The War Years of Spring Training History

1943-1945: The War Years of Spring Training History

During World War II baseball was firmly entrenched as the National Pastime, and team owners were very conscious of their responsibilities as national leaders while also recognizing the need to continue making money. At a time when most Americans were scaling back, using milk and gas rations and setting up Victory Gardens, baseball was arguably a luxury that a wartime national could not afford.

Baseball during this period was a series of compromises. Most minor leagues shut down. And while the major leagues kept playing — with the personal approval of President Franklin Roosevelt, who let baseball continue under the grounds that it boosted homeland morale — they did so under scaled-back circumstances. Baseball players were exempted from the draft, and many stars served their county in wartime.

Al Lang Field

One major compromise, worked out between Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Joseph B. Eastman, director of the federal Office of Defense Transportation, was that spring training would be held close to the teams’ home bases, north of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and east of the Mississippi. (The Cardinals, the White Sox and the Cubs were limited to training Missouri, Indiana or Illinois.) 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.

This boundary — known as the Landis-Eastman Line or the Potomac Line — ensured that teams training close to their home basis. The New York Yankees ended up training in Asbury Park, N.J., while the Red Sox trained Tufts College in nearby Medford, Mass.