of the 1962 Colt .45s
by Gene Elston
Gene Elston, the voice of the Houston Astros radio broadcasts from 1962 to 1986, will be writing a series of daily updates to commemorate the upcoming 40th anniversary reunion for the 1962 Colt .45s. Beginning on March 10th, Gene will be describing the daily events from that occurred in 1962.
ON THE APACHE RESERVATION - FORMER HOME OF CHIEF GERONIMO
March 7, 2002
The Colt .45s Spring Training Complex covered ten acres and was purchased for $150,000. Nestling in the foothills of Superstition Mountain, Apache Junction, Arizona, is the beginning of the Apache Trail that winds over the mountain to the Roosevelt Dam.
The completely fenced area known as Geronimo Park, where the club played its home games, had permanent stands seating 3,500. Under the stands was the clubhouse connected to the dugout by a runway. There was a large press box, concession stands and parking for 800 cars.
A large scoreboard was located in left field. The fence distances were 360 feet down both the left and right field lines and 430 feet to center. The area around the park had some permanent batting cages and numerous practice pitching mounds.
Fans viewing the Colts games had a beautiful panorama of the hills of Arizona and Superstition Mountain where the legend of the “Lost Dutchman Gold Mine” still intrigues both natives and tourists. Going back to the 1800s numerous persons have died, or encountered violent deaths at the hands of Indians and prospectors searching for the mine and its gold.
Near Apache Junction in 1962 were four other spring training sites - Cubs in Mesa (16 miles), Red Sox in Scottsdale (22-miles), Giants in Phoenix (30-miles) and the Indians in Tucson (100 miles).
Located seven miles from Apache Junction was an added tourist attraction - Sound Stage and Western Street, where TV shows “Have Gun Will Travel” and “Stage Coach West” were filmed.
Following the announcement of the Colt.45s training in the area the permanent population of 5,000 expanded to 10,000, and was expected to expand three-fold by 1963. At that time the village was reputed to have the fastest growing post office in the nation. The baseball project was handled and financed through a group of civic minded citizens known as Superstition Enterprises.
The Colt.45s entourage was housed at Hotel Superstition an attractive motel located just under one mile from the ball park. This structure dominated the area like a sprawling octopus. Across the road was one drug store, two gas stations, a Laundromat, a supermarket and one saloon - The Red Garter, where some of the players did their off-baseball training due to the obscure location of their spring facility.
However, most visible were 33 real estate offices located in the vicinity hoping to broker off pieces of land in this new-found paradise. With a major league training site moving into booming ApacheLand, the outlook looked promising for investors. It was reported that already a few of Houston’s baseball executives had signed on the dotted line.
It is assumed that most of those investments are now covered by weeds as well as one or more of the eight varieties of Arizona cactus.
Gene Elston-March 2002