As for alleys, there were none. Instead there were the gullies and ravines where people settled even before the population peaked at 15,000 in 1930, making living space on the only paved street as tight as a pair of secondhand shoes. Residents gravitated toward their own kind, in places with names no suburb could ever have: Greeks in Greek Camp, Scandinavians in Carr Fork, Slavs in Highland Boy, and so on. But when you hear that Bingham High's class of 1950 counted 18 nationalities among its 55 graduates, you know there was no way all those ethnic groups could have avoided each other. Squeezed together, they came to realize that they were bound by their blue collars. Their hunger fueled the fire that Santistevan lit in his ballplayers.
"People in Salt Lake Valley acted like they were afraid of us," says Billy Boren, a star tailback and centerfielder from the Bingham class of 47 who grew up to become a prominent businessman and a Mormon bishop. "We were from the other side of the tracks, so they got it in their minds that we were almost gangsters."
What they were, really, was poor kids whose parents rented houses for $10 a month or bought them for $500. Kids who knew what it was to use a dynamite box from the Hercules Company as a chair. Kids who, even in winter, slept on porches with only a sheet of canvas between them and the elements. Kids who watched their fathers sign their paychecks over to the Bingham Mercantile, knowing they would have to go to a clerk in that many-splendored store if they wanted so much as a dime for the movies. Kids who never heard their fathers plot an escape to a better life. "All they talked about," says Brown, who grew up to know success in sporting goods and graphic design, "was being a track boss or a timekeeper. It was never a doctor or a lawyer. They were blue-collar, and they never thought they could be anything else."
The promise of honest work brought them to this wedge of the Oquirrhs, discovered in 1848 by two young Mormon settlers—the Bingham brothers, Thomas and Sanford—and dominated first by the Utah Copper Co. and then by Kennecott Copper. The fathers of Santistevan's ballplayers were paid wages, often no more than a dollar an hour, that kept them on a short leash and made them thankful for small favors. "I remember when we got a raise to $1.02," says Gust, who worked his way through the University of Utah on the night shift. "I thought I was rich."
He was, but in ways that had nothing to do with the almighty dollar, ways that he wouldn't recognize until he was older and Bingham was no more. Then he, like so many of Bailey's boys, would look back and remember how Santistevan brought that town together with his teams, giving people a rooting interest in something far more valuable than copper: their sons.
Bingham became a place where American Legion baseball games that would have drawn 20 parents and friends in Salt Lake City were good for throngs of 700. Come the high school football season, the field would be ringed two and three deep with fans who arrived early to avoid the crush in the bleachers. The Pastime saloon ran a pool on every game that a Bingham team played, no matter what the sport. When the Miners finally won a state basketball championship, in 1960, the shopkeepers threw open their doors for a bash to end them all. "The dads were offering to get the Mormon kids drinks," says George Sluga, the former Eskimo Pie Leaguer who led the champs in scoring and has since coached Bingham to six more titles. "I think everybody was happy because they'd won so much money betting on us."
To look at the old high school today, it's hard to believe ii could ever have housed the white-hot passion that Santistevan ignited. The two-story brick edifice sits abandoned and forlorn, its name now adorning a modern structure in nearby West Jordan, in the thick of the upscale swirl that consumes Salt Lake Valley.
Behind that padlocked relic is an even sadder sight: the mammoth field that the Miners used as diamond and gridiron and that Santistevan held claim to every summer by running 10 or 12 kids' baseball games at once. Time and weather have joined forces to split home plate down the middle. The infield is so overgrown with weeds that you can barely make it out. The concrete football bleachers in rightfield are spider-webbed with cracks, and the wooden baseball grandstand has vanished.
But on the Fourth of July last year, if you talked to the men who played there as Bailey's boys, you came away believing that this ragged wasteland is an illusion and that the men's memories are the reality. They gathered beneath the cottonwood trees in Copperton Park, and they ate the pancakes that the Lions Club and the Volunteer Fire Department served up, and they remembered everything as clearly as if the Eskimo Pie League were only yesterday.
There was Kent Stillman, retired from the Navy, remembering how he used to play for Santistevan all day, then rush off at twilight to hang numbers on the scoreboard at the semipro games. There was Sonny Robertson, retired from the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department, remembering how he drove his coach nuts by trying to hit home runs over a leftfield fence that was 400 feet away. (Of course, Santistevan always got even at the next practice by hitting Sonny 100 extra grounders.) And there was Gust, remembering the big brother who was among the first of Bailey's boys.