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Baseball team on the steps of the Capitol: Tallahassee, Florida (191-)

Floridians love baseball and the game reciprocates. it's a relationship dating back 100 years and shows no sign of waning. Aside from being played feverishly across the sunshine state's 58,000 plus square miles, Florida sports two major league franchises and fourteen minor league baseball clubs. It hosts seventeen spring training sites—the most of any state—an annual rite which began in 1888. The Florida Marlins, Miami's 14-year-old expansion team, has won baseball's World Series twice: 1997 and 2003.

“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.“

Jacques Barzune
Joe DiMaggio showing three year old Larry Valencourt how to hold a bat: West Palm Beach, Florida (1948)

The game's economic benefits are also considerable: Palm Beach County alone reports that its total economic impact from baseball exceeds $52 million annually, while the estimated total impact of the nine teams training in West Central Florida surpasses $227 million. Florida and baseball have been good for one another, but it's about more than business.

“People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.“

Rogers Hornsby
All American Girls Professional Baseball League player Marg Callaghan sliding into home plate as umpire Norris Ward watches: Opa-locka, Florida (1948)

Christened La Florida by Spaniards, fittingly during the spring of 1513, Florida has evolved into a baseball mecca, with its playgrounds producing ballplayers in numbers approaching those of its Latin neighbors. Baseball legends John Henry Lloyd, Al Lopez, Buck O'Neil, Bill White and Lou Piniella were born in Florida, as were many others. They represent baseball from the ground up, played locally at amateur levels and before crowds of family and friends; anchoring a game to a place that it has become synonymous with.

“I see great things in baseball. it's our game - America's game.“

Walt Whitman
Crowd watches World Series results as played out on "metal playing field": Lakeland, Florida (1924)

It's a century old love affair, one reflected in this collection of photographs, many of which chronicle small towns, colleges and schools, country outings, training camps and even prisons. They capture baseball's elite, the not so, hard scrabble affairs and lavish exhibitions. These photographs reflect the coming of age of a state and a game - our game.

Enter the Exhibit »