Brooklyn Dodgers
Spring Training at Bear Mountain

     It was spring training, World War II style. With soldiers and sailors traveling to stateside bases or overseas embarkation points, and civilians journeying to jobs at munitions plants far from their homes, the nation's railroads were jammed. Federal authorities suggested that the 16 major league baseball teams help ease travel burdens by shifting spring training to the East or Midwest -- the majors' terrain then -- and dropping the barnstorming trips home by rail from southern and western training camps. Eager to present a patriotic image, baseball happily complied. Starting in 1943 and continuing for the next two wartime springs, major leaguers battled frigid temperatures, rain and snow on a spring-training map stretching from New England to Missouri.

     The Brooklyn Dodgers set up headquarters in New York's Hudson Valley at the Bear Mountain Inn, a cozy establishment with pool tables, fireplaces and dessert specialties like Stewed Mixed Fruits Fitzsimmons in honor of the Dodger pitcher known as Fat Freddie. When the weather turned surly, Branch Rickey, the Dodger general manager, arranged for workouts at the batting cage in the steam-heated West Point field house, a five-mile bus trip from Bear Mountain. ''Mr. Rickey had three or four ball fields behind the inn,'' Clyde King, a teenage pitcher with the wartime Dodgers, recalled recently from the Yankees' spring camp in Tampa, Fla., where he was serving as a special assistant. ''We'd be working out, and in back, on Hessian Lake, there would be ice skating.'' King remembered how ''I played checkers at night before the fireplace with Mr. Rickey. I played him 10 times and I beat him once.'' And Dearie Mulvey, a member of the Dodgers' ownership, ''played the piano while we'd sing songs.''

excerpt taken from :  BASEBALL; When the Boys of Summer Were the Boys of Winter
Published: March 16, 2004