Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wrigley, Cubs enjoy Catalina Island for Spring Training

By Sean Pellerin

In 1916, Wrigley bought a share of Chicago's National League entry, and over the next five years steadily increased his stake. Wartime privations hit some industries hard, but the chewing gum king was on the rise. By 1919 Wrigley bought $3 million of empty property on Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. Just two years later, he would schedule the Cubs to hold their spring training on the island. Mr. Wrigley loved the island and the move of the Cubs would open up new vacationing opportunities for the mainland population.

Instantly in 1921 the Cubs players and managers would take advantage of the mountains and terrain of the mountain. Conditioning with hikes and runs along rugged trails created by goats was something no other team was experiencing. A main diamond and practice field were built amongst the eucalyptus trees of Avalon in Wrigley's newly purchased country club. The diamond would replicate characteristics of Wrigley Field back in Chicago including a left field porch for a social atmosphere just like the rooftops off Waveland Avenue. This gave island residents and visitors the chance to see the Cubs in action as they became the main attraction on the island. Outside of inter-squad games, the PCL Angels were really the only regular visitors to scrimmage. Hollywood stars would put teams together that would create crowds, but were never really competitive. Girls, wives, and girlfriends would also be shipped in for games, dances and entertainment for the ballplayers.

The Cubs would train in Catalina for about a month before sailing back to the mainland and play exhibition games at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles and other stadiums as they slowly moved through the southwest in route to Chicago by the first week of April for Opening Day. The Cubs would leave Catalina after 30 years for Mesa Arizona; the location where the Cubs still train today.

Famous Cubs who were involved in the spring training years on Catalina Island:
Bob O'Farrell - Cub 1915-1925, 1934
Grover Cleveland Alexander - Cub 1918-1926
Gabby Hartnett - Cub 1922-1940 (The Homer in the Gloamin)
Guy Bush - Cub 1923-1934
Hack Wilson - Cub 1926-1931
Riggs Stephenson - Cub 1926-1934
Charlie Root - Cub 1926-1941 (Pitcher who gave up Ruth's called shot)
Woody English - Cub 1927-1936
Kiki Cuyler - Cub 1928-1935
Lon Warneke - Cub 1930-1936, 1942-1943, 1945
Rogers Hornsby - Cub 1929-1932, Manager 1930-1932
Billy Herman - Cub 1931-1941
Stan Hack - Cub 1932-1947
Charlie Grimm - Cub 1925-1936, Manager 1932-1938, 1944-1949
Bill Lee - Cub 1934-1943, 1947
Phil Cavarretta - Cub 1934-1953
Claude Passeau - Cub 1939-1947
Bill Nicholson - Cub 1939-1948

1 comment:

  1. Great piece of baseball history. It would have been fun to be there.