Major League Baseball spring training is underway and a look back in time reveals teams were playing in some unlikely locations in the 1940s.
In 1943, the film Casablanca was released, emerging singer Frank Sinatra made his debut on radios “Your Hit Parade,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in his third term as president and six major league baseball teams were playing in Indiana.
In the midst of World War II, MLB spring training was held in the northern states due to wartime travel restrictions.
The Chicago Cubs and White Sox trained in French Lick, the Cleveland Indians trained in Lafayette, the Detroit Tigers were in Evansville, the Pittsburg Pirates in Muncie, and the Cincinnati Reds settled in Bloomington at Indiana University’s Jordan Field, where the Indiana Memorial Union parking lot exists today.
Author of “The First Black Red” Marty Pieratt says everything he read about this was astounding.
“Everything I read about it, it was astounding because the Reds were supposed to be a pennant winner. They had a lot of popular players so you can imagine if the Reds today or the Yankees or whomever would come here and work out in Bloomington and be here for those weeks, it was quite the buzz. It was a big deal,” Pieratt says.
The poor weather forced the Reds and their exhibition opponent, the Indianapolis Indians, to train inside the IU Wildermuth Gymnasium.
“So the Reds show up for spring training in 1943, their groundskeepers came a little bit early, they were a little bit shocked at what they had, but this is what they worked from.”
The Indiana Daily Student reported on the first exhibition game between the Reds and Indians on Jordan field. The Reds defeated the Indians 8-6 in front of a capacity crowd of 2,000 fans.
The team stayed at the Graham Hotel in downtown Bloomington and walked to the 10th Street Stadium where the arboretum is now for locker room facilities before heading to the Fieldhouse for practice.
The Reds would return for spring training in Bloomington the following year despite rain and snow that canceled some games in 1943.