Because of U. S. government travel restrictions during World War II, major league teams were mandated to hold spring training near home in 1943. The Phillies began training in Hershey, PA, on March 15.

Six years ago, while working on The Fightin’ Phillies book, I came across an old scrapbook of brittle, yellow, musty clippings of three Philadelphia daily newspapers, InquirerEvening Bulletin and Record. Research revealed some interesting nuggets:

Manager Bucky Harris, eight players, the travelling secretary and publicity director boarded a train at the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia at 10:30 a.m. on March 14. At 2 p.m., they arrived in Hershey. Other players went to Hershey directly from their homes. 

Hershey had a small, well-kept high school diamond and a training house for use in wet weather and ample club locker room facilities (Hershey Arena), reported the Inquirer’s Stan Baumgartner.

Housing was split between the Community House and Community Inn.

Before the first workout, manager Harris laid out his rules: midnight curfew under penalty of $25.00, no “horse play”, every hitter must sprint to first during batting practice, pitchers must shag fly balls, no card playing for large stakes and most of all, he counselled the players to cast off the defeatist complex.

11 players, including player-coach Chuck Klein, went through the first workout. Only nine players had signed contracts. Six more players were in uniform two days later.

Because of the war, rosters were in flux and the Phillies were a prime example. Of the 42 players who would play for them in 1943, only 12 were in uniform the year before.

2B Danny Murtaugh, 3B Pinky May and RF Ron Northey were the only returning regulars. A total of 18 Phillies were in the military, something all teams experienced.

In January, the Phillies traded 1B Nick Etten to the Yankees for 1B Ed Levy, P Al Gettel and $10,000. Levy joined the Army and Gettel decided to stay on his farm. Another pitcher on the roster, Hilly Flitcraft, also retired to his farm.

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Hall of Famer Chuck Klein was 38-years-old and in his penultimate season in 1943. Shown here with Phillies manager Bucky Harris (C) and owner William Cox (R)

Owner William Cox constantly tried to make trades or purchase players. According to one report, Cox talked on the phone with Branch Rickey of the Dodgers for 10 minutes, ringing up a $7.00 phone bill. Cox was known to put on a uniform and work out with his team.

Weather was a constant problem. Rain, hail, snowflakes and the thaw of spring were issues. Because of a muddy diamond, the Phillies were forced to work out on a football field at times.

On March 30, it was noted that the entire team went through physical exams by a physician, a first in baseball.

Exhibition games took place in early April. The first was April 5, a 5–3 loss to the Philadelphia A’s in Wilmington (DE).

Two days later, the Phillies beat a US Army Team at New Cumberland (PA), 5–3. Game was called after six innings because of bitter wind and snowflakes.

Next day, the Phillies played the Indiantown Gap Army Team at a high school in Lebanon (PA). They won a 14–0 no-hitter with the game called after seven innings, again by bad weather.

April 12, bad weather cancelled a game in Lancaster (PA) and Hagerstown (MD) the next day.

April 15 was a 1–1 tie in Trenton (NJ) played before 300 shivering fans.

The final exhibition game was April 20, a 7–0 win over Yale in New Haven (CT).

Rain washed out the first two regular season games in Boston, April 20–21.

During the season, the Phillies played split doubleheaders, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., to accommodate war workers on swing shifts. They wound up playing a club record 43 doubleheaders, fitting for 1943, a bizarre year.

Originally published at Phillies Insider as “Spring training where?” on March 18, 2020. Reprinted by permission of the author.

 

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