History

Clearwater relationship with Phillies goes back to 1947

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins greets fans during 2011 spring training in Clearwater, Florida. (Matt Veasey/Phillies Nation)

Spring Training will soon start. Year No. 72 for the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., a beautiful city on the Gulf of Mexico.

No, they haven’t been there forever. Numerous other southern locations hosted Phillies Spring Training camps before Clearwater, including states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas. The Phillies even trained in Philadelphia (1883-1901), Hershey, Pa. (1943) and Wilmington, Del. (1944-45).

The Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) were the first Major League team in Clearwater, training and playing their games at Clearwater Athletic Field in 1923. (The Phillies were in Leesburg, Fla., from 1922-24).

Brooklyn actually had two stints in Clearwater, 1923-32 and 1936-41. They were followed by the Cleveland Indians from 1942-46. When Bill Veeck bought the Indians in June 1946, he decided to move their Spring Training site near his Tucson, Ariz., ranch. The St. Louis Browns and Phillies both approached Clearwater after the 1946 season. The Browns chose Miami, clearing the way for the Phillies to settle in what was then a small town of 15,000 residents.

The Phillies bid adios to this city and its snow-covered streets this afternoon. Its Major League training camp time and the local National Leaguers boarded a B&O train for the sunny southland. The destination is Clearwater, Florida, where the Phils will hold forth for the next two months getting in shape for the baseball season,” wrote Ray Kelly in the Feb. 22, 1947, edition of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

Two days later, the Phillies held their first Spring Training workout at Clearwater Athletic Field.

Their first game in Clearwater was a 13-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers on March 11. Attendance was a measly 1,766.

Manager Ben Chapman exploded after the loss. “I don’t intend to take any more 13-1 lickings,” he said. “We’re playing every game as if it counted in the standings. This is not a tryout camp and it’s not a resting place for worn-out ballplayers. I’ve already separated the sheep from the goats and the goats are on the way out.

The Phillies have trained and played in three different Clearwater ballparks: Athletic Field (1947-54), Jack Russell Stadium (1955-2003) and Bright House Field, now Spectrum Field, since 2004. Carpenter Complex opened on March 14, 1967.

Larry Shenk is author/editor of the Phillies.com Alumni section. Articles re-printed at Phillies Nation by permission of Major League Baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

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