Feb 24, 2020
Spring training is finally under way, and we celebrate the National Pastime with a return visit to the 1989-90 curiosity known as the Senior Professional Baseball Association – with one of its few dedicated chroniclers, prolific sports author Peter Golenbock (The Forever Boys).
The brainchild of real estate developer (and former college player) Jim Morley, the SPBA was envisioned as a kind of Senior PGA golf-type circuit for ex-Major League Baseball players aged 35 and older (32+ for catchers), played at Spring training facilities throughout Florida during the traditional baseball off-season.
Featuring former All-Star player/labor pioneer Curt Flood as commissioner – and a talent roster that included future Hall of Fame players and managers, Major League batting champions, and Cy Young-winning pitching aces – the “Senior League” drew in big names and sizable media attention, but minuscule crowds.
The eight inaugural teams — the Bradenton Explorers, Fort Myers Sun Sox, Gold Coast Suns, Orlando Juice, St. Lucie Legends, St. Petersburg Pelicans, West Palm Beach Tropics, and Winter Haven Super Sox — averaged just 921 fans per game, roughly half of what Morley and his fellow owners envisioned.
The Dick Williams-managed Tropics were the league’s 72-game regular season leaders, but it was the Pelicans – the team Golenbock just happened to be following for Forever Boys – who won the step-laddered post-season playoffs to capture what ultimately became the SPBA’s first- and last-ever champion.
Plan your own baseball Spring Training getaway at VisitArizona.com!