Monagan: The wild story of how the Cactus League came to be

From Matt Monagan at on March 12, 2020:

“You can only imagine,” Mesa historian and author Jay Mark says. “There’s this two-way highway in the 1930s and 40s, no lights out there, flat desert. And this big neon sign. You would’ve seen this thing for miles.”

If you’re a baseball fan, you probably know that Spring Training takes place in either Florida or Arizona. It’s been that way for nearly 100 years. Teams flocked to Florida first, around 1920, because the state wanted the business and tourism — and promised to pay player expenses.

But what about Arizona? How did teams wind up traveling up to 2,000 miles west every year?

That story is a little more unusual.

Bill Veeck bought the Cleveland Indians in 1946 and decided the team should train there — it was closer to his Tucson ranch and, upon signing the American League’s first black player Larry Doby, he refused to subject the slugger to the harsher cruelties of the Jim Crow South.

But that was only one club. There was no league. Veeck’s Indians had nobody to play.

That’s where an old, roadside Mesa motel comes into the picture.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: March 12, 2020. Last Updated: March 12, 2020.