13. Bathhouse Row

Baseball teams would bring their players to the Spa City to “boil out” in the Hot Springs mineral waters and prepare for the new season. Many of the finest bath houses in the city were directly across Central Avenue in the Hot Springs Reservation, now known as Hot Springs National Park. Bathhouse Row has consisted of eight spa bathhouses since 1918 when the Victorian wood structures of the 1880’s and 1920’s were replaced with the Mediterranean-style bathhouses that you see today.

Teams and individual players frequented all of the bathhouses during spring training. The Pittsburg Pirates frequented the Buckstaff Bathhouse because their hotel, The Eastman, could not handle the 89 or 90 players trying to take baths each day in their facilities.

Before the 1947 season the New York Yankees sent “Joltin Joe” DiMaggio to Hot Springs. DiMaggio had returned to baseball in the year before after serving three years in the Army during the way, and the Yanks thought that a trip to Hot Springs would help their star outfielder get a fresh start. The Yankee Clipper responded with an MVP season capped by a World Series victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Billy Sunday, who later became a famous evangelist, was a player for the Chicago White Stockings Baseball Club (now called the Cubs) during the 1880s. He remembered “trying hard to get in shape to play the Browns. We take hot bathes every forenoon and practice on the diamond in the afternoon.”

Thermal bathing saw its peak in Hot Springs between 1946 and 1947 when 1 million baths were given in the Spa City.