Spring training in the Tampa Bay area started as a fling.
The Chicago Cubs first came to Tampa for a six-week stay in 1913, then St. Petersburg landed the St. Louis Browns the next year.
The teams met for the area's first major-league exhibition on Feb. 26, 1914, at Tampa's Plant Field (on the grounds of what is now the University of Tampa) then again — after crossing Tampa Bay by steamship — the next day in St. Petersburg, at a park on Coffee Pot Bayou. The Cubs won both, by the way, 3-2.
It was the start of a rich tradition — one now 100 years old — that has seen 17 teams hold spring training around the Tampa Bay area, with three still here: The Phillies in Clearwater, Blue Jays in Dunedin and Yankees in Tampa.
Designed to attract fame and fortune, or at least attention and tourists, spring baseball also affected change, such as ending segregated housing in St. Petersburg.
Some of the game's greatest names and most colorful characters became seasonal residents of the Bay area, from Babe Ruth to Stan Musial to Pete Rose.
The Mets were born there, as were the Blue Jays and Devil Rays, three expansion clubs gathering for the first time. So too were many memories for fans, taking advantage of the intimate settings and relaxed atmosphere, to get closer to players than anywhere else.
17 teams have trained in the Tampa Bay area
Teams that trained in the Tampa Bay area won 37 World Series championships — 21 by the Yankees; 5 by the Cardinals; 4 by the Reds; 2 by the Blue Jays, Mets and Phillies, 1 by the Senators.
St. Petersburg 1915-18
St. Petersburg, 1925-42, '46-50, '52-61
St. Petersburg 1938-42, '46-97
Tampa 1931-42, 1946-87
Plant City 1988-97
St. Petersburg, 1962-87
St. Petersburg, 1998-08
Clearwater 1923-32, '36-40
St. Petersburg 1922-37
St. Petersburg 1914, 1992-95
Tarpon Springs 1925-27
Clearwater 1942, '46
St. Petersburg 1951