Spring Training in St. Petersburg: Its Beginnings and the Phillies’ Experience in 1915

This article was written by Robert D. Warrington

This article was published in The National Pastime: Baseball in the Sunshine State (Miami, 2016)

It seems obvious that Florida is an apt location for major league baseball to conduct spring training. While winter holds the north in its dark, frigid grip, Florida is comparatively sunny and warm—ideal weather to prepare ballplayers for the grueling season ahead. But as the second decade of the twentieth century dawned, Florida remained largely ignored as clubs continued to hold their spring training camps farther north and west in states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.It seems obvious that Florida is an apt location for major league baseball to conduct spring training. While winter holds the north in its dark, frigid grip, Florida is comparatively sunny and warm—ideal weather to prepare ballplayers for the grueling season ahead. But as the second decade of the twentieth century dawned, Florida remained largely ignored as clubs continued to hold their spring training camps farther north and west in states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.[fn]Clubs made occasional forays into Florida for spring training. The Washington Nationals trained in Jacksonville in 1888, and in 1903, Connie Mack took his Philadelphia Athletics to Jacksonville for preseason conditioning. Mack was a player on the 1888 Nationals, and that probably influenced his decision to return there 15 years later as a manager. Frederick G. Lieb, Connie Mack: Grand Old Man of Baseball (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1945), 84–85.[/fn]

Things changed in the 1910s, however, and it had little to do with tropical temperatures and balmy breezes. The siren song of financial inducements drew clubs to train in Florida. Tampa enticed the Chicago Cubs to train there in 1913 with an offer to pay the room, board, and expenses of the 35 players on the roster.[fn]“Chicago Cubs, 20 Strong, Off for the South,” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, February 16, 1913.[/fn] St. Petersburg attempted the same gambit with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but owner Barney Dreyfuss rebuffed the overture, writing, “You must think I’m a damn fool to train in a whistle stop little one tank town.”[fn]Dreyfuss’s letter is quoted in Nevin D. Sitler, Warm Wishes from Sunny St. Pete: The Success Story of Promoting the Sunshine City (Charleston: The History Press, 2014), 86.[/fn]



Albert Fielding Lang moved from Pittsburgh to St. Petersburg in 1910, and became a successful businessman as well as one of the city’s biggest boosters, in particular promoting its attractiveness as a site for a major league club to hold spring training. An avid baseball fan, Lang was indefatigable in his efforts to convince team owners that Florida provided ideal conditions for their players to undergo pre-season conditioning.[fn]Melanie Ave and Curtis Krueger, “Remembering Al Lang, St Petersburg’s Mr. Baseball,” Tampa Bay Times, March 22, 2008. Additional information about Al Lang and his critical role in bringing spring training baseball to Florida can be found in Charles Fountain, Under the March Sun: The Story of Spring Training (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 23–32.[/fn]

Undaunted by Pittsburgh’s snub, Lang approached the St. Louis Browns to hold their spring training camp in St. Petersburg. The city’s Board of Trade took a critical step in laying the groundwork for a club to come by forming the Major League Baseball and Amusement Company (MLBAC). In an August 18, 1913, meeting, it identified three locations as suitable for building a ballpark, and leading businessmen purchased stock in the company to finance the venture.[fn]“Sites Available for Ball Ground,” St. Petersburg Daily Times, August 19, 1913.[/fn]

After extensive mail communication with Lang, Robert L. Hedges, president of the Browns, visited St. Petersburg on September 20 to listen to a presentation on the benefits of holding spring training there in 1914. Convinced, he signed a one-year contract for his team to do so. The $10,000 raised by MLBAC would be used to offset expenses incurred by 35 Browns’ players plus five newspapermen from St. Louis who would accompany the team during spring training.[fn]“Hedges Decides to Bring Browns to St. Petersburg Coming Season,” Evening Independent, September 20, 1913. A contract for rooms and meals for the baseball players, team officials, and the newspapermen was let to Dr. J.S. Barnes at “$2.50 per head per day.” “Baseball Park at Coffee Pot,” Evening Independent, October 10, 1913.[/fn]

Multiple sites were proposed on which to build a ballpark for the team to train. At its meeting on October 3, MLBAC board members voted 4–2 for the Coffee Pot Bayou location in the Snell and Hamlett subdivision.[fn]The amount of land offered in the Snell and Hamlett subdivision was described as “two blocks of land” in newspaper accounts. The Kerr tract was more precisely described as 20 acres. “Say They are Running Base Ball Not a Real Estate Proposition,” Evening Independent, October 6, 1913.[/fn] Dissenting members objected, preferring the Kerr tract on Fourth Street South, which they claimed would be more accessible for people walking or driving cars. The local street car company offered its Oak Park ball grounds, pledging to spend $4,000 to build a grandstand and make other improvements to the site. Board members judged the location’s distance from the city a major drawback in that proposal.[fn]“Row is on Over Ball Park Site,” Evening Independent, October 4, 1913.[/fn]

A full stockholders’ meeting was held on October 9 at which the Coffee Pot location was unanimously approved as the ballpark site. The deciding factor was Snell and Hamlett’s offer: allow free use of the land for six years, pay the costs of removing tree stumps, fill holes and sink a well on the property, and assure proper drainage on the site at all times. Free use of the Kerr tract was guaranteed for only one year, after which MLBAC would have to buy the property for $18,000 or leave and find another location for major league clubs to train. Improving the property to make it suitable for baseball, moreover, was the responsibility of MLBAC. Costs associated with upgrading the land coupled with the ultimatum to purchase or abandon the tract after one year disenchanted investors, as did the prospect of paying to construct a grandstand that might be torn down a year later if MLBAC decided not to buy the land.[fn]Proponents of Coffee Pot Park provided a detailed estimate of the added costs that would be encountered by choosing the Kerr tract for the ballpark site, thereby rendering it far less desirable. Evening Independent, October 10, 1913. Those supporting the Coffee Pot Park location also championed its advantages by noting, “The Coffee Pot site is practically as close to Central Avenue, the post office, as close to the (street) car lines, has more hard roads adjacent to the property, sidewalks all the way, and deep water for boats.” Evening Independent, October 6, 1913.[/fn]



Although noteworthy in history as the first ballpark in St. Petersburg used for major league spring training, uncertainty still attends the exact location and physical layout of Coffee Pot Park.[fn]Gary R. Mormino, “Spring Training, 1914,” Tampa Bay Times, February 21, 2014. Mormino acknowledges the ballpark’s exact location “remains elusive.” He writes some believe the site was today’s Grenada Terrace, “which is near the northern end of the city’s Old Northwest neighborhood.” Others judge it was on North Shore Drive.[/fn] In an article written in 1965, baseball historian Fred Lieb placed it at First Street North and 22nd Avenue.[fn]Fred Lieb, “City, Phils in 1915 Sunshine,” St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1965.[/fn] In his book on the history of spring training, Charles Fountain states it was located on what “is today part of a string of parks that runs along the water north of the Vinoy Hotel.”[fn]Fountain, Under the March Sun, 24.[/fn] Jeff Mashier, who from 1923–57 covered sports for St. Petersburg’s Evening Independent newspaper, stated in a 1963 interview that the home in which he lived at 2232 Brevard Road, NE Grenada Terrace, was positioned at the home plate area of Coffee Pot Park.[fn]Jimmy Mann, “Branch Wasn’t All Wet,” Evening Independent, February 11, 1963.[/fn] Another long-time resident of the city, Walter Fuller, recalled in a 1945 newspaper article it was located in what had become the Grenada Terrace residential section of the city.[fn]Dick Bothwell, “Ballplayers Tangled with Alligators in Early Years,” St. Petersburg Times, March 1, 1945.[/fn]

There is no doubt the ballpark was adjacent to Coffee Pot Bayou. Although officially named Sunshine Park, it was habitually called Coffee Pot Park or Coffee Pot Bayou Park.[fn]Tampa Bay Times, February 21, 2014.[/fn] Manatee and H.B. Plant excursion steamers would bring fans over to games from Tampa, landing customers just beyond the outfield after sailing up Coffee Pot Bayou.[fn]Evening Independent, February 11, 1963.[/fn] Moreover, numerous reports covering spring training noted that players would often fish in the bayou “adjoining the ball grounds” during breaks in practice, and that the pier they used was just a short walk from the ballpark.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Phillies Battle Nine Full Rounds,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1915. In addition, A.W. Tillinghast, who covered Phillies spring training for the Public Record newspaper and was also an avid golfer, reportedly took a mashie and hit a golf ball from inside Coffee Pot Park over the left-field fence and into the bayou. James Isaminger, “Cravath’s Bat Sends in Scores Enough to Down the Cuban Team,” Evening Independent, March 12, 1915.[/fn]



The St. Louis Browns’ residence in St. Petersburg for spring training lasted just one year. An abrupt end to the relationship was attributed to a dispute over who should pay certain expenses—unrelated to room and board—the team had accrued during its stay. City businessmen refused to pay the $6,500, while team owner Hedges insisted it was St. Petersburg’s responsibility to do so.[fn]Fountain, Under the March Sun, 24. The author identifies the amount in dispute as $6,500.[/fn] The disagreement was caused in part by the lack of a formal agreement clearly differentiating expenses for which the city would be responsible— beyond room and board—versus those the club would cover.[fn]St. Petersburg newspapers claimed at the time that Hedges had decided to switch the team’s spring training site to Houston, Texas, because of the more lucrative terms that city offered to host the team. No mention was made that the parting was caused by a quarrel over the payment of certain bills. “Hedges Calls Off Negotiations for St. Louis Team to Come Here,” Evening Independent, October 9, 1914.[/fn] The quarrel ended with Hedges declaring, “I’ll promise you one thing, Mr. Lang—no other major league club will train in your hamlet.”[fn]Lieb, St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1965.[/fn]



Yet again, Al Lang faced the task of enticing a major league team to adopt St. Petersburg as its spring training home. This time, his gaze fell upon the Philadelphia Phillies, who had trained in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1914 and struggled with the poor weather conditions they endured.[fn]“Phils to Train Down in St. Petersburg, Fla,” Evening Independent, October 29, 1914. Difficulties the Phillies endured in finding enough good days for conditioning in Wilmington, NC, during 1914 spring training are mentioned in Thomas D. Richter, “Philadelphia Plans,” The Sporting News, November 7, 1914.[/fn] Lang concluded a deal with Phillies’ president William F. Baker to train in the city in 1915—the first time the club would hold preseason in Florida.[fn]Baker also considered San Diego, CA as a training location but rejected it because suitable ball grounds were not available. “Moran’s Phils to Train in Florida,” Evening Independent, October 29, 1914. States in which the Phillies had previously held spring training included Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. Allen Lewis and Larry Shenk, This Date in Philadelphia Phillies History (New York: Stein and Day, 1979), 154.[/fn]

The extent to which St. Petersburg subsidized the Phillies’ stay is unclear. MLBAC officials, according to one newspaper report, stated the Phillies would pay “hotel bills, transportation charges and incidental expenses,” while the city would “assist in finding suitable quarters and lend aid in other directions.”[fn]“Phillies Sure to Come Here; Sign Contract,” Evening Independent, November 2, 1914.[/fn] The phrase “lend aid in other directions” was not further defined, but the accuracy of MLBAC’s statement is open to question. The notoriously penurious Baker almost certainly insisted on financial concessions similar to those offered the Browns. Other reports judge the room rate for Phillies players to stay at the Fifth Avenue Hotel was offset considerably by MLBAC subsidies, as were the costs of players’ meals.[fn]Frank Fitzpatrick, “Spring Training a Lot Different Than it Was in 1915,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 30, 2015.[/fn] Lieb notes the city had to furnish baseballs used in training.[fn]Lieb, St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1965.[/fn] Maintaining the ballpark and grounds was also St. Petersburg’s responsibility.[fn]Whether St. Petersburg was obliged to defray the expenses of newspapermen covering Phillies’ spring training, as it had for reporters accompanying the Browns, is unknown. Five newspapermen traveled with the Phillies to spring training: William G. Weart, Evening Telegraph, James C. Isaminger, North American, Walter Dunn, Public Ledger, Albert W. Tillinghast, Public Record, and Edgar F. Wolfe, Philadelphia Inquirer. Wolfe wrote under the pen name Jim Nasium, a wry derivation of the word “Gymnasium.”[/fn]



Spring training for some Phillies’ players began on February 26, 1915, when they—along with players from the Philadelphia Athletics and Brooklyn Dodgers— boarded the steamer Apache in New York City for a trip down the Atlantic seaboard to Jacksonville.[fn]“Moran’s Arrival Starts Hustling,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 24, 1915.[/fn] A few hours out at sea, the Apache was approached by the British cruiser HMS Essex, patrolling America’s coast looking for ships smuggling war goods to Germany, then at war with Great Britain. Eventually satisfied the Apache carried ballplayers, not military matériel, the Essex departed to resume its duties.[fn]“Ball Players Safe on Southern Shores,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 1, 1915. The Apache was a rickety-looking vessel. It had suffered extensive damage a decade earlier in a collision with another ship. Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 30, 2015.[/fn]

After arriving in Jacksonville on March 1, Phillies’ players boarded a train for the 256-mile trip to St. Petersburg.[fn]“Athletics and Phillies Will Get Away for Florida Training Quarters,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1915. The Apache made one stop during the journey, a port call in Charleston, South Carolina.[/fn] One Philadelphia writer accompanying the players dubbed the train the “Florida Rattler” as a way of describing jolting rail journeys in the state.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Phils Manhandle Mack’s Regulars,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 27, 1915.[/fn] Other Phillies players went directly by train to the city, either in small groups or individually from their homes.[fn]Philadelphia Inquirer, February 26, 1915.[/fn] All but a few players were in camp for the start of training.[fn]Players, primarily veterans, started arriving in camp in late February to begin exercising. Regulation practice could not begin until March 1 according to National League rules. Thomas D. Richter, “Philadelphia Points,” The Sporting News, March 6, 1915.[/fn]



The Phillies team that took the field in St. Petersburg had changed substantially since the end of the 1914 season. That club had finished a disappointing sixth, caused primarily by the loss of six players who had “jumped” to the Federal League, enticed by the fatter paychecks the upstart league had dangled before them. Saddled with an enervated pitching staff and infield, player-manager Charlie Dooin was the first casualty of the poor finish, fired soon after the season ended.[fn]A complete description of the Phillies’ 1914 travails is beyond the scope of this article. For more information see, Frederick Lieb and Stan Baumgartner, The Philadelphia Phillies (New York: Van Rees Press, 1953), 102–12. Baker, well known for his parsimony in paying players, would not match the Federal League offers.[/fn]

The club, moreover, was riven by factions, the two most prominent headed by Hans Lobert and Sherry Magee. A threat loomed that if either Lobert or Magee were selected as the new manager—both wanted the job—the other and his faction of players would jump to the Federal League. Phillies president Baker finessed the problem by choosing Pat Moran—a veteran catcher-coach on the team—for the job. Phillies players held Moran in high regard and endorsed the choice.[fn]The threat of additional players “jumping” to the Federal League depending on who was chosen as the new manager is discussed in David Jordan, Occasional Glory: A History of the Philadelphia Phillies (Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 2002), 44–45. Lobert did return later as a coach with the Phillies and got to manage the awful 1942 team, which notched an abysmal 42 –109 record.[/fn]

But picking a new manager created a problem as well as solving one. Dooin still wanted to play, but not for his former coach. Ridding the team of internal friction that had hampered its performance meant Lobert and Magee also had to go.[fn]The deep-seated animosity that had divided the Phillies is described by Lieb, who claims the worst feud was between Magee and Dode Paskert. Pitcher Eppa Rixey also hated Magee. Lieb, Philadelphia Phillies, 110–11.[/fn] All three men were traded before spring training, and players received in return became important parts of the 1915 team, along with a shortstop purchased from the Pacific Coast League, Dave Bancroft.[fn]For Magee, the Phillies received Oscar Dugey, George “Possum” Whitted, and $10,000. Lobert yielded Milt Stock, Al Demaree, and Jack Adams in return. Trading Dooin brought Bert Niehoff to the Phillies. Jordan, Occasional Glory, 46.[/fn]

When he announced Moran’s selection as manager, Baker announced, “I think a change is advisable—and necessary.”[fn]Lieb, Philadelphia Phillies, 111.[/fn] Just how much change was in store for the Phillies players would quickly become apparent in St. Petersburg.[fn]The Phillies sent head scout William Neal to St. Petersburg several weeks before the start of camp to ensure the ballfield was in proper condition for the players to train. He also worked with Al Lang on ironing out administrative details associated with the Phillies’ stay in the city. Lang served as the liaison between MLBAC and the club. Thomas D. Richter, “Philadelphia Points,” The Sporting News, January 23, 1915. Neal’s presence in St. Petersburg prior to spring training also is discussed in “Head Scout of the Phillies Says Prospects for Winning Team Good,” Evening Independent, February 27, 1915.[/fn]



Pat Moran conducted a highly organized, rigorously run, tightly supervised, and strictly disciplined spring training camp the likes of which Phillies players had never seen.[fn]The Phillies had 29 men in camp. Moran’s task was to reduce that total by eight in accordance with a league rule adopted in 1914 that capped the number of players on a roster during the regular season at 21. Thomas D. Richter, “Philadelphia Points,” The Sporting News, April 3, 1915. The rule is also mentioned in William G. Weart, “Moran Lays Down Ironclad Rules for Conduct of His Ball Tossers,” Evening Independent, March 4, 1915.[/fn] Of the many newspaper reports filtering out of camp, two revealed the novel and exacting nature of Moran’s training regimen. Veteran sportswriter James C. Isaminger wrote:

They should call him Pat Thousand Eyes. Never have the Phillies had a tactician who watched cases closer than the Fitchburg man. In past years, inside play has always been as prominent on the Phillies as an ant at a coronation, but it is different this season. Peerless Pat runs the drill like the Czar leaving out the despotic stuff. The point is that Moran runs the practice and the practice doesn’t run itself. The team spent yesterday rehearsing signs. There’s a signal there will be no team in the National League knowing more inside stuff than the Phils.[fn]James C. Isaminger, “Havana Reds Lose Their Pepper in Second Event with Phillies,” Evening Independent, March 11, 1915. The characterization of Moran as the “Fitchburg man” is a reference to his hometown of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Isaminger and William Weart wrote for Philadelphia newspapers, but their columns were also carried in St. Petersburg’s Evening Independent newspaper.[/fn]

Jim Nasium sounded a similar refrain in his column:

We have been given a slant at things on this spring jaunt that, to the best of our knowledge, have never occurred on a Philly team before, and we’ve been trailing this bunch with our eyes open for quite a spell now. Never before have we seen a Philly manager call his players into a conference room behind closed doors at the hotel of an evening to discuss signals, new plays and systematic methods of committing our great national frolic, and never before have we seen said manager devoting his time on the playing field to drilling his players in the fine points of the pastime instead of confining the entire attention and training of the team to the low-brow art of slamming the pill and fielding…A Philadelphia National League club will take the field prepared to mix brains with its pastiming instead of merely committing the national nuisance by main strength.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Pat Moran Promises to Create New Epoch in Checkered History of the Quaker City’s National League Club,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 18, 1915. As used in the column, “pill” is jargon for ball.[/fn]

Each day began for Phillies players when they were awakened at 8AM. After breakfast, they walked two miles between their hotel and Coffee Pot Park as part of their physical conditioning, referring to the crosscountry jaunts as “Tipperary Hikes.”[fn]“Newcomers not at Phillies’ Camp,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 1915. “Tipperary Hikes” is a reference to the popular song, “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary,” sung by British soldiers as they marched during World War I. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Long_Way_to_Tipperary.[/fn] Workouts were held twice daily: 10AM to noon and 1–4PM.[fn]After an exhausting day of physical conditioning, players could use the ballpark’s single cold-water shower afterwards, but most preferred to use showers back at the hotel. John C. Skipper, Wicked Curve: The Life and Troubled Times of Grover Cleveland Alexander (Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 2006), 42.[/fn] Then the players walked the two miles back to their hotel.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Bancroft Looks Like the Goods,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 5, 1915. In 1914, St. Louis Browns’ players took the North Shore street car between the Fifth Avenue Hotel and Coffee Pot Park. It was so slow-moving that adults and kids could jog along the “express” car to talk with players and get autographs. Mann, Evening Independent, February 11, 1963. The walk between the hotel and the ballpark transited areas where alligators resided, hence the former’s nickname, “Alligator Hotel.” The players were none-too-fond of the prospect of encountering these reptiles during their hikes. Bothwell, St. Petersburg Times, March 1, 1945.[/fn]

Three Phillies, Al Demaree, Milt Stock, and Stan Baumgartner, “found a way to cheat the long hike to the ball grounds, hiring bicycles on which they make the round trip daily.”[fn]Jim Nasium, “Cubs and Cold Too Much for Phillies,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1915.[/fn] Lieb claims in an article written fifty years after the fact that Moran discovered the subterfuge, forbade the bicycles, and ordered the men to run six extra laps around the ballpark for each day they had ridden the journey instead of hiking it.[fn]Lieb, St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1965.[/fn] Period accounts dispute Lieb’s recollection, affirming the players used bicycles throughout spring training.[fn]Lieb identified the bicycle-riding players as Eppa Rixey and Stan Baumgartner. A reporter who covered the Phillies’ camp wrote in an article they were Milt Stock and Al Demaree. The reporter also observed that both players rode the bicycles throughout spring training camp, thereby contradicting Lieb’s account of Moran forbidding their use to travel between the Fifth Avenue Hotel and Coffee Pot Park. The article noted that Stock and Demaree returned the bicycles “in good shape” on March 22—just before the Phillies broke camp to head north—to the dealer from whom they had rented them. Allegedly, pedaling the bicycles had been just as beneficial for the players’ physical stamina as hiking the distance. “Phils Hitting Not Up to Standard,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 23, 1915.[/fn]

Tough physical conditioning was a key element of Moran’s training program. One writer noted “not an individual was idle” on the ballfield,[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 1915.[/fn] while another observed that Moran’s emphasis on “hard exercise” produced “sore muscles and aching limbs,” especially early in spring training.[fn]William G. Weart, “Moran’s Athletes Wake Up Sore But are Put to Hard Work Early,” Evening Independent, March 3, 1915.[/fn] This is how one reporter described a typical day of practice:

Moran has mapped out a program of various forms of exercise. He had the men toss the ball around as a preliminary exercise. Then they had batting practice, and this was followed by the infielders and outfielders chasing grounders and flies. After each man bats the ball he is compelled to run around the bases in order to develop his wind.[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Beyond conditioning players at a demanding physical pace, Moran’s focus on mastering the “mental dimension of the game” clearly differentiated this spring training camp from past experiences.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Phils Drilled in Inside Baseball by Peerless Pat,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 14, 1915.[/fn] It was called “inside baseball” at the time and involved, as one writer put it, “instruction on what to do and how to do it at the right time.”[fn]Ibid. It was also referred to as “inside play” at the time.[/fn] Players were drilled on baserunning and shown what to do as a runner in different game situations. Marveling at the emphasis placed on the thinking side of baseball, a writer remarked, “Intelligence on the bases is a commodity that the Phils can use to advantage.”[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1915.[/fn] Pitchers were schooled extensively on the art of holding baserunners close to the bag. The morning session on March 11, for example, consisted of the following drill:

The pitchers were put on the slab and with basemen and catcher in their positions and base runners on first and second, the runners were instructed to try to get a lead on the pitcher, while the pitchers were coached in the art of picking off the runners with deceptive moves and quick chucks to the bag.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Three Straight for Moran’s Team,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 12, 1915.[/fn]

Moran also dedicated significant time to turning “this bunch of brawn into a machine that works in unison.”[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 14, 1915.[/fn] He bluntly declared, “You will play together and you will have the desire to operate as a team.”[fn]Jimmy Mann, “Moran was a Tactician,” Evening Independent, February 12, 1963.[/fn] Moran also reminded players that their continued employment depended on achieving success on the ballfield. “This is your bread and butter as well as mine,” he admonished them.[fn]Lieb, Philadelphia Phillies, 119.[/fn] Moran also did not play favorites among players—veterans trained just as hard as rookies—and made clear that as long as the managerial reins were his, he was running the ball club. To drive home the point, the Phillies’ manager announced, “Anyone who thinks these rules are too severe can look for a job elsewhere.”[fn]Weart, Evening Independent, March 4, 1915.[/fn]

But Moran’s managerial abilities transcended the roles of despot and taskmaster. He was personally popular with the players who respected his baseball acumen, commitment to training, and determination to be victorious.[fn]Phillies pitcher Stan Baumgartner commented in retrospect, “I also can say that Pat was the smartest manager I ever played for—or observed in action—in my 39 years in baseball.” Lieb, Philadelphia Phillies, 115.[/fn] Moran was familiar with all but the team’s newest players, having served as the Phillies’ reserve catcher and unofficial pitching coach since 1910.[fn]Mark Stang, Phillies Photos: 100 Years of Philadelphia Phillies Images (Wilmington: Orange Frazier Press, 2008), 25.[/fn] The players recognized, moreover, the value of his tough physical conditioning regimen and unrelenting focus on “inside baseball” in claiming the pennant that had long eluded the club.[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 12, 1915.[/fn] Outfielder Dode Paskert was quoted as saying that “he had heard more real baseball instruction and tactics talked about here in the last week than he has since he joined the Phils.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Moran also was aided by an absence of internal strife on the team. As noted, Phillies’ teams in recent years had been split by factions and personal animosity between some players. The new mood was captured by one sportswriter who observed:

The members of the Phillies are commenting among themselves about the different spirit which is being shown among the players on the team this season. There is better deportment among the members of Moran’s squad than I have ever seen in the Phillies’ training camp. The men are going about their work in a better and more satisfied frame of mind, and on all sides there is a willingness on the part of the men to assist and encourage each other.[fn]William G. Weart, “Phillies Working Together Now for First Time in Many Years,” Evening Independent, March 9, 1915.[/fn]

To ensure continued harmony on the team, Moran laid down strict rules to govern one of the players’ favorite pastimes: gambling.[fn]Early in spring training, Moran became aware of a craps game that had started one night and lasted until four o’clock the next morning. Large sums of money were won and lost among the players. Pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander even lost his diamond ring when he bet it on a losing hand. Moran realized gambling with such stakes could cause hard feelings among players. Lieb, Philadelphia Phillies, 119.[/fn] Shooting craps was not allowed, and card games such as poker were limited to ten-cent antes. Reading was preferred by some players, but Moran even regulated that.[fn]Those ballplayers who wanted to read had to have their own books. St. Petersburg’s first library did not open until December 1915. http://www.stpete.org/history-and-preservation.[/fn] He believed reading on trains was bad for batting eyes and forbade players from doing so for more than limited periods.[fn]Weart, Evening Independent, March 4, 1915.[/fn]

In retrospect, probably the best tribute paid to the Phillies manager—or to any baseball manager—was offered by a veteran Phillies player who said, “Moran makes me do things that I don’t want to do. He has my goat.”[fn]Isaminger, Evening Independent, March 11, 1915.[/fn]



Of all the innovative steps taken by Moran at spring training in 1915, none posed a greater riddle than the “secret session.” On March 16, Moran held a meeting with players in the Coffee Pot Park clubhouse to rehearse the team’s signaling system, something he did repeatedly during the preseason. Then, he ordered all outsiders to leave the ballpark and its gates closed. Sportswriters—ousted by Moran’s edict—were mystified. One wrote:

This was a distinct novelty in the training camp at the Phillies. Moran has some secrets up his sleeves. These he has refused to impart to anyone but his players, and Pat doesn’t propose that any prying eyes shall get wise to what is going on. Such a thing as secret practice has never been known before among the players of the Philadelphia Nationals.[fn]William G. Weart, “Work in Secret at Coffee Pot,” Evening Independent, March 17, 1915.[/fn]

Players were mum about what transpired behind closed doors, and the puzzle went unsolved for decades. It was only in the late 1940s that a player let the cat out of the bag. Phillies infielder Bert Niehoff, then working as scout for the New York Yankees, returned to St. Petersburg and admitted the “secret session” was devoted to stealing other teams’ signs. Moran was convinced victories could be earned employing such a tactic, and Niehoff reminisced, “Anytime we had a man on first base and less than two outs, Moran would sacrifice the runner to second. He never missed an opportunity to have a runner looking in at the catcher’s signals.”[fn]Mann, Evening Independent, February 12, 1963.[/fn]



Moran was fortunate there was little personal drama at Phillies’ training camp. Outfielder Possum Whitted— obtained from the Braves in an offseason trade—held out briefly after turning down the Phillies’ initial $4,800 offer,[fn]“Phils Fail to Get Boston Players,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 1915.[/fn] but the dispute was soon resolved, and all players were in camp by March 6.[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1915.[/fn] One player, however, Ramiro Seiglie, became the object of a tug-ofwar between the Phillies and Washington Nationals.

The 22-year-old Seiglie impressed observers with his blazing speed and sure hands as a shortstop in the Cuban League.[fn]Thomas D. Richter, “Philadelphia Points,” Sporting Life, February 27, 1915. Seiglie was referred to in the article as a “sure-enough” Cuban because he was the brother of Oscar Seiglie, secretary of the Cuban legation in Washington, DC The phrase indicates they were not affiliated with the many Cubans seeking independence for the island from the United States.[/fn] One of the people who saw his talents was sportswriter Edgar Wolfe, then vacationing in Cuba.[fn]James C. Isaminger, “Moran Will Put Up Hard Fight to Keep Cuban Who Flew the Coop,” Evening Independent, March 19, 1915.[/fn] Wolfe recommended him to Moran, and Seiglie accepted transportation from the Phillies to report to St. Petersburg, which he did on March 3.[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 5, 1915.[/fn]

Clark Griffith, manager of the Nationals, asserted Seiglie had made an oral commitment to Merito Acosta— a Washington outfielder who played with Seiglie in the Cuban League—to join the Nationals.[fn]“Row Threatened Over a Player,” Evening Independent, March 5, 1915.[/fn] Griffith sent a telegram to Moran on March 5 demanding Seiglie be delivered to the Nationals’ training camp in Charlottesville at once.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Same Old Gavvy Hits ’Em a Mile,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 6, 1915.[/fn] Griffith continued sending daily telegrams to Seiglie and Moran threatening dire consequences if the Cuban infielder did not report promptly.[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 8, 1915.[/fn] To Griffith’s telegrams were added those sent by Acosta and Seiglie’s brother, Oscar, who worked in Washington, DC, urging him to join the Washington club.[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 6, 1915.[/fn]

The story Seiglie told shifted over time. He first claimed to have made no commitment to Washington and would remain with the Phillies.[fn]Ibid.[/fn] But on March 18, Seiglie left camp and traveled to Charlottesville to converse with Griffith. He explained his brother had convinced him to make the trip, but Seiglie also opined that he expected Griffith to pay him substantially more than the Phillies were offering.[fn]Isaminger, Evening Independent, March 19, 1915.[/fn]

Seiglie signed a contract to play for the Nationals the same day he arrived at their camp. Doing an about-face from his previous statements, the infielder admitted the first offer he received had indeed come from Washington, and now he felt morally bound to join that club. The only reason he started training with the Phillies, Seiglie continued, was that their money to pay for transportation reached him before Griffith’s.[fn]Paul W. Eaton, “At the Capital,” Sporting Life, March 27, 1915.[/fn] Despite his professed pangs of guilt over moral obligations, Seiglie’s expectation of a fatter paycheck from Washington was undoubtedly the reason he switched allegiances.

Moran was outraged, claiming Griffith had tampered with Seiglie. He noted the Phillies had paid for the player’s transportation and expenses for three weeks, and Moran threatened to take the matter to baseball’s National Commission.[fn]Thomas D. Richter, “Philadelphia Points,” Sporting Life, March 27, 1915. There is no evidence the Seiglie issue was ever raised with the Commission.[/fn] But the manager “doth protest too much, methinks.”[fn]A famous quotation from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It has come to mean that one’s vehement and frequent objections to something may create doubt about the sincerity of the denunciations.[/fn] He already had decided Seiglie was not ready for the major leagues and intended to send him to the New England League for additional training.[fn]“Nifty Twirling by Phils Hurlers,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 19, 1915.[/fn] Besides, Moran had future Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft to play shortstop.

The Seiglie affair proved to be a tempest in a teapot. Griffith discovered, as Moran had, the Cuban infielder’s need for more seasoning in the minor leagues. In early May, Seiglie was sent to the Newport News club of the Virginia League.[fn]Paul W. Eaton, “At the Capital,” Sporting Life, May 8, 1915.[/fn] That experience apparently did not remedy his shortcomings. Griffith decided after the 1915 season that Seiglie’s “uncertain quality” ruled out a future with Washington.[fn]Paul W. Eaton, “At the Capital,” Sporting Life, December 18, 1915.[/fn] Released by the Nationals, Seiglie never appeared in a regular-season major-league game.



Preseason games against other major league teams did not have the prominence in 1915 that they do today. Part of the problem was a lack of proximity between teams. The only games scheduled for the Phillies in Florida against peer competitors were three games against the Tampa-based Chicago Cubs, and four games opposing the Philadelphia Athletics, who trained in Jacksonville.[fn]It is unclear why more games were not played against the close-by Cubs. Phillies’ business manager William Shettsline attempted to arrange additional contests but was unsuccessful for reasons that are not clear. “Phillies’ Schedule is Announced; Mack’s Men Here for Two Games,” Evening Independent, March 4, 1915.[/fn] No other major league teams trained close enough to St. Petersburg to make games with the Phillies geographically and financially advantageous.

The first game against the Cubs was held at Coffee Pot Park on March 8, and it was a special day in St. Petersburg. One reason for the excitement was that the National Commission had relaxed its rule that previously had forbidden teams from the same league playing exhibition games. Recognizing the popularity of interleague games at spring training, especially in drawing paying fans to ballparks, the Commission allowed intraleague games to also take place.[fn]William G. Weart, “Phillies Have Reached Second Stage of the Preliminary Work,” Evening Independent, March 8, 1915.[/fn]

To encourage a large turnout, all stores in St. Petersburg— except grocery stores and meat markets—closed at 1PM so people could get to the game by its 2PM starting time.[fn]“Big Crowd at Coffee Pot Park to See Phillies and Cubs Open Season,” Evening Independent, March 8, 1915. A large turnout was important for symbolic reasons. St. Petersburg had to demonstrate to the Phillies that the city would support the club sufficiently to make it financially attractive to return for training in future years. Better weather and financial inducements were the initial lures that brought the Phillies to St. Petersburg, but prospects for profits would determine whether the club stayed beyond 1915. Baker’s commitment to train in the city was only for one year.[/fn] Announced as “Boosters’ Day” at the ballpark, a crowd of about 1,500 people saw the Phillies lose to the Cubs 8–5. It was a cold day, and one reporter noted the crowd “shivered in the grandstand” while watching the game.[fn]Even Phillies’ president Baker, who was wintering in Bellaire, Florida, stopped playing golf long enough to attend the game. Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1915.[/fn]

The return game in Tampa on March 16 saw the Phillies again come out on the losing end of a 10–4 score.[fn]The Pennsylvania Society in St. Petersburg arranged for an excursion train to Tampa so a large number of fans could cheer on the Phillies. William G. Weart, “Phillies Will Have a Busy Week with Four Games Already Booked,” Evening Independent, March 15, 1915.[/fn] Although only an exhibition contest, it was steeped in controversy. The Cubs used an “emery ball” during the game, which had been banned in the American, National, and Federal Leagues in 1914.[fn]An emery board or paper is used to roughen part of a baseball so that it will achieve an unnatural break when thrown. http://www.baseballreference.com/bullpen/Emery_ball.[/fn] Its appearance coincided with Cubs’ pitcher Jimmy Lavender, who had had considerable success with the trick ball until it was outlawed, entering the game. Phillies’ pitcher Ben Tincup had trouble controlling the ball with its roughened exterior and walked three men in a row throwing it. The Phillies complained about its use, but the Cubs retorted that the ban only applied to regular season games.[fn]William G. Weart, “Cubs Use Emery Ball in Contest in Which They Down the Phillies,” Evening Independent, March 17, 1915.[/fn]

The third game between the clubs took place in Tampa on March 23. The Phillies came out on top 4–1, but the game lacked the hoopla of the first and contentiousness of the second. The contest drew only 500 spectators.[fn]“Mighty Hurlers for the Phillies Hold Cubs Safe All the Contest,” Evening Independent, March 24, 1915.[/fn]

The Phillies hosted the Athletics on March 12 and 13. The first contest ended in a 5–5 draw.[fn]William G. Weart, “Philadelphia Teams Play a Tie in First Contest of City Series,” Evening Independent, March 13, 1915.[/fn] The second was called off due to rain.[fn]Weart, Evening Independent, March 15, 1915.[/fn] The teams played two more games on March 26 and 27 in Jacksonville, with the Phillies taking the first one, 13–6, and the A’s coming out on top in the second game, 3–1.[fn]“Phillies Win and Lose One,” Evening Independent, March 29, 1915.[/fn] These were the last two games the Phillies played in Florida before heading north.[fn]After leaving Florida, the Phillies played a series of exhibition games against various teams as they meandered north for an Opening Day contest against the Braves in Boston on April 14. The schedule included games against the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, the Norfolk Tars of the Virginia League, the Washington Nationals, a four-game City Series against the Athletics in Philadelphia—each team winning two games—and three games against the Providence Grays of the International League to wind up pre-season. Philadelphia Inquirer, various dates, March 30–April 14, 1915.[/fn]

The club the Phillies played most often in spring training—seven times—was the Havana Reds, a team comprised of all-stars from the Cuban League that was touring the United States.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Gavvy Starts Early Breaking ’Em Up,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 10, 1915.[/fn] The Phillies won all but one of the games.[fn]Scores of the six games the Phillies won were: 3–2, 8–1, 6–3, 4–1, 7–0, 4–0 in games played on March 9–11 and March 17–19, respectively.
Evening Independent, various dates, March 10–20, 1915. The single game the Reds won—the final one in the series—was by a score of 3–2 on March 21. It was against a squad of Phillies’ reservists. “Reds at Last Win One Game,” Evening Independent, March 22, 1915.[/fn] The Reds were not the draw of a major league team in attracting fans to the ballpark. In a game played against the Phillies on March 17, the Reds’ take of the gate receipts amounted to $8.03.[fn]It should be noted the day of the game was described as “cold and raw” by one reporter, which undoubtedly contributed to the paltry turnout. Jim Nasium, “On Two Hits Phils Scored 4 Runs and Beat Havana Reds,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 18, 1915.[/fn]

The Phillies also played several intra-squad games, advertised as “Regulars” versus “Yanigans.”[fn]The term “Yanigan” was commonly used in 1915 and dates back to the nineteenth century in baseball. It was applied exclusively during spring training to rookie and reservist players. Charles Dryden, “Baseball Term Which Applies to the Second Team in Practice,” Philadelphia North American, April 10, 1904. “Yanigan” has long since fallen into disuse.[/fn] Competition in these games could be fierce.[fn]Curve balls were not permitted to be thrown in intra-squad games. This may have been intended to reduce the strain on pitchers’ arms in meaningless games. “Phillies Play Despite Showers,” Evening Independent, March 5, 1915.[/fn] “Regulars” played hard to avoid the embarrassment of defeat, while “Yanigans” were ambitious and eager to move up to become “Regulars” themselves. There was a fair amount of trash talk between the two sides in the runups to games.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Mushy Grounds Keep Phil Belligerents from Mixing it Up,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 16, 1915. He notes both sides were “thirsting for gore” in playing the game. In a second article on games between “Yanigans” and “Regulars,” Nasium commented that Jack Martin—who piloted the “Yanigans”—boasted to Moran that his squad “would open the eyes of the Phil leader as to what kind of a squad of reserve material he is harboring under cover here once they get wrapped up in the thick of a real fuss.” Jim Nasium, “Martin’s Yans to Meet Moran’s Team,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 15, 1915.[/fn] The squads split two games, two were rained out, and the other was canceled.[fn]“Phils Break from Coffee Pot Park,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 25, 1915.[/fn] The “Yanigans” also were dispatched to play two games against the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association on March 10 and 11.[fn]Birmingham was the Southern Association champion. The “Yanigans” won the first game against the Barons, 9–2, while the teams tied in the second game, 5–5. Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 15, 1915.[/fn]

An intra-squad game that did not occur was the annual St. Patrick’s Day game between “Irish” and “Dutch” (i.e., non-Irish) members of the roster. A tradition at Phillies spring training, the team did not have enough “Irish” players to field a full team—a reflection of changing demographics on the club and more generally in baseball.[fn]William G. Weart, Evening Independent, March 15, 1915. St. Patrick’s Day was still celebrated at Coffee Pot Park. Philadelphian Francis X. Murphy sent the Phillies a large green harp decoration—something he did every year as a good luck charm for the team—and Moran had it hung up at the ballpark on March 17. William G. Weart, “Phils in Tampa for a Game;
Cubs May Come Here Next Week,” Evening Independent, March 16, 1915.[/fn]

Admission fees for a person to go to Coffee Pot Park to see the Phillies varied.[fn]It is uncertain if refreshments were sold at the ballpark as another source of revenue. The presence of refreshments is not mentioned in reports on Phillies’ spring training games. There is no evidence scorecards were printed for games.[/fn] Viewing practice was free. To watch the Phillies play the Cubs, Athletics, or Reds cost one dollar for a box seat, 50 cents for the grandstand, and 25 cents for the bleachers. Intra-squad games could be attended for a flat price of 25 cents regardless of where one sat.[fn]Evening Independent, March 4, 1915.[/fn] The ballpark could seat 2,000, but none of the Phillies’ games sold out.[fn]Fountain, Under the March Sun, 24.[/fn]



For all the hours Phillies players trained at Coffee Pot Park, they spent many more away from the ballfield. Between the end of practice at 4PM and curfew at 11:30PM, players had idle time on their hands and looked for something to do.[fn]William Weart, Evening Independent, March 4, 1915. The article notes players had to be in their beds by 11:30PM according to Moran’s rules.[/fn] In addition, there was no practice on Sundays, and only a couple of the players spent the day in religious devotion.[fn]Jim Nasium, “Moran Lets Up on Sabbath,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 8, 1915. He identified those who attended church on Sundays as Eppa Rixey, Stan Baumgartner, and team trainer Mike Dee.[/fn] The search for entertainment led to a variety of adventures and misadventures.[fn]With the exceptions of limits on gambling and a strict curfew, Moran took a light hand in regulating his players’ behavior when not in training. As long as their off-field pursuits did not interfere with their on-field performance, Moran permitted his players to do as they wish without supervision. Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 18, 1915.[/fn]



For players from the north, especially those who lived in larger cities, St. Petersburg was dull. The city was dry—alcohol was prohibited—which posed an inconvenience for noted drinkers like Moran and Grover Cleveland Alexander, but one that could be overcome without too much difficulty.[fn]Mormino, Tampa Bay Times, February 21, 2014. Prohibition was unpopular in the area, and the numerous inlets along the coast became havens for rumrunners transporting alcohol from Cuba. As long as one was discreet in one’s drinking, obtaining alcohol was relatively easy and almost always unpunished. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinellas_County,_Florida. Moran was a heavy drinker, and he earned the nickname “Whiskey Face” honestly. A biography of Moran, written as part of SABR’s Baseball Biography Project, acknowledges his heavy drinking and how it almost certainly contributed to his early death. See Daniel R. Levitt, “Pat Moran,” http://sabr.org/bioproject/person/5375ed39. Alexander’s struggles with alcoholism are chronicled by Jack Kavanagh, Ol’ Pete: The Grover Cleveland Alexander Story (South Bend: Diamond Communications, Inc., 1996).[/fn] Players complained that the city’s two movie houses closed at 9:30PM.[fn]Fountain, Under the March Sun, 24.[/fn] The most damning comment on St. Petersburg’s lack of nightlife was uttered by a player who observed wryly during spring training, “I never knew there was so much pleasure in winding one’s watch.”[fn]http://www.stpeterinternationalbaseball.com/baseball_blvd.php.[/fn]



Fishing was a primary occupation in St. Petersburg, and players took many opportunities to do so off the pier at Coffee Pot Bayou.[fn]After practice on March 10, for example, a “network” of fishing lines were seen in the bayou as numerous Phillies’ players—still attired in their uniforms—went about the business of trying to reel in a big catch. Jim Nasium, “Curve Pitching No Terror to Phillies,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 1915. In addition, Alexander “favored himself a duck hunter and used to bang away at Bay waterfowl from the prow of the Tampa-St. Petersburg boat.” Bothwell, St. Petersburg Times, March 1, 1945.[/fn] For more hardy souls, two excursions into the Gulf of Mexico were organized. The first—March 7 on board the Michigan—was mostly uneventful. The only noteworthy piece of news, which made the front page of St. Petersburg’s Evening Independent newspaper, involved Alexander being bitten on two fingers of his pitching hand by a 15-pound grouper he had caught. Fortunately, the wound was superficial and interfered only slightly with his training.[fn]“Grouper Bites Star Twirler,” Evening Independent, March 8, 1915.[/fn]

The second excursion proved far more hair-raising. On March 21, all but two Phillies’ players boarded the Frank E at 6AM for fishing and a trip to Fort Dade so the “Yanigans” could play the Havana Reds for the benefit of soldiers stationed at that isolated outpost.[fn]Scheduling a game at Fort Dade reflected the Phillies’ and St. Petersburg’s appreciation toward military forces guarding America’s shores as World War I raged. There were no prospects for profit. As noted, the fort was isolated and opportunities for entertainment minimal. A baseball game featuring a major league team—even if reservists and rookies took the field—was a welcome respite from the monotony of garrison duty. Fort Dade, located on Egmont Key outside Tampa Bay, was built during the Spanish American War. The fort’s community consisted of approximately 300 individuals. The fort was used as a training base during World War I and then deactivated in 1923. Brought back into service during World War II as a German U-boat lookout and bombing range, it was again deactivated after that war. The fort’s ruins are today part of the Egmont Key State Park. http://info.flheritge.com/maritime-trail/forts/fort.cfm?name=Fort_Dade.[/fn] The gastronomical highlight of the day was a sumptuous noon meal at Mitchell’s Beach Hotel.[fn]Mitchell’s Beach Hotel was located at John’s Pass Village. The dinner consisted of seven courses and included Russian Caviar, Stone Crabs, Corned Beef & Cabbage, Roast Philadelphia Capon, and Pineapple Cheese Champignon Salad. “Fine Outing for Phillies,” Evening Independent, March 20, 1915.[/fn] This was followed by the trip to Fort Dade where the “Yanigans” would be dropped off while the rest of the entourage returned to St. Petersburg. The Frank E would then go back to the fort to retrieve those who’d been left there for the game.[fn]“Bancroft Lays Claim to Fish,” Evening Independent, March 22, 1915.[/fn]

After the meal, the Frank E ventured forth in its journey to Fort Dade but soon encountered high winds and rough seas. At first treated casually, the boat’s engine gave out, and the Frank E  “was tossed hazardously in the mad surf.” Grim-faced Phillies players sat below deck garbed in life preservers. Some removed items of clothing to ease swimming if the boat foundered. With the boat’s pitching and rolling occurring so soon after the lavish meal, seasickness was common. Fortunately, the crew got the engine running again after an hour and the Frank E made its destination. The “Yanigans” were dropped off and the boat with its queasy passengers returned posthaste to St. Petersburg.[fn]“Moran’s Phillies Don Life Preservers,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 22, 1915. The author of this story noted that Mrs. Beals Becker, wife of a Phillies’ player and the only woman aboard the Frank E, “stood the trip bravely.”[/fn]



Dances were scheduled for Phillies players. Most were held at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, but occasionally they occurred elsewhere.[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 14, 1915.[/fn] On one occasion, pitcher Erskine Mayer was in an automobile going to a ball being held at the Hotel Scholl when it struck another automobile that had stopped. Mayer’s left hand hit the windshield upon impact and was cut badly, but no bones were broken and he was able to resume pitching in a few days.[fn]“Star Pitcher Hurt,” Evening Independent, March 15, 1915. The car in which Mayer was a passenger was driven by Miss Cleo Hall, who was unhurt in the accident.[/fn]

Players took in the local sights, including having their photos taken by St. Petersburg’s famous Shell Fence.[fn]The Shell Fence was created as a roadside attraction and curiosity by artist Owen Albright in the early 1900s. It was destroyed in a hurricane in 1921. http://www.narrowlarry.com/nlshellfence.tml.[/fn] The beach was another place players could be found during their off hours. Al Lang organized automobile tours of the surrounding countryside for those players who wanted to explore beyond the confines of the city.[fn]Weart, Evening Independent, March 3, 1915.[/fn] But most nights, players hung around the hotel talking in the lobby and watching minutes tick by on the clock.



A spring training tradition that continues to this day is practical jokes pulled by players on other players. The 1915 Phillies were no exception.

On the morning the “Yanigans” left for Orlando to play Birmingham in a split-squad game they had to arise at 6:15AM rather the normal wakeup time of 8AM. When hotel employees rang hand bells outside their rooms—the method used to awaken guests—the “Yanigans” rang the bells throughout the hotel to arouse all others present, particularly the veteran players.[fn]William G. Weart, “Phillies Yanigans Arrive Here after a Hard Trip to Orlando,” Evening Independent, March 12, 1915. Some “Regulars” were fooled by the ruse. George Whitted didn’t check his watch and came downstairs for breakfast only to be informed upon arriving that he was an hour and a half early for the meal.[/fn]

But the veterans had already pulled a prank of their own. The “Yanigans” had packed their luggage the night before and placed it in a storage room adjoining the lobby to expedite their departure. Billy Killefer and other “Regulars” discovered this, took paving blocks from the street outside, and placed them in the luggage. The “Yanigans” were bewildered the next morning when they could barely lift their suitcases.[fn]Ibid. St. Petersburg’s streets were being paved at the time with blocks, part of the city’s efforts to modernize its infrastructure.[/fn]

Another prank originated in Killefer’s abject fear of snakes. Teammates put a five-foot snake—scarylooking but harmless—in his locker. When he opened the door and saw the snake, it “caused Bill to break the standing broad-jump record in his haste to get out of the dressing room.”[fn]Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1915.[/fn]



Some players sought out female companionship at spring training. One evening, George Whitted and Oscar Dugey had dates with two local ladies. While walking along Beach Drive, the four were “pranking around” when one of the ladies fell and cut her face.[fn]Curbing was being installed along Beach Drive at the time, and although familiar with the area, the woman may have tripped over the curbing being unaware of its presence. What was meant by “pranking around” remains uncertain, and discretion precludes salacious speculation by this author. Lieb, St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1965.[/fn] A rumor soon spread that she had been struck by one of the players. There was talk of going to the Phillies’ hotel to teach the players a lesson. Al Lang heard of trouble brewing and raced to the Fifth Avenue Hotel to extricate the players before the vigilantes arrived. He hid Whitted and Dugey at the home of a friend in Gulfport for a few days until the matter could be sorted out satisfactorily.[fn]Lieb tells the story of this incident twice, once in his 1953 history of the Phillies, and again in more detail in a 1965 newspaper article describing the Phillies’ experience in St. Petersburg in 1915. There is no mention of it in any period reporting on Phillies’ spring training camp, and that may have been the result of a conspiracy of silence between the Phillies and the city to suppress what happened. The Phillies certainly didn’t want their players portrayed as involved in lascivious behavior, and St. Petersburg would have been equally reluctant to allow word to get out that vigilante justice was still practiced in the city. Lieb, Philadelphia Phillies, 118, and Lieb, St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1965.[/fn]



Sleeping and eating in St. Petersburg during spring training was a disagreeable experience for Phillies players. Baker—an infamous miser—and the MLBAC— which almost went broke subsidizing the Browns— together collaborated to house and feed players on the cheap.[fn]Frederick G. Lieb, “Sunshine Al Lang Celebrates his 80th Birthday,” St. Petersburg Times, November 16, 1950. Lieb notes Browns-related expenses incurred by MLBAC were considerably more than the businessmen anticipated.[/fn] The Fifth Avenue Hotel was rundown, and lodging there “was not living it up in the lap of luxury.”[fn]Two vapor baths were installed in the hotel for Phillies’ players to use after a day’s training. William G. Weart, “Moran Keeps String of Phillies Practicing Steadily at Batting,” Evening Independent, March 5, 1915.[/fn] In fact, when the Phillies returned to the city for spring training in 1916, Moran pulled his men from that hotel and shifted them to the more upscale Edgewater Inn.[fn]Lieb, St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 1965.[/fn]

The food was unappetizing. Lieb noted, “the meals were terrible, even for that period.” Lunch included fried fish with the heads still on, or a roast beef sandwich with meat so tough that Alexander once nailed a slice to his shoe to use as a sole.[fn]Lieb, Philadelphia Phillies, 116. The story of Alexander nailing roast beef to the sole of his shoe almost certainly is apocryphal. Lieb tells another story in his history of the Athletics in which catcher Ossee Schrecongost received a “baseball steak,” called such for its low-grade quality, so tough that he nailed it to the wall of the restaurant in which it was served. Lieb, Connie Mack, 85.[/fn] Lunches, moreover, were sent from the hotel to the ballpark by automobile and were often cold by the time they arrived.[fn]Meals were prepared by Mrs. O.K. Hall of the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Players had the option to walk to the hotel for lunch and then back to the ballfield for afternoon practice, but few did. Weart, Evening Independent, March 4, 1915.[/fn] Players foraged for oranges in nearby groves to supplement their meager lunches.[fn]Fortunately, the owner of the groves, William S. Downey, allowed Phillies’ players to purloin his fruit for their consumption. As one newspaper report related, “Mr. Downey having generously placed his groves and the luscious fruit therein at the free disposal of the Phil players at any time they feel so inclined, and the evidence produced by those who have taken advantage of Mr. Downey’s generosity leads to the suspicion that the said Mr. Downey’s crop of oranges and grapefruit won’t be worth much in the open market when the hungry Phil athletes get through with it.” Nasium, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1915.[/fn]

Evidence of the Phillies’ desire for a square meal was evident on March 23 after their game against the Cubs in Tampa. The team ate dinner at the Tampa Bay Hotel, and not only did they gorge themselves on the food, they took an abundant supply of it back with them to St. Petersburg to savor instead of what their hotel’s menu offered.[fn]“Phils Raid Tampa, Chase Cubs and Grab Abundant Food Supplies,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 24, 1915.[/fn]

Penny-pinching practices in baseball, it should be noted, were not limited to players’ housing and meals. One of business manager William Shettsline’s primary occupations—often aided by Lang—was to retrieve foul and home run balls hit out of Coffee Pot Park so they could be used again in training. One reporter noted: “Shettsline yesterday played baseball for 10 minutes and retrieved 23 baseballs which went over the grand stand. As each baseball is worth $1.25, it can be seen that Shettsline earned his day’s wages and board.”[fn]Weart, Evening Independent, March 5, 1915.[/fn]



The Phillies broke camp in St. Petersburg on March 25 and began the long trek north toward home and the regular season. Spring training had been an overall positive experience, buttressed mostly by the favorable weather.[fn]“Phils Break From Coffee Pot Park, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 25, 1915.[/fn] One reporter commented:

Residents, tourists and members of the Phillies who are in St. Petersburg have no cause to complain about the weather… Under such conditions the Phillies certainly have reason to congratulate themselves on being in St. Petersburg. Up to date the Phillies have been scheduled for 27 workouts and games, and they were forced to call off only one workout and one game.[fn]William G. Weart, “Phillies Satisfied with Weather During Training Here,” Evening Independent, March 18, 1915.[/fn]

President Baker required little convincing to return in 1916.[fn]The Phillies’ spring training stay in St. Petersburg lasted through pre-season in 1918. Then, the club resumed its wandering ways that included stops in North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and various locations in Florida before settling in Clearwater in 1947, where it remains to this day. Lewis and Shenk, Philadelphia Phillies History, 155.[/fn] Sent a contract by Al Lang on April 3 to continue the relationship, Baker quickly signed it and wrote in a letter:

While the amount of money taken in at St. Petersburg was a disappointment, we were compensated in large measure in the difference by the fine way you and your associates treated our club…We hope that this pleasant relationship will continue through next year.[fn]“Phillies Sign to Come Back,” Evening Independent, April 12, 1915.[/fn]

Al Lang pitched Baker to buy the baseball grounds and Coffee Pot Park for the bargain-basement price of $17,500 in hopes of keeping the Phillies in the city permanently.[fn]Lang undoubtedly had an ulterior motive in making the low-ball offer. If Baker had purchased the ballpark and grounds, the Phillies would have been obliged to conduct spring training in St. Petersburg each year, thereby alleviating—or even eliminating—the city’s need to offer financial inducements for the club to return annually.[/fn] Baker declined, much to his subsequent chagrin. The property was valued just six years later at $500,000–600,000, and by 1950 at several million dollars.[fn]Lieb, St. Petersburg Times, November 16, 1950.[/fn]

For Lang, enticing a ball club to hold spring training in St. Petersburg was an end and a means to an end. He championed the city as a wonderful place for spring training—a campaign made all the more persuasive when the Phillies won their first National League pennant in 1915—but he also used the preseason presence of ballplayers to draw tourists to the city.[fn]Ave and Krueger, Tampa Bay Times, March 22, 2008.[/fn] Lang succeeded on both counts.[fn]The St. Petersburg Evening Independent newspaper took great delight in pointing out that the Browns experienced awful weather in Houston during their 1915 spring training camp. It quoted an article that appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat written by a reporter who covered the Browns pre-season training that year which concluded, “Last year Rickey’s club had the best spring training weather ever enjoyed by a major league club; this year it had one of the worst.” Evening Independent, April 12, 1915.[/fn] St. Petersburg evolved into a major tourist destination, and Florida became the epicenter for major league spring training within a decade.[fn]Mormino, Tampa Bay Times, February 21, 2014.[/fn] By conducting spring training in St. Petersburg in 1915, the Phillies helped open new chapters in the evolution and confluence of baseball and Florida.[fn]After the Phillies departed following 1918 spring training, other major league teams came to St. Petersburg for the pre-season, including the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, and Baltimore Orioles. The city hosted its last major league spring training camp in 2008, when the Tampa Bay Rays left and relocated to Port Charlotte, Florida. Stephanie Hays, “St. Petersburg Bids Farewell to Lovely Lady by Bay,” Tampa Bay Times, March 28, 2008.[/fn]


ROBERT D. WARRINGTON is a native Philadelphian who writes about the city’s baseball history.