Railroads and Baseball: American Traditions

Before there were night games, television packages or even a World Series, baseball shared a deep connection with the railroad. Just as fast as tracks were spreading across this country in the 19th century, so too was baseball. Teams were forming and leagues were organizing at a frantic pace. And as the sport grew, players and fans needed to travel longer distances. They did so by rail. By 1876, game times were being scheduled to coincide with train schedules.

For the next 75 years, baseball teams did their traveling by train. Players like Harry “The Hat” Walker, Phil Rizzuto and Eddie Matthews described the rails as the very best way to travel because of the camaraderie it helped build among teammates. They would hold “bull sessions” to talk baseball, learn what made each other tick and be better for it on the field. Coaches kept tabs on their players and sportswriters were able to cover teams more extensively as they traveled long distances with them on the same passenger cars.

Then came western expansion and the growth of commercial air travel. With teams in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle, train travel quickly became impractical. By the 1960s, what was a golden era for trains and baseball had run its course.