"I lak it
heah," announced Courtney one day, picking his teeth with a cactus needle.
"A man orter be able to keep his mind on baseball." Courtney killed a
rattlesnake one afternoon in the parking lot at Geronimo Park, bludgeoning it
with a fungo bat.
teams in spring training are distracted by what the managers refer to as camp
followers, and they are almost always girls. But not the Colt .45s. What
follows them is a character named Superstition Joe, a grizzled old prospector
of unknown age and origin, who rode down out of the hills one morning last
March to see what he could see.
Joe is so much a
caricature of a gold prospector that he has to be genuine. His ten-gallon hat
is faded and frayed, worn stovepipe style. His silver-gray beard is the texture
of Brillo, and there are tobacco stains at the corners of his mouth. He is
short and bow-legged. He is, truth to tell, a poor man's Gabby Hayes.
No one knows much
about Superstition Joe, or how long he has been seeking his poke in the
mountains. But he took a liking to the Colt .45s and visited them regularly,
watching and seldom saying a word. Once he let Bill Giles, the Colt publicity
man, borrow one of his mules so Manager Harry Craft could pose astride it,
waving a pair of six-shooters in the sky.
By the time the
Colts left Apache Junction, with a record of 14-7 against big league foes, the
writers were calling Craft "the Desert Fox." The Colts even won the
honorary Cactus League title and went on to finish eighth in their first
season—which was two notches higher than anyone said they would. Craft decided
that Apache was a handsome training site, free of distractions and ideal for
purposes of turning soft muscles hard.
spring period is not, of course, proving as severe as the first. At this time a
year ago the .45s still viewed Apache Junction with suspicion, as if expecting
at any moment to have an arrow go twanging through their batting helmets.
Even Willie Mays
of the Giants dropped a fly ball last spring in an exhibition game at Geronimo
Park. Al Spangler, Houston's left fielder, dropped so many that Paul Richards,
utterly exasperated, brought in a specialist to hit high fungoes to him for two
hours every afternoon for one week, by Spangler's count 148 fly balls a
covering the team harped on the failures of his outfield—supposedly the team's
strong point—Manager Craft challenged them: "I'll bet you that none of you
could get out there and catch four out of 10." One of the writers offered
to make Craft the same wager about one of his outfielders. "No bet,"
There are no taxi
or bus services in Apache, and because of the transportation problems the
players spend long hours at such frivolous pursuits as ping-pong, shuffleboard
and cards. Players without personal autos hitchhike or walk the two miles over
a dirt road to the ball park. They save time by cutting through the prairie,
which is vacant except for snakes and wild rabbits.
Lizards in the