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Pitcher Dick Farrell bought a pair of low-top work boots, armed himself with a .22 pistol and hiked daily through the sand and underbrush. In Texas, boxers who tote .22s are dealt with severely. But in Arizona pitchers are allowed to carry sidearms. At the end of spring training, Farrell's box score included four jackrabbits, two lizards, one snake, one quail and about 300 broken beer and whisky bottles. Craft never was able to track down the source of those bottles.
For all their grousing, the Colts are as proud of Apache Junction as the Marines are of Parris Island. It is a romantic sort of place, and stories about it flourish, none more intriguing than that of the actual coming of the Colts. In the winter of 1960 the .45s were scouting around for a spring training base, inspecting several cities. Gabe Paul, then the general manager, visited Apache Junction on a suggestion from Paul Richards, then managing Baltimore. What Gabe didn't know was that Richards had invested in real estate there. What Richards didn't know was that a year later he would succeed Gabe Paul as general manager of the new Houston club.
Actually the .45s could, with only a small twinge of conscience, claim to be the first baseball team in history to have a town created for it. Apache Junction was already there, of course, but the .45s put it on the map as neatly as an autograph on a new ball. The town, not yet incorporated, was 3 years old and struggling when the Colts entered the scene. To attract them the town agreed to build a compact but stylish new park, at a cost of $100,000.
The survival of the town depends, eventually, on its ability to attract tourists, and it has been obvious for some time that the Dutchman couldn't do it alone. The town fathers saw the Colt .45s as the vehicle they needed. "People in the East," predicted one, "will be reading the dateline, and they'll remember it. I can just hear them broadcasting exhibition games from here around the country: 'It's a balmy day in Apache Junction, 70� and a cool breeze.' " He was daydreaming in the spring, of course. In the summer it gets to be a balmy 120, and during peak months of July and August cold water has to be brought in from Phoenix. It arrives at a frosty 93�.
Five years ago Apache Junction was exactly that—a junction of Apache trails, just cactus and sagebrush and wasteland, where once Geronimo's fierce braves roamed. But now the relentless Arizona real estate boom has embraced it, and there is talk of another Scottsdale, the swinging city 30 miles away that a decade ago was more desolate than Apache Junction. In the dead center of Apache's craggy landscape sprawls a modern swank motel, last year the Superstition Ho, now less romantically called the Marshall Inn. It contains 146 rooms, a kidney-shaped swimming pool, a playground for tots and riding stables.
The legend of the misplaced treasure lode figures strongly in the place, the decor of which is pure frontier. There's a Lost Dutchman Dining Room, a Jake's Saloon and a Paladin Room, where the trail riders wash the dust from their parched throats with shots of red-eye. The joint is off limits to the players, but they walk by and occasionally press their noses against the glass. What else there is in Apache Junction you can find across the street: a bar, hash house, supermarket, a branch of the First National Bank of Arizona and a few business offices.
A year ago the population of the town was 2,500, mostly retired old folks and real estate agents. Yet when the Colts played their first intrasquad game in Geronimo Park, a crowd of 2,600 overflowed the stands. If you assume that no sensible person would drive the 35 miles from Phoenix to see the Colts play each other, then this means that 104% of the population of Apache Junction showed up for the game.
At times in early spring Superstition Mountain wears a light snowcap, and it makes a peaceful sight. Yet for more than a hundred years seekers of the lost gold mine have been snooping around the mountain, stirring up the legend—and trouble.
The legend has it that a young Mexican named Carlos discovered the mine in the 1840s while fleeing the wrath of Don Miguel Peralta, the Mexican land baron whose daughter Carlos had seduced. Carlos stumbled upon the ore while hiding in the mountains from two Indians sent by Don Miguel to track him down. Later, trying to return to Mexico with enough gold to purchase Don Miguel's goodwill, he lost his footing in a rain-swollen stream. The heavy gold nuggets he carried made it difficult to swim, and Carlos drowned. He thus became the first of many to die because of the treasure.
But word of the mine spread, and years later three Mexican youths who had lived on the Peralta ranch showed it to a white-bearded prospector—Jacob Walz. He shot them all, and later five others, including his own nephew, to protect the secret of the mine. (The real estate business in Arizona is not nearly so cut-throat nowadays.) Walz's name has been spelled at least three other ways—Waltz, Walzer and Wolz—a practice that continues to this day in spring training, usually with rookies from Latin America.