaps no spot is more typical of baseball's rites of spring than the one on the opposite page: Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg. Here, where the Cardinals train and both the Cards and Yankees play their "home" games, are all of the elements: sun, sky, sea, grass, palm trees—and baseball.

Relaxed Brave Henry Aaron lets low ball go by as shirtsleeved crowd basks in sun at Al Lang Field.

Eager Yankees Enos Slaughter and Joe Collins hop out of a cab at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg after a short ride from their training camp.

Chagrined Reds hear lecture from Manager Tebbetts, who scoots over Tampa's Plant Field in golf cart.

Happy Cardinals rest in dugout during a game at St. Petersburg while Stan Musial grins boyishly at camera.

Pretty cowgirls and faraway mountains form enticing Arizona backdrop at Scottsdale Field as Oriole Manager Paul Richards lectures rookies.


Richard Meek; John G. Zimmerman; Arthur Daley