'The RIGHT Places': Let's Play Ball

Baseball has a storied history in Arizona, of all places. Ty Cobb once soothed his old spring training aches and pains at the Buckhorn Baths mineral spas in Mesa. Willie Mays was the first to hit a homer at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. And Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio played one season of spring training baseball together in Arizona. These are just some of the moments that make up the rich history of Cactus League baseball in Arizona and a few of the tales waiting to be told in the upcoming exhibit Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience at the Mesa Historical Museum.

Scheduled to open Jan. 10, 2009 with no set end date, the exhibit will celebrate the long and colorful history of professional baseball in Arizona from the sports’ barnstorming days before statehood, researched to be as early as 1909, to the inauguration of the Cactus League in 1947 and up to present day. The interactive and educational exhibit will treat visitors to stories of the players, teams and ballparks that the legendary boys of summer experienced when working hard each spring in the desert heat.

The exhibit will feature a “knothole” fence, an infield complete with vintage dugout, a sky mural and photo opportunity, an interactive souvenir, concessions and ticket booths as well as a three-dimensional bus depot, all packed with history gathered from across the state and the country. Baseball fans and history buffs alike will have the opportunity to set their sights on never-before-seen items gathered from private collections of Arizonans who knew the likes of Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax and Willie McCovey. A majority of the exhibit will be displayed in a completely remodeled and redesigned museum space. Extensive research and collecting is on-going for the exhibit, which involves members of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and a committee of civic leaders.

Visitors seeking more information as well as an extensive timeline on the league’s history can visit the website created specifically for the exhibit at in the near future. The Mesa Historical Museum will be encouraging baseball fans from across the country to participate on the site in a variety of ways, including Share Your Story, where guests can post their Cactus League experiences, and Build The Collection, an appeal to baseball fans everywhere that want to loan their treasures to the collection. All donated pieces must be accompanied with a signed donation or loan form that can soon be downloaded on the site. Fundraising efforts are currently underway and will continue throughout the next year for Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience at the Mesa Historical Museum. Fans can participate in the 2009 Cactus League Pennant Race, a fundraising effort held by the museum, through donations and sponsorship support at The exhibit will be initially housed at the museum with plans to expand over time.