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Historic Dodgertown

Dodgertown Dates

1953

January 15, 1953

The first night game for Holman Stadium and Dodgertown is scheduled for March 27th, 1953 in a minor league game between the Dodgers’ AAA teams, Montreal Royals and St. Paul Saints.  Future Dodger manager Walter Alston is the manager of the Montreal club for the season. 1

January 29, 1953

An advertisement in the Vero Beach Press Journal notifies fans of 1,500 reserved box seats on sale for the Dodgers’ exhibition season in Dodgertown in Vero Beach.  The schedule includes two major league games with the Dodgers facing the Philadelphia Athletics on March 11th and the Boston Braves on March 25th.  The remainder of the schedule will feature Dodger minor league clubs in two doubleheaders and two night games. 2 The ad states, “All games to be played in the new Dodger Stadium.” 3

February 17, 1953

Walter O’Malley thanks photographer Wally Skiscim of Vero Beach for aerial photos of Holman Stadium and Dodgertown.  “Your photos of Holman Stadium and Valentine Lake are well done and show no sign of nervousness on your part as you must have been hanging from the plane by your heels,” wrote O’Malley. 4

February 18, 1953

Dodgertown chief umpire Jess Collyer is elected as mayor of the town of Ossining, New York.  Walter O’Malley wrote Collyer of his election as mayor, “There has been a lot written in the newspapers lately about the Dodgers trading some of their star players, but not one word has ever been written and I am sure won’t be typed about the Dodgers trading their favorite umpire, Jess Collyer.”  Collyer was well known at Dodgertown for his humor with a double-talk style, added, “If the Dodgers don’t say ‘Your Honor’ when protesting a decision, I’ll throw ‘em right out of the game.” 5

February 18, 1953

Cartoonist Willard Mullin captures the concept of all Brooklyn Dodger players being under contract as he has a large flock of them in a cartoon flying south to Vero Beach.  The cartoon is titled, “The Boid Is on the Wing.” 6

February 18, 1953

Walter O’Malley on the 1953 Spring Training season said, “1953 will be a red-letter year in the relationship between the Dodgers and the city of Vero Beach.  This spring baseball’s newest park, Holman Stadium, will be opened.  This will give the city not only the most elaborate Spring Training camp in the world, but one of the finest minor league parks.” 7

February 18, 1953

Roscoe McGowen of the New York Times reports on cost estimates to run Dodgertown during Spring Training.  The estimates ranged from $175,000 for player transportation, $50,494 for food all the way down to taxes in the amount of $1,142.  When confronted with the cost of Spring Training, Walter O’Malley replied, “Why, that’s just chips.” Sportswriter John Carmichael then said, “Then (O’Malley) had better not attempt to introduce any chips of that value into those 'little games of skill and chance' referring to poker games that took place in the Vero Beach press room.” 8

February 25, 1953

Roy Campanella reported to Spring Training in Dodgertown and hoped to win a hat from General Manager Buzzie Bavasi.  “I told Campy,” said Bavasi, “I’d buy him a new hat if he reported weighing under 200 pounds.”  When Campanella got on the scales, his weight recorded at 203.  “I think Bavasi oughta give me that hat, anyway,” said Campanella. 9

February 25, 1953

The Saturday Evening Post does a comprehensive feature on Spring Training for baseball teams and discusses Dodgertown.  “The training plant and program of the Brooklyn Dodgers, National League champions, sum up the galloping elephantiasis (large growth) of the system…..It is a ‘super’ plant….The place abounds in gadgets, mechanical pitchers and sliding pits.” 10

February 27, 1953

The Brooklyn Dodgers finished a day of Spring Training for a fishing expedition on the Indian River.  Nearly 100 fish were caught by Dodger personnel on the trip.  Preacher Roe, noted as one of the most avid fisherman on the Dodgers, was presented a large platter of fried fish instead of a cake for his 35th birthday by the Dodgertown chef. 11

March 1, 1953

Open Road magazine has a feature on Dodgertown in their March issue.  The sub-head of the article reads, “Dodgertown, Brooklyn Dodgers’ own 'little city' in Florida, is the world’s largest and finest spring playground.” The article lists the features to be found there and states, “It is easy to see why the Dodger camp is called Dodgertown!  On the Spring Training base, Dodger players and personnel had available medical facilities, post office, telegraph office, barber shop, movie theatre, swimming pool, a fish pond of two acres and a new baseball stadium with four practice diamonds and citrus groves all around.  Dodger Vice President Fresco Thompson says of Dodgertown, “One month of concentrated training in Dodgertown is equal to a full year of baseball experience.” 12

March 3, 1953

Walter O’Malley writes to St. Louis Cardinal Owner Fred Saigh, “We have finished the little country stadium here which is rather nice and I believe it will have good acceptance.” 13   Walter O’Malley notifies architect Emil Praeger of the test done for the lights at the new Holman Stadium.  O’Malley was happy to tell Praeger, “Threw the switch for a (lights) test last night.  Result unbelievably superior.” 14   Finally, Walter O’Malley writes Merrill Barber things were going well to have the new Holman Stadium ready for its first game.  “We have the stadium pretty well under control and the Royal Palms we have planted add a great deal to its appearance.  We made a test on the lights last evening and I truly believe it is a better lighting plant than we have in Brooklyn.” 15

March 3, 1953

Roy Campanella shaved his winter moustache in Spring Training at Dodgertown.  He had grown it in the off-season but kept it on until he reached Vero Beach, Florida.  “I kept it on to win a dollar from Pee Wee Reese,” said Roy.  “When we signed together in New York he bet me I couldn’t report wearing it.  So I waited until he arrived to prove I still had it.” 16

March 4, 1953

Fifty royal palm trees are to be planted at Holman Stadium in Dodgertown, a gift from Dodger stockholder, Mrs. Mary Smith, widow of Dodger stockholder John L. Smith.  Mrs. Smith thought the palm trees would be an excellent memorial for his love of the Dodgers and Dodgertown. The royal palm trees were a long-term feature of the beauty of Holman Stadium. 17

March 4, 1953

Walter O’Malley writes to Sports Editor Max Kase of the New York Journal American newspaper of his pride of Holman Stadium in Dodgertown.  “We have a beautiful new stadium that is drawing much favorable comment and could very well be a model for future minor league ball parks because we have the base cost whipped down to $6 a seat.” 18

March 5, 1953

Actress Vera-Ellen visits Dodgertown during a break in filming the movie “Big Leaguer.”  Her co-star was Edward G. Robinson with most of the scenes done in Melbourne, Florida.  She spoke with the Vero Beach Press-Journal about the city of Vero Beach.  “Oh, I just love your town,” she said.  “I think I’ll change my name from Vera to Vero.” 19

March 7, 1953

Walter O’Malley made personal contributions to the final details of completing Holman Stadium in Dodgertown.  The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper wrote, “Holman Stadium is like a new toy to the headman of the Dodgers.  He spends long hours there every day watching the workmen put the finishing touches on the park for Wednesday’s gala opening against the Athletics (March 11).  And after dark he (O’Malley) turns on the lights.  Roscoe McGowen wrote in the New York Times, “Walter O’Malley had the lights on at his prized little stadium last night and led an expedition there for inspection and admiration.  The Dodger president was there again today supervising the pulverizing of the infield dirt by a special machine. 20

March 7, 1953

Columnist Dick Young of the New York Daily News writes of Walter O’Malley’s interest for Holman Stadium, ready to be opened for Spring Training.  “No kid ever pored over his set of electric trains the way Walter O’Malley putters around the picturesque new ball park here….It’s Walter O’Malley’s baby.  He walks about it, hour on hour, over the soft grass of the infield, over the smoothly raked skinned portion…..O’Malley will tell you, ‘It seats 5,000, 1,650 of them boxes.  The chairs in the boxes are the metal ones that used to be in the Polo Grounds before (New York Giants owner Horace) Stoneham put in new ones.'" 21

March 9, 1953

Dodger scout Andy High writes to an official in the Brooklyn Dodger organization about the new Holman Stadium.  “Our grand opening is set for Holman Field day after tomorrow and we expect it to be a big day for all.  Mr. O’Malley is having more fun than he has ever had in any previous Spring Training camp.  Fresco (Thompson) and I were helping him (O’Malley) rake up and roll the infield this morning…..It really is a beautiful field and one that we will all be proud of.” 22

March 11, 1953

A ceremony was held at the Vero Beach Airport as a flag from Eastern Airlines and a flag from the Brooklyn Dodgers were raised. A color guard was present to hoist the flag and Walter O’Malley represented the Dodgers. 23

March 11, 1953

Roscoe McGowen of the New York Times addressed his story this way in the dedication of Holman Stadium, the new formal baseball stadium at Dodgertown.  “The dedication of the Dodgers’ beautiful little Holman Stadium today was a rousing success on all counts.  Among the notables attending the first game at Holman Stadium was Bud Holman, the man who convinced the Dodgers to have their Spring Training in Vero Beach; Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick; National League President Warren Giles and American League President Will Harridge and Connie Mack, long-time manager and owner of the Philadelphia Athletics.  Pre-game ceremonies caused the game to start 30 minutes late.  Dodger President Walter O’Malley presented a plaque to Holman that read, “The Brooklyn Dodgers dedicate Holman Stadium to honor Bud L. Holman of the friendly city of Vero Beach.  Walter F. O’Malley, President, Emil H. Praeger, C.E. designer.”  The Dodgers won the game 4-2 as Carl Erskine made the first pitch and allowed one run in four innings. 24   Kay and Walter O’Malley’s daughter Terry O’Malley and son Peter O’Malley, send a telegram to their father to congratulate him on the opening of Holman Stadium.  The telegram read “Congratulations on Holman Stadium Opening Day.  Hope we win.” 25

March 12, 1953

Walter O’Malley writes a letter to J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News.  “I believe our attendance at the game (opening game for Holman Stadium on March 11th) exceeded the total population of the City of Vero Beach.” 26   Walter O’Malley added his own labor to the grounds crew.  “We spied an extra workman among the ground crew working on the field at Holman Stadium the other day.  The fellow was busy raking the sod part of the new infield.  He looked familiar to us and he rightly should…He was Walter O’Malley, president of the Dodgers!  Mr. O’Malley is as proud of the new Holman Stadium as Pap Dionne was when his quints were born. 27

March 13, 1953

Larry Maher of Maher’s Tropical Fashions in Vero Beach, Florida writes a letter of thanks to Walter O’Malley for the naming of Holman Stadium for his uncle, Bud Holman.  “It was truly a great moment for me at the dedication when they unveiled the plaque (sic) in his honor.  He is most deserving of the honor bestowed on him…..The stadium was certainly in all its glory for the dedication and I heard many comments on how the palms completed the setting.” 28

March 18, 1953

Walter O’Malley introduces the new lake at Dodgertown to New York Times writer Roscoe McGowen. O’Malley threw out his fishing line and he felt a tug. Pulling in the line, O’Malley caught a bass and said, “The first fish ever caught here!” The fish measured approximately six inches. 29

March 27, 1953

Dodger outfielder Duke Snider tells of his experience at the first Spring Training camp in Dodgertown in 1948.  Snider was a highly touted prospect but struggled with the strike zone in playing exhibition games in the Dominican Republic.  Branch Rickey had Snider return to Dodgertown in Vero Beach for special training of the strike zone.  “It was hard work, but it helped,” said Snider. “I stood at bat for hour after hour, never even swinging.  There was an umpire behind the catcher and he’d ask me after each pitch whether it was a strike or a ball.  Then they let me swing but I still had to call the pitch afterward, strike or ball.  It helped greatly. 30

March 30, 1953

Walter O’Malley writes to photographer Herb Scharfman to compliment him on a photo taken with Jackie Robinson and Billy Cox. Sports writers had written issues of discrimination had arisen as the emergence of Jim Gilliam at second base had Jackie Robinson assigned to third base with Cox filling in as a utility infielder. “Your picture of Jackie (Robinson) and Billy Cox shaking hands was the best answer to all the tripe written about discrimination on this club. That is just what they say, a good picture never lies.” 31

April 1, 1953

National League umpire Larry Goetz, assisted by Dodgertown umpire Jess Collyer, held a training clinic for hopeful baseball arbiters in Vero Beach, Florida at the Dodgers’ Spring Training camp. 32

April 2, 1953

Dodgertown umpire Jess Collyer and Dodger manager Charlie Dressen had fun with Milwaukee Brave manager Charlie Grimm in a game at Holman Stadium in Dodgertown.  Collyer, a master double talker, appeared at home plate to discuss the ground rules for Holman Stadium.  Collyer’s nonsense talking combined with a fairly close interpretation of the ground rules left Grimm not knowing what to do.  “This guy don’t make sense,” said Grimm.  Manager Dressen in on the joke, replied, “I understand him perfectly.” 33

April 4, 1953

Film stars Edward G. Robinson and Vera-Ellen visit Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida, on a break from starring in a baseball movie filmed in Florida, “Big Leaguer.”  Feature writer Andy O’Brien reports they visited the tent where 50 gallons of orange juice was made fresh every day.  Next, the two actors saw the Dodgertown dining room and saw how well Dodger players ate in camp.  The great Robinson said, “You mean that ball players get paid to come here?”  Replied Walter O’Malley, “Actually, it pays us to operate this alleged holiday resort.” 34

April 8, 1953

Louis Marchegiano, the younger brother of heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano, took part in a tryout at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Marchegiano was still enrolled in high school in Massachusetts and was to graduate in June. The invitation for the tryout came from Walter O’Malley who met the boxing champion Marciano at a sports dinner in New York. 35

May 1, 1953

The Armstrong Tire Company in-house magazine, writes of Armstrong tire distributor and Dodger scout Joe Samoska and his trip to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.  Various photos of the daily activities on the base accompanied an article that explained baseball Spring Training to readers of the magazine. 36

May 12, 1953

Walter O’Malley writes of his gratitude to the Secretary of the Indian River County Hospital Association that the benefit baseball game played at Holman Stadium donated $3,034 to the Association. 37

May 25, 1953

In correspondence between two Brooklyn Dodger officials, seats that had been in the Polo Grounds in New York City were now being used at Holman Stadium in Dodgertown.  The Dodgers purchased 2,248 chairs for $1 apiece to permit individual seating at their new Spring Training stadium. 38

June 15, 1953

Pageant Magazine has a feature on Jess Collyer, Dodgertown umpire and Mayor of Ossining, New York in his roles as umpire, recreation director of Sing Sing prison and mayor of the town.  Collyer was known for his double-talk style and once played a joke on Dodger general manager Branch Rickey.  After Collyer did his confusing conversation with Rickey, the general manager who did not hear well on one side, was heard to say, “I think my other ear has gone.”  In one game at Vero Beach, Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese hit a ball into the grapefruit trees in left field.  The outfielder came back with a grapefruit in his glove, but not the ball and Collyer called Reese out.  When Reese complained, Collyer said, “This is the grapefruit league, isn’t it?” 39

June 23, 1953

Walter O’Malley speaks to the Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors on additions at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.  The Chairman (O’Malley) then referred to the stadium at Vero Beach and stated that in addition to the original stadium there had been erected a clubhouse and an improved lighting system.  The Chairman was well satisfied with the stadium at Vero Beach and stated that the net income received from the games played there this year was $19,500.  He referred to the fact that Mrs. Smith had donated 50 Royal Palm trees which greatly enhanced the beauty of the stadium and on behalf of the meeting, thanked Mrs. Smith for her donation.” 40

October 9, 1953

Dodger Vice President Fresco Thompson writes a foreword to a book of baseball instruction by Buck Lai, Dodger scout and instructor and baseball coach at Long Island University.  The foreword was for an instructional book, “Championship Baseball” written by Lai.  Thompson talked about Dodgertown and its value in baseball instruction. “The most elaborate baseball program of physical conditioning and special instruction takes place every spring in Dodgertown, U.S.A.  This 200-acre training camp is located at Vero Beach, Florida, and has been leased by President Walter O’Malley for the use of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their minor league clubs through 1972.  This camp has been called “The College of Baseball” by outstanding figures in the game and may actually cut the apprenticeship a player must serve in the minor leagues by one to two years.  One concentrated month in Dodgertown may be equal to one year in experience.” 41

November 4, 1953

Walter O’Malley went to Vero Beach, Florida, to view the damage done by storms to a new nine hole pitch-and-putt golf course. O’Malley had the golf course built so that African-American players could have some recreation away from the baseball fields. Heavy storms undid the previous work on the course but O’Malley was unstoppable. “We’ll lick it.  It’ll be ready when you get down there in the spring.” 42

December 2, 1953

Advertising is published in The Sporting News for an instructional clinic for baseball coaches to be held at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida from February 13 through February 22, 1954. 43

December 28, 1953

Walter O’Malley writes to Bob Curzon of the Vero Beach Press-Journal of a pending idea for the use of Dodgertown in 1954. “We are also giving some thought to the possibility of operating a boy’s camp at Dodgertown in July and August. We feel that if we can put 500 boys and staff in Vero Beach during the summer months it should be a great thing for the community. This camp will be aimed at boys who would like special instruction in the various high school and college sports. It will not primarily be a baseball camp although considerable attention, of course, will be given to that sport. This will be at the amateur level and we will not have in mind any proselyty (sic) for professional baseball.  We feel that the facilities are excellent for such a camp.” 44

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  • 1 ^ Bob Curzon, Vero Beach Press-Journal, January 15, 1953
  • 2 ^ Bob Curzon, Vero Beach Press-Journal, January 15, 1953
  • 3 ^ Vero Beach Press Journal, January 29, 1953
  • 4 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to Wally Skiscim, February 17, 1953
  • 5 ^ Oscar Ruhl, The Sporting News, February 18, 1953  
  • 6 ^ Willard Mullin, The Sporting News, February 18, 1953
  • 7 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, February 18, 1953
  • 8 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, February 18, 1953 
  • 9 ^ The Sporting News, February 25, 1953
  • 10 ^ John Lardner, Saturday Evening Post, February 28, 1953
  • 11 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, February 27, 1953
  • 12 ^ Open Road Magazine, March, 1953
  • 13 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to Fred Saigh, March 3, 1953
  • 14 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to Emil Praeger, March 3, 1953
  • 15 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to Merrill Barber, March 3, 1953
  • 16 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 3, 1953
  • 17 ^ The Sporting News, March 4, 1953
  • 18 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to Max Kase, March 4, 1953
  • 19 ^ Andy O’Brien, Weekend Picture Magazine, March 4, 1953
  • 20 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 7, 1953
  • 21 ^ Dick Young, New York Daily News, March 7, 1953
  • 22 ^ Andy High Correspondence to Al Clarke, March 9, 1953
  • 23 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 19, 1983
  • 24 ^ Roscoe McGowen, New York Times, March 18, 1953
  • 25 ^ Telegram, Terry O’Malley and Peter O’Malley, March 11, 1953
  • 26 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to J.G. Taylor Spink, March 12, 1953
  • 27 ^ Bob Curzon, Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 12, 1953
  • 28 ^ Larry Maher Correspondence to Walter O’Malley, March 13, 1953
  • 29 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 18, 1953
  • 30 ^ Arthur Daley, New York Times, March 27, 1953
  • 31 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to Herb Scharfman, March 30, 1953
  • 32 ^ The Sporting News, April 1, 1953
  • 33 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, April 12, 1953
  • 34 ^ Andy O’Brien, Weekend Picture Magazine, April 4, 1953
  • 35 ^ Zander Hollander, The Sporting News, April 8, 1953
  • 36 ^ Armstrong Tire News, May-June, 1953
  • 37 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to E.G. Thatcher, May 12, 1953
  • 38 ^ Alden Clarke Correspondence to William Gibson, May 25, 1953
  • 39 ^ Zander Hollander, Pageant Magazine, June, 1953
  • 40 ^ Brooklyn Dodgers Board of Director Notes, June 23, 1953
  • 41 ^ Buck Lai, Championship Baseball, October 9, 1953
  • 42 ^ The Sporting News, November 4, 1953
  • 43 ^ The Sporting News, December 2, 1953
  • 44 ^ Walter O’Malley Correspondence to Bob Curzon, December 28, 1953