Baseball's Dodgers Say So Long to Dodgertown For 61 years, Vero Beach, Fla., has been the spring home of baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers. It was the place where Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges and Sandy Koufax trained. But an era is ending as the team moves its spring training site to Arizona.
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Baseball's Dodgers Say So Long to Dodgertown

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Baseball's Dodgers Say So Long to Dodgertown

Baseball's Dodgers Say So Long to Dodgertown

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN: A few steps away a gaggle of Dodger fans are watching. There are kids with gloves and fans who've been coming here for 20 years or more - people like Maryann Schein.

MARYANN SCHEIN: My biggest memories here, my best favorites are anytime Sandy Koufax appears and watching Maury Wills teach bunting. It's never time to let go of history and nostalgia.

ALLEN: Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda remembers his first year here as a minor league pitcher - staying in an old military barracks where players slept six to a room. Lasorda's not happy about the move, but says owner Frank McCourt felt he had to do it for the Dodgers' California fans.

TOMMY LASORDA: It's tough for a fan to come from L.A. to Vero Beach, but to go from L.A. to Phoenix, Arizona - four hours in a car - and we're going to have a lot of our fans come over there.

ALLEN: But what do you lose? What do you give up when you leave this place?

LASORDA: Tradition, development. You couldn't find a better place to develop players than here.

ALLEN: In its heyday, there might be 600 players here from the Dodgers' many farm clubs playing alongside the Major League team.

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ALLEN: Back then, because of segregation, Wills says it was difficult for black players to find a place in Vero Beach where they could get a haircut.

MAURY WILLS: I just got tired of what I had to go through. So I had my roommate, John Roseboro, just take a pair of electric shears and just skin my head, so that way I wouldn't have to worry about where I couldn't go to get a haircut. That year I stole 104 bases - so I had it shaved every year after that.

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ALLEN: Those friendships will be the part of Dodgertown that will be hardest to replace. It's not unusual to run into fans in Vero Beach who've keen spending their springs here for decades. But none beat 67-year-old Bob Scholl, better known here as Dodger Bob.

BOB SCHOLL: I've been coming here since 1964, and I haven't missed a spring training game since.

ALLEN: He spent his honeymoon here, has gotten to know all of the players and staff. But even he concedes it's probably time the Dodgers left Florida for Arizona.

SCHOLL: It breaks my heart, but it certainly makes sense. It's closer, too, for bringing kids up to minor league affiliates. Everything are close. Plus all the teams in the Western Division are out there.

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ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BALL BEING HIT)

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

INSKEEP: And you can find more history of the Dodgers and Dodgertown at npr.org.

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