WAVES OF EXPANSION - THE 60'S & 70'S
1964 – San Francisco Giants move into a brand-new, ultra-modern ballpark in Phoenix. Known as Phoenix Municipal Stadium II (keeping the same name as the facility it replaced), the new ballpark was located well east of Phoenix and next door to the Legend City amusement park (which opened just the year before).
1965 – The Boston Red Sox train in Scottsdale for the last time before returning to Florida. At the same time, the Chicago Cubs announce their decision to leave Mesa’s Rendezvous Park to spring train in California in 1966. There are now four teams left in the Cactus League – two of these teams are based in California. Only the Indians and the Giants call Arizona ballparks home in the spring.
1966 – Both Mesa and Scottsdale find themselves without tenants at their spring training ballparks. Baseball booster Dwight Patterson laments, “I still can’t believe it’s spring and the Cubs won’t be back. It’s like a bad dream.” (Mesa’s luck will change in three years.)
1967 – The Chicago Cubs return to Arizona – now they call Scottsdale Ballpark their home base. Legendary slugger Ernie Banks retires four years later (after the 1971 season) – in nineteen years he hit 512 runs. In 1979, the Cubs will return to Mesa after a thirteen year hiatus.
Late 1960s – The diminished state of the Cactus League prompts Arizona Governor Sam Goddard to action. He establishes the Arizona Baseball Commission to help revitalize the waxing spring training fortunes of Arizona. Mesa’s top Cactus League booster – Dwight Patterson – chairs the commission.
1969 – Spring training experiences some disruptions due to a pension dispute. Many veteran players refuse to report to practice until they agree to a resolution.
1969 – A banner year for the Cactus League witnesses the addition of three Major League teams to the spring lineup. The Athletics – just two years since the franchise left Kansas City for Oakland – filled the vacancy left at Rendezvous Park after the Cubs’ departure. Two of the new Cactus League teams were the result of the expansion of the Major League. The National League San Diego Padres moved into the Desert Sun Stadium in Yuma. Tempe joined the ranks of Cactus League cities when the American League Seattle Pilots moved into a new ballpark there in 1969.
1970 – The Seattle Pilots enter spring training for the second and final time under that name. At the beginning of the regular season, they are purchased by a group of Milwaukee investors and move to that city to become the Brewers. The Brewers continue to spring train at Tempe Diablo Stadium for another two years before moving to a new ballpark in Sun City (where they stay until 1985, after which they depart for Chandler).
1972 – The issue of player pensions crops up again during spring training. This time it turns into a two week strike that cuts into the regular season.
1972 – 1974 – Rendezvous Park’s Oakland Athletics win the World Series three years in a row.
1977 – Hohokam Stadium replaces Rendezvous Park in Mesa for spring training. The Oakland Athletics move into the new ballpark. The old Rendezvous Ballpark, dating back to the 1920s, is torn down to make way for a new community meeting hall and other facilities. Hohokam Stadium is located over a mile to the north – away from Mesa’s downtown.
1977 – Another team from Seattle moves into Tempe’s ballpark – this team is known as the Mariners (along with the Toronto Blue Jays, they represent a new American League expansion). Unlike the previous tenant, the Mariners commit themselves for the long haul – they will be partners with the city of Tempe for the next 25 years.