Feb. 28th in baseball history-SPRING BUSINESS

2017 | FLORIDA & ARIZONA – Spring training 2017 is in full swing. At one time it was mostly a Florida experience. It began when the Chicago Cubs moved their training from New Orleans to Tampa in 1913.

The St. Louis Browns moved to St. Petersburg in 1914. According to the Tampa Bay Rays, more spring training games have been played in St. Petersburg than any other city.

Jump ahead to 2017…

Half the major league teams now train in Arizona, mostly in the Phoenix area. Phoenix suburbs such as Glendale and Peoria have gone all-out to lure teams to “The Valley of the Sun.”

After training in Florida for decades, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers now call an elaborate state-of-the-art complex called Camelback Ranch home in the spring. It has fully equipped training, exercise, weight-room facilities for each team, in addition to 16 diamonds.

Contributing sources:
The Official Site of the City of St. Petersburg, Florida

Tampa Bay Rays

Feb 26 in baseball history-DO SPRING RECORDS MATTER?

2017 | ARIZONA & FLORIDA – Cactus and Grapefruit league games broke out all over Arizona and Florida this weekend. How predictable are spring won-loss records to the regular season?

As you can see below, some teams, like the Red Sox, Orioles and Mets, that were bottom-feeders in the Spring made the postseason.

The Cubs sucked in spring training, but won it all eight months later.

On the other hand, nobody had a better spring record than the Washington Nationals last year. The Nationals made the playoffs but lost the divisional series to the Dodgers.

The Dodgers didn’t have a great spring, but made it all the way to the League Championship Series before losing to the eventual World Series Champion, Cubs.

2016 PLAYOFF TEAMS (Spring Training record)
AL East – Boston (14-18)
AL Central – Cleveland (18-12)
AL West – Texas (17-15)
AL Wildcard – Toronto (17-8)
AL Wildcard – Baltimore (12-15)

NL East – Washington (19-4)
NL Central – Chicago (11-19)
NL West – Los Angeles (13-17)
NL Wildcard – San Francisco (13-20)
NL Wildcard – New York (8-17)

Feb 25th in baseball history-GETTING ALONG

1973 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Maybe major league baseball – players and owners – learned their lesson. There were eight work stoppages from 1972 to 1995, a span of 23 years, none since, a span of 22 years.

It could be because the last work stoppage, which started in 1994, almost destroyed the game. It wiped out the entire post season, including the World Series.

Players and owners alike knew fans were becoming disenchanted, or worse, indifferent, to the annual spring labor rituals.

There was good news on this date in 1973. The players’ union and team owners announced a new three-year agreement ending a lockout by the owners at the start of spring training. The ‘73 agreement instituted what has become as common as the hit & run – arbitration. After so many years in the league a player who couldn’t agree on a salary with his team could take the issue to arbitration.

Everyone was relieved with the ’73 agreement. Players and owners alike knew fans were becoming disenchanted, or worse, indifferent, to the annual spring labor rituals. Besides 1972 and 1973, there were work stoppages in 1980, 1981, 1985, 1990 and the devastating strike in 1994-95. Since 1995 – harmony. Knock on wood.

Contributing sources:
Herschel Nissenson, Associated Press (AP), The Gettysburg Times, February 26, 1973
“Pro Sports Lockouts and Strikes Fast Facts,” CNN, May 30, 2016

Feb 24th in baseball history-GONE TOO SOON

1990 | BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS A life of such promise ended sadly at 4:30 in the afternoon on this date in 1990. Tony Conigliaro, the youngest player to hit 100 home runs died of pneumonia at the age of 45 [also see FEB 7th story]. “Tony C” as he was known, had been in poor health since suffering a heart attack in 1982.

The turning point in his life, though was 23 years earlier when he was on top of the world. On August 18, 1967, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Conigliaro wasn’t able to get out of the way of an inside fastball from Jack Hamilton of the California Angels. The ball hit him on the left side of his face nearly blinding him. He was out of baseball for over a year.

Conigliaro made a promising recovery in 1969. His blurred and double vision appeared to have cleared up. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 82. In 1970 he had the best year of his career – 36 home runs and 116 RBI, but by ’71 his vision had deteriorated again. He wasn’t able to play in ’72, ’73 or ’74. After an unsuccessful attempt at a comeback in 1975 he retired for good. He was 30.

A legacy of Tony Conigliaro’s beaning was players starting wearing helmets with flaps on the left side for right-handed hitters and the right side for left-handed hitters. Today such helmets are mandatory.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press (AP)
, Boston, Massachusetts, February 25, 1990
Tony Conigliaro

FEB 23rd in baseball history-SOMBER NEWS

1987 | FORT MYERS, FLORIDAKansas City Royals manager Dick Howser gave it all he could, but on this date in 1987 was forced to tell his players they would have to go on without him. Howser had been diagnosed with brain cancer the previous summer. He underwent two operations to try to remove a malignant tumor.

Dick Howser guided the Royals to their only, up till that point, World Series championship in 1985.

Howser hadn’t filled out a lineup card since the 1986 all-star game. Observers noticed during that game that he didn’t seem as sharp as he normally was. It would be the last game Dick Howser ever managed. He put the uniform on for the first time since that all-star game just two days earlier. It was the first day of spring training. The uniform didn’t fit. He looked tired and weak. Two days later, according to the Associated Press (AP) he said, “It’s just that I need more time to rest. I can’t do it like this.” He didn’t get better. Howser died three months later, June 17, 1987.

Dick Howser guided the Royals to their only, up till that point, World Series championship in 1985. In five full seasons as a manager, and parts of three others, his teams never finished lower than second place.

Besides the Royals, he managed the New York Yankees for one full season and part of another. The Florida State University graduate had an eight-year playing career, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1961. He played for the Royals, Cleveland Indians and Yankees. Dick Howser was 51 when he died.

Contributing sources:
The Associated Press (AP)
, Fort Myers, Florida, February 24, 1987
Dick Howser as manager: Baseball-Reference
Dick Howser as player: Baseball-Reference