Fay Vincent: Dodgertown likely never to reclaim major league team

VERO BEACH — Former baseball commissioner and part-time Vero Beach resident Fay Vincent said Saturday the chances are almost non-existent of a major league baseball team ever coming back to Dodgertown.

“You are hoping in vain,” the 71-year-old Vincent told a questioner at a local book signing, who wondered if a major league team might ever again grace the fields at Dodgertown. Interestingly, Vincent said he has never been approached by anyone on any side about trying to keep Dodgertown as a major league baseball facility in some fashion. But even if he had, he says he doesn’t think the community has the appetite to pony up the kind of cash it would take to get a team to consider coming to Vero Beach for Spring Training.

“If the community wanted to entertain that, they would have to pay a lot more in taxes and I don’t think anyone has a lot of desire for that,” he said. “We have enough problems with our electricity here.”

To be fair, the present tenant, Minor League Baseball, has always said it would entertain any discussions should a major league team show an interest, but it has moved on to marketing the 65-acre facility as a multi-season, multi-sport destination, even renaming the complex Vero Beach Sports Village.

Vincent, who is wheelchair-bound the result of four-story fall from a college prank that went wrong, said he would have to leave it to someone younger and more nimble if Dodgertown were ever to get back to the major leagues.

He also said due to his lost mobility that “It’s What’s Inside the Lines That Count, Baseball Stars of the ’70s and ’80s,” would be his last oral history of baseball. He has produced two other books, the first featuring players from the 1930s and 1940s and the second from the 1950s and 1960s.

The work has been a labor of love on the part of Vincent, who thought it important that baseball players from the past provide a permanent record of their time as major leaguers. He has donated the tapes to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, along with all the proceeds from the book.

Vincent was entertaining and philosophical Saturday as only one who has the understanding that baseball, while a game, to the initiated is really a lesson in living.

He treated a standing room only crowd on hand at the Vero Beach Book Center to his thoughts on what is important in life (“We always worry about the wrong things,” he said), the state of the country (to which he joked , “Ten years ago I would have tried to duck that question”),  and, of course, baseball.

On the subject of steroids he offered this:

“Why is a game a game? Because it has rules and if you don’t enforce the rules the game deteriorates. Baseball is defined by the rules and when you don’t enforce them and allow some cheating then it is not a fair game.”

However, Vincent, who was responsible for removing the asterisk next to Roger Maris’ name (though he pointed out it was never an asterisk, but a double listing of Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs in 154 games and Maris’ 61 in 162 games), says he’s against a plaque in Cooperstown listing players who may make it to the Hall of Fame and have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. “We’ll all know who they are,” he said.

Of his third oral history he pointed out the book features Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Marvin Miller (who built the players’ union into the best in professional sports), Don Baylor, Earl Weaver, Dick Williams and part-time Vero Beach resident and former umpire Bruce Froemming.

He did lament that he has been unable to get another part-time Vero Beach resident and neighbor to sit down with him to do a history of his time in the game.

Sandy Koufax, known for shunning the limelight, has steadfastly refused, telling the commissioner that no one will remember him in 50 years.

“I told him Sandy, it’s already been 50 years since you pitched, but he just won’t do it,” he said.

 

 

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