Pitchers and catchers began reporting to spring training today, with 15 major league teams set to open camp in Florida and another 15 bound for Arizona. Most camps will feature at least one former Stanford player. Back on the Farm, the Stanford baseball team and its future crop of major leaguers has been tuning up for Friday's season opener at Rice.
In 1932, a major league team made Sunken Diamond its spring training home. The Detroit Tigers, who had been training north of Sacramento, arranged to spend a week at Stanford's Sunken Diamond, which was built at a reported cost of $25,000 in 1931. Dale "Moose" Alexander, Detroit's 6-foot-3, 210-pound first baseman, provided some fireworks on the Tigers' first day in Palo Alto. From the Associated Press:
Dale Alexander shattered a Stanford University tradition and gave the Detroit Tigers' Spring training season an auspicious opening today by twice driving the ball from the home plate over the left field fence at the university baseball field.
The fence is 460 feet from the plate and Stanford athletic authorities said the feat never before had been accomplished.
Three days later, Gerald "Gee" Walker replicated the feat, earning another mention in the national press. From UPI:
Aiming at the left field fence of the Stanford university sunken grounds while at bat yesterday, he drove one ball over it and hit it with his next two swings. The fence is 460 feet from the plate, the top is 20 feet above the playing surface and no one else except Dale Alexander, giant Tiger first baseman, has ever driven a ball over it.
Walker's prodigious blasts were a sign of good things to come. In his first full major league season, he hit .323 with 8 home runs and 78 RBI. It should be noted that at least one other account of Walker's home run reported the distance to the left field fence as 360 feet. That's also the distance provided in the original dimensions listed on GoStanford.com, which, if accurate, would make Alexander and Walker's accomplishments decidedly less impressive. Perhaps we'll never know.
The Tigers, who played at least one game against the Cardinal during their time in Palo Alto, ranked the field "as one of the best they have ever had the pleasure to use on a spring training trip."