From Books

  • “Dodgertown was like a baseball college, with hundreds of players throwing, hitting, playing intrasquad games and doing baseball drills. There was a lot of evening time to spend, with only one ping-pong table, a pool table, and a jukebox available for entertainment. Fortunately, we had a true showman among us, minor league first baseman Chuck Connors. Chuck would entertain us nightly with card tricks, poems, jokes, or debates.”

    Carl Erskine, Carl Erskine’s Tales from the Dodger Dugout, 2001 and Carl Erskine’s Tales from the Dodger Dugout, Extra Innings, 2004

  • “April 1, 1948, will be a day that will stick in my mind forever. That was the day I walked into the clubhouse at Vero Beach in Florida and the clubhouse boy handed me a Dodger uniform. It was the happiest day of my life, even though I knew I would not be a Dodger for long. I was a big leaguer at last – with no possible chance of making the team. When the war ended, Vero Beach, on the east coast of Florida about a hundred miles north of Miami, turned into a ghost town – a naval air training station with wooden barracks, a mess hall, a recreation center, and an airfield. The buildings with their surrounding grounds struck Mr. Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers as an ideal spot for a baseball training camp. Mr. Rickey took over this former air base, and today’s ‘Dodgertown’ is the result. You’ve got to see it to realize what it really is – a giant baseball talent factory.”

    Roy Campanella, It’s Good to be Alive, 1959

  • “Impressed by the design of a new stadium in Miami, where no seats were blocked by pillars or posts, (Walter O’Malley) had Emil Praeger work on a similar plan for Dodgertown. O’Malley was involved in every aspect of construction, right down to the specifications for the cypress planks that would be used for seating. He also chose to name the park for Bud Holman. Emil Praeger needed less than a year to design and build the stadium, which became one of the most idyllic spots for baseball in the country. Gentle sloping walkways brought fans to the gate, and when they passed through they discovered a beautiful green diamond. Earth removed for construction was used to create berms that marked the limits of the outfield. Towering, graceful palm trees lined the perimeter of the entire property. Altogether the little park was a marvel of simplicity where spectators were almost as close to the action as parents at a Little League game. When Holman Stadium opened on March 11, 1953, the visiting dignarities included the governor of Florida and the president of U.S. Steel.”

    Michael D'Antonio, Forever Blue, The True Story of Walter O’Malley, 2009

  • “Spring training had traditionally been a time for veteran players to come down to Florida, swap some yarns, and gently ease their bodies into shape for the coming season. Mr. Rickey changed that. Every minute of every day – except Sunday – was rigidly scheduled. We spent hours doing conditioning exercises, practicing fundamentals, listening to lectures, playing simulated games which were stopped for instruction, and playing endless innings of real baseball. Mr. Rickey’s theories were drilled into every player on every level, so that we would all be playing Dodger baseball…But in 1949, the changes that would eventually turn this old navy base into Dodgertown, the finest training facility in professional sports as well as a year-round meeting and recreational complex, had not yet begun. We didn’t even have toilet facilities in our rooms. That would have been acceptable if we had had heat. Finally, I thought, as I huddled under the one blanket they gave me, I get to Florida – and I freeze to death my first night there.”

    Tommy Lasorda, The Artful Dodger, 1985

  • “It may come as a surprise to some to learn that Spring Training is work. At least it is for those teams that finish near the top. They stress and practice fundamentals:  covering first base; backing up plays; hitting the cut-off man; which way to pivot and throw after fielding a bunt; pick-off plays; and where to throw the ball before it is hit to you. We worked on those things until we performed them automatically. However ‘Campy’ (catcher Roy Campanella) didn’t take any chances. Whenever a ground ball was hit to the right side, he would yell to the pitcher: ‘Get over there!’ This was a subtle reminder to cover first base…The Dodgertown Bus met me at the train station in Vero Beach and as the bus rattled and bumped enroute to the training camp I mentally applauded the Dodgers for developing a facility where all of the players could be fed and domiciled without being embarrassed by the mores of Florida’s dual society. The training base had ballfields, but excellent recreational outlets were there, also. These included a swimming pool, basketball court, shuffleboard court, pool tables, ping-pong tables, fishing and movies occasionally.”

    Joe Black, Ain’t Nobody Better Than You, An Autobiography of Joe Black, 1983

  • “We call it the Spring Capital of the baseball world:  Dodgertown…The focal point of our training grounds is Holman Stadium, a concrete structure equipped with lights for night baseball, seating 5,200. This attractive little stadium was built by the Dodgers without cost to the City of Vero Beach. In additional, there are five other complete diamonds and a special diamond with no outfield. The latter is used for infield practice, sacrifice offense and defense, breaking up the double steal, practicing the execution the double play, pitchers covering first base, and any other phase of play not requiring an outfield. On one area of the grounds are eight automatic pitching machines regulated and fed by employees from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. One throws only curve balls and sinkers for players to practice hitting these two difficult pitches…Also, there are two sawdust sliding pits where a player’s pants get dirty but his thighs remain unskinned…Another area is set aside as the pitching area which is known as the ‘strings.’ Here are two pitching mounds with home plates the regulation distance away. Over each home plate are crossed strings marking the strike zone…The recreational facilities are varied. Some players never leave the grounds during their entire stay, so complete is Dodgertown. One of the main advantages of a central training camp is fraternization. The players of all clubs become acquainted with one another; firm friendships develop.”  

    Fresco Thompson, Vice President, Dodgers, Every Diamond Doesn’t Sparkle, Behind the Scenes with the Dodgers, 1964

  • “Dodgertown at Vero Beach was a baseball academy. The Dodgers had 28 farm teams and 800 baseball players, and we were all there to learn about the game from one teacher, Branch Rickey. He conducted half-hour lectures – and that’s the right word for them – every day. Monday through Friday, for the first week of spring training. But unlike other classes, students couldn’t doze through Rickey’s sessions or mutter wisecracks under their breath. And he’d give examinations. Test papers were passed out that had to be turned in the next day. During class he’d give detailed instructions on the fundamentals – cutoff plays, relays, bunt situations, squeeze plays on offense and defense. He drew diagrams on a chalk board. And he preached the intangibles:  the responsibility for staying in shape, getting enough rest, a proper diet, and above all else, a strong commitment to the team…Branch Rickey was the one who taught me the strike zone, and how to lay off bad pitches.”

    Duke Snider, The Duke of Flatbush, 1988

  • “A couple of weeks after I showed up for the early camp, the veterans started arriving. I was walking across the lot one day and I ran into Herbie Scharfman, one of the Dodgers’ official team photographers. They always had two or three of them around, taking publicity shots, and Herbie was one of the best. ‘Don,’ he yelled at me this particular day. ‘Come over here. I want you to meet somebody – Gil Hodges.’ Well, I about fell over in my tracks. Gil stuck out his huge hand, and he shook mine, and we said a few words. He was terrific, very friendly, very impressive. Now, I was really in the clouds. I’d met Gil Hodges. After a couple of weeks, with things going pretty well, I moved over to the major league clubhouse. It was an old wooden building. Right in the middle of it were all the steamer trunks with the gear packed in them, and as you looked around the room, you could see that the lockers were arranged numerically. Over on one side, there was number 1 for Pee Wee Reese. Over on the other, way over, I looked and saw ‘DRYSDALE 53.’…I had the highest number of the group. Herbie Olsen, a catcher, came in with number 55 a year later, but I was high man in 1955 with number 53 – a number, by the way, I wound up keeping throughout my career.”

    Don Drysdale, Once A Bum, Always A Dodger, 1990

  • “I had to learn how to pitch. And that, I’m afraid, is something you have to learn yourself. You watch and you listen and, as we say in our line of work, you ‘have an idea.’ I had darn little idea what it was all about that first spring. In those days the Dodgers spent only a couple of weeks at Vero Beach and then went to Miami to play their exhibition games. Before we left Vero, the big team played an exhibition game against the Dodgertown All-Stars, the best of the minor-leaguers who had been invited to camp.  I started against the All-Stars – Jim Gentile is about the only All-Star I can remember offhand. I went three innings, striking out five and walking one, and (Joe) Pignatano threw out the guy I had walked. In all honesty, I felt I had done well.”

    Sandy Koufax, KOUFAX, 1966

  • “The opening of Dodgertown in 1948 enabled (Branch) Rickey to survey his stable of baseball talent, young and old, from a single location. The Dodgers had broken baseball’s color barrier the year before and were aggressively signing and cultivating additional African-American players. The Dodgertown layout enabled the team to conveniently, and without discussion, house all of its players together regardless of color. Just as Little Rock had been ground zero for the desegregation of schools in America, Dodgertown was a facility and an approach important to the future of baseball. While Rickey was the brains behind the Dodgertown concept, team owner Walter O’Malley supported the idea and invested heavily into the operations. He spared no expense to renovate, recondition, and expand the existing infrastructure. In addition to laying out four practice diamonds on the property, the team also built a separate venue to host Dodgers spring games. Ultimately called Holman Stadium, the ballpark offered the latest in creature comforts at a time when wooden bleachers, lounge chairs, and blankets were the norm in accommodating spectators at spring outings.”

    Wally Moon, Moon Shots: Reflections on a Baseball Life, 2010

  • “It is hard, nearly impossible, to imagine, when driving or walking along Sandy Koufax Lane or Walter Alston Drive or Jackie Robinson Avenue, that the roots of this place really do not go back to the brain stem of Walt Disney.”

    David Falkner, The Short Season, 1986

  • “Dodger legend Maury Wills first reported to Vero Beach as a pitching prospect in 1951. For Wills, it would be eight long seasons in the minor leagues. ‘I first came to Dodgertown more than 50 years ago,’ says Wills, a spring training instructor. ‘When I walk around the camp, I can still feel the presence of those great Dodgers of the past and what it was like for a young baseball player to dream of life in the major leagues. I remember living in the minor league barracks for such a long time. You knew you had it made as a player if you were assigned to the major league barracks, with carpets and drapes and a private bath. But the memories come alive every trip to Dodgertown. Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Don Newcombe. As long as there is a Dodgertown, they will never be forgotten.’”

    Mark Langill, Dodgertown, 2004

  • “The Dodgertown of lore and romance is not Branch Rickey’s. It is Walter O’Malley’s who took over as the Dodgers’ owner after the 1950 season, took a place and made it a place in baseball’s heart. He made Dodgertown better. He made it special. He made it – it always seemed – permanent… ‘When they put the golf course up there, that was a highlight,’ remembered Lou Johnson, who played with the Dodgers in the mid-sixties. ‘I didn’t know one place we (the black players) could go to play golf. That made a big difference, I think, in the African-American  players in their appreciation of Walter O’Malley.’” 

    Charles Fountain, Under the March Sun, The Story of Spring Training, 2009

  • “The precedent-setting facility, which prioritized training a ballclub like no other, also became a full-fledged home away from home. ‘All the minor leaguers dressed in the minor league clubhouse, which was very small,’ first baseman Wes Parker said. ‘It was partitioned off into separate rooms that were extremely small. We all dressed together may 15-20 of us, shoulder to shoulder. You hardly had enough room to stretch and put your arms up to put on your jersey. It was cold in there. They had I think electric heaters, but it didn’t matter, it was cold, very cold. Air didn’t circulate well. The funny thing is, you started to love it…I think it was a beautiful setup that there weren’t distractions because guys would have gone out. As it was, we had our focus completely on baseball because there was nothing else to do, nothing else to think about.’”

    Jon Weisman, 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, 2009

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