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Historic Dodgertown

Historic Timeline

1929-1939

1929

Bud Holman, business leader and Vero Beach, Florida resident, is one of a handful of citizens who originally establishes the Vero Beach Airport in 1929. Born in Versailles, Kentucky on September 18, 1900, Holman opened his successful Vero Beach Cadillac Company in 1925.

 

 

1932

Holman convinces Eastern Air Lines to make Vero’s airport a fueling stop.

 

 

1935

Holman and area Postmaster J.J. Schumann were instrumental in obtaining direct air mail service for the community, making it the smallest U.S. city to have the service.

Almost overnight, the airport and Vero Beach became a military community during World War II, after the Navy quickly put up housing on the land where Dodgertown was eventually to stand. Youthful fliers filled not only the skies, but the small Vero Beach community, as well. Dances, parties, church services and hymn sings were held for the military men. Sadly, several were killed in training exercises in defense of our country. 1

 

 

1940s

1942

According to author George W. Gross, the U.S. Naval Air Station, Vero Beach, Florida was commissioned on November 24, 1942 “to provide a Navy and Marine flight training base for over 2,700 men and 300 WAVES and women Marines. The purpose of the NAS was constantly revised from originally training dive bomber pilots to daytime pilots and ultimately to nighttime fighter pilots. Although extensive safety procedures were established, records show 105 lives were lost in flight training accidents.” 2

 

1946

On May 10, the City of Vero Beach receives the land and training facility back from the U.S. Government under the terms “that any use of the facilities was subject to federal approval and any funds acquired from use or sale of the airbase property must be retained in a special fund and applied exclusively to the maintenance or development of flight facilities.” By June 1946, all training ceased, transfer of nearly all personnel began, and the base prepared to assume caretaker status, with a minimum crew of 30 civilian workers and 25 Navy men.” 3

 

1947

In February, the Dodgers set up their training camp in Havana, Cuba, a long way from Brooklyn, but team president Branch Rickey strategically wanted to keep his “great experiment” of breaking baseball’s color barrier with Jackie Robinson under wraps as long and as quietly as possible. Racial discrimination was less prevalent in Havana, where African-American players had regularly participated in the Cuban Winter Leagues. Although Robinson would not be housed at the team’s headquarters, the plush Hotel Nacional, he would have relative insulation and a safe haven at the Hotel Boston in old Havana.

 

On July 18, regarding a base for 1948 Spring Training, Rickey reports to the Board of Directors, “that he was in receipt of a firm offer from the Dominican Republic, which has invited the Brooklyn organization to train there.”

 

Rickey had told his family and some close friends that the club was searching for a training site in the United States. Rickey’s daughter mentioned the fact to a neighbor, Dick Cameron, who in turn relayed the information to Bud Holman. 4

 

Holman approaches the Brooklyn Dodgers about the possibility of using land at the former U.S. Naval Air Station, now owned by the City of Vero Beach, for Spring Training activities. In response, Dodger President Rickey, who was looking for a U.S. site to train the Dodgers and their 26 minor league teams in a self-contained camp setting, dispatches Buzzie Bavasi, General Manager of the minor league Nashua, NH team, by train on November 2, to evaluate the facilities.

 

Bavasi recalls he was supposed to head south after seeing the Vero Beach facilities to evaluate other possible training sites in Ft. Pierce or Stuart, but was impressed with Vero. “To make a long story short, I never made it to Fort Pierce or Stuart,” recalled Bavasi. 5 “Bud Holman met me at the train and he wouldn’t let me go any farther south. The facilities were already there. All we had to do was put in the ball fields. Another thing was having the airport so close. We had our own plane then and we could walk from the airport to the offices.” 6

 

On October 15, in the Minutes of the Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, “Mr. Rickey outlined the Corporation’s tentative plans for the spring training, stating that the camp heretofore held at Pensacola (FL) would be moved to Vero Beach on term(s) highly satisfactory. He then discussed the arrangement with the Dominican Republic where the Dodger and Montreal teams will train during the month of April.” 7

 

In the December 7 Minutes of the Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, “The Vero Beach camp is presently being set up to be another edition of the school started at Sanford (FL) and continued last year at Pensacola. Based on the experience of these two camps, economies will be affected.”[6] The board was unanimous in endorsing the idea of such an understanding and agreed with Mr. Rickey’s prediction of accelerated production. On December 19, Rickey reported to the board about the lease of land from Vero Beach, “It is expected that a five year lease at $1.00 per year will result.” 8

 

On December 11, 1947, the Vero Beach Press-Journal reports the Brooklyn Dodgers have selected Vero Beach to be their location for Spring Training. Dodger team officials, Bud Holman and Vero Beach councilmember J. R. Reaves were involved in the negotiations. The negotiators visited the Banana River Naval Station (now Patrick Air Force Base) to purchase the necessary equipment and requirements for living arrangements. 9

 

1948

The Dodgers and the City of Vero Beach reach a five-year lease agreement for the former U.S Naval Air Station and call the name of the property “Dodger Town”. The Vero Beach Press-Journal reported on January 25, “City Council Tuesday night approved the revamped lease covering the facilities and land of the former air base (Dodger Town) by the Brooklyn Baseball club for a period of five years with an option for five additional years.” 10   It was the first time that the name “Dodger Town” was used in the newspaper and it was printed as two words.

 

The Dodgers’ major league Spring Training is held out of the country at Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic, but the minor leaguers train at Dodgertown.

 

Rickey’s desire to find a Spring Training site that would permit his new star, Jackie Robinson, who had crossed Major League Baseball’s color line as the first African-American player in 1947, to have some normalcy was extremely important. Most Florida communities planted in the depths of the South were segregated. According to author Sidney P. Johnston, “Rickey believed that racism was less prevalent in Vero Beach than most other places in the South. African-American baseball players, like all people of their race, encountered discrimination not only in larger cities, such as Jacksonville and Tampa, but in small towns as well. Jackie Robinson aroused protests in Sanford during his first year in the Dodger farm system, while Jacksonville and Deland closed their stadiums to the integrated Dodger farm system.” 11

 

The first two major league exhibition games are played in Vero Beach on March 31 and April 1. Jackie Robinson makes his Dodgertown debut and homers in the first inning of the first Dodger game on March 31. Florida Governor Millard Caldwell threw the ceremonial first pitch at so-called “Ebbets Field No. 2.” A sign reading “You Are Now Entering Dodgertown” welcomed a strong showing of some 6,000 fans, paying $1.25 in the grandstands and bolstered the idea of more games being played on base in the future. Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, who had suspended Manager Durocher one year earlier, shook hands with “The Lip” and wished him good luck. Vero Mayor Merrill P. Barber looked on and a contingent of the Brooklyn National Guard, who had traveled to Florida to watch the Dodgers, was introduced and went home with a “load of oranges presented to them by the Vero Beach Jaycees.” The arrival of the Dodgers touched off a celebration that began with a breakfast at the Riomar Club and ended when the Dodgers beat the Montreal Royals, 5-4.” 12 Following that game, Dodgertown was mentioned as one word in The Sporting News headline on April 7, “Dodgertown Dedicated in Florida Welcome”. 13

 

So intrigued by the new facilities was Life magazine that it made Dodgertown the April 5, 1948 cover story and devoted four more pages inside.

 

Jimmy Powers writes in the New York Daily News about Dodgertown, “The Dodgers have an excellent rookie camp in Vero Beach. The kitchen and equipment room are first class. Vero Beach is much farther north than Miami, as a result too decent and too quiet for the hoodlum element to bother with. Its streets are clean. Its citizens are highly respectable. It has great civic spirit.” 1

 

More than 600 players are housed in the former U.S. Naval Air Station barracks at Dodgertown.

 

Isolated from the downtown Vero Beach area, Dodgertown enabled the players to be self-contained in the airport area and at the living quarters on base. The Dodgers built up the base so that a player would have all of his basic needs cared for, including their own postal station, canteen, barber shop, Western Union office and lounge.

1950s

1950

Walter O’Malley is named Dodger President on October 26. O’Malley joined the Dodgers as Vice President and General Counsel in 1943 and became an owner of the team in 1944.

 

1951

A headline in The Sporting News in Spring Training 1951 pronounced, “Bums Go From Rags to Riches at Camp, Cafeteria Line Gives Way to DeLuxe Dining Service” as Dodgertown was upgraded under the leadership of O’Malley. The story explains that he hired Harry M. Stevens to run dining operations and provided linen tablecloths for Dodger major leaguers, executives and the press. “The largest clientele at the new country club dining room of the Dodgers has been 100 persons, yet the menu provided, with all the trimmings, would honor a first-class restaurant serving ten times as many.” 15

 

 

Paying tribute to his deep-seated Irish roots which go back to County Mayo on his paternal great-grandfather’s side, Walter O’Malley holds the first Dodger St. Patrick’s Day party in Miami. The annual event shifts to Vero Beach the next year in the Hall of Tara, McKee Jungle Gardens. The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations became legendary.

 

 

On March 18, Vero Beach residents rejoice over the dedication of the new $800,000 Merrill Barber Bridge, spanning the Indian River.

 

1952

In January, O’Malley and the Dodgers sign a new 21-year lease agreement with the City of Vero Beach for the Dodgertown property at $1 a year, with the ability to renew for an additional 21-year period. O’Malley pays the $21 in cash! The Dodgers are obligated to maintain and staff the facility and spend at least 15 days a year in Vero each spring. A certain number of exhibition games must be played there, with the revenue from one game designated for the Vero Beach Airport Fund. The lease receives unanimous approval by the City Council. 16

 

 

On March 7, O’Malley announces at a Miami press conference that there is “a strong possibility that the Brooklyn Dodgers will build the proposed new 5,000-seat stadium in Vero Beach.” 17 It was announced that renowned engineer Naval Capt. Emil Praeger had spent several days in Vero and submitted construction cost estimates.

 

From the March 13, 1952, Vero Beach Press Journal, “President O’Malley has consistently stated that he has faith in the future growth of Vero Beach and the surrounding area. He feels that, in the future, Vero Beach and the surrounding area will be in a position to support a larger exhibition schedule. If a large number of fans turn out and indicate that they want to see big league ball played in Vero Beach, Mr. O’Malley has assured them that they will get it.” 18

 

Walter O’Malley hosts the first Dodger St. Patrick’s Day party in Vero Beach at the famed tourist destination McKee Jungle Gardens in the “Hall of Tara.” Roscoe McGowen wrote about the party in The Sporting News, “Everything was green — there wasn’t a chance of getting an orange juice — including the draft beer and the ice cubes. The O’Malley had special labels on the bottles of Irish cheer, which was called ‘Old O’Malley,’ a whiskey which will be 12 years old in 1964.

“Among those present was Edmund Boots, executive vice president of U.S. Steel, who was listed as Eddie Boots in a quartet called ‘The Mayo Minstrels.’ The other three were Gerald Cleary, who operates the Sea Breeze and Orange Terrace here; Ralph Galvin, proprietor of a swanky hostelry called Shadow Lawn and Harry Kurzon, real estate and insurance man here. These fellows can sing.

“Mrs. John Smith, stockholder in the Dodgers, was present, and two National League umpires, Larry Goetz and Jocko Conlan, joined in the fun. Conlan, one of the highest Irish tenors around set one of the high spots of the evening when he sang a love song to Kay O’Malley, while Greg Mulleavy, a normally quiet and soft-spoken fellow who is a scout, wielded a shillelagh and directed proceedings with a constant stream of brogue-tinged orders.” 19

 

 

The Dodger Board of Directors authorizes the construction of a stadium in Vero Beach on June 10, 1952, noting “FURTHER RESOLVED that this Board of Directors thank the City Council of Vero Beach for their cooperation in making the building of the new stadium in Vero Beach possible.” 20

 

On July 16, Walter O’Malley awards a contract for the construction of a stadium to H.J. Osborne. Capt. Praeger and O’Malley designed the symmetrical ballpark. Osborne had 90 days to complete the “grading, concrete, fill work, ramps and fence.” 21 Construction carried on throughout the course of the fall. Contracts were awarded for various parts of the stadium construction, including seats, press box, lights and refreshment stands, lowering costs and expediting the process. Local contractor C.R. Cruze handled the contract to build dressing rooms, public toilets and press box. Jesse Swords was low bidder on the land preparation work, while Osborne handled the concrete work. Originally, O’Malley decided on a 4,200-seat stadium, but later announced the total capacity had been expanded to 5,000.

 

1953

On January 15, Walter O’Malley makes public his intent in the Press Journal that the new stadium will be named for Bud L. Holman, a prominent Vero Beach resident and the man responsible for attracting the Dodgers to the city to utilize the former U.S. Naval Air Station. “The entire Dodger organization was deeply appreciative of the fine co-operation received from the citizens and officials of Vero Beach and felt that it was highly appropriate that the stadium be named for one of its citizens — a man who had devoted much of his time and effort towards making Dodgertown possible. Holman Stadium at Dodgertown stands as a tribute to the man who brought to Vero Beach one of the biggest attractions and businesses in the United States.” 22

 

 

When Holman Stadium opened, the ballpark had more seats (5,000) than Vero Beach had people.

 

 

The dedication of the new ballpark, O’Malley’s pride and joy, was on Wednesday, March 11, 1953. In preparation for the big day, the Vero Beach Press Journal reported that “we spied an extra workman among the ground crew working on the infield the other day. The fellow was busy raking the soil part of the new infield. He looked familiar to us and he rightly should...He was Walter F. O’Malley, president of the Dodgers.” 23

 

 

Holman Stadium is dedicated on March 11 before an overflow crowd of 5,532. Fifty Royal Palm trees, given as a gift from Dodger part-owner Mary Louise Smith, were placed around the perimeter of Holman Stadium, adding a unique touch and hallmark for the stadium. 24 The Royal Palm trees remained until the Christmas freeze of 1989. In the process of building Holman Stadium, O’Malley designed a heart-shaped lake (stocked with fish) to honor the love of his life, his wife Kay. The lake was formed by excavation, which in turn formed the seating bowl and banks of Holman Stadium.

 

 

The Dodgers defeat the Philadelphia Athletics, 4-2, in the dedication game of Holman Stadium. The 1:30 p.m. dedication ceremonies began a little late but included a concert by the Vero Beach School Band; Merrill P. Barber, the President of the Indian River County Citrus Bank as the emcee for the official festivities; and an invocation by Rev. Fr. Patrick D. O’Brien of St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Vero. Distinguished guests included Florida Secretary of State Robert A. Gray, representing long-time Governor Daniel McCarty, who had suffered a disabling heart attack only two weeks prior, politicians from Vero, Ft. Pierce and Stuart, the Commissioner of Baseball Ford C. Frick, the President of the National League Warren C. Giles and the President of the American League William Harridge. The festivities were carried live on radio.

 

Walter O’Malley made several key introductions and gave the dedication message and followed that with the unveiling of a plaque for the stadium which 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, 1953.”
M.M. “Jack” Frost, Vice President of Eastern Air Lines, stood in for Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, President of Eastern Air Lines, and unveiled the plaque with O’Malley. Holman briefly responded to the honor and that was followed by a prayer from Rev. Ed Gabler of the Trinity Episcopal Church, flag raising ceremonies by the color guard from Felix Poppell Post, American Legion and the national anthem by the band.

The Athletics, with their President Connie Mack in attendance, scored the first run in the top of the first inning, but Brooklyn bounced back with three runs in the bottom of the first. Right-handed pitcher Carl Erskine allowed just one run and four hits as the starter for the Dodgers, while center fielder Duke Snider drove in two runs in a three-run first inning for Brooklyn.

The business of baseball interfered with Walter O’Malley’s grand opening of Holman Stadium. According to the Vero Beach Press Journal on March 26, 1953, “It was at the dedication game that Lou Perini, owner of the Boston Braves found Ford Frick, Warren Giles, Will Harridge and Walter F. O’Malley, all members of baseball’s executive committee (and they met). It now can be told. The five men missed the Athletics-Dodgers game. They left the stadium after the dedication ceremonies and held a meeting. Their discussion on Wednesday afternoon, March 11, laid the groundwork for the moving of the Braves from Boston to Milwaukee.” 25

 

The Dodgers purchase 2,260 portable metal seats used at New York’s Polo Grounds, home of the National League’s New York Giants and send them to Dodgertown’s Holman Stadium. O’Malley paid Giants’ owner Horace Stoneham one dollar per seat.

1954

Walter O’Malley builds a small nine-hole, pitch-and-putt golf course around the heart-shaped lake for players to use for recreational purposes. African-American players were not permitted to play golf at the private courses outside of Dodgertown, so O’Malley made it a point to build his own course.

 

Walter Alston makes his debut at Dodgertown as the skipper of the Dodgers. It would be the first of 23 Spring Trainings with the mild-mannered Alston at the helm – a successful path that led him from his hometown in Darrtown, Ohio and eventually to Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

The construction process of Holman Stadium was unique and fast, as dirt dug out formed a lake and was used to create an embankment for the outfield. There would be no outfield fence, just grass slope. In a June 18, 1954 letter to St. Louis Cardinals’ Vice President William Walsingham, Walter O’Malley explained how Holman Stadium was constructed, “The Vero Beach stadium was let on competitive bidding. The excavation, fill, mounds, concrete and reserve seats cost $50,000 even for 5000 seats. The house is scaled very high in favor of box seats of which there are 40% or 2000. This percentage can be varied depending on local conditions.

The lights came from our abandoned Cambridge, Maryland park so there is no true cost figure on that. The ticket office, 4 public toilet rooms and clubhouse with plumbing cost $12,000, the press box $1000.

This stadium is by far the cheapest I have ever known to have been built and we did it more or less as an experiment to show minor league people that it would be possible for a modest outlay to have a new and attractive stadium replace the horrible minor league monstrosities in which most teams now play.”

 

July 1-August 25, the first “Dodgertown Camp for Boys” is held for ages 12-16. The all-sports camp was directed by Les MacMitchell, former New York University track star, and coincided with Walter O’Malley’s vision to utilize Dodgertown for year-round activities, rather than just for Spring Training. O’Malley stated in the Press-Journal on February 18, “It will give Vero Beach some additional national exposure.” 26 Some 200 boys from around the country participated. Campers found the following message in the recreation halls: “George Washington didn’t sleep here, but Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Carl Erskine and other Dodgers did.” 1 Peter O’Malley, who became Dodger President in 1970, was a 17-year-old camp counselor and his sister Terry served as camp secretary.

1955

In the March 16 edition of The Sporting News, according to Roscoe McGowen’s report “‘The O’Malley’ is proud of the plant life on the (Dodgertown) base and readily listed it as follows: 300 hybrid hibiscus plants, 200 kumquat trees, 150 cocktail orange trees, a 10-acre grove of tangerines, oranges, tangelos and grapefruit, both white and pick; alamanda, periwinkle, poinsettia, Mexican flame vines, Bougainvillea, cocoanut palms, Australian pines, Tifton grass (from Tifton, GA, U.S. Agriculture Dept.), petunias, banana trees and perhaps some more. O’Malley has been climbing palm trees for the purpose of planting Cattleya orchids. O’Malley is trying to make the Cattleya orchids grow on the palm trees. How they grow your agent wouldn’t know, but The O’Malley knows. Currently the prize exhibit is a Cymbidium bearing 150 blooms, which will be put to good use at the annual St. Patrick’s Day party staged by The O’Malley.” 28

1957

Invited by O’Malley, representatives of the Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo, Japan visit during Spring Training. The entire Brooklyn Dodger team went on a Goodwill Tour to Japan following the 1956 season, recording a 14-4-1 overall record. Giants’ catcher Shigero Fujio and pitcher Sho Horiuchi, along with Giants’ Manager Shigero Mizuhara and Japanese sportswriter Sotaro Suzuki, who organized the Dodger Goodwill Tour to Japan, were guests of the Dodgers from February 28-March 22. Upon their arrival, all Dodger players and officials welcomed the visitors. For their many successes and contributions to the sport, Mizuhara and Suzuki were inducted into the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and 1968, respectively.

 

On March 6, O’Malley meets with Los Angeles officials including Mayor Norris Poulson; County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn; John Gibson, President of the City Council; Samuel Leask, City Administration Officer; John Leach, County Chief Administrative Officer; and Milton Arthur, Chairman of the County Recreation Commission at Dodgertown. The L.A. group informed O’Malley that the city was ready for Major League Baseball and asked him to consider relocating from Brooklyn. During that spring, Emmett Kelly, the world-famous clown, entertained everyone and his antics were well-received by the fans.

1959

In March, due to days of torrential rains and Dodger inactivity, Walter O’Malley decided to fly the team to Havana, Cuba to continue training and playing two exhibition games against the Cincinnati Reds and one intrasquad game. The Dodgers won five consecutive games before returning to Vero Beach.

1960s

1960

The Dodgers purchase 6,702 riser-type seats for $1 each from Ebbets Field (owned by Marvin Kratter) for use at Holman Stadium.

 

Chick Walmsley is appointed camp supervisor of Dodgertown. Walmsley was previously the concession director for the St. Paul Saints, a Dodger minor league team in Minnesota. 29

 

1961

The Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo train at Dodgertown. It was the first complete team from Japan that trained at Dodgertown and in the United States, which furthered the friendly relations developed between the two countries. Previously, in 1957, two Giants players and the manager had visited Dodgertown during Spring Training. The Giants returned in 1967, 1971, 1975 and 1981. In all but 1975, the Giants went on to win the Japan Series.

 

On March 31, 1961 at 7:30 p.m., famed evangelist Dr. Billy Graham held a Good Friday service at Holman Stadium during his Florida Crusades, joined by a Crusade choir of locals numbering nearly 400. 30
 

1962

At age 24, Peter O’Malley becomes Director of Dodgertown, his first full-time job, in January. He managed Dodgertown, overseeing a permanent staff of 21, until January 1965, when he is named General Manager of the Spokane Indians in the Pacific Coast League. In the New York Daily News, Jimmy Powers describes O’Malley’s responsibilities on June 4, “Young O’Malley immerses himself in all phases of baseball – press and radio relations, selling scorecard advertising, redecorating and refurbishing Dodgertown, hiring and directing personnel, handling airplane reservations, operation of a kitchen that serves 1,500 meals daily, setting up concessions and keeping the books.” 31

 

Melvin Durslag writes in his column in The Sporting News, April 11, “Where seating in the baseball stadium here (Holman Stadium in Vero Beach) has always been segregated, Walter O’Malley removed the signs this year, inviting Negroes to sit anywhere in the park. Perhaps 99 per cent continue to occupy the old Jim Crow seats but, slowly, more are expected to make the shift. In town, O’Malley’s popularity hasn’t thickened.” 32

 

1963

Bowdewijn Maat, a 19-year-old outstanding amateur player of Holland, was invited to Dodgertown for two weeks to study American methods of training and playing baseball. During his stay, the Dutch college student was a guest of Dodger owner Walter O’Malley. He was sent under sponsorship of the Royal Dutch Baseball Association. 33

 

1964

On May 31, Bud Holman passed away at his Blue Cypress ranch. The rancher, citrus grower, automobile dealer, airport terminal manager for Eastern Air Lines had been a good friend of the O’Malley family, Dodgertown and the entire Vero Beach community. In 1953, O’Malley named the ballpark at Dodgertown “Holman Stadium” in honor of the influential businessman most responsible for attracting the Dodgers to Vero Beach for Spring Training activities beginning in 1948.

 

On September 23, the Dodgers purchase 110.4 acres of airport land, building and improvements for $133,087.50 from the City of Vero Beach. The agreement, approved by the Federal Aviation Agency, benefited the city’s general fund as the land goes on the tax rolls.

 

1965

On March 19, the City of Vero Beach finalized an agreement with the Dodgers, who became the only major league club in Florida to own and maintain their own Spring Training site. In later years, the Dodgers purchased another 340 acres to expand their base.

 

On March 31, Dodger Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson returns to Dodgertown as a baseball broadcaster during ABC-TV’s trial run of a national telecast. According to The Sporting News, “‘Isolated cameras’ and ‘stop-action’ shots are just two of the innovations which fans will be able to enjoy. The Cardinal-Dodger exhibition game at Vero Beach was a trial run of the new techniques.” 34 In 1965, Robinson was paired with Chris Schenkel for ABC-TV Saturday Game of the Week telecasts. 

 

In 1965, Walter O’Malley hired Ike Ikuhara, a graduate of Waseda University in Japan, to work in various departments and learn the business of baseball. His first job in 1965 was as an assistant in Spokane, WA at the Dodgers’ Triple-A farm team. On the Dodgers’ second Goodwill Tour to Japan following their appearance in the 1966 World Series, the highly-educated and respected Ikuhara served as a team ambassador and interpreter. By 1967, he joined the Dodger front office and helped many departments. In 1982, Ikuhara was named Assistant to the President. He authored two baseball books printed in Japanese (“The Man Who Survives the Race” in 1984; “A Winning Tradition” in 1985) and, in summer of 2002, was posthumously honored with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Japan.

 

In the mid-1960s, the tradition of the annual Memorial Mass was initiated by Kay O’Malley to commemorate those individuals who worked, or were guests, at Dodgertown through the years. They are respectfully remembered by name each spring.

 

The Dodgers invited Ricardo Garza, a top player from Mexico, to study and train at Dodgertown.

 

In 1965, O’Malley opened a true nine-hole golf course, named Dodgertown Golf Club, which was available to Dodger players, as well as the public. Dedication ceremonies were held when the Dodgers arrived for 1966 Spring Training. O’Malley provided recreational opportunities on base for all of the players. African-American players, who were precluded from golfing at one of the two golf courses in Vero Beach, were then able to participate on the Dodgertown course.

 

1966

On March 14, Sports Illustrated features a photo essay of Dodgertown by photographer James Drake in an article titled, “Vero: Baseball By The Numbers.”

 

The Dodgers plant a grove of grapefruit trees (683 trees in all – 329 red grapefruit and 354 white grapefruit) at Dodgertown.

 

On January 8, Dick Bird is appointed the new managing director at Dodgertown. He holds a degree in hotel management from the University of Florida and was the head golf pro at Riomar Country Club. 35

 

On June 6, the Dodgers announce the establishment of 120 acres of training grounds at Dodgertown as a wildlife sanctuary. A news release states, “There has just been consummated with the Florida Audubon Society and its Pelican Island Chapter a cooperative agreement to this effect. Already 150 posted signs are being erected along the property boundaries, and rustic signs will be soon be built and placed, with the caption, “DODGERTOWN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY IN COOPERATION WITH FLORIDA AUDUBON SOCIETY, PELICAN ISLAND AUDUBON SOCIETY.” The wildlife sanctuary idea was proposed by Walter and Kay O’Malley and was fostered by Thomas T. Coxon of Vero Beach. Coxon was a charter member of the Pelican Island Chapter and its conservation chairman. Dick Bird, managing Director of Dodgertown, has direct responsibilities for overseeing the sanctuary. He has been appointed as honorary ranger by the Audubon Society and the Pelican Island members will serve in the areas of development and patrol. Attracted to the grounds by a heart-shaped lake, numerous species of birds flock to the Dodgertown Sanctuary. “Birdwatching is fast developing into one of the country’s leading recreation activities,” said O’Malley. “Birds must have the proper environment to feed, nest and raise their young. This, we hope, Dodgertown will in part provide in the Vero Beach section.”

 

1967

The Yomiuri Giants make their second of five trips to train at Dodgertown.

 

1968

The Shed restaurant is purchased from Don Miles and operated and used by Dodgertown.

1970s

1970

On St. Patrick’s Day, Peter O’Malley is named Dodger President, succeeding his father Walter who becomes Chairman of the Board of the Dodgers. During Walter O’Malley’s presidency, the Dodgers won World Championships in 1955, 1959, 1963 and 1965. Peter’s first full-time job was as Director of Dodgertown in 1962, a post he held until he became President and General Manager of the Spokane Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers in 1965.

 

1971

Making their third visit to Dodgertown, the Yomiuri Giants hold their training camp.

 

After outfielder Dick Allen ran into a tree during Spring Training, the Dodgers erected a fence in front of the Royal Palm trees at Holman Stadium.

 

Dodger golf interests expand to an 18-hole course, called Safari Pines Country Club. The course featured a rare par-6 hole of nearly 667 yards. Subsequently, the name was changed to Dodger Pines Country Club.

1972

A major renovation and investment took place in 1972 when 90 modern villas for the players, coaches, executives and press were built on property, replacing the renowned old Naval Air Station barracks. Progress is unstoppable, despite a sardonic “Save the Barracks” campaign (endorsed by the O’Malley family).

 

1974

The continuation of investment and expansion at Dodgertown includes construction of a 23,000-square foot administration building, complete with major league clubhouse, minor league clubhouse, medical department, dining room, kitchen, broadcast studio, photo dark room, lounge, media workroom, two training rooms, two equipment rooms and a laundry room.

 

The New Orleans Saints of the NFL utilized Dodgertown to prepare for their 1974 season, becoming the first football team to train on base. The Saints top player was quarterback Archie Manning, the father of current NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning.

 

1975

The Yomiuri Giants once again train at Dodgertown, the fourth visit by the Tokyo-based team.

 

Dodgertown Director Charlie Blaney suggested naming streets at Dodgertown in recognition of three Dodgers enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Dodger President Peter O’Malley agreed and thus Jackie Robinson Avenue, Roy Campanella Boulevard and Sandy Koufax Lane were created. As additional Dodgers were elected to the Hall of Fame, they were honored with streets named for them on site.  

 

1976

Harrison Conference Centers begins managing the Dodgertown Conference Center, with its 20 specially designed meeting rooms and latest in audio-visual technology, for the purpose of fulfilling Walter O’Malley’s vision as a year-round, multifunctional destination.

 

The old Naval Air Station barracks which housed the Dodgers since 1948-71 are torn down.

 

The New Orleans Saints, under Head Coach Hank Stram, return to Dodgertown for their annual six-week training camp. The Saints visited Dodgertown for training camps through 1984.

 

1978

Baseball America names Dodgertown as the top Spring Training complex in Major League Baseball, an honor the magazine repeated in 1993.

 

In August, Craig Callan arrives to become General Manager of the Dodgertown Sports and Conference Center.

1980s

1980

The Dodgers move their Single-A team to Vero Beach to play in the Florida State League. The Vero Beach Dodgers reached the playoffs that first season. Legendary Stan Wasiak is the manager of the Vero Beach Dodgers. Wasiak, known as “The King of the Minors,” had a managerial career that spanned 37 seasons (1950-1986), seven of those in Vero Beach. He amassed 2,530 wins, the most in minor league baseball.

 

 

1981

The Yomiuri Giants make their fifth and final visit to Dodgertown for training purposes from February 28-March 16.

 

Steve Sax becomes the first Vero Beach Dodger player to make the Los Angeles Dodgers roster.

 

 

1983

The Vero Beach Dodgers win their first Florida State League Championship by defeating the Daytona Astros in a best-of-five series, three games to two.

 

The first of the twice-yearly Dodger Adult Baseball Camps begins.

 

 

1984

Holman Stadium undergoes an expansion with the installation of 6,474 chair-back seats. 

 

The Florida State League All-Star Game is played at Holman Stadium.

 

 

1985

On February 28, the professional Samsung Lions of South Korea visit Dodgertown for training and instruction from the Dodger organization. The Samsung contingent contains 25 players, Manager Kim Young Duck and five coaches, plus front office personnel and five reporters. The Lions were guests of Dodger President Peter O’Malley, who said, “Baseball is rapidly growing throughout the world and this exchange between our two countries will help enhance the development of the game in Korea.” The Dodgers were the first professional team to host and play against a Korean professional team. The Dodgers opened their exhibition schedule against the Lions on March 9 at Holman Stadium. Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and the Commissioner of Baseball in Korea General Jyong-Chul Suh are guests at Dodgertown and take part in first pitch ceremonies. When the Lions left Dodgertown on March 14 and returned to compete in South Korea, they captured the first Korean League Championship. The Lions also returned for visits in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1997.

 

On August 7, 170 acres of Dodgertown are annexed in the City of Vero Beach.

 

On December 17-21, the Green Bay Packers train at Dodgertown, while the Cleveland Browns trained at Dodgertown from December 28-31.

 

 

1986

The Dodgers invite three Chinese national coaches (Song Ping-Shang from Beijing, Sher Wei-Ji from Shanghai and Tu Ming-Hui from Sichuan) to Dodgertown to observe Spring Training activities.

The Cleveland Browns prepare for postseason playoffs as they train at Dodgertown from December 30, 1986 to January 3, 1987.

 

 

1987

The Buffalo Bills train at Dodgertown from January 6-11.

 

Dodgertown Elementary School in Vero Beach, formerly Clemann Elementary, is officially adopted and supported by the Dodger organization.

 

The New England Patriots train at Dodgertown from December 23-27.

 

 

1988

The Cleveland Browns train at Dodgertown from January 2-5.

 

The Chunichi Dragons of Nagoya, Japan visited Dodgertown for Spring Training.

 

On March 7-10, Ramaz Goglidze, President of the Soviet Baseball Federation, visited Dodgertown. From February 22-26, baseball coaches Alexander Ardatov and Gela Cheehradze from Russia were guests of Peter O’Malley to observe the Dodgers’ training techniques and facilities.

 

On March 20, the Dodgers and the New York Mets play the first nationally-televised Spring Training game (on NBC) at Holman Stadium before 7,931 fans.  

 

Craig Callan is named Director of Dodgertown, overseeing the entire 465-acre complex.

 

 

1989

Three pitchers from the Chunichi Dragons of Japan play for the Single-A minor league Vero Beach Dodgers and the Kissimmee Dodgers during the 1989 season. Yashiro Kawabata and Masaaki Kamanaka play for Vero Beach, while Koji Takahashi pitches for Kissimmee.

 

The Kansas City Chiefs train at Dodgertown from December 19-23.

 

1990s

1990

A new 15,000-square foot indoor batting facility opens for Spring Training, complete with batting tunnels and pitcher’s mounds. Also, it led to renovated administrative offices and an adjacent minor league clubhouse, as well as the addition of Fields #5 and #6.

 

The Vero Beach Dodgers win their second Florida State League championship.

 

The Kansas City Chiefs prepare for the playoffs, using Dodgertown for training purposes from December 31, 1990 to January 4, 1991.

 

 

1991

On July 13, the Dodgers welcome the Nigerian National Baseball team (25 players, ages 16-18) to Dodgertown through July 21, as the team prepares for the International Baseball Association’s Youth Championships in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada from July 26 to August 5. Peter O’Malley said of the guests, “All of us in the Dodger organization are proud to host the National Baseball Team from Nigeria at Dodgertown and we’ll do everything possible to make their stay at Dodgertown worthwhile.”

 

For the second time, the Florida State League All-Star Game is played at Holman Stadium.

 

Dodgertown grows with the purchase of 8.5 acres from Piper Aircraft.

 

1992

From February 5-20, the Samsung Lions of South Korea train at Dodgertown for the second time.

 

The largest Spring Training season attendance is recorded for games at Holman Stadium with 85,332 fans.

 

The University of Miami football team trains at Dodgertown from August 26-September 6 in preparation for their regular season opener after Hurricane Andrew devastated the Florida coast.

 

 

1993

From January 28-February 18, the Samsung Lions of South Korea make their third visit to Dodgertown for training purposes. The Lions had trained previously at Dodgertown in 1985 and 1992. Commissioner of Baseball in Korea, Sang-Hoon Lee, was at Dodgertown to observe the historic occasion. Lions’ coach Taw Soo Jang stayed in Vero Beach to become a coach for the Class A Dodgers during the 1993 season. 

 

The Moscow Red Devils arrive on the invitation of Dodger President Peter O’Malley. On January 30, the Samsung Lions defeated the Moscow Red Devils 7-0 at Dodgertown, marking the first ever meeting between a Russian team and a Korean professional team.

 

 

1994

The baseball team from Waseda University in Japan is invited to spend two weeks (February 17-March 1) for training purposes, marking the first time an amateur team had visited Dodgertown and trained alongside the MLB Dodgers.

 

Chan Ho Park became the first South Korean-born player to appear in the majors, arriving with the Dodgers at Dodgertown and opening spring workouts on February 18. Chan Ho first pitched inside the Dodgertown cages on February 19, after a workout at Holman Stadium was rained out for the second consecutive day.

 

 

1995

The Samsung Lions of South Korea make their fourth visit to Dodgertown to prepare for the Korean Baseball League season.

 

Hideo Nomo makes his Dodger debut at Dodgertown. He is the first Japanese-born player to join a major league team to have played professionally in Japan’s Central or Pacific League in 30 years. His every move was documented at Dodgertown by hordes of media.

 

The Ohio State Buckeyes use Dodgertown for training from December 12-23, prior to the 1996 Citrus Bowl.

 

 

1996

The Philadelphia Eagles train at Dodgertown from January 1-6, in preparation for the NFL divisional playoff at Dallas.

 

Peter O’Malley invites the baseball team from Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea to train in February at Dodgertown, marking the first Korean amateur team to utilize the base. Dodger pitcher Chan Ho Park attended Hanyang University and, in 1994, became the first South Korean-born player to appear in the majors.

 

Coaches from Ireland – Mike Manning of Templeogue and Mike Kindle of Monkstown – were guests of Peter O’Malley at Dodgertown. Both Manning and Kindle coached for the Irish Baseball and Softball Association, overseeing players in the Dublin Youth Baseball League and the Irish national baseball team. While learning training and coaching techniques at Dodgertown, the pair also had an opportunity to work out with the Dodgers during drills and intrasquad exhibition games.

 

 

1997

The Dodgers invest $1 million in Dodgertown in a renovation project that includes an addition to the complex that houses the major league clubhouse, a new clubhouse and golf cart facility at Dodgertown Golf Club, the addition of a new umpires room and minor league equipment storage facility. Also, expanded office space to the conference center was added. Also, the indoor batting cages were upgraded, as well as the playing fields, a private pitching mound next to the pitching strings area and a new media room.

 

From January 27-February 19, the Samsung Lions of South Korea make their fifth trip to Dodgertown for training.

 

 

1998

Peter O’Malley sells the Los Angeles Dodgers to the FOX Group for $311 million, the highest amount paid for a professional sports franchise. Dodgertown is included in the sale.

 

 

1999

The Sinon Bulls are the first Taiwanese team to visit Dodgertown for a week of training in February.

 

2000s

2000

The LG Twins professional team from South Korea trains at Dodgertown.

 

 

2001

On August 29, Indian River County purchases the land and facilities at Dodgertown from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 

 

2002

Continuing in the long tradition of teams visiting from Asia, the Osaka Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League train at Dodgertown in the fall. The Buffaloes returned the following fall to train once again.

 

 

2003

The Osaka Buffaloes of Japan train in the fall at Dodgertown, their second visit to Vero Beach.

 

 

2006

The Vero Beach Dodgers play their final season in the Florida State League, their 27th overall.

 

 

2007

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays Class-A team play the first of two seasons at Holman Stadium and are known as the “Vero Beach Devil Rays”.

 

 

2008

On March 17, the Dodgers’ final major league Spring Training game was played at Holman Stadium, as the Dodgers lost to the Houston Astros. The Dodgers, who will train in Glendale, AZ in 2009, saluted former Manager Tommy Lasorda with a “bat tunnel” as he exited the field for the last time.

 

In December, Indian River County officials, not sure what to do with Dodgertown without a team, decide to shutter the facility.

 

 

2009

In May, Minor League Baseball (MiLB) agrees to operate the site as “Vero Beach Sports Village”.  It reopened the property with teams, tournaments and umpire schools participating in year-round activities.

 

Dodger Spring Training Sites Through the Years

Spring Training Sites

  • Bear-mountain-2
  • Bear-mountain
  • Daytona-beach
  • Domincan-republic
  • Havana
  • Pete-reisler-havana
  • West-point-2
  • West-point
1901 Charlotte, NC
1902-06 Columbia, SC
1907-09 Jacksonville, FL
1910-12 Hot Springs, AR
1913-14 Augusta, GA
1915-16 Daytona Beach, FL
1917-18 Hot Springs, AR
1919-20 Jacksonville, FL
1921 New Orleans, LA
1922 Jacksonville, FL
1923-32 Clearwater, FL
1933 Miami, FL
1934-35 Orlando, FL
1936-40 Clearwater, FL
1941-42 Havana, Cuba
1943-45 Bear Mountain, NY
1946 Daytona Beach, FL
1947 Havana, Cuba
1948 Ciudad Trujillo, Dom. Rep.
1948-2008 Vero Beach, FL
2009-present Glendale, AZ

 

Dodgertown's Directors

Spencer Harris (1948-53)

Edgar Allen (1954-59)

Leon Hamilton (1960-61)

Chick Walmsley (1961)

Peter O’Malley (1962-64)

John Stanfill (1965)

Dick Bird (1966-1974)

Charlie Blaney (1974-87)

Terry Reynolds (1988)

Craig Callan (1989-present)

 

2010s

2010

The University of South Florida Bulls, an NCAA Division I team, hold their first football training camp at Vero Beach Sports Village, under new coach Skip Holtz, the son of legendary former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz.

 

 

2011

Peter O’Malley, concerned about the future of Vero Beach Sports Village and preserving the history of former Dodgertown, holds discussions with Pat O’Conner, MiLB President and Craig Callan, Vice President, VBSV. After two years of incurring significant losses, MiLB was prepared to cease operations and its lease with Indian River County.

 

In November, the SK Wyverns, professional baseball team from South Korea, trains for the first time at Vero Beach Sports Village.

 

 

2012 

On January 1, Dodgertown was again preparing to be shuttered when former Dodger President Peter O’Malley steps forward to save the property and become responsible for the property. He formed a partnership with his sister Terry O’Malley Seidler, former Dodger owner, Dodger star pitchers Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park and MiLB to manage Vero Beach Sports Village on a lease basis with Indian River County.

 

In January and again in November, the SK Wyverns baseball team from South Korea train at Vero Beach Sports Village. 

 

New facilities are opened at Vero Beach Sports Village, including on June 14, a cloverleaf of multi-purpose fields for girls’ softball fields and youth baseball, plus a new concessions area. In July, a new multi-purpose field #4 (110 by 150 yards) is completed, near where the historic U.S. Naval Air Station barracks used to stand.

 

 

2013

In January, the SK Wyverns, professional baseball team from South Korea, train at Dodgertown.

 

On June 4, a long-term renewal of the facility lease agreement is signed between Peter O’Malley’s partnership and Indian River County. The agreement extends to April 2019.

 

The University of South Florida Bulls, an NCAA Division I team, under the leadership of new head coach Willie Taggart, hold football training camp at Vero Beach Sports Village for the fourth consecutive year.

 

In August, Peter O’Malley signs a 2013 licensing agreement in cooperation with the Dodgers and Major League Baseball, whereby he announced that Vero Beach Sports Village, longtime site of the world-famous Spring Training home of the Dodgers, will now be known as “Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach, Florida.” The new name recognizes the significance and longstanding tradition of the iconic site.

 

2014

In January, the SK Wyverns, professional baseball team from South Korea return to train at Historic Dodgertown

 

April 15th sees Holman Stadium host the inaugural Jackie Robinson Celebration Game to benefit the United Way of Indian River County.  This regular season Florida State League game featured the Brevard County Manatees host the Lakeland Flying Tigers in front of a crowd of over 4,000 fans.

 

Also occuring on April 15th, the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League host their three-day mini-camp on the multi-purpose field.

 

In November, the 53rd Los Angeles Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp takes place which includes the return of such former players as Maury Wills, Tommy Davis, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Mickey Hatcher, Jerry Reuss, Steve Yeager, Rick Monday and Ken Landreaux.  Tommy Lasorda and Umpire Bruce Froemming appear as special guests.

 

Historic Dodgertown is recognized by the state of Florida as a Florida Heritage Landmark.  The efforts for this recognition are led by the Indian River Historic Society and a signage monument is installed at the walkway to the campus Conference Center.

 
  • 1 ^ Joe Hendrickson, Dodgertown
  • 2 ^ George W. Gross, P.E., “U.S. Naval Air Station at Vero Beach, Florida During World War II”, back cover, 2002
  • 3 ^ George W. Gross, P.E., “U.S. Naval Air Station at Vero Beach, Florida During World War II,” 2002, Chapter 7, Pg. 119
  • 4 ^ John L. Klucina, Vero Beach Press-Journal, February 22, 1968
  • 5 ^ Dodger Edition, Vero Beach Press Journal, March 1, 2002
  • 6 ^ Bill Boeding, Vero Beach Press Journal, February 20, 1988
  • 7 ^ Minutes, Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, October 15, 1947
  • 8 ^ Minutes, Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, December 19, 1947
  • 9 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, December 12, 1947
  • 10 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, January 25, 1948
  • 11 ^ Sidney P. Johnston, A History of Indian River County “a sense of place”, page 116
  • 12 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, April 2, 1948
  • 13 ^ The Sporting News, April 7, 1948
  • 14 ^ Joe Hendrickson, Dodgertown
  • 15 ^ Joe King, The Sporting News, March 7, 1951
  • 16 ^ Julie Autumn Luster, 2002 Dodgers Spring Training Yearbook, “Holman Celebrates Half a Century”
  • 17 ^ Bob Curzon, Vero Beach Press-Journal, Sports, March 13, 1952
  • 18 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 13, 1952
  • 19 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 26, 1952
  • 20 ^ Minutes, Brooklyn Dodger Board of Directors, June 10, 1952
  • 21 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, July 17, 1952
  • 22 ^ Bill Boeding, Vero Beach Press Journal, February 27, 1993
  • 23 ^ Bob Curzon, The Dodger Bullpen, Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 12, 1953
  • 24 ^ Frank McGrath, Fall River, Mass., Herald News Sports, March 19, 1954
  • 25 ^ Bob Curzon, Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 26, 1953
  • 26 ^ Bob Curzon, Vero Beach Press-Journal, February 18, 1954
  • 27 ^ Joe Hendrickson, Dodgertown
  • 28 ^ Roscoe McGowen, The Sporting News, March 16, 1955
  • 29 ^ The Sporting News, December 28, 1960
  • 30 ^ Vero Beach Press-Journal, March 30, 1961
  • 31 ^ Jimmy Powers, New York Daily News, June 4, 1962
  • 32 ^ Melvin Durslag, The Sporting News, April 11, 1962
  • 33 ^ The Sporting News, March 16, 1963
  • 34 ^ Oscar Kahan, The Sporting News, April 17, 1965
  • 35 ^ The Sporting News, January 8, 1966