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Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues


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I'm pretty sure it is just so that teams don't have to fly across the country all the time. IIRC, Grapefruit league games are in Tampa, Florida, while Cactus league games are in Arizona.

From Springtrainingonline.com:

There is nothing as magical as spring training for a northern baseball fan: that sudden rush of warm air when departing from the three-hour airplane ride, the realization for the carbound that the snowline is firmly in the rear-view mirror and the outside temperature is fast approaching short-sleeve territory.

Spring training is almost as old as baseball itself. The best evidence points to spring training first taking place in 1870, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings held organized baseball camps in New Orleans. Other baseball historians argue that the Washington Capitals of the National League pioneered spring training in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville.

The specific origins really don't matter. By 1900, spring-training was firmly established as a baseball ritual, with most American and National League teams heading out of town so players could train and managers could evaluate. Small Florida and Arizona communities were suddenly known across the nation because of the allure provided by major-league baseball. St. Petersburg. Fort Lauderdale. Tucson. Sarasota. Bradenton.

The history of spring training can be broken into three distinct eras:

1986-1942: The Early Years

The origins of spring training are lost in the shadows, like most of early baseball history. On an 1886 barnstorming tour of the South the Chicago White Sox were said to stopped off at Hot Springs, Ark., to basically sober up before the start of the season. Spring training is almost as old as baseball itself. The best evidence points to spring training first taking place in 1870, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Chicago White Stockings held organized baseball camps in New Orleans. Other baseball historians argue that the Washington Capitals of the National League pioneered spring training in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville. In a well-documented argument for spring training, Gus Schmelz, when managing the Cincinnati Red Stockings of the original American Association in 1888, petitioned team owner Aaron Stern to allow the team to train down south. It was a unique proposition: the players and the team would split the costs of training, and the two would also share in any profits. Though it was pitched more as a barnstorming tour than as an intense training session, Stern gave approval to the plan on the basis of it being a cheap way to figure out what veterans were expendable and what youngsters were worth keeping.

Still, most teams did not view spring training as being an activity that warranted out-of-town travel until barnstorming became an integral part of the equation. Most teams trained locally (indoors when the elements did now allow outdoor training), as it was cheaper for owners. When teams did train on the road, they combined workouts with exhibition games; many of these tours ran through Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia, where the sight of a pro baseball players was still a novelty.

Spring training was not the big business back then as it is today. These were truly training camps designed to get players into playing shape. Typically most baseball players could not live year-round on their baseball salaries and took on other jobs that might or might not keep them in shape. Training camp was also a way to build team unity, though given the ornery temperaments of many ballplayers in this era, it's hard to argue that team unity was a huge factor.

By 1890 most teams were training on the road, although there were no organized spring-training leagues in the early days. Training camps were scattered in the South and the West, and teams spent as much time on the road returning home as they did in camp. A typical schedule would have players travelling between train stops at nights and playing games in the day. These games would be played against local colleges, semi-pro teams or another major-league team.

By 1910 spring training was a formalized institution, with most teams encamped east of the Mississippi. It was at this time the Grapefruit League became a formal league.

1943-1945: The War Years

During World War II baseball was firmly entrenched as the National Pastime, and team owners were very conscious of their responsibilities as national leaders while also recognizing the need to continue making money. At a time when most Americans were scaling back, using milk and gas rations and setting up Victory Gardens, baseball was arguably a luxury that a wartime national could not afford.

Baseball during this period was a series of compromises. Most minor leagues shut down. And while the major leagues kept playing -- with the personal approval of President Franklin Roosevelt, who let baseball continue under the grounds that it boosted homeland morale -- they did so under scaled-back circumstances. Baseball players were exempted from the draft, and many stars served their county in wartime.

One major compromise, worked out between Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Joseph B. Eastman, director of the federal Office of Defense Transportation, was that spring training would be held close to the teams' home bases, north of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and east of the Mississippi. (The Cardinals, the White Sox and the Cubs were limited to training Missouri, Indiana or Illinois.) During wartime the trains were crammed with supplies and troops, and in that context transporting baseball players and their fans seemed to be a frivolous use of precious resources.

This boundary -- known as the Landis-Eastman Line or the Potomac Line -- ensured that teams training close to their home basis. The New York Yankees ended up training in Asbury Park, N.J., while the Red Sox trained Tufts College in nearby Medford, Mass.

1946-present: Today's Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues Are Born

When Arizona interests lured the Giants and the Indians for spring training in 1947, spring training was a different beast in terms of economics and schedules. Teams had trained out West many times before World War II -- most notably the Chicago Cubs, who first trained in Santa Monica in 1905 and then trained on California's Catalina Island between 1922-1942 and again in 1950-1951 -- and it was not uncommon for teams to train in California and Arizona and then barnstorm their way back home.

The Cactus League became a reality in 1947, when Horace Stoneham's New York Giants and Bill Veeck's Cleveland Indians took up residence in Phoenix and Tucson, respectively. That Veeck ended up in Tucson wasn't a surprise -- he owned ranches in the Southwest and at the time owned a ranch near Tucson -- and Stoneham was a natural for Phoenix, as he developed business interests in the area.

By this time, spring training was a formalized institution. Teams realized that there was money to be made from spring training, and over the years many teams tried to combine some sort of real-estate development with spring training. Horace Stoneham ended up developing a luxury resort centered around the San Francisco Giants spring-training routines; most recently, the Kansas City Royals were lured into participating in the Boardwalk and Baseball theme park in central Florida: the Royals trained at Baseball City adjacent to a theme park with a turn-of-the-century baseball theme.

In recent years Arizona's Cactus League has made inroads in luring teams from Florida. Last season, for instance, both the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers shifted training facilities from Florida to Surprise, a suburb of Phoenix.

There has been some assaults on the Florida/Arizona spring-training setup: most recently Las Vegas officials wooed several teams in an attempt to lure four of them to train in Vegas. The efforts failed.

By the way, the Grapefruit League is not just played in Tampa, but in the following Florida cities: Fort Lauderdale (Orioles), Jupiter (Marlins/Cardinals), Port Saint Lucie (Mets), Vero Beach (Dodgers), Viera (Nationals), Kissimmee (Astros), Lake Buena Vista/Disney World (Braves), Lakeland (Tigers), Winter Haven (Indians), Tampa (Yankees), Dunedin (Blue Jays), Clearwater (Phillies), St. Petersburg (Devil Rays), Bradenton (Pirates), Sarasota (Reds), and Fort Myers (Twins/Red Sox)

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