In 1912, two years before Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner called spring training Baseball’s “Annual Display of Foolishness,” Giants Manager John McGraw “wrote” an article for The New York Evening World explaining his training philosophy, from the team’s spring home in Marlin, Texas.
In stark contrast to Fullerton, McGraw said:
“In my opinion, the spring training of a ball club is of more importance in winning a pennant than any one factor. Of course, players of exceptional ability are needed, but unless they are well prepared physically for their work they be laid up…In that event, the club would be just as badly off as if such players didn’t exist.”
“We often hear of a club being in hard luck on account of having so many players laid up…in most of those cases, the fault can be traced back to the training work done in the spring.”
McGraw said he decided to train the Giants in Marlin because the climate was “mild and even” and “about the same as we find in the North,” during the late spring and early summer, and credited the location with for his club’s performance in 1911:
“I attribute out success in winning the pennant last year to the excellent weather conditions that we found in Marlin. My club was about able to get up to top speed almost at the beginning of the regular season.”
He said “Everybody said we were lucky,” for the team’s lack of injuries during the pennant race, “But that did not cover it entirely. The Giants were in excellent condition.”
Again, in stark contrast with Fullerton, who claimed, “A seasoned ballplayer will start with easy work, loosen up his muscles, take off eight or ten pounds and at the end of ten days or two weeks will be in nearly top condition to play baseball.” McGraw said:
“I always take at least seven weeks for this work; for I don’t believe that a man can be trained in less time than that to last six months.”
In addition to the seven weeks of work, McGraw credited Marlin’s hot spring water with keeping his team healthy:
“I find that the hot water baths following hard workouts do more for sore muscles than all the liniments in the world. It is not so much the medicinal qualities of the water as the fact that it is hot.”
He said a “mistaken idea of the public” was that spring training entailed:
“(G)iving the players certain kinds of food and putting them through certain athletic stunts. I do nothing of the kind. They are allowed to eat what they please. If they suffer from it, it is their own fault and they quickly realize it. I do not stop them from smoking or any other little habits that they may have taken up. In other words, the idea is for them to live naturally and develop physically at the same time.”
After discovering that many players “tire of their work on the diamond” during the spring, McGraw said “I have introduced such pastimes as tennis, handball, pushball, etc…” to their daily routine.
As for the regular routine:
“I work the men two hours every morning and two hours in the afternoon. I work just as hard as they do. It is pretty hard on me at first, but I know that I have got to show a willingness to do anything that I would ask the players to do. I am not as young as some of these recruits and it comes hard at times, but I get results from it because the youngsters are ashamed not to stick as long as I do.”
Finally, McGraw said spring training provided another benefit for young players:
“Social polish is a big help in making a baseball club win, as it develops personal pride in the men and makes them want to be at the top. For that reason, I always encourage the youngsters to take part in the dances that are given at Marlin every week. It also keeps their mind off the game. I would like to have my players think of baseball all the time when they are on the field and forget it when they get to their homes or hotel.
“The businessman who worries over his business during his leisure hours soon becomes mentally unfit for his work and the same applies to ballplayers.”
The Giants continued to train at Marlin through 1918 and won four pennants (1911-1913, 1917) during that period.