History of the Cactus League in Arizona
Each year, the Giants spent their first week of spring training at the Buckhorn Baths in Mesa before reporting to Phoenix. The Giants had a long tradition of taking their players to soak in the soothing waters of mineral springs before starting training in earnest. Buckhorn Baths was founded by Ted and Alice Sliger. After their gas station burned down in 1935, they purchased ten acres on the northwest corner of Apache Trail and Recker Road from the owner of the Mesa Tribune. While digging a well, a mineral spring was discovered on their property. The Sligers built small bathhouses, a Roman style bath and a cooling room. While the Giants made the Buckhorn Baths part of the team's annual "rite of spring," individual players from other teams often visited the baths for their therapeutic qualities and the care of the skilled staff members. Among the visitors were star athletes like Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs and retired Hall-of-Famers like Ty Cobb. 1921 - The first game is played at the Mesa Ball Park by two church league teams. It becomes known as Rendezvous Ballpark and eventually is the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs and later the Oakland Athletics. 1929 - The Detroit Tigers are the first Major League team to officially spring train in Arizona, calling Phoenix's Riverside Ballpark their spring home that year. The Tigers play just two games in Arizona.1937 - Tucson's Randolph Baseball Park receives a major rebuilding and renovation courtesy of the Works Progress Administration. In ten years, the Cleveland Indians will move in and four years after that the ballpark is renamed Hi Corbett Field. 1939 - Ted and Alice Sliger open the Buckhorn Baths on the Apache Trail east of Mesa. Within the next decade, their mineral springs attract the attention of numerous celebrities and athletes. The Buckhorn Baths are also an important factor in Horace Stoneham's decision to move his New York Giants to Phoenix - his team soaks at the baths each spring from the late 1940s to the early 1970s 1942 - Chicago Cubs treasurer Earl Nelson visits Mesa to discuss the possibility of moving the Cubs to town for spring training with the Mayor and other local leaders. 1943-1945 - Due to wartime shortages of fuel and other vital supplies, Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis restricts spring training to the northeastern United States (with boundaries set at the Mississippi River in the west and the Potomac River in the south). Although some exceptions are allowed, no teams spring train in Florida or the West Coast for the duration of the war. 1947 - The Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants open their first year of spring training in Arizona. Owners Bill Veeck (Indians) and Horace Stoneham (Giants) work together on various details to coordinate the move to Arizona (the Indians go to Tucson and the Giants settle in Phoenix). 1948 - The Cleveland Indians' Larry Doby becomes the first African American player to spring train with a Major League team in Arizona. Doby also had the distinction of being the first black American to break the color barrier in the American League. He encounters the same issues and prejudice as his National League counterpart, Jackie Robinson. October 1948 - The Cleveland Indians become the first Cactus League team to win the World Series. They beat the Boston Braves in a six game series. Among the World Series firsts is the first homerun by a black player (Larry Doby) and the first appearance by a black pitcher (Satchel Paige).
1951 - The New York Yankees come to Arizona to spring train. Yankees' co-owner Del Webb and the Giants' Horace Stoneham agree to switch spring training sites that year (the Giants go to Florida and the Yankees train at Phoenix Municipal Ballpark). Veteran Joe DiMaggio and rookie Mickey Mantle are among the great ballplayers in the Yankees' line-up for the spring. October 1951 - The Yankees become the second Cactus League team to win a World Series (technically, they are still a Florida "Grapefruit League" team as they only trained in Arizona for one year). They defeat their cross-town and Cactus League rival New York Giants (who trained in the Grapefruit League that spring). 1952 - The Chicago Cubs move into Rendezvous Park in Mesa for their spring training home. Community and business leader Dwight Patterson is the key player in bringing the Cubs to Mesa. The Cubs will stay until 1965. 1961 - The American League-expansion Los Angeles Angels join the Cactus League. Although they are part of the Cactus League, their spring training headquarters is in Palm Springs, California (they have additional practice facilities in both California and Arizona). Their 26 game schedule includes eight games against teams of the Pacific Coast League - the old rival of Major League baseball. 1961 - Horace Stoneham's Giants begin training at a new practice facility in Casa Grande known as Francisco Grande. Built with various modern amenities, Francisco Grande is primarily a training site for the team - the Giants will continue to play exhibition games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. 1962 - 1963 - The National League-expansion Houston Colt 45s (now the Astros) make their spring training home at Geronimo Park in Apache Junction. Their arrival expands the Cactus League to six teams. Small crowds and minimal community support from Apache Junction led the Colt 45s to leave after 1963. 1964 - San Francisco Giants move into a brand-new, ultra-modern ballpark in Phoenix. Known as Phoenix Municipal Stadium II (keeping the same name as the facility it replaced), the new ballpark was located well east of Phoenix and next door to the Legend City amusement park (which opened just the year before). 1965 - The Boston Red Sox train in Scottsdale for the last time before returning to Florida. At the same time, the Chicago Cubs announce their decision to leave Mesa's Rendezvous Park to spring train in California in 1966. There are now four teams left in the Cactus League - two of these teams are based in California. Only the Indians and the Giants call Arizona ballparks home in the spring. 1966 - Both Mesa and Scottsdale find themselves without tenants at their spring training ballparks. 1967 - The Chicago Cubs return to Arizona - now they call Scottsdale Ballpark their home base. Legendary slugger Ernie Banks retires four years later (after the 1971 season) - in nineteen years he hit 512 runs. In 1979, the Cubs will return to Mesa after a thirteen year hiatus. 1969 - Spring training experiences some disruptions due to a pension dispute. Many veteran players refuse to report to practice until they agree to a resolution. 1969 - A banner year for the Cactus League witnesses the addition of three Major League teams to the spring lineup. The Athletics filled the vacancy left at Rendezvous Park after the Cubs' departure. Two of the new Cactus League teams were the result of the expansion of the Major League. The National League San Diego Padres moved into the Desert Sun Stadium in Yuma. Tempe joined the ranks of Cactus League cities when the American League Seattle Pilots moved into a new ballpark there in 1969. 1970 - The Seattle Pilots enter spring training for the second and final time under that name. At the beginning of the regular season, they are purchased by a group of Milwaukee investors and move to that city to become the Brewers. The Brewers continue to spring train at Tempe Diablo Stadium for another two years before moving to a new ballpark in Sun City (where they stay until 1985, after which they depart for Chandler). 1972 - The issue of player pensions crops up again during spring training. This time it turns into a two week strike that cuts into the regular season. 1972 - 1974 - Rendezvous Park's Oakland Athletics win the World Series three years in a row. 1972 is the first year that a Cactus League team has made it to the Series since 1962 (that year the Giants lost to the New York Yankees). Not since 1954, when the then New York Giants swept the Indians, has a Cactus League team won the Fall Classic. 1973 - 1976 - Tempe's Diablo Stadium sits empty after the departure of the Milwaukee Brewers. It will take another American League expansion to put a team in the ballpark under the Tempe Buttes. 1976 - Spring training is disrupted by a 17 day strike. This strike has major implications for the future as it creates the status of free agency in baseball (prior to this time, players had little to no say over being traded - or not - to other teams). 1980 and beyond - The Cactus League has managed to grow itself into an eight team league (Major League expansions accounts for half of those teams). A labor dispute in spring 1980 disrupts training for the fifth time since 1969. As the decade draws to a close, concern that the Cactus League may come apart leads to a new governor's special commission. The early 1990s see the loss of one of the original teams as the Cleveland Indians leave for Florida - they are replaced at Hi Corbett Field by the National League expansion Colorado Rockies. Other teams move around to new ballparks in the 1990s as the Cactus League adapts and modernizes to stay competitive with its larger Grapefruit League rival in Florida. Perhaps the biggest boost happens when Arizona lands its own expansion team in the late 1990s - the new Arizona Diamondbacks move into a new Tucson ballpark with the Chicago White Sox (who finally move to Arizona to train 84 years after reporters asked Manager J. J. Callahan about that possibility.)
This really goes way back to the 1930's
I had no idea that it goes as far back as the 1920s. Thanks for the history lesson.
Thank you, that was really something interesting..