Beginning in 1886, baseball spring training was held for the first time, not in Florida or Arizona, but in the Arkansas resort town of Hot Springs, and that’s where the annual rite caught on. For parts of eight decades, many of the best who ever played the game, came to Hot Springs to shake off the rust from winters to prepare for long seasons ahead, with such teams as the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Pirates—and the Negro League’s Monarchs, Crawfords, and Grays.
The First Boys of Spring is a one-hour documentary by award-winning filmmaker Larry Foley, narrated by Academy Award-winner Billy Bob Thornton. The film tells stories of baseball Hall of Famers who worked out, gambled and partied in Hot Springs, including Cy Young, Satchel Paige, Honus Wagner and baseball’s first superstar, Mike “King” Kelly. A central figure is a young Babe Ruth, who belted a 573-foot home run into the Arkansas Alligator Farm in March of 1918, while trying to convince Boston Red Sox management to play him every day, even though he was already the game’s dominant pitcher.
The First Boys of Spring is made possible by Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas Humanities Council, University of Arkansas, Munro Foundation, Morris Foundation, The Arlington Hotel Resort Hotel and Spa and the Department of Arkansas Heritage.