Bottom of the ninth. Yankees down by 1 to the Red Sox. Two men on…and rookie shortstop Joe Buzas rips one into left field.
The ball skitters past the outfielders, the winning run scores, and the ball keeps rolling—not to where it’s swallowed by the black hole of the deep alley at Yankee Stadium, but all the way to the empty bleacher seats at chilly, windblown Bader Field in Atlantic City.
The Yankees swarm Buzas, celebrating a 15–14 victory that makes them 2 for 3 so far in their 1945 spring training series against the Sox, a brief, glorious, and largely forgotten chapter in New Jersey baseball lore.
World War II didn’t stop baseball in America, but it did reduce its rations. Stars such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio were off in uniform, and wartime travel restrictions kept teams close to their home cities for spring training in such exotic climes as Muncie, Indiana, and Wilmington, Delaware.
While the New York Giants spent three springs in Lakewood, the Yankees trained at Asbury Park High School in 1943 before moving to plusher digs in Atlantic City for the next two springs. They bunked at the Senator Hotel, practicing at Bader Field when the weather cooperated and at the 112th Field Artillery Armory when it didn’t. “By the time the New York club arrives here, 12,000 cubic yards of rich, imported sod will have been transplanted from the $500,000 beachfront showplace of the late Mrs. Isabelle Fishblatt at Raleigh Avenue,” the Sporting News reported in January 1944. Rich sod or not, Atlantic City was a long way from St. Petersburg, Florida, the Yankees’ longtime pre-season home. Bader Field was often blanketed in mist, sometimes in snow. By spring 1946—the war over, Williams and DiMaggio back in their respective lineups—the Yankees left behind Mrs. Fishblatt’s sod and returned to St. Petersburg.Click here to leave a comment