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Holman Approaches Rickey

The Dodgers stumbled upon this small East Coast hamlet in Florida, with nothing more attractive than a U.S. Naval Air base used in World War II, complete with temporary barracks featuring neither heating for the cold nights nor air conditioning for the brutal humidity on scorching spring days in the South.
When local businessman and airport manager Bud Holman approached the Dodgers in 1947 about setting up a spring training camp, initially the reaction of Brooklyn brass was somewhat skeptical. But, Holman had done his homework and found that the Dodgers had more farm clubs than any other major league team, thanks to famed executive Branch Rickey’s philosophy of player development.
Rickey had told his family and some close friends that the club was searching for a training site in the United States. Rickey’s daughter mentioned the fact to a neighbor, Dick Cameron, who in turn relayed the information to Holman1.
Holman was convinced that a large facility like the Naval base would be a good fit for the Dodgers and their 26 minor league teams, if they would only visit and give him a chance to prove it. It would take a great selling job in order to snatch the Dodgers for a full-time camp, but that was one of Holman’s fortés. Holman invited Rickey to see the site for himself and took him on a tour of the city. Rickey had a positive reaction to visiting the base, along with his aide Spencer Harris, who would later become the first camp supervisor, but he wasn’t ready to commit just yet.

1 John L. Klucina, Vero Beach Press-Journal, February 22, 1968

The United States built a Naval Air Station at Vero Beach during World War II with temporary barracks to house the servicemen. After the city gained ownership of the base, the Dodgers were approached by local airport manager and businessman Bud Holman to use the site for spring training camp. The Dodgers initially signed a five-year lease and the barracks became home to more than 600 ballplayers, coaches, executives, staff and members of the press.

Airport manager Bud Holman (right) welcomes Walter O’Malley to Vero Beach as spring training activities begin at Dodgertown. Holman, an Eastern Air Lines director, initially contacted Branch Rickey and the Dodgers about using the barren U.S. Naval Air Station as a spring training home.

Before Walter O’Malley built a stadium for the Dodgers at Dodgertown, several more primitive fields were in use at the complex and available for practices and exhibition games.

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