Behind the colorful scene of spring training's purposeful confusion, painted here by John Groth, lies a side of the baseball picture seldom seen or heard of by the fan. Here the concern is not with batting averages but with bats; not with a pitcher's won-lost records but with the muscles of his arm; not with filling up a hole in the infield but with filling players' stomachs with the proper food. This is the business side of spring training—and it's a big business indeed.
In the case of baseball's largest training camp, Dodgertown at Vero Beach, Fla., it's business requiring an outlay of at least a quarter of a million dollars. No one knows to the last penny how much more. It's not that no one's looking. It's simply terribly complicated. Part of it is easy. Baseballs: $10,000. Two gross of broken bats: $792. Laundry: $9,424.70. But the Dodgers and 16 minor league clubs are in the picture, each a financial entity, each a part, sometimes disproportionately, always to some extent arbitrary, of the total cost as arrived at by the calculated whim of a harassed auditing department. Ten of the clubs are "working agreement," meaning that their stock is owned by non-Brooklyn interests and their training expenses are in varying degrees absorbed by them; the rest are Brooklyn owned. Exhibition games by the Brooklyn clubs soften the prodigious training expense, returning something over $100,000 of the spring training "nut." But with an operating deficit of around $150,000 annually, spring training for the Dodger organization is not the kind of big business you'd want to be passing on to your indigent nephew.
Dodgertown itself is 109 acres, four practice diamonds and a modern stadium with a seating capacity of 4,100. It is four automatic pitching machines and five batting cages. It is a former Naval Air Station, leased to the Dodgers by the City of Vero Beach. It is, to alleviate the intense preoccupation with baseball, a two-acre artificial lake stocked with bass and brim, an orange grove, a nine-hole pitch-and-putt course, a swimming pool, tennis, basketball and badminton courts, Ping-pong tables, a motion picture theater and a soda fountain. It is 2,510 bed sheets and 4,224 towels and, in the kitchen, 66 (Brooklyn should excuse the word) bains-marie of assorted sizes.
It is also, from the time the first players emerge pale into the southern sun until the club house man sweeps up the last pair of dirty inner socks from beneath the locker about seven weeks later—435 exceptionally skilled athletes, an overhead of more than 150 managers, scouts, grounds keepers, cooks and busboys, medical and administrative personnel.
It is big. It is business. It's spring training, 1955.
The story is told of how in 1924 John Ringling induced John McGraw to bring the Giants to Sarasota when spring training was not quite what it is now. It happened, nevertheless, that when the Giants landed, the hotel Ringling had set aside was too small—to put it mildly.
"What did you expect?" McGraw bellowed at Ringling. "Nine men?"