We’ve encouraged those heading to Florida and the Grapefruit League to take in a visit to Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach as part of your travels. Here’s another good reason to go: the former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers spring home is now included on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.
Last year we recommended a trip to Dodgertown and Holman Stadium during spring training. Today it was announced that it is now part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums and other landmarks primarily in the Southern states where activists challenged segregation in the 1950s and 1960s to advance social justice.
Historic Dodgertown is the only sports property on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, and is featured alongside famous sites and cities such as Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthplace in Atlanta; the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; the Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth’s where sitins began; and the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, to name a few other prominent locations.
“Dodgertown, Vero Beach played a pioneering role in advancing rights for African-Americans starting in 1948 and continuing throughout the 1950s and 1960s,” said Peter O’Malley, Former President, Los Angeles Dodgers (1970-1998). “All of us connected to Dodgertown and its legacy are extremely proud of this well-deserved recognition by the U.S. Civil Rights Trail organization.”
Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida was the first fully integrated Major League Baseball spring training site in the South. For 60 years, the Dodgers gathered here to prepare for the upcoming season. Team members included Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, Dodger greats Don Newcombe, Joe Black and Maury Wills; Local youth who came to watch these legendary players began to see the possibilities of integration and have hope for their own futures. The Dodgers played on the same fields in use today by youth, amateur and professional athletes who regularly visit Dodgertown and are literally walking in the footsteps of greatness.
In the 1940s, Dodger management, led by Branch Rickey and Walter O’Malley, took the bold step to break baseball’s color barrier. In 1947, the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson to be the first African-American since 1884 to be signed to a major-league baseball contract. Later that season, his teammate Dan Bankhead became the first African-American pitcher in the majors. From 1945-1946, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed five of the first six African-American players of the 20th century to professional baseball contracts.
Notable milestones at Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach include:
- 1948 – Shared living quarters, dining room and recreation for all players.
- 1948 – The first game during Spring Training 1948 was the first time a Major League team in the South had African-American players.
- 1954 – Dodger President Walter O’Malley privately built a pitch-and-putt golf course for all players. At that time, city golf courses were private and segregated.
- 1962 – Dodgertown Director Peter O’Malley removes the concept of segregated seating, water fountains and bathrooms in Holman Stadium at Dodgertown, despite the prohibitions in the South. Local schools were not integrated until 1969.
- 1965 – The now retired Jackie Robinson returned to Dodgertown, and again made sports history by being the first African-American to do sports commentary on national television (an exhibition game for ABC-TV).
- 1965 – Dodgertown opened its nine-hole public golf course. Team President Walter O’Malley wanted all his players to have the opportunity to relax by playing golf on the public course just beyond Holman Stadium.
In 2014, Historic Dodgertown was named a Florida Heritage Landmark for its significance in the Civil Rights Movement. A historical marker in front of the on-site conference center commemorates its important role. Today, Historic Dodgertown is an all-inclusive complex where teams can train, play, dine and stay together. Other amenities include clubhouses, a competition-size swimming pool, weight rooms, a dining room, lounge and conference center.
Vero Beach is located on Florida’s Atlantic coast, about an hour north of Jupiter’s Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium (spring home of the Cardinals and Marlin), 75 minutes north of West Palm Beach’s FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches(spring home of the Astros and Nationals) and a half hour north of First Data Field(spring home of the Mets). For a full schedule of events at Dodgertown, check out the facility’s website at historicdodgertown.com.