For many people, Scottsdale’s oldest restaurant, The Pink Pony, evokes the same feeling of spring training nostalgia as fresh-cut grass. The restaurant’s association with spring training began in 1950, when it was under the management of Charlie Briley, an avid baseball fan, who was originally hired as a bartender.
According to historian Joan Fudala, a group of local businessmen were having lunch at the restaurant when the manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Paul Richards, who was in town to play golf, walked in. When one of the men suggested that his team come to the Valley of the Sun, Richards replied, “Build me a stadium and I’ll think about it.”
The idea was put into action, and over more drinks and lunches at the Pink Pony, the men got access to land on the corner of Civic Center Boulevard and Osborn Road, and acquired the funds to build the first Scottsdale Stadium, breaking ground in June 1955. Briley and the local businessmen involved in the efforts contributed $56,000 to the stadium.
The Orioles debuted in the stadium the following spring. “It looked like Yankee Stadium to me that day,” Riley told the Scottsdale Progress. “The park was beautiful and the folks loved it.” Since then, the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s and currently the San Fransisco Giants have all called Scottsdale their spring training home.
Meanwhile, the Pink Pony became a spring training staple, attracting players, sports reporters and executives. Briley befriended many ballplayers who visited, including Hank Aguirre, Mickey Mantle and Fergie Jenkins, who gave Briley the jersey he wore during his 3,000th strike out.
Over the years, The Pink Pony has changed management, closed, undergone renovations and reopened, but it remains a historical landmark in Scottsdale, and a draw for baseball fans.
“It’s not the only place in town like it used to be, so it has a little bit more competition,” Fudala says. “But you certainly can’t take away from its history or its connection to baseball... inside, you can feel the vibes.”
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