Almost every team experiences a stretch of seasons where the taste of the losing becomes all too familiar to the fans and very often the franchise as well. For an organization it’s usually around this time that finding a player amongst what you thought was nothing becomes the most realistic means to achieving immediate success. A fine example in this the Cardinals finding a surprise in Albert Pujols, especially after turning Kent Bottenfield into Jim Edmonds.
Rags to riches in the wink of an eye, a tale that is Dicksonian in nature, however more often than not it ends up being a story that is more worthy of a Big Boy Comic than a Dickens tale. One thing’s for sure; it entertains the fans active imagination in the off-season and buoys the hopes of the losers in the front office while they get their resumes ready for their next job. After making Orlando their home for the balance of the 1920’s the Reds were lured to Tampa in 1931 in an arranged deal with former Reds manager Clark Griffith (who owned the Senators and trained in Tampa) the two teams switched training sites to see what the other experienced each spring. The switch proved to be a great success for both parties and each team soon dug deep roots into their new spring homes. In Tampa the Reds would become a fixture for the majority of the years between 1930 and 1988, missing out only in 1936 when they went to Puerto Rico and during the war when travel restrictions created the Limestone League each spring. It was in Tampa that many a Reds prospect stumbled on to the fact that they were destined not for the greatness promised by their high school coach and girlfriend(s), but instead they were destined for the marked mediocrity and reality of the failed prospect. Yet, others found the exact opposite, and emerged from nowhere to the major league roster, many of them made the team before they even owned a suit or a pair of dress shoes. It’s quite a jump from the buses and fast food or the minors to the world of big league meal money, and the fall back there is perhaps an even harder reality to deal with.