Much of baseball's appeal relies on its unchanging nature. The 2015 game, between the lines at least, is virtually indistinguishable from that of 1965 or even 1915.

It's a comfortable continuum that fosters, more than any other sport, generational interaction, comparisons between eras, and historical reverence.

But baseball's ancient moat isn't so wide that it can exclude change completely.

Right now, for example, in Clearwater, Fla., Phillies players are wrapping up a spring training their distant predecessors would have thought impossible. They're working out in state-of-the-art facilities, playing exhibitions in amenities-rich ballparks, and residing in posh gulf-side condos.

By comparison, when manager Pat Moran's 1915 Phillies prepared for what became the franchise's first pennant-winning season, the living and playing conditions in St. Petersburg were prehistoric.

Those Phils often had to run the two miles from their hotel to their ramshackle wooden ballpark, Coffee Pot Park, on 22d Street. That stadium seated just 500 and was equipped with a lone shower, one that provided cold water only. Players were responsible for their own laundry. And lunch often consisted of whole-fish sandwiches or whatever oranges they could swipe from an adjacent grove.

Then as now, teams trained in whatever city could turn their heads. It's no surprise that, because their anemic bottom line made them susceptible to the slightest financial inducement, the Phillies were more nomadic than most.

Before settling on Clearwater as a permanent location in 1947, they conducted spring training at such locales as Hot Springs, Ark.; New Braunfels, Texas; Biloxi, Miss.; Richmond, Va.; Augusta, Ga.; and Leesburg, Fla.

In that spring of 1915, the Phillies had been lured to St. Petersburg by the city's boosterish mayor, "Sunshine Al" Lang. His 1914 spring-training guests, the St. Louis Browns, had departed over a dispute involving unpaid bills.

Looking elsewhere in the baseball barrel's bottom, Lang contacted the Phillies. When the mayor promised his team free baseballs and reduced hotel rates, owner William Baker agreed to go.

Not all teams then went south to train. Winter travel was not only expensive and cumbersome but frequently perilous. Because of that, and because Florida's railroad system was in its infancy, the 1915 Phillies - along with the Athletics and Dodgers - traveled to the Sunshine State on a steamer.

Photos show that ship, the Apache, to be a rickety-looking vessel. Nautical records reveal the likely reason. A decade earlier, it had suffered extensive damage after colliding with another ship in San Francisco Bay.

World War I was raging when the Phillies left New York, and the Atlantic Ocean was an active battle theater. Not long into the journey, a British cruiser intercepted the Apache. The British wanted to make sure the steamer from the still-neutral United States wasn't smuggling goods to Germany.

Eventually, the ship was released, arriving in Jacksonville in time for the Phillies to reach St. Petersburg for their camp's March 1 opening.

The stern and cagey Moran, in his first Phillies season, immediately saw the distance between the team's Fifth Street Hotel quarters and Coffee Pot Park as an opportunity for exercise and discipline. He ordered his players to jog the two miles each morning, referring to them as "Tipperary hikes."

Fifty years later, veteran sportswriter Fred Lieb, who was there, described the trek.

"Most of the way, the players ran along a path trampled through Florida jungle. At one point, they had to cross a plank bridge over a lake. . . . Alligators often gaped at the athletes," Lieb wrote.

At least two pitchers were reluctant participants. Future Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey and future Inquirer sportswriter Stan Baumgartner secretly hid bikes in the woods. When Moran found out, he punished them with additional roadwork.

Coffee Pot Park derived its unusual name from an adjacent bayou. That proximity did not go unnoticed by Phillies players, who frequently fished there during practice breaks.

Fishing was the golf of 1915, the players' preferred means of relaxation. So on March 21, an off-day, the manager and most of his team boarded a fishing boat, the Frank E.

High winds and waves on the Gulf of Mexico soon made fishing impossible. And when the boat's engine stalled, it "tossed about in the mad surf." Frightened Phillies were ordered to don life jackets.

Fortunately, the crew restarted the motor, and the Frank E. returned its passengers safely, though fish-less and seasick, to harbor.

Due to open their season in Boston on April 14, the Phillies departed St. Petersburg by rail on March 25. Gradually heading north, they stopped for exhibitions in Atlanta, Norfolk, and Washington.

Back in Philadelphia, they played a spirited four-game series with the A's. Though Connie Mack's Athletics had appeared in four of the previous five World Series, Moran's Phils split the exhibitions, 2-2.

However odd their spring might have been, it worked.

Sixth-place finishers in 1914, the Phillies won their first eight games, 11 of 12, and coasted to a pennant. Behind Grover Cleveland Alexander's astounding year - he led the NL in wins (31), ERA (1.22), strikeouts (241), shutouts (12), and innings (3761/3) - the Phils finished seven games up on the second-place Braves with a 90-62 record.

The Phillies stayed in St. Pete through 1918. In 1919, they moved camp to Charlotte. There would be no more orange raids, alligators, or Gulf fishing excursions.

And there would be no excitement in the regular season, either. Just four years after their first World Series appearance, the 1919 Phillies finished last.

Sadly, it was the kind of roller-coaster ride that, even a century later, the Phillies and their frustrated fans know all too well.