When the Highlanders Trained in Bermuda

This article was written by Ralph S. Graber

This article was published in 1981 Baseball Research Journal

In the spring of 1913, the New York American League team trained in Bermuda as part of the effort to rejuvenate the Highlanders, the Yankees or the Chances, or whatever their name was to be for the season. At spring training time, no name had been decided on.

In 1912, Jim Price, sports editor of the New York Press, had been calling the team the Yankees because he found the name Highlanders too long to fit the headlines. When the 1913 pennant race began, the name Yankees was adopted for the team.

Under Harry Wolverton in 1912, the team had lost 102 games and had finished in eighth place. Since the team had such talented players as Birdie Cree, Russell Ford, Hal Chase and Harry Wolter, the failure seemed to lie in a lack of teamwork and leadership.

So Frank Chance, The Peerless Leader who had led the Cubs to four pennants and two world championships, was brought from the National League to turn the club into a contender. Although injuries and an operation for a blood clot had relegated him to the role of bench manager the previous year, he appeared at 35 to be in perfect health and the man to make champions out of a team which in spite of good material had an affinity for the bottom of the league.

In an effort to improve the spring conditioning, business manager Arthur Irwin persuaded owner Frank Farrell to have the squad train in semi-tropical Bermuda, where the Jersey City Skeeters had conditioned in 1912. To provide exhibition competition, the Skeeters were to go to the coral island again in 1913.

Irwin felt that a combination of the climate, the isolation from the night spots of the mainland, keeping the players together in one place, Chance’s disapproval of drinking, and food specially prepared by a jewel of a chef would make for a successful experiment. Irwin had visited Bermuda, which was becoming a winter playground, and had come back bristling with enthusiasm.

On his next trip he leased the little Hotel Brunswick in Hamilton, the capital city, and had a diamond laid out on the cricket grounds. Three-day cricket matches, along with tennis, provided recreation for the British inhabitants of the island populated by 20,000, of whom 12,000 were blacks.

The experiment seemed to work well. The players ignored the hotel’s bar, worked diligently and spent their free time fishing, playing cards and buying summer clothes in the shops.

The reporters found the hard training infectious and spent time warming up young pitchers and playing lawn tennis rather than making their headquarters in the bar.

In games between the Regulars and Yannigans and exhibitions with the Skeeters, the experiment and Chance’s astute managing seemed to be paying off. By the end of March the venture appeared to be an unqualified success.

But the proof of the pudding was in the season ahead. The club lost 94 games and finished seventh. The following year, with 17 games remaining and the team in seventh place, Chance was replaced by Roger Peckinpaugh, a young shortstop. Not until 1921 did the club win a pennant. The noble experiment had been an interesting failure.