When Papago Golf Course opened in the fall of 1963, Arnold Palmer was the toast of the Valley golf community, having won three consecutive Phoenix Open championships. Although Arnie’s legendary “army” of fans would continue to cheer for their hero every year, Palmer would never again claim victory at the tournament. But that didn’t mean Palmer didn’t keep trying, looking for every possible edge. In the early 1970s, John Pickrell owned Scotty’s Blacksmith and Machine Shop, located on the corner of Brown Avenue and Second Street in Scottsdale. A few days before the start of the Phoenix Open, Pickrell was shocked to see Palmer walk into his grimy industrial space looking to have a little weight taken off his sand wedge. Pickrell confessed that he had never worked on a golf club. The famous golfer told him not to worry, that he wanted to use the grinder himself. After donning goggles and gloves, Palmer ran the clubhead along the grinding wheel a few times, hefted the club for weight, and repeated the process. Finally satisfied with the feel, he thanked Pickrell and handed him a five-dollar bill. Asked where he had learned his machine skills, Palmer responded, “I grew up on a golf course where my father was the greenskeeper. I’ve always fixed my own clubs.”
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.”