#Shortstops: Spring Training in Cuba

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Meaghann Campbell

The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) had more than baseball in common: They both spent Spring Training in Cuba. In 1947, the women of the AAGPBL traveled farther afield than Florida or Mississippi of previous years; instead, they went to Havana.

The AAGPBL women stayed at the Seville-Biltmore, an American hotel, and toured Cuba extensively when they weren’t practicing, training or playing. They stayed for two weeks, with the first for training and the second for a tournament of four exhibition games. For their security in a large and foreign city, the girls were told to travel in groups. For the most part, they felt very safe in Havana as the people were kind to them. The men on the Triple-A Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ farm team, were housed at the Havana Military Academy, a prep school attended by the wealthy offspring of government employees. Jackie Robinson, however, did not stay there.

Robinson, who would break the color barrier that year with the Dodgers, was taken instead to the Hotel Boston in “old” Havana. Jackie was incensed, asking “so what the devil is this business of segregating the Negro players in a colored nation?”

Harold Parrott, the Dodgers travelling secretary, explained to Robinson that it was Branch Rickey's idea. Though the Hotel Nacional was fully integrated, the Dodgers’ general manager didn't want to risk the chance of any conflicts while his team was there. Robinson finally went along with Rickey’s judgment, stating: "He's been right so far."

The games pitted the women of the AAGPBL against their counterparts in the Latin American Feminine Basebol League (LAFBBL). They were so popular that they drew crowds larger than those at the Dodgers' games.

The Cubans loved baseball, but they had never seen women play ball at the level of the All-American Girls League. More than 55,000 Cuban baseball enthusiasts showed up to watch the women. While in Havana, the Dodgers played "home" series against the Yankees and Boston Braves, along with games against the Royals and a team of Cuban all-stars. In addition to the trip to Panama, they took quick jaunts to play in Caracas, Venezuela, and the Panama Canal Zone.

The Havana experiment only lasted one spring for the Dodgers, as the club’s training costs were the highest in the majors that year. Unlike the AAGPBL games, which drew large crowds, attendance for the Dodgers' series against the Braves was so low that the visiting Boston club lost money on the deal. It was so successful for the AAGPBL, however, that some of the All-Americans returned in the fall of 1947 for a postseason exhibition tour.

Meaghann Campbell is the 2018 library-technical services intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series