spring training

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Dec 3 21:32:30 UTC 2002

Pitchers and catchers will be reporting before long -- well, ok, in 8 or 10 weeks, but it is never too soon to start thinking about baseball.

The earliest citation in the OED for "spring training" in a baseball context is from 1897.  Dickson's Baseball Dictionary doesn't have anything as early.
spring, n.1 7a
1897 Sporting News 27 Mar. 5/3, I am on my way to join the Boston team at Savannah where the players have all been ordered to report for *spring training. 1928 G. H. RUTH Babe Ruth's Own Book of Baseball i. 17 In 1925 when I collapsed in Asheville, during the spring training trip, a lot of people figured I'd never put on a uniform again. 1976 National Observer (U.S.) 12 June 14/3 Randolph was hardly awed at becoming a Yankee... I came to spring training looking for a job.
It has the phrase "spring training" from 1845, referring to militia training, from an apparently English source.
training, vbl. n. 2b  spec. Military drill; esp. in former use, a public meeting or muster at a stated time for drill of militia and volunteer forces; subsequently much used for the periodical camp work of the Territorials
1845 S. JUDD Margaret I. xv, Hash,..at the Spring training, was punished..for disorderly behaviour.

Here is a very early example of the phrase, in a cock-fighting context.
     Escaped from the Cock-pit in Liberty-st. while moving yesterday, three bantam Seriagapatam breed, and an English rooster, their feathers plucked, gaffs on -- the rooster's right eye a little punished -- bantams plump for spring training.
     New-York National Advocate, May 3, 1825, p. 2, col. 2

Presumably, the origin of the phrase was in militia training.  Would a fighting cock be put through anything that would likely be called "spring training"?  As you'uns all know, baseball was played in NYC in 1823, but still, I doubt that the organized association of manly and athletic young men who played the game then would have taken "spring training".  Still, it's interesting to see the phrase from so early, and in a sporting context.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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