This week pitchers and catchers are reporting to major league baseball spring training camps in Arizona and Florida. But Texas was once a very popular spot for spring training years ago.
From the time organized pre season workouts began in the 1890s teams had sought warmer weather climates than afforded to the teams based in the northeast and midwestwhich included all of them at the time.
As early as 1904 Major League Baseball found Texas. That spring the St. Louis Browns opened a camp in Corsicana, the St. Louis Cardinals gave Dallas a shot, the Chicago White Sox set up camp in Marlin Springs and the Cleveland Indians moved even further south to San Antonio. For the next 30 years someone would be training in Texas with an occasional foray into the state as late as 1941 when the Browns completed a five year stay in San Antonio. Only 1935 during the period between 1904 and 1941 saw Texas without a team in camp.
According to Baseball-Almanac.com no fewer than fourteen different major league clubs during the 16 team era trained at least once in Texas. Only the Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers never did. The Yankees were here only oncein Houston in 1914. The Red Sox (San Antonio, 1924), Phillies (New Braunfels, 1939) and Pirates (San Antonio, 1936) were other one time visitors.
Along with Corsicana, Dallas, San Antonio, Mineral Springs and Houston other cities to host big league teams included: Waxahachie, Galveston, Eagle Pass, Cisco, Mineral Wells, Seguin, Waco, St. Augustine, Palestine, Hot Wells, Brownsville, Orange and New Braunfels. Wichita Falls hosted two teams from the Federal League, Indianapolis in 1914 and Kansas City in 1915. Marshall hosted Kansas City in 1914.
Three major league clubs of note spent the most time in Texas. The New York Giants trained in Marlin Springs for eleven springs from 1908 through 1918 and had two stints in San Antonio from 1920 thru 1923 and again from 1929 thru 1931. Manager John McGraw loved the place. He was not a fan of Ty Cobb, though. When both the Tigers and Giants trained in San Antonio and were quartered in different hotels on Alamo Square they stayed apart. McGraw would not so much as play an exhibition game with Cobb's Detroit team.
Detroit was a semi regular in San Antonio. They trained there in 1909 and 1910 and again in 1921, 1927-28 and finally in 1933.
The three other clubs besides the Giants that spent the most training time in Texas were the St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox. While the Giants trained 17 yeas in Texas at two different citiesSan Antonio and Marlin Springsthe Browns visited seven cities in 17 years. They used Houston and San Antonio twice and also camped in Corsicana, Dallas, Waco and Palestine.
The White Sox trained in Texas for 15 seasons in seven different cities. Marlin Springs, Waxahachie, Seguin, Dallas, San Antonio, Mineral Wells and Waco. The latter two were used on two separate stints each.
The St. Louis Cardinals were also a frequent visitor. Fourteen springs were in Texas for camp with San Antonio on their list twice, but Houston having the most springs with four.
Through all of the Texas spring training years San Antonio was the most popular single city from most different teams using the facilities to most total years used.
Thirty-three spring training camps were held in the Alamo city from 1904 through 1941. No city rivaled Marlin Springs longevity with the Giants eleven straight years.
In the Texas days of spring training things were far different than today. Camps were used to get players in physical shape. Many did very little or no conditioning in the off season and would report to camp soft and well over weight. While hitters took batting practice and fielders took ground balls and fly balls and pitchers threw to get the kinks out of their arms, there was no organized exhibition game schedule.
It mattered little how close or how far the next nearest big league club was training. If the manager wanted some game competition he would either organize intra squad games or invite local amateur teams to play. The playing conditions were crude and ballparks hardly in the best shape.
Still, as spring training in the modern fan friendly facilities opens in Arizona and Florida it is good to remember for many years Texas played a major role in getting the big leaguers ready to play.