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Did You Know? – Boston’s First Spring Training

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.

Today In History – First Red Sox Patriots’ Day Game

19 April 1902 – One hundred five years ago today, the Boston American League franchise took the field at Huntington Avenue Grounds against the Baltimore Orioles (who would later become the New York Yankees) and rallied from three runs down in the ninth to win 7-6 in the first-ever Patriots’ Day home game in team history. The holiday in itself is observed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in honor of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, fought on that date in 1775; since 1969, Patriots’ Day has been observed on the third Monday in April. The Red Sox have made it a tradition to play a game at Fenway Park on that date every year since 1960, not including scheduled off-days in 1965 and 1967 and games missed due to the players’ strike in 1995,[1] with the start time usually scheduled to coincide with that of the Boston Marathon, giving ticket holders a chance to watch the race at Kenmore Square following the game.

In 1902, however, the holiday was observed as it was every year until 1969 on 19 April; as it fell on a Saturday, Boston decided to take advantage of this opportunity and received permission from the league to open its season four days ahead of every other club in the American League. Records at Retrosheet show that Cy Young, who led the league in wins (33), ERA (1.62), and strikeouts (158) in 1901, was given the ball by manager Jimmy Collins to start the game for Boston, opposed by Tom Hughes, though it does not show who eventually won the game for the home team nor who scored the game-winning run. The following year, the team began the tradition of making the contest a morning baseball game; with a 10:00 AM start time, Boston defeated the Philadelphia Athletics, 9-4.[2]

[1],[2] Patriots’ Day and the Red Sox. Boston’s Pastime, retrieved on 18 April 2007.