Friday, March 04, 2011

Private Tour Of Historic Dodgertown--Holman Stadium (Part 4)

For the purist in baseball, few would dicker that Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Florida was once one of the mecca's for Spring Training Baseball. This particular story really nails the atmosphere that was the Dodgertown Experience before Los Angeles pulled the plug and made Glendale, Arizona the Winter Home of The Los Angeles Dodgers.

One of the best write ups we've ever read about Dodgertown and the true fan experience that was apart of it. Please read it. Clearly the thoughts comes from the author's heart.

Finishing off our four part series on Dodgertown--Holman Stadium seated 6,500 patrons. Unless you sat under one of the very large trees planted and grown within the seating bowl--you were out of luck in staying out of the sun. The same as the players for both teams that weathered open air seating areas--instead of dugouts.

Located on Duke Snider Drive with the car entrance from Tommy Lasorda Lane, Holman Stadium may well have been the most intimate baseball park in America. For spring training, there were no fences in the outfield. The trees that lined the outfield perimeters of the ballyard were painted with yellow markers to indicate to fielders there was an obstruction in the way. With the outfield treeline sitting on the same slope as fans, it's just remarkable to think that a family of four could be spread out on the grass only to be surprised by a player running over them chasing a ball.

That's about as intimate as it gets.

Today, Holman Stadium looks pretty much like what it did for most of the 60 odd years The Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers called it their Spring Training Home. The Press Box is classic, so are the tiny metal hinged fiberglass seats that sit within the bowl. There is a tarp now placed over the dugouts. There is a full time home run fence in the outfield. Other that not--not much has changed.

There is a small concession stand behind the press box and home plate. As well as concessions located on the 1st and 3rd base sides--accessible by walking down steps from the seating bowl. Behind the 1st base concessions lies the original ticket windows and team gift shop.

The only modern structure is the very large building sitting over the right centerfield wall.  Inside were housed The Dodgers Executive Offices and Clubhouses for both home and visiting teams. Just a few feet east of that facility lies the second Group Bullpen Mound and Batting Cages--used by both teams on game days.

Our pictures speak for themselves. But what really struck us visiting Holman Stadium were the three commemorative plaques which strongly suggest the history The Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers brought to Vero Beach and abandoned in 2008 for the desert of Arizona.
The first plaque honors Bud Holman--namesake on the ballpark. The forward thinking Vero Beach resident that convinced Dodger's Owner Walter O'Malley that land abandoned by the Navy near the Vero Beach Airport after World War II was perfect for Dodgertown development in 1948.

The second plaque is unique. A commemorative to those lives lost in the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Signed by Walter O'Malley, then Manager & Hall Of Famer Walter Alston, Captain & Hall Of Famer Pee Wee Reeese, Bud Holman and front office employees of The Brooklyn Dodgers, this November 1st, 1956 plaque remembers The Brooklyn Dodgers visit to Japan was something we didn't expect to see during our visit to Dodgertown--but was striking to view in person.

And finally--the third plaque honoring the first professional game between South Korea and The Los Angeles Dodgers played at Holman Stadium on March 9, 1985.
Leaving Historic Dodgertown after our visit on March 2nd, 2011, all The African Queen and I could think about was this thought: Retaining history and expanding on it are important--losing it is sad. Sadness is what we believe The Dodgers brought to baseball by leaving Vero Beach in 2008. Understanding the east coast/west coast dilemma The Los Angeles Dodgers struggled with--there comes a time when a business decision has to be about more than just money. Dodgertown was a unique case that should never have been abandoned.

BTW: The actual beach front property of Vero Beach is quite nice. We visited there after leaving Dodgertown and came away impressed with the high end communities along the shoreline, the fine landscaping and not crowded at all communities. No tee-shirt shops. No tourist traps. Just high quality homes and pristine beaches.


All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Sam D. Mann said...

What a great series of stories. I really enjoyed the look behind all that was Dodgertown. Your words and photos flooded my memory with sights and sounds from the times that I visited the facility. Some MLB team needs to relocate to the property for spring training. It is far too historic to sit without a full-time professional tenant. LA's departure was a huge slap in the face to all citizens of Indian River County and to all MLB spring training camps on Florida's east coast. To this day I'm still bitter about the Dodgers leaving Vero Beach for Arizona. Though without their exit I would not be the proud Nationals fan that I am today and for that I am grateful.

Barbara Eiden-Molinaro said...

I so appreciate the stories and photos - a trip down memory lane. I absolutely love Dodgertown - and Vero Beach as a home base. The connection between the city and team was amazing. It was a little sunny, and hot later in the month, but still nothing like half the Nats seats are on afternoon games in July and August. I still can't believe the Dodgers left or that some other team (hint, hint Nats) hasn't made what could ba a real deal to get and SLIGHTLY update the place. It is a treasure and Vero, while not a touristy town, is a great place for the team and visitors alike. I am just so glad you took the time to do this series!

Big Train said...

Thank you for a great story and tour! I have a somewhat personal connection to "Dodgertown" as my father was signed by the Dodgers as a pitcher in 1947 and played in the organization up to the 50-51 season when injury and economics (I was born and $150 a month wasn't much for support of a family) forced him to seek employment elsewhere, but he has many stories of spring training in Florida. If you would like to see another story on Dodgertown, look up a Life Magazine story from the April 5, 1948 issue. There is a cover picture (my Dad is in the pic) called Dodger Rookies & an "in depth" story & pictures of life in spring training. My Dad's manager was Pepper Martin. He said Branch Rickey would bring close to 400 players to camp, and used to walk around with his little chair and get up close and personal with players. With the recent passing of Duke Snider Dad called and told me a story of when he faced Duke in spring training. Dad had just struck out Don Zimmer and was feeling pretty cocky so he tried to throw a fast ball past Duke. Dad said that Snider hit that ball so hard that it is most likely still in the air! I am going to get him to look at your blog and see what he remembers (he was before Holman field), but I am sure he will enjoy a trip down memory lane.

DND said...

Could not have said it better Sam. Your D.Mann

DND said...

Dodger Town....Nats Town....Dodger Town.....Nats Town HMMMMMM.

DND said...

Sam..You said a mouthful

Aaron M. said...

Great photos! I hope a team takes over Dodgertown, such a historic piece of baseball history?

Mr. NATural said...

I really learned a lot reading this story. You guys bring a perspective that is found nowhere else on the Web.

The Hiroshima plaque was very touching.

Thank you Nats320.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Big Train: Thanks for your thoughts. Let us know if you would like to follow up and maybe we can get some more Dodgertown remembrances from your father.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Barbara Eiden-Molinaro: Thanks for the kind comments And thanks to Sohna for setting this special tour up for me as a surprise.

Unknown said...

Hi SBF and African Queen. I loved going to dodgertown,as my grandmother wintered in Vero Beach. Great memories. I love the passion and detail of your blog. I am adding one blog to my site for each MLB team. I would love to include yours. Please let me know if you have any issues with this request. Thanks!