As Red Sox players gather in Fort Myers to begin spring training and prepare to defend the team’s 2007 World Series championship, it is a far cry from the very first Boston team pre-season. American League president Ban Johnson had only awarded a franchise in his upstart league to Boston in early January 1901 to Charles Somers and the season was slated to start just over three months later in Baltimore. Looking to directly compete against the well-established National League in Boston, franchise Somers and Johnson spent the first two months of the club’s existence putting together a team and signed Jimmy Collins, who had played for the Boston NL franchise only last season, to manage the club and play third base. Johnson also managed to lure Collins’ teammate, outfielder Chick Stahl, and another big-name National League star, Cy Young, into the fold.
With a roster in place, the team left South Station in Boston on 28 March and headed south to begin practice at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; by coincidence, the “Americans” were on the same train carrying the “Nationals” from Boston, who continued on to their training facility in Norfolk. Unlike major league players today that spend a good percentage of the off-season working out in order to enter camp in near-peak physical form, the stars of yesteryear needed every moment of spring training to prepare for the long season and this remained true for many decades. For Boston’s first training camp, the standards of the day were followed; mornings were spent by the players taking practice at the plate and in the field, while the afternoons were devoted to long hikes in full uniform to build endurance. After less than a week of conditioning, the new club squared off in an exhibition against the squad from the local university on 05 April and soundly defeated the collegians by a score of 13-0. Unfortunately, the game was followed by a week of rain that made practice near impossible, as there were no field houses or indoor batting cages at the team’s convenience. The team managed only a few more practices before finally breaking camp and heading back north to Baltimore, where they would play the first game in franchise history on 26 April 1901 and lose, 10-6.