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PLAY BALL! THE DETROIT TIGERS IN LAKELAND

HISTORICAL SKETCH

The Detroit Tigers and Lakeland, Florida have had a longer continuous relationship than any other major league baseball team and its spring training home. The Tigers first came to Lakeland for spring training in 1934 and, except for a three year interruption during World War II, have been here ever since. Prior to their arrival in Lakeland, the Tigers had led a nomadic spring training existence, training at ten sites in eight states during the previous thirty years.

Until Tiger Town opened at the site of the Lodwick School of Aeronautics in 1953, the Tigers conducted spring activities and played exhibition games at Henley Field. They continued to play games at Henley Field until 1966 when Joker Marchant Stadium opened at Tiger Town. Those early Tiger teams stayed at the Lakeland Terrace Hotel in the downtown area of Lakeland.

As the Tigers were moving their spring training headquarters to Lakeland, Dan Sanborn was beginning his career with The Ledger. Over the next seven years, Sanborn brought his camera to Henley Field every spring and captured on film the Tiger teams of MIckey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Tommy Bridges, Barney McCosky, and Schoolboy Rowe as they got in to shape for the American League season. He returned to Henley Field as a free lance photographer in the 1950's and continued to chronicle the Tigers as they readied for the season ahead.

Sanborn's photos of the Tigers evoke memories of a simpler time for baseball before television and big contracts, a time when fans really believed every team had an equal chance to get to the World Series and the cry of "Play Ball!" was still louder than that of "Wait 'till next year."