Timeline: A History Of Spring Training Spring training has evolved from occasional trips south that were expensive for both teams and their players into a multimillion-dollar business that includes two leagues. Today, 30 major league teams train in either Florida or Arizona in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
NPR logo Timeline: A History Of Spring Training

Timeline: A History Of Spring Training

Timeline: History Of Spring Training

In its early days, spring training was nothing like the operation it is today. Few teams could afford the travel and boarding expenses of taking players south. And the perception of baseball players, who were largely from the North and Midwest, was often tainted with bitterness from the Civil War. Eventually, spring training became recognized as an excellent method of ensuring pennant titles and league champions. Today, 30 major league teams train in either Florida or Arizona in multimillion-dollar complexes.


Spring Training Begins

William Marcy "Boss" Tweed, head of New York's corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, sends the New York Mutuals, an amateur team, to New Orleans for spring training.

This is one of the first reported instances of a baseball team's traveling south to train.


First Pro Team Begins Spring Training

The Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball franchise, train in New Orleans and play the first few games of the season throughout the South.


Cap Anson

Cap Anson, player/manager for the Chicago White Stockings, brings his team to Hot Springs, Ark., for spring training. Anson is the first to publicize spring training by bringing a newspaper reporter with the team. And, unlike teams that previously trained in the South, the White Stockings go on to win two championships.

Anson, one of America's most prolific public figures during the 19th century, also has a strong influence on baseball's racial segregation.


The Grapefruit League Sprouts

The Washington Senators are the first team to hold spring training in Florida. When the team arrives in Jacksonville, several hotels turn the players away because of their reputation for bad behavior.

Throughout the South, the divisive wounds of the Civil War also color the perceptions of the baseball players, who are largely from the Northeast and Midwest.


Spring Training Gets A Makeover

Ned Hanlon, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, redefines spring training. Hanlon brings his team to Macon, Ga., where he drills the team for eight hours a day for eight weeks. The team goes on to win the pennant in 1894 and the following two years.


Pomp And Circumstance

Spring training becomes more ceremonial when the New York Giants hold their training sessions in Memphis, Tenn. Baseball legend and Giants manager John McGraw has his players driven to the practice field in horse-drawn carriages. The horses are draped in blankets with "World Champions" emblazoned on them.


More Teams Arrive In Florida

The Chicago Cubs train in Tampa, Fla., after that city's mayor, D.B. McKay, promises to cover the team's expenses.



Al Lang, a Pittsburgh businessman who moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., for health reasons, persuades the St. Louis Browns to train in St. Petersburg. To get the Browns to commit, Lang reportedly promises to pay all of the team's expenses.

For the Browns, Lang creates Sunshine Park. It's credited as the "first all-purpose training camp," according to Raymond Arsenault in his book "Spring Training Baseball in Florida – Our Roots Run Deep."


Sunshine Park Breeds Champions

When the St. Louis Browns don't return to St. Petersburg, Lang persuades the Philadelphia Phillies to train at Sunshine Park. The Phillies go on to win the National League pennant that year, bringing much fame to Lang's operation.


A New Park In St. Petersburg

Lang helps the city of St. Petersburg secure a 99-year lease on a piece of waterfront property that will serve as a spring training site for 85 years. Waterfront Park opens the next year and becomes the springtime home to the Boston Braves.


Babe Ruth In St. Petersburg

Lang persuades the New York Yankees to train in St. Petersburg, and Florida's Grapefruit League grows to nine teams.

The Yankees' owner, Jake Ruppert, decides to move the team's spring training to Florida from New Orleans in an effort to avoid the distractions of Bourbon Street, especially for Babe Ruth.


A Shift To Arizona

Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians, brings his team west, to Arizona instead of Florida, for spring training.

Veeck, who has recently signed Larry Doby (right) as the first black player in the American League, believes the racial atmosphere in Arizona is more accepting of black players. Veeck also persuades the owner of the New York Giants to practice in Arizona that year.


Yankees In Arizona

The New York Yankees swap training sites with the New York Giants, so Yankees co-owner Del Webb can keep an eye on his team and his real estate in Arizona.

This is Joe DiMaggio's final spring training and Mickey Mantle's first.


The Cactus League Is Born

The Baltimore Orioles start training in Yuma, Ariz., and the Cactus League is officially formed.

At season's end, the Indians and Giants meet in the first-ever "Cactus League World Series," which the Giants win in four straight games.


Cactus League Continues To Grow

The Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers broker a deal to share a training facility in Surprise, Ariz., which brings the Cactus League up to 12 teams.


Florida Versus Arizona

Today — after much shifting around — the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues each have 15 major league teams training in either Central Florida or Arizona, respectively.