Tampa and Baseball are like café and leche: one strong, pungent, hot, steady, ageless, fresh; neither quite as good apart as they are together. It is hardly possible to find a moment in the city's history when the game was not being played, when it didn't matter, particularly to Tampa's Latin working class. Baseball's economic benefits have also been considerable: today, the estimated total impact of the nine teams training in the Tampa Bay area surpasses $227 million. Tampa and Baseball have been good for one another.
Billy Sunday has been downtown preaching for the past couple of days, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed,” I began, pausing for the dismissive mumbling and laughter to clear the room. “Indeed, the aptly named Mr. Sunday has come to town to save your wretched souls…at least that’s what he says. Mr. Sunday has a bit of what you might call a colored past.
The Tampa Baseball Club of 1884-1885, winners of the South Florida Baseball Championship. Standing, center: Oliver Andreu, Secretary-treasurer. Top row, L-R: W.A. Legate, Charlie Livingston, John A. Jackson, J.A.M. Grable, E.L. Lesley. Bottom row, L-R, Ed Drake, J.C. McKay, B.A. Brown, Al Knight. The team members not present when the photo was taken were A.W. Cuscaden and George A. Bell.–Excerpted from the Tampa Daily Times, November 12, 1924.
Before spring training became the Florida mainstay it is today, baseball began taking root in the Tampa Bay area late in the 19th century. A.M. de Quesada's book, Baseball in Tampa Bay, notes how Union and Confederate soldiers brought the game to the Sunshine State when they returned home from the Civil War. Tampa had a team in the first short-lived Florida State League in 1892.