The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
While many alert readers (ARs) undoubtedly know that now is the time when major league baseball teams decamp to Florida or Arizona for spring training, many may not be aware that teams used to spend their springs in the appropriately named city of Hot Springs, AR (as in Arkansas, not alert readers). The custom originated in 1886, when Cap Anson, the manager and first baseman of the Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs), brought his team south to soak in the mineral baths and “boil out the alcoholic microbes” from their systems. While training in Hot Springs, the Cubs won four of the first ten National League pennants and two of the first five World Series.
Other teams followed the White Stockings/Cubs to Hot Springs, with rosters that included such players as Honus Wagner, Cy Young and George Herman Ruth, a promising pitcher from St. Mary’s Industrial School for Orphans, Delinquent, Incorrigible and Wayward Boys. It was at Whittington Park in Hot Springs on St. Patrick’s Day, 1918, where Babe Ruth hit the first 500-foot-plus home run in baseball history—a 573-foot blast into the Arkansas Alligator Farm on the other side of Whittington Avenue.
By the time Babe Ruth hit the home run that made pundits appreciate him even more as a hitter than as a pitcher, the Cubs had left town. Five years earlier, in February of 1913, they had relocated to Tampa for that region’s first spring training. Nine years later, in 1922, they moved again, this time to Catalina Island, 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles. Philip Wrigley, who owned the Cubs, also owned Catalina and wanted to move their spring training site close to his vacation home on the island. Thirty years later the Cubs moved their spring training again, this time to Mesa, Arizona, ostensibly because Catalina was “too windy.”
That’s right. The team from the Windy City abandoned a spring training site because it was “too windy.” Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ home ballpark, was and still is notorious throughout the Major Leagues because of the winds off Lake Michigan. Nevertheless, after three decades on Catalina the Cubs finally figured out that winds were a problem…something they haven’t figured out in over a century on the north side of Chicago.
Meanwhile, back in Hot Springs life went on. The Oaklawn racetrack, which had opened on February 24, 1905, was and still is a major attraction. The highlight of the racing season has always been The Arkansas Derby, several of whose winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. This year’s race will be held on Saturday, April 16th. Schlafly Beer and I will both be there.
As some ARs already know, Hot Springs is where the Schlafly family got its start in the beverage business. My great grandfather August Schlafly, having traveled to Hot Springs for the mineral baths, had invested in the Mountain Valley Water Company. In 1902—three years before Oaklawn opened and four years before the Cubs won their first National League pennant—August became the sole owner of Mountain Valley. The water had a national—even international—reputation for promoting good health and was served in the White House by every United States president from Calvin Coolidge to Bill Clinton (Hot Springs High School class of 1964). Other fans of Mountain Valley included boxing champions Joe Louis, Gene Tunney and Sugar Ray Robinson. A partial list of thoroughbred horses who trained on Mountain Valley is even more impressive than the list of winners of the Arkansas Derby: Secretariat, Nashua, Kelso, Bold Ruler and Sunday Silence among them.
For all the many health benefits of Mountain Valley Water, I’m not aware of anyone who has reached the age of 108 and has credited Mountain Valley for his or her longevity. There is, however, a distinguished St. Louisan who credits Schlafly Beer for helping her reach the age of 108. Her name is Lucy Hamm; and I was pleased to help her celebrate her 108th birthday in late January. (Some ARs may recall my writing in this space a year ago about celebrating her 107th birthday with her.)
Lucy’s story—and she’s sticking to it—is the same as it was last year. A bottle of Schlafly on a daily basis has contributed to her extraordinary health and longevity. As I noted a year ago, to put Lucy’s life in perspective, she was around when Roosevelt was the president of the United States—Theodore, not Franklin. Lucy was even around the last time the Cubs won the World Series and were still going to spring training in Hot Springs.