1946-present: Today’s Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues Are Born
When Arizona interests lured the Giants and the Indians for spring training in 1947, spring training was a different beast in terms of economics and schedules. Teams had trained out West many times before World War II — most notably the Chicago Cubs, who first trained in Santa Monica in 1905 and then trained on California’s Catalina Island between 1922-1942 and again in 1950-1951 — and it was not uncommon for teams to train in California and Arizona and then barnstorm their way back home.
The Cactus League became a reality in 1947, when Horace Stoneham’s New York Giants and Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians took up residence in Phoenix and Tucson, respectively. That Veeck ended up in Tucson wasn’t a surprise — he owned ranches in the Southwest and at the time owned a ranch near Tucson — and Stoneham was a natural for Phoenix, as he developed business interests in the area.
By this time, spring training was a formalized institution. Teams realized that there was money to be made from spring training, and over the years many teams tried to combine some sort of real-estate development with spring training. Horace Stoneham ended up developing a luxury resort centered around the San Francisco Giants spring-training routines; most recently, the Kansas City Royals were lured into participating in the Boardwalk and Baseball theme park in central Florida: the Royals trained at Baseball City adjacent to a theme park with a turn-of-the-century baseball theme.
In recent years Arizona’s Cactus League has made inroads in luring teams from Florida, leading to a situation where 15 teams train in Florida and 15 teams train in the greater Phoenix area.
There has been some assaults on the Florida/Arizona spring-training setup: most recently Las Vegas officials wooed several teams in an attempt to lure four of them to train in Vegas. The efforts failed.