After a few rounds in the rough, Papago Municipal Golf Course returns to splendor on its 50th birthday.
The night air is lush with the aroma of blooming citrus as a snaking line of parked cars lies in wait for the approaching dawn. The men inside try to nap, but most are simply too jazzed – soon, the gate will fly open and these links-loving fools will rush in.
Father Emmett McLoughlin – dubbed “America’s most famous ex-priest” – was chased out of the clergy after founding the Valley’s first unsegregated hospital.
Phoenix was becoming a major winter tourist playground in the mid-1920s, fueled by robust hotel and resort construction. However, the burgeoning city had a dirty little secret: It harbored one of the nation’s worst slums. The crime-ridden neighborhood, nicknamed “the Bucket of Blood,” was located on the city’s southwest side between the warehouse district and the city dump, a miserable colony of shacks built from cast-off materials. Water and power were practically non-existent, and due to substandard sanitation practices like open backyard toilets, disease was endemic. Access to healthcare was minimal.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to hang up the hard-ball for vintage stuff,” says Lance Busch, commissioner of the Arizona Territories Vintage Base Ball League and captain of its Glendale Gophers. The former youth coach was simply acknowledging the march of time. “I would speculate that the average player age is 45,” Busch notes.
Filled with the ghosts of Hall of Fame baseball players and mistreated miners, a ballpark in Bisbee reasserts its claim as the nation’s oldest.
“Older than Wrigley,” Mike Anderson says, gesturing expansively at the 114-year-old baseball field on which he’s standing. “Older than Fenway.”
He lives nearby and has spent countless hours here over the last few decades. But he still can’t keep a tone of awe out of his voice. “It’s a beautiful ballpark in a beautiful city. It’s in a time warp.”
Phoenicians who enjoy underground haunts – or merely the opportunity to toot their own horn – savor entering Downtown from the south via the Central Avenue underpass. Built in 1939 to circumvent both the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe railroad tracks, the subterranean corridor has evolved into one of the city’s most notable wormholes. “It’s a passage from one era to another, from an Art Moderne structure to a modern 20th-century city of tall glass buildings,” historian Donna Reiner says. “The effect is even greater at twilight.”
The first vehicular bridge over the Salt River in 1911 resulted in a record-setting span and opened up south Phoenix to development.
On the cusp of statehood in 1911, Arizona was ready to break free of its Territorial status and assume its rightful place on the national stage – a momentous transition local leaders hoped to consecrate by christening a bridge over the unruly waters of the Salt River, which had long suffocated development of the south Valley. The debate between Phoenix and Tempe politicos on where to build such a span resulted in one of the most heated political battles in Maricopa County history. Ultimately, it was a fruitful ordeal, yielding a 2,120-foot-long, Valley-unifying artery that leaders trumpeted as the longest reinforced concrete bridge in the world.