Geronimo Park:
A Savage Journey Into the Heart of the American Dream

Click here to skip Astroland's take,
and view the rise and fall of Geronimo Park in the the pictures and stories
of the local newspaper that covered it, the Apache Sentinel

The nascent Colt .45's organization played its first game on October 13, 1961, as the Arizona Instructional League Colt 22's dropped a decision to the Giants team at Scottsdale, Arizona. But evidently, even then, only three days after the Expansion draft, plans were already in place to move the Baby Colts and their big-league Spring Training brethren out of Scottsdale and into a facility that was more intimately tied in with the Colt .45 brass.
"It was the common belief," said Tal Smith to the Houston Chronicle in 2003, "that a number of people, including Paul Richards and Eddie Robinson and Bill Giles, bought land" at Apache Junction, Arizona. "While searching for a spring training site," writes Robert Reed, "Bob Smith and Roy Hofheinz had bought hundreds of acres of undeveloped land in Apache Junction, nestled at the foothills of the Superstition Mountains only thirty miles outside of Phoenix, and had quickly developed grand ideas of exporting their Midas touch in real estate to the desert southwest." Reed goes on to say that Bob Smith had also bought the local Superstition Ho hotel a mile out of town.

Hofheinz and Smith had formed some sort of a business arrangement with WW Creighton, who, harking to the legend of the Superstitions' hidden goldmine, had attracted some local investment into "The Lost Dutchman's Baseball Association." It was this association which contracted Phoenx' PG & R Engineering to build a baseball park at Apache Junction "in the fall of 1961," according to the Apache Junction Sentinel. Construction was rapid, and the stadium didn't even have a name yet when the Houston organization played its first game there, on December 5, 1961.

The unnamed stadium was christened on January 19, 1962, when a contest-winner was announced, and a sign saying "Geronimo Park" went up over the front gate. As the Colts reported for spring training February 26, the Lost Dutchman's still found itelf $20,000 short of the funds necessary to pay off PG&R.
And financial considerations aside, Reed says that the ballpark "proved to be the beginning and the end of the development boom anticipated by Smith and Hofheinz, leading players to grouse about the lack of recreational activities during the eight week camp. Turk Farrell, the Colts' resident free spirit and leading seeker of such extracurricular activities, complained, 'There are only two bars in town--one's so bad even I won't go there, and the other one is full of coaches. '"

Farrell actually was able to find some amusement. "In thinking of that time," Tal Smith told Mickey Herskowitz, "what most people think of was Turk Farrell taking a short cut to the stadium through the desert, shooting snakes and beer cans with a .22." And I'm not sure whether it was the "bad" one, or the one that was full of coaches, but a drinking establishment by the name of "the Red Garter" managed to gain a certain amount of local notoriety that spring.
But not even the tales of Farrell's exploits cannot diguise the fact that clearly there was not much out there at Apache Junction: it was a place bereft of most of the standard comforts of spring training, and bereft of money, too, it was seeming.
Reports I'd read in the Sentinel indicated the Colts were to have played eight games in Apache Junction. Only six were played, it appears. Regardless of whether the games were moved because of the shaky fnancial situation at Apache Junction, it is undeniably a fact that the Colts left Cactus League play without the $24,000 of gate money they had been guaranteed. The Colts gave Apache Junction another crack the following year, in 1963, but the passing of another year evidently had not improved the situation under the sahdow of the Superstitions. On August 28, 1963, Judge Hofheinz announced that the Colts were abandoning Apache Junction in favor of a new $800,000 complex at Cocoa, Florida for 1964. Reed states that the official reason was disappointing attendance and high travel costs, but I'm sure the real reason was: the boom never came, and the Colts couldn't sustain the place by themselves.
Geronimo Park would very quickly decay, and by the end of the decade would cease to exist at all. In the immediate aftermath Richards was quoted as saying that Apache Junction was " "the bare minimum -- and a lot of rattlesnakes." Even Cactus League Pioneer Dwight Patterson called the whole Apache Junction project "a farce." Years later, Richards was asked if he still owned any land in the area. "No," he said, "the wind blew it away." Smith told Herskowitz that he had stopped by in the early '90's, finding it to be the same as he'd remembered: "a lot of trailer parks and prairie."

At some point I'd like to have a score posted here for every game ever played at Geronimo Park, but thanks to Astrosdaily and the day-by-day accounts for the 1962 that Gene Elston wrote, and the ones that he kindly provided for this site exclusively, this is what I've got for now. This includes every Major League Spring Training game played at the Park:

December 5, 1961 -
Arizona Instructional League Giants 5 Arizona Instructional League Colt .22's 3

December 6, 1961 -
Arizona Instructional League Cubs at Arizona Instructional League Colt .22's

December 8, 1961 -
Arizona Instructional League Orioles at Arizona Instructional League Colt .22's

March 12, 1962 San Francisco Giants 6 Houston Colt .45's 1
After losing their first two games to Los Angeles, the Colt .45s make their spring home debut at Geronimo Park and drop a 6-1 decision to San Francisco.

March 14, 1962 Chicago Cubs 6 Houston Colts .45's 3
Hal Woodeshick allows four runs on seven hits in the first two innings and is the losing pitcher in Houston's 6-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Houston's Von McDaniel goes 3-for-3 with a double after entering the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning. Bobby Tiefenauer, Ken Johnson and Ken Pate also pitched for the Colt .45s.

March 15, 1962 Houston Colt .45's 4 Cleveland Indians 2
Al Cicotte shuts down the Cleveland Indians with four hits through the first four innings in Houston’s 4-2 win. Dave Giusti works the final five and also allows four hits with Roman Mejias leading the offense with two singles.

March 17, 1962 Houston Colt .45's 12 Los Angeles Angels 7
The .45s take advantage of Bo Belinsky’s six walks, three hits and six runs in the first three innings, then hold on to a 12-7 win over Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Dean Stone, Ken Johnson and non-roster pitcher Bill Griffin are shelled with 13 hits while Houston is committing five errors. The .45s erupted for four runs in the 8th to sew up the win. Hal Smith was the star of the game with two walks, two doubles and the catcher's surprising steal of home off Belinsky.

March 18, 1962 Los Angeles Angels 14 Houston Colt .45's 8
Houston and Los Angeles play through a total of 30 hits before the Angels unload for eight runs in the 11th inning off .45s pitcher Ken Pate for a 14-8 win. Houston was out-hit 18-12 with Bob Aspromonte and Jim Pendleton each hitting two-run homers. Aside from Pate’s bad inning, Jim Golden and Ken Johnson gave up six runs between them.

March 21, 1962 Houston Colt .45's 8 Boston Red Sox 7
Houston nips Boston in 13-innings 8-7 on a single by non-roster first baseman Pidge Browne and a base hit by Don Taussig. It wasn’t a good day for pitchers with Hal Woodeshick and rookies Jim Dickson and Bill Griffin giving up 12 hits and four Red Sox pitchers allowing eleven. Hal Smith hit his first home run, a three run shot and Jim Pendleton hit his second.

Gene Elston writes the following in summation of the 1963 Spring Training Campaign:

It appeared as early as the conclusion of the Colt..45s first spring training at Apache Junction that the bloom was off the cactus for that desert site. The brass began looking for a Florida base and they found one beginning in 1964 at Cocoa. It is obvious the 1963 spring schedule was predicated on the 1962 lack of attendance at Apache. Of the 29 games in 1963 only five would be scheduled for Geronimo Park. The other 24 were - ten with the Los Angeles Angels at Palm Springs (4), San Jose (2) and one each at Porterfield and Bakersfield, California. Also, (2) at Las Vegas. Three with Kansas City at San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Wichita. The remaining eleven road games would be played in Arizona – Mesa (Cubs 3), Tucson (Cleveland 3), Phoenix (Giants 2), Scottsdale (Boston 2) and Chandler (Oklahoma City 1).

Interestingly, the .45s opened in Palm Springs on March 9 with two games with LA, played March 11 in Mesa, with the Cubs and opened in Apache on the 12th with Chicago. They played in Tucson against the Indians on the March 13. The next four in row would conclude their home games hitting the road on March 18th for the next 20 games, playing in six different states, never to return to Apache Junction.

One can’t really compare this 1963 spring schedule for the Colt.45s in relation to home games played, but it did bring to my mind the worst SEASON in major league history when the 1899 Cleveland Spiders of the National League played only 41 of their 154 games at home. They were forced on the road because the home fans just didn’t show up for their games. Their nickname (Spiders) was ignored by the press and the team was referred to as the Exiles, Forsakens, Barnstormers and Wanderers. That team played only 26% of their games in Cleveland and the .45s edged them out by playing in Geronimo Park only 13% of their games.

March 12, 1963 Houston Colt .45's 6 Chicago Cubs 5
Trailing 5-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Colt.45s tally two runs each in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to squeeze out a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs. In the eighth with two outs and George Williams on second Dave Roberts doubles to tie the game and Bob Lillis drives in the run to give Houston a 6-5 lead at the expense of the Cubs Don Elston. Hal Woodeshick is the winning pitcher working the final two innings and retiring Ken Hubbs in the top of ninth on a fly to right to Manny Mota leaving the potential tying run in scoring position. This was not a pitchers’ battle with the Cubs out hitting the Colts 12-10. Mota came up with two hits and one RBI with Johnny Temple and Carl Warwick also driving in a run each. Ernie Banks had three hits for Chicago. Attendance on a clear 68 degree afternoon was only 1,431.

March 14, 1963 Houston Colt .45's 6 Chicago Cubs 5
Trailing Boston 11-1 going into the sixth inning, the Colt.45s score 10 runs in the next three innings to tie, and go on to win 12-11 in the 11th inning. After two outs Houston rattles off three singles by Bob Lillis, Jimmy Wynn and Dave Adlesh for a 12-10 win over the Boston Red Sox -picking up their 4th come-from-behind win in six games. This was not a pitchers picnic with 23 hits total and 26 men left on base and Boston adding to their woes with five errors. A total of 43 players saw action including nine pitchers. Only 1,087 struggled through the festivities.

March 15, 1963 Cleveland Indians at Houston Colt .45's
The Colts break a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the eighth after a 3-run outburst by Cleveland ties the game in the top of the inning. Dave Giusti, working his third inning in relief of Bob Bruce is touched for all three-runs but still gets the win with Connie Grob the save in retiring all three Indians in the ninth. Centerfielder Ellis Burton hits only the second home run for the Colts this spring (the other by Dave Roberts) adding a double and three runs batted in. Houston is five wins and only two losses for the spring with a team batting average of .317. Partly cloudy and 55 degrees as 1,008 fans looked on.

March 16, 1963 Los Angeles Angels 12 Houston Colt 45's 8
Ken Johnson and Chris Zachary are touched up for ten hits and ten runs in seven innings in a 12-8 defeat by the Los Angeles Angels before 1,114 fans with Zachary suffering the loss. Both Houston pitchers gave up a home run to Ron Hunt who also singled off Johnson for a four RBI game. Both teams were in double figures in hits, LA 13 – the Colts 10 with only J.C.Hartman picking up two singles and an RBI, while Rusty Staub drove in two runs as a pinch hitter.

Los Angeles Angels30003042012134
Houston Colt .45's021003200  8102
LA:  Bob Turley, Ron Moeller 5, Ed Thomas 7, and Ed Sadowski;
HOU: Ken Johnson, Chris Zachary 6, Jim Dickson 8, Wally Wolf 9,
and Jim Campbell, Jerry Grote 6, John Bateman 9;
W - Ed Thomas L - Chris Zachary HR - Los Angeles Ken Hunt 2

March 17, 1963 Los Angeles Angels Houston Colt .45's Rained Out
As if the Gods had spoken, the final scheduled game for the Colt.45s is rained out with the Los Angeles Angels on a cool 55 degree afternoon. After eight games – only four of them at Geronimo Park, the team tomorrow begins a 20-game odyssey through six states – then home finally to Colt Stadium on April 9th to open their second season in the National League against the Giants.

Click here to take a look at the rise and fall of Geronimo Park in the the pictures and stories of the local newspaper that covered it, the Apache Sentinel

The Houston Chronicle, March 14, 2003
Astrosdaily and the 1962 recap authored there by Gene Elston
Spring Training Magazine.Com
Robert Reed, Colt .45's: A Six Gun Salute
The 3/16/63 box came from the following day's Tampa Tribune
Special thanks to the Steve Carroll, who did all the work. This site just collated it.
Can't forget Houston Buff, James Anderson, and Bob Green, either.
The kindness Gene Elston showed to this site in contributing exclusive material
    here cannot possibly be overstated.