We are all 42

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal. 

George Will

Jackie Robinson was only a ball player. True. But he was also so much more to so many people.

A rebel. A hero. A messiah. You can call him whatever you want, but one thing is certain – he was one of the leading figures in changing the course of (American) history. Had it not been for him and club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Wesley Branch Rickey a.k.a. Mahatma, we might not be able to fully enjoy the genius talents of Frank Thomas,  Derek Jeter, Ernie Banks, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Josh Gibson, Bob Gibson, Lee Smith and many more. We would probably not even see players of other-than-white skin colour enter the Major League, which would certainly be a pity.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919. He was the youngest of five children. His grandfather had been a slave. Jacke’s dad was a farmer in Georgia. He left the family when Jackie was young. Later the family moved to California. Jackie’s mother, Mallie Robinson, cleaned houses. Jackie was a star athlete throughout his school days. In high school, he played baseball, football, basketball, and track. He was usually the best on every team. Jackie won a scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. He became the first student ever at UCLA to win varsity letters in four sports.


Baseball was one of the first institutions in postwar America to become desegregated. Baseball was America’s national game, and like America itself, it preached that it was a melting pot where everyone, regardless of identity or origin, could succeed, provided they had the talent or determination. The nation’s mainstream sportswriters perpetuated this myth, and baseball fans accepted it, not knowing or not caring that talented black ballplayers played in the shadows of white baseball, barred from the game because of an insidious “gentlemen’s agreement” that had excluded blacks since the 1880s.

Baseball in postwar America needed someone like Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. Rickey recalled the humiliation of one of his own black players from 35 years ago and decided he would tear down the color line in baseball. Rickey was determined to hire a black player for the Dodgers. He knew he had to find an excellent ballplayer with unimpeachable morals and a respectable background who could be tough enough to bear all kinds of abuse and strong enough to resist the urge to react to it. Rickey’s plan was called “the Noble Experiment.” Many in Major League Baseball believed it would not work. But Rickey thought it was the right thing to do. He knew that black players would help win games. Rickey’s scouts began watching Negro League games looking  for that perfect black baseball player to break into the all-white major leagues. At that time Jackie Robinson played with the Kansas City Monarchs and Rickey’s scouts spotted him and were impressed with his performance. When they contacted him, Jackie believed he was being considered for the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers, a Negro team. This was not the case.


No moment in baseball history is more important than the April day in 1947 when Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field, making a historic entrance into Major League Baseball as the first African-American player in the history of the game. His outstanding debut season netted him the inaugural Rookie of the Year award, which now bares his name, and spring-boarded him to a stellar 10-season career in which he was part of six Brooklyn Dodger pennant-winners, among them the World Championship club of 1955. In 1949, the six-time all-star won the National League batting title (.342) en route to earning MVP honors. Robinson, a first baseman as a rookie, starred as a second baseman for the next five seasons, before moving on to play third base and the outfield. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Impressive as his athletic achievements were, what Jackie Robinson accomplished as a man was far more important. The road to Robinson’s appearance at Ebebets Field on April 15, 1947, was a long, often crooked, and dark one. At a time when black players were banned from Major League Baseball, he had the courage and dignity to be the first to endure the withering barrage of racism and rejection without responding in kind. Throughout his entire career, Robinson coped with the racial insults and abuse with tact and good humor. But keeping all his frustration inside was hard. He often couldn’t sleep or eat. The fans marveled at Robinson’s self control. Jackie credited his wife Rachel for keeping him focused and calm during the most difficult first season. When many young athletes allow fame to go to their heads, Robinson kept his principles. He refused alcohol and tobacco. When attractive girls approached him, he told them he had vowed to be faithful all his life to his wife. Robinson had become a much-admired role model for young Americans, especially blacks. In a 1947 contest, Jackie Robinson was named the second most admired man in America, only surpassed in popularity by the singer Bing Crosby.

Jackie Robsinson

Later in his life Jackie Robinson became more active in civil rights work. He became a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

If you have not yet seen the movie on Jackie Robinson’s story, now is the perfect time to do so.

Today MLB is pervaded with different nationalities. However, we are unfortunately witnessing a decline in interest of African-Americans in playing baseball during the last few decades. This can be linked directly to partial baseball college scholarships comparing to full ones for basketball or football.

We at Scoutee believe in the power of talent and that no talent should go to waste. Today you have millions of players from poor countries where they have little opportunity to showcase their talent. We want to change that by empowering aspiring baseball players from anywhere in the world to achieve their full potential.

42 is not just a number. It represents humbleness, human dignity, perseverance, faith and courage. It represents the guts not to fight back even when the world turns against you. The number 42 is the only number retired by all of baseball. The next time you see a number 42, you should really bow to everything it stands for. Had we all been at least a little bit of 42, the world would have been a better place.

Thank you, Jackie, for showing us the way!

Long live the 42!


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How Spring Training became an essential part of baseball

Every March millions of fans flock to Arizona and Florida and it’s not just because of the weather conditions. In fact it has little to do with the weather. Fans migrate to one of these two states to see their favorite baseball teams in action even before the  beginning of the season. There, they can even get a ball signed or a chance to talk to their idols. Spring Training is an incredible one-month experience. Only last year Spring Training in Arizona and Florida drew 3,172,910 fans to 435 games, which equates to an average gate of 7,294. This is how important Spring Training is to fans:

But not only fans, also the host cities devote incredible amount of effort and funding to provide suitable training conditions for the MLB teams. The tradition of Spring Training is around 140 yers old now. But it all started in a very different way. The first club that ever went “Down South” to get away from the winter conditions was Boss Tweed’s Mutuals, that spent some time in New Orleans in 1869.

However it is generally accepeted that the birth of Spring Training happened year after that, in 1870 when the Chicago White Stockings and the Cincinnati Red Stockings made spring trips to New Orleans, not only to hold baseball camps, but also to play some exhibition games. Compared to today’s standards, the early spring trainings were simple and far from fancy, but in those days the whole deal of traveling South was considered an advancement. Before the trips the trainings were done in local gyms, rented halls, sheds, rinks, or any other shelter available.

In the 1870s other clubs also followed the example of the White Sox, Reds and Mutuals. New Orleans was a favorite training base at that time, but clubs also went to other places like Washington (Cleveland), Savannah (Louisville, Pittsburgh and Detroit), and Charleston in South Carolina (Phillies). One of the main reasons for the teams to make trips to spring trainings was to get the players physically prepared for the season.

But one baseball legend reveals also another story. In February of 1885 the White Stockings player and manager, Baseball Hall of Famer Cap Anson spotted one of his players in a bar. The pitcher was wearing a too-tight vest from “living the winter good life” and downed several beers in front of his manager. At this moment Anson decided to take his players to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to “boil out alcoholic microbes” out of his players.

Albert Spalding, who was the team owner at that time supported the idea and later told a newspaper reporter:

I have written to a professor down there, and he is making arrangements to build a vat in which he can boil the whole nine at once… I boil out all the alcoholic microbes, which may have impregnated the systems of these men during the winter while they have been away from me and Anson… If that doesn’t work, I’ll send ‘em to Paris next year and have ‘em inoculated by Pasteur.”

It seems this “sweating out the toxins” worked; at least, the Chicago White Stockings won two straight championships, in 1885 and 1886. Soon after, the boiling-out process was considered essential for getting rid of the effects of winter “lushing,” as drinking was called then, and Hot Springs became a center for big league clubs.

1885-1886 Chicago White Stockings

1885-1886 Chicago White Stockings

It was about that time that teams went for the spring training to Florida for the first time. The first team that went to train to Florida were the Washington Capitals who went to Jacksonville for Spring Training in 1888. No northern professional team had traveled this far south before. The team traveled for two days.

As Connie Mack told about their experience:

“When we arrived in Jacksonville, four of our 14 players were reasonably sober. The rest were totally drunk. There was a fight every night, and the boys broke up a lot of furniture. We played exhibition games by day and drank much of the night.”

The team had quite a lot of problems with accommodation, they were turned away from several hotels due to their bad behavior and just for being baseball players. Northern players namely didn’t have a great reputation down south at the time. The Jacksonville trip didn’t do any good for the team, they had an incredibly bad season. After this, it would take spring training baseball 15 years to return to Florida.

But not all were fans of travelling to the South. Some claimed the players were subject to “sore muscles and cold” when they returned to winter after six or eight weeks in the South. Some players rather stayed at home, worked out by themselves and played in informal scrub games wherever they were spending the winter. The spring training in the South quickly started becoming an attraction and developing into a business. A. M. Gillam, writing for the Philadelphia Record, offered three dollars a day for short bulletins on 1887 training camp activities, scores of games, merits of players, and so forth, because he understood the interest people would have in the games. By 1890 a newspaper announced that the South was overrun with Northern ball players, and in the course of the decade spring training in the South was adopted by all major league clubs.

The man who truly redefined spring training was Ned Hanlon, the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. He brought his team to Macon, Georgia, where he drilled them for 8 hours a day for eight weeks. The team went on to win a pennant in 1894 and the two following years.

Manager Ned Hanlon (in business suit, center) with the 1896 Baltimore Orioles.

Manager Ned Hanlon (in business suit, center) with the 1896 Baltimore Orioles.

By the 1910s the spring training was already a marketing institution and around that time the Grapefruit League became an official league. St. Petersburg’s mayor Al Lang helped get a waterfront stadium built specifically to lure teams to St. Petersburg. First he got a deal with the Braves in 1923 and then with the Babe Ruth’s Yankees in 1925. It was significantly later, around World War II that spring training happened in Arizona.

The teams had traveled west for spring training already at the turn of the century, though. The Chicago Cubs were the first to travel to Southern California for Spring Training in 1903, first near downtown Los Angeles, two years later they moved to Santa Monica. The New York Giants, The Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox followed the Cubs’ example and spent the spring in Los Angeles for several years. The Cubs returned to South California in 1917, this time to Pasadena, and moved to tropical Catalina island in 1922. There they practiced and played exhibition games at a field that was an exact replica of their home field in Chicago.

One of the most important factors that contributed to spring training making its way to Arizona during the 1940s was the war. During this time, baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis established the “Potomac Line”. This line was a compromise worked out between the Commissioner and Joseph B. Eastman, director of the federal Office of Defense Transportation to ensure teams would spend their spring training close to their home bases, north of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and east of the Mississippi. During wartime the trains were crammed with supplies and troops, and in that context transporting baseball players and their fans seemed to be a frivolous use of precious resources. The Cardinals, the White Sox and the Cubs were limited to training in Missouri, Indiana or Illinois, the New York Yankees ended up training in Asbury Park, N.J., while the Red Sox trained Tufts College in nearby Medford, Mass.

After the war, the teams were again allowed to travel west, but during the time passed the teams’ owners had already considered new spring training locations. The Cactus League’s origins can be at least partially traced to a visit made by Giants owner Horace Stoneham in the late ’40s to a place called the Buckhorn Mineral Wells and Baths in Mesa, not far from the current location of HoHoKam Park. Originally the site of a gas station, the Buckhorn location was converted into a motel that offered mineral baths and massage treatments after a hot-water aquifer containing significant deposits of potassium, silica, magnesium and iron was discovered on the property. Stoneham was introduced to the Buckhorn baths by officials from the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce while scouting for possible training sites, and was so enticed by the rejuvenating effects of the baths and therapy treatments that he thought it might make an ideal place for players to get in shape.

Seattle Mariners vs Colorado Rockies game at Spring Training in Peoria (AZ) 2015

Seattle Mariners vs Colorado Rockies game at Spring Training in Peoria (AZ) 2015

Around the same time, Stoneham received a call from Bill Veeck, the owner of the Indians who had a winter home in Tucson. Veeck had already been thinking about moving his team to Tucson for Spring Training, and thus, the Cactus League was born. Spring training has come a long way from since its humble beginnings.

Every March 15 MLB teams play in each league, the Grapefruit League in Florida and Cactus League in Arizona, and they all hope that the good work they do in the spring will add up to a victory in October.


A little definition of baseball (Ernie Harwell induction day speech, 1981)

Baseball is the President tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. A tall, thin old man waving a scorecard from the corner of his dugout. That’s baseball. And so is the big, fat guy with a bulbous nose running home one of his (Babe Ruth’s) 714 home runs.

There’s a man in Mobile who remembers that Honus Wagner hit a triple in Pittsburgh forty-six years ago. That’s baseball. So is the scout reporting that a sixteen year old pitcher in Cheyenne is a coming Walter Johnson. Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered, or booed. And then becomes a statistic.

In baseball democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team’s uniform from another.

Baseball is a rookie. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins fulfillment of his dream. It’s a veteran too, a tired old man of thirty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through another sweltering August and September. Nicknames are baseball, names like Zeke and Pie and Kiki and Home Run and Cracker and Dizzy and Dazzy.

Baseball is the cool, clear eyes of Rogers Hornsby. The flashing spikes of Ty Cobb, an over aged pixie named Rabbit Maranville.

Baseball is just a game, as simple as a ball and bat, yet as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. A sport, a business and sometimes almost even a religion.

Why the fairy tale of Willie Mays making a brilliant World’s Series catch. And then dashing off to play stick ball in the street with his teenage pals. That’s baseball. So is the husky voice of a doomed Lou Gehrig saying “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.””

Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies day, “Down in Front”, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and the Star Spangled Banner.

Baseball is a tongue tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown. This is a game for America. Still a game for America, this baseball!

The world of baseball or baseball of the world?

Baseball is being played around the world. It used to be an American dream. Now it’s a global dream.

Chad Kreuter

What a great way to state the obvious – even though people try to diminish the importance of baseball in the United States in the recent years, what we witness today is an extreme popularity of this beautiful game all around the World.

According to International Baseball Federation (IBAF) there are 35 million registered ball players in 122 countries worldwide.

Baseball is often called the “America’s Pastime” because during the late 19th and early 20th century it was probably the most widely played sport in the country.

I claim that Base Ball owes its prestige as our National Game to the fact that as no other form of sport it is the exponent of American Courage, Confidence, Combativeness; American Dash, Discipline, Determination; American Energy, Eagerness, Enthusiasm; American Pluck, Persistency, Performance; American Spirit, Sagacity, Success; American Vim, Vigor, Virility.

Base Ball is the American Game par excellence because its playing demands Brain and Brawn, and American manhood supplies these ingredients in quantity sufficient to spread over the entire continent.

Albert Spalding

However, baseball is well established in several other countries as well.

Baseball is a number one sport in Japan and commonly considered the national sport in Taiwan and theofficial sport of Cuba. It is also by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic today. After the United States, the Dominican Republic has the second-highest number of baseball players in Major League Baseball (MLB). Baseball is one of the most important sports in countries like Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and South Korea. U.S. military men introduced the game of baseball during the World Wars even to some smaller European countries like Croatia and baseball in Europe today is still gaining momentum. Nowadays, new ball clubs and leagues are popping up also across Africa, and Chinese baseball league is growing ever stronger.

It is interesting to see that baseball is on the rise even within India’s cricket-crazy culture. To learn more about this phenomenon, we highly recommend seeing the new Disney movie Million Dollar Arm that is based on “the most amazing story in the history of sports”.

Ernie Harwell once said that baseball is a sport, business —and sometimes even religion.

the divine touch baseball

We are most confident that baseball is a global game that is here to stay.

Baseball is a harbor, a seclusion from failure that really matters, a playful utopia in which virtuosity can be savored to the third decimal place of a batting average.

Mark Kramer