Baseball in the Sunshine State
One Last Season in the Sun: The Saga of the Senior Professional Baseball Association
In the winter of 1989, real-estate investor Jim Morley was aware of the fan interest (and dollars) such golfing legends as Chi Chi Rodriguez, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus were generating on the Senior PGA Tour. Why wouldn’t the recently retired legends of baseball generate similar interest if fans got another opportunity to see them ply their craft?
Walking It Off—Marlins Postseason Walk-Offs
The Marlins won the World Series both times they qualified for the postseason in 1997 and 2003. This was not accomplished without a little drama: Five of the Marlins 22 postseason victories were walkoffs. Remarkably, they did not allow a walk-off in any of their 11 losses.
Take Me Out to the Courtroom: A Look at Baseball Cases in the Florida Courts
Baseball, more than any other sport, has had a central role in American life and regularly finds itself in court. As a result there are now more than 10,000 published judicial decisions regarding baseball. While many writers have examined these decisions from a national or holistic perspective, this article will discuss many of those cases originating in Florida’s courts.
The Best Baseball Story Ever?: Cecil "Stud" Cantrell, the Tampico Stogies, and Long Gone
Had Henry David Thoreau been a baseball fan, his signature quotation might read, “The mass of minor leaguers lead lives of quiet desperation.” Such is the wont of the Tampico Stogies in the 1987 HBO TV movie Long Gone. “Now the Tampico Nine always has been and always will be an aggregation that knows it’s about to suffer another ignominious defeat,” declares Cletis Ramey to Cecil “Stud” Cantrell, the Stogies’ player-manager.
Ever since the 1963 minor leagues realignment, the leagues that have held the Triple-A classification have been fairly consistent. The International League and Pacific Coast League have been fielding teams annually since then, with the American Association joining in 1969 before being disbanded in 1997 and having its teams absorbed by the other two leagues. Astute fans of baseball being played in other countries will be aware that the nonaffiliated Mexican League has held the Triple-A designation since 1967. What many may not realize is that for several months in the spring and summer of 1979 that there was one other Triple-A league, the Inter-American League (or IAL).
El Presidente: The Life and Times of Dennis Martinez
Dennis Martinez had just lost a heartbreaker of a game, 1–0, tossing 10 innings against the United States, losing to future major-leaguer Rich Wortham.
Martinez, only 17, was hardly displeased with his effort because he had pitched before some 25 majorleague scouts in his homeland of Nicaragua against a team of older players in the Federación Mundial de Béisbol Amateur World Series. And not long before that tournament, Martinez had been impressive, too, coming out of the game in the seventh inning in a tournament in the Dominican Republic when Nicaragua beat world-class nemesis Cuba 4–3.
Field of Schemes: The Spring Training Tryout of NFL Star "Jerry LeVias"
In 1513, explorer Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in Florida, according to fable in search of the Fountain of Youth. Ever since, Florida’s menu of sun, fun, beaches, and citrus has symbolized renewal and regeneration, an “enchanted reality,” per state historian Gary Mormino, ripe for second chances amidst a constantly shifting dreamscape.
Spring Training, Safe at Home!, and Baseball-on-Screen in Florida
Occasionally, baseball films spotlight sequences or storylines that are Florida-centric. Not surprisingly, they primarily are linked to spring training—and some even have real-world connections. Slide, Kelly, Slide (1927), for example, features the New York Yankees working out in Delano—and highlights guest appearances by Mike Donlin, Bob Meusel, Irish Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri. Big Leaguer (1953), starring Edward G. Robinson as ballplayer-turned-talent evaluator John B. “Hans” Lobert, is set in a New York Giants tryout camp in Melbourne. In Fear Strikes Out (1957), Boston Red Sox rookie Jimmy Piersall (Anthony Perkins) heads for spring training in Sarasota.
Woody Smith: The Original Mr. Marlin
When you ask a Miami Marlins fan today, “Who is Mr. Marlin?” without hesitation you will get the response, “Jeff Conine,” who starred with the team for eight seasons. However, old-timers, who harken back to the days when minor league baseball ruled Miami, will give you a different answer: Woody Smith, a sure-handed third baseman with moviematinee- idol good looks. Forest Elwood Smith was born on February 25, 1927, in University City, Missouri, to Roscoe Phillip Smith and his bride, the former Beulah V. Tessereau, who both hailed from the Farmington/ Fredericktown area of southern Missouri. “Forry”, his given nickname, was the middle of three children; his older brother Roscoe Phillip Jr., known as “Pete,” was three years older and younger brother Jerry came along 17 years after Forest. They were all born and raised in University City, an inner ring suburb of St. Louis County.
Satchel Paige: Twilight with the Marlins
At the end of the 1956 season, writer Oscar Fraley observed that Satchel Paige was “a rounders robot who reportedly inspired Abner Doubleday to invent baseball.” That was after Paige had—at age 50—gone 11–4 with two shutouts, 13 saves, and a 1.86 ERA for the Miami Marlins of the International League. Paige spent three seasons with the Marlins, which were both successful and controversial.
The Short but Exciting Life of the Havana Sugar Kings
The Havana Sugar Kings played in the International League between 1954 and 1960. It was a short existence, but a memorable one. The Sugar Kings began with hopes of a major league franchise, experienced a shooting during a home game and a political revolution, won the International League’s Governor’s Cup and the Junior World Series, and ended their stay in Havana with a one-way trip to Jersey City.
The Long Forgotten Florida International League
The Florida International League (FIL) existed but a brief eight and one-half years, folding in the middle of its ninth season. During those years countless exciting games were played by some of baseball’s most recognizable cast of characters. The league served as the catalyst for Havana’s entry into Organized Baseball. The Sporting News (TSN) once said the FIL is a league “where bizarre incidents come with startling frequency.”
Blurring the Color Line: How Cuban Baseball Players Led to the Racial Integration of Major League Baseball
Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans, who played for the Cincinnati Reds 36 years before Jackie Robinson came along, should be credited with crashing the color barrier.
NAPBL Gathering in Miami Gave Birth to the Caribbean Series
The 46th National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues winter meeting took place in Miami during the first days of December 1947.
Black Baseball's "Funmakers": Taking the Miami Ethiopian Clowns Seriously
Found almost exclusively in black newspapers, box scores for Miami Ethiopian Clowns games read like a cast list for a Night at the Museum sequel:
King Tut, Abbadaba, Tarzan, Ulysses Grant Greene, Wahoo, Goose Tatum, Highpockets West, Peanuts Nyassas, Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia
Obscured by these vivid names and the vaudevillian antics that went with them is the fact that these entertainers also played first-rate baseball—as evidenced by the team’s many Negro American League and semi-pro tournament titles—and did so for longer than any other Negro League team. Taking the Clowns throughout the country on a barnstorming schedule packed with as many as 200 games per year, their annual baseball journey began each year in Miami.
Spring Training in St. Petersburg: Its Beginnings and the Phillies' Experience in 1915
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.
Land of New Beginnings
A poetic ode to spring training in the Sunshine State.
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