March 15th in baseball history-FRENCH LICK?

1945 | FRENCH LICK, INDIANA • More spring training camps opened on this date to prepare for the 1945 season, but not in the hot-spots you’d expect. The country was still in the midst of World War II. Travel restrictions forced teams to train close to home. Indiana turned out to be a popular place.

Here where spring training was for a number of teams:
The New York Yankees – Atlantic City, New Jersey
The Cleveland Indians – LaFayette, Indiana
The Chicago White Sox – Terre Haute, Indiana
The Boston Red Sox – Pleasantville, New Jersey
The Philadelphia Athletics – Frederick, Maryland
The Detroit Tigers in – Evansville, Indiana
The St. Louis Cardinals – Cairo, Illinois
The Chicago Cubs – French Lick, Indiana
The Pittsburgh Pirates – Muncie, Indiana

… Just to name a few.

Major League Baseball also drastically limited exhibition games at the urging of The United States Office of Defense Transportation. Teams could only play games with other teams if they were on a direct route to their home city. Side trips were not allowed. Some teams played very few exhibition games against other teams that spring.

Contributing sources:
Spring Training Notes, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1945
United Press, March 16, 1945
The Baseball Guru

 

March 5th in baseball history-YANK PITCHERS SWAP WIVES

1973 | FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDANew York Yankee pitchers Fritz Peterson and  Mike Kekich dropped a bombshell on spring training camp on this date in 1973. They announced to the world that they had swapped wives… and kids and a poodle and a terrier. “It wasn’t a wife swap,” they said, “It’s a life swap.”

America had lived through the turbulent, permissive 1960’s, but this was a shock on so many levels, not the least of which was that the swap was announced to the world.

Just like in baseball; you win some, you lose some and some get rained out. Peterson and Kekich had been close friends for years, and said there was nothing sordid about the “affair.” They and their wives began discussing the switch the previous summer and put it in effect in October, 1972.

Fritz Peterson was still living with Susanne Kekich and her two daughters, aged 4 and 2, at the time of the press conference, but Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson‘s relationship had already gone south. Their living arrangement with her two sons, aged 5 and 2, had been on-again/off-again. It also became apparent that the two left-handers had had a falling out over one affair working and the other not. Murray Chass wrote in the next day’s New York Times that, “…it was obvious they had bitter feelings toward each other.”

Fritz Peterson and the former Susanne Kekich eventually married and had four children of their own. The last that was heard they were still married and living outside Chicago. Peterson attended a Yankees charity event in Fort Lauderdale in January of 2013. The Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson affair was over before it started. Kekich eventually remarried and at last report was living in New Mexico.

Both achieved some success on the mound, but neither saw their careers flourish after the swap. Kekich finished his 12-year major league career with a 39-51 record. Peterson had career record of 133-131 over an 11-year career. He also did better on the domestic front.

Contributing sources:
The New York Times, March 6, 1973, pages 51-52, by Murray Chass
The New York Times, September 9, 2009, Fritz Peterson writes a book
Washington Times, March 7, 2005
The Palm Beach Post, January 26, 2013   
Jackson, MS Clarion Ledger
, by Rick Cleveland, August 29, 2000

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 18th in Baseball History-Prediction Time

2017 | FLORIDA & ARIZONA – Prediction time for fans and prognosticators as spring training begins for 2017. Baseball Prospectus (BP) has among the most knowledgeable baseball people. BP’s crunching of the numbers leads their experts to believe the following teams are most likely to win their respective divisions in 2017.

American League
East – Boston Red Sox
Central – Cleveland Indians
West – Houston Astros

National League
East – New York Mets
Central – Chicago Cubs
West – Los Angeles Dodgers

It’ll be fun to see what happens. But how well have Baseball Prospectus’ predictions fared? Let’s look back. Here are BP’s 1998 predictions, and whether they were correct or not:

American League
New York Yankees – CORRECT
Cleveland Indians – CORRECT
Seattle Mariners – WRONG (Texas)

National League
East – Atlanta Braves – CORRECT
Central – Houston Astros – CORRECT
West – LA Dodgers – WRONG (San Diego)

Here’s a look at the favored teams from 1999 and how then fared.

American League
East – New York Yankees – CORRECT
Central – Cleveland Indians – CORRECT
West – Texas Rangers – CORRECT

National League
East – Atlanta Braves – CORRECT
Central – Houston Astros – CORRECT
West – LA Dodgers – WRONG (Diamondbacks)

Overall, Baseball Prospectus did very well.