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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Babe Ruth takes a swing during spring training practice at Miller Huggins Field in St. Petersburg.
[AP photo (1994)]
All-Star shortsop Ozzie Smith was here for 15 springs with the Cardinals.
To salute the history of spring training in St. Petersburg, we selected an all-time team of players who trained here. The idea was to pick the most accomplished players at each position, giving weight to how long they trained here, and being representative of each era. The team is also available in an audio slideshow at rays. tampabay.com.
Outfielder Joe DiMaggio
When: Yankees, 1936-51
Why: The Yankee Clipper was one of the game's all-time best, winning three AL MVPs, finishing second twice and making the All-Star team in each of his 13 seasons. And he married Marilyn Monroe.
Manager Casey Stengel
When: Yankees, 1949-60; Mets, 1962-65
Why: He led the Yankees to five straight (and seven overall) World Series wins, winning 10 pennants in 12 seasons. Then he had a tougher task, providing comfort as the Mets struggled in their first four seasons.
Outfielder Mickey Mantle
When: Yankees, 1952-61
Why: Essentially replaced Joe DiMaggio in centerfield, winning three AL MVPs and finishing second three times in a nine-year period. He was selected for 20 All-Star Games.
Outfielder Stan Musial
When: Cardinals, 1941-63
Why: He's the greatest player in Cardinals history, and that's good enough for us. Stan the Man made 24 All-Star teams, won three NL MVPs (second four times) and finished with 3,630 hits (fourth-most all time).
Who we could have picked: Lou Brock, Cardinals 1965-79
Designated Hitter Babe Ruth
When: Yankees, 1925-34; Braves, 1935
Why: Considered by many to be the greatest player who ever lived and - if you believe the stories - might have been larger than life off the field. His 60 homers in a season and 714 all time redefined the game.
Who we could have picked: Fred McGriff, Rays 1998-2001
First Baseman Lou Gehrig
When: Yankees, 1925-39
Why: Perhaps the greatest 1B in history, even with his career cut short due to the illness that now bears his name. Won a Triple Crown and two AL MVPs (and was second twice), ranks fifth with 1,995 RBIs.
Who we could have picked: Johnny Mize, Cards 1938-41, Yanks 1950-53
Second Baseman Red Schoendienst
When: Cardinals, 1945-56, 1961-63
Why: Wasn't the best offensive or defensive player, but was good enough overall to make 10 All-Star teams and have four top-10 MVP finishes. Stayed in Cardinals red for decades as a coach and manager.
Who we could have picked:Tony Lazzeri, Yankees 1926-37
Shortstop Ozzie Smith
When: Cardinals, 1982-96
Why: Who else? All the Wizard of Oz did was redefine the position while establishing the premium value of defense. Smith won 13 straight Gold Gloves, made 15 All-Star teams and totaled an impressive 2,460 hits.
Who we could have picked: Cal Ripken, Orioles 1992-95
Third base Wade Boggs
When: Rays, 1998-99
Why: Boggs was, and is, the most accomplished player in Rays history, coming home to pick up his 3,000th hit on the way to the Hall of Fame. Five AL batting titles and 12 straight All-Star Games weren't bad either.
Who we could have picked: Ken Boyer, Cardinals 1955-65, Mets 1966-67
Catcher Yogi Berra
When: Yankees, 1946-61
Why: One of the greatest offensive players at a defensive position, he won three AL MVPs, made 18 All-Star teams and played on 10 World Series-winning teams. And he had a few memorable quotes along the way.
Who we could have picked: Bill Dickey, Yankees 1928-46
Grover Cleveland Alexander
When: Phillies, 1915-18
Why: His 373 wins are third-most ever, including a stretch when he led the NL for five straight seasons by averaging 29.6 wins. In addition, he threw 5,190 innings (10th most) and piled up 437 complete games.
When: Cardinals, 1959-75
Why: If Stan Musial isn't the greatest Cardinal ever, Bob Gibson might be. His 1968 season (22-9, 1.12 ERA, 268 Ks, Cy Young and MVP awards) remains the benchmark for greatness.
When: Mets, 1967-77, '83
Why: Tom Terrific won a rookie of the year and three Cy Youngs, was picked for 12 All-Star teams, logged 311 wins and, perhaps most of all, helped make the Mets legit.
When: Yankees, 1950-61
Why: The Chairman of the Board's 236 wins are solid, but more impressive is that he lost only 106 for a dazzling .690 winning percentage. Oh, yeah, he pitched in 11 World Series.
When: Cardinals, 1965-71
Why: Carlton didn't become truly great until he was traded to the Phillies during spring training 1972, but the foundation was built as he won four NL Cy Young Awards (and a Triple Crown) and 329 games.
Who we could have picked: Nolan Ryan, Mets 1966-71
When: Cardinals, 1981-84
Why: Sutter led the NL in saves five times in a six-year stretch, won a Cy Young and had five top-eight NL MVP finishes.
Who we could have picked: Dennis Eckersley, Cardinals 1996-97
Miller Huggins (Yankees), Tony La Russa (Cardinals),Joe McCarthy (Yankees),Bill McKechnie (Braves),Lou Piniella (Rays), Joe Torre (Mets, Cardinals).
The teams that trained in St. Petersburg:
St. Louis Browns 1914
Philadelphia Phillies 1915-18
Boston Braves 1922-37
New York Yankees 1925-61
St. Louis Cardinals 1938-97
New York Giants 1951
New York Mets 1962-87
Baltimore Orioles 1992-95
Tampa Bay Rays 1998-2008
Note: We didn't consider players who made only cameo appearances in St. Petersburg such as Rogers Hornsby (1928 Boston Braves) or Willie Mays (1973 Mets).
Five best teams to train here
1. 1927 Yankees
There's a reason the '27 Yankees are still the gold standard to which really good teams are measured. They had a 110-44 record (.714), a World Series sweep for manager Miller Huggins, five Hall of Famers, Lou Gehrig's MVP season, Babe Ruth's 60 home runs.
2. 1939 Yankees
What's amazing is that this team was probably better. These Yanks, featuring Joe DiMaggio and Red Ruffing (and without an ill Lou Gehrig), won 106 games and swept the Reds in the Series, but most impressive was this: They scored 967 runs and allowed only 556, a record differential of plus-411.
3. 1986 Mets
The '69 Mets were warm and cuddly miracle-workers. This was a group of hard-nosed, cocksure rabble-rousers who were good and knew it. Lenny Dykstra, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and manager Davey Johnson all did their part. And in the World Series, so did Bill Buckner.
4. 1942 Cardinals
With a 21-year-old Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Marty Marion and the Cooper brothers (pitcher Mort and catcher Walker), Billy Southworth's boys sailed to 108 wins and beat the mighty Yanks in the Series.
5. 1961 Yankees
These were the Yankees of Mantle and Maris and 61 homers, but they were also Whitey Ford's 25-4 season, 109 wins for manager Ralph Houk, a 4-1 Series win over Cincinnati.
Five worst teams to train here
1. 1962 Mets
Expansion never looked so ugly as this motley crew, who went 40-120, finished 60 1/2 games out, made 210 errors and allowed 948 runs.
2. 1935 Braves
This team was actually worse than the '62 Mets, finishing with a 38-115 record. But it still had Babe Ruth (in his final season), Rabbit Maranville and manager Bill McKechnie.
3. 1963 Mets
Another 200-plus errors, a team batting average of .219, 22 losses by Roger Craig and the end of Gil Hodges' playing career added up to a 51-111 record.
4. 2002 Rays
The 55-106 record was bad enough, but worse was how they got there under manager Hal McRae, with Tanyon Sturtze their No. 1 starter, Greg Vaughn and Wilson Alvarez their highest-paid players and Randy Winn their All-Star.
5. 1965 Mets
Respectability remained a long way away for the Mets, who were in triple-digit losses for the fourth straight season, finishing 50-112. They had two 20-game losers (Jack Fisher and Al Jackson) and didn't get much from a 44-year-old Warren Spahn and 40-year-old Yogi Berra.
Who's on your team?
Disagree with our selections? Have a better idea? Let us know who you'd pick to be on yourall-time St. Petersburg spring training team. Post your suggestions on the all-time spring team entry on The Heater atblogs.tampabay.com/rays.