New Book Details Rich History of Cactus League

Offers an intimate portrait of spring training; local book signings planned

"Cactus League: Spring Training" offers an up close look at the birth and evolution of Spring Training in Arizona. 2012, Arcadia Publishing, by author Susie Steckner
"Cactus League: Spring Training" offers an up close look at the birth and evolution of Spring Training in Arizona. 2012, Arcadia Publishing, by author Susie Steckner
  • "Cactus League: Spring Training" offers an up close look at the birth and evolution of Spring Training in Arizona. 2012, Arcadia Publishing, by author Susie Steckner
    "Cactus League: Spring Training" offers an up close look at the birth and evolution of Spring Training in Arizona. 2012, Arcadia Publishing, by author Susie Steckner
    "Cactus League: Spring Training" offers an up close look at the birth and evolution of Spring Training in Arizona. 2012, Arcadia Publishing, by author Susie Steckner
    "Cactus League: Spring Training" offers an up close look at the birth and evolution of Spring Training in Arizona. 2012, Arcadia Publishing, by author Susie Steckner

PHOENIX - A new book showcasing the unique history of the Cactus League will be available Feb. 27, 2012, just in time for Arizona’s 58th spring training season. Cactus League: Spring Training (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99) features more than 200 photos that take readers on a historic journey starting with the state’s exhibition games in the early 1900s and ending with the modern day 15-team Cactus League.

The 128-page book, which includes many never-before-seen photos, offers an insider’s look at the players, personalities, fans and destinations that helped shape the league. The photos include:  players with the short-lived Seattle Pilots at Tempe Diablo Stadium; announcer Harry Caray soaking up the sun in the bleachers; legend Dizzy Dean at Scottsdale’s Pink Pony restaurant; Willie Mays on the massage table in Mesa; fans snagging autographs from pitching ace Rollie Fingers; and “Mr. Cub’’ Ernie Banks saying goodbye to his long-time Mesa spring training home, Rendezvous Park.

Arizona’s baseball roots run long and deep, but the star of the show is the Cactus League. Its history is filled with social, political and cultural intrigue, not to mention a roster of baseball greats. Early on, fans watched Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mays, and the American League’s first black player, Larry Doby. Baseball became part of the state’s social fabric, as players and fans flocked to watering holes, hotels and a desert oasis famous for its mineral baths. History also saw political battles to save the Cactus League and fend off Florida’s attempts to lure teams away.  

Cactus League: Spring Training will be available through Changing Hands Bookstore, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and at www.arcadiapublishing.com. The Mesa Historical Museum, 2345 N. Horne, also will carry the book. A portion of all sales benefits the non-profit Mesa museum, which houses the nation’s only collection chronicling Arizona’s spring training journey. 

In 2008, the museum launched “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” and has amassed a collection of 2,000 photographs and objects. The Play Ball collection is on display at a variety of places throughout the Phoenix area. For details go to www.playballexperience.com.

Cactus League: Spring Training author Susie Steckner is a freelance writer in Arizona and a veteran newspaper reporter who has worked in Arizona, Texas and Wisconsin. She lives in Tempe.

Book signing events

Old Town Scottsdale
Scottsdale Baseball Festival
Saturday, Feb. 25, inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, near the Play Ball Exhibition, on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Old Town Scottsdale
Scottsdale Baseball Festival
Sunday, Feb. 26, inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, near the Play Ball Exhibition, on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall from Noon – 3 p.m.

Glendale
Camelback Ranch Spring Training Complex
Saturday, March 3, at the Fan Fest inside the ballpark. HOF Pitcher Gaylord Perry joins Steckner and signs your purchased book for an extra $10 donation to the Play Ball project. Perry will sign from 9-10 a.m.; Steckner will sign 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Scottsdale
Salt River Fields Spring Training Complex
Sunday, March 4, in the Centerfield Team Shop during the Arizona Diamondbacks – San Francisco Giants Cactus League game. Starting at 11:30 a.m.

Scottsdale
Barnes & Noble
Wednesday, March 7, at Barnes & Noble, Scottsdale Fiesta Shopping Center, 10500 N. 90th Street. Starting at 6:30 p.m.

Surprise
Surprise Stadium Spring Training Complex
Sunday, March 11, in the Home Plate Team Shop during the Texas Rangers – Cleveland Indians Cactus League game. Starting at 11:30 a.m.

Surprise
Sun City Grand Sports Interest Group
Thursday, March 15, at Sun City Grand, Sonoran Plaza, Sage Brush Room, 19753 N. Remington Dr., Surprise. Starting at 6:30 p.m.

Tempe
Changing Hands Bookstore

Monday, March 19, at 6428 S. McClintock Dr. Starting at 7 p.m.

Mesa
Hohokam Stadium Spring Training Complex
Saturday, March 24, during the Chicago Cubs – San Diego Padres Cactus League game. Starting at 11 a.m. Exact location TBA