Former Cactus League Stadiums: Hi Corbett Field
Hi Corbett Field 1947, Photo Courtesy of Arizona Daily Star
Our next of several features on former Cactus League spring training facilities, some of which still exist and some do not.
Opened in 1928, Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, AZ (known as Randolph Municipal Baseball Park when first built) served as the spring training home for the Cleveland Indians (1947 – 1992), and the Colorado Rockies (1993 – 2011) in the Cactus League. It is one of a few former Cactus League ballparks still in use as it serves the Pac-12 Arizona Wildcats baseball team. The facility today is drastically different from when it was initially built just before the Great Depression.
In the very early days of Class D and Class C minor league, teams in the Arizona State League and then the Arizona-Texas League (circa 1927 – 1951) played at Randolph Municipal Baseball Park. Considered one of the finer parks of the era, the park had a grass infield where the other parks in those leagues had gravel and hard dirt surfaces for their infield.
Grandstand seating was only in the infield. Second level seats did not exist nor were there bleachers or seats beyond the infield baselines. And at that time, no such thing as a grassy berm existed. Located beyond the bases, the dugouts were, quite frankly, ‘dug out’ and below the field level.
When the Cleveland Indians came to town in 1947, they, along with the then New York Giants (at Old Phoenix Municipal Stadium), established the beginning of Cactus League spring training. The park received some renovations at that point.
Hi Corbett Field – Cleveland Indians Spring Training 1950’s, Photo Courtesy of Arizona Daily Star
I discovered the original configuration had an adobe outfield wall where fans sat and watched the games for free; I have not yet discovered when that outfield wall was erected (or dismantled).
Hiram Steven Corbett, a long-time Arizona state senator and president of the Tucson Baseball Commission, played a key role in luring the Indians and spring training to Tucson and the city renamed its ballpark in his honor in 1951.
Hi Corbett Field Exterior 1963, Photo Courtesy of Arizona Daily Star
Besides spring training, it served as home for the Arizona State League Tucson Waddies, Cowboys, Missions, and Lizards and beginning in 1969, the Tucson Toros (AAA – Pacific Coast League and later the Golden Independent League).
Hi Corbett Field served as the host of filming the spring training scenes from the 1989 movie Major League. Players from the University of Arizona baseball team acted as extras in the film.
In 1997, a $3.77 million renovation to the stadium included new seating and expanded clubhouses as well as a team store and ticket office.
Hi Corbett Field – March 2010, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Hi Corbett Field – From First Base Dugout. March 2010, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Spring training ended in Hi Corbett Field when the Rockies moved to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick beginning the 2011 season. Beginning in 2012, the University of Arizona Wildcats baseball team made the field their home. They promptly won the College World Series that same year.
Like the ASU Sun Devils and Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the Arizona Wildcats have a history of playing games at Hi Corbett Field from the 1940s – early 1970s. The Wildcats often played double headers where the afternoon contest was played on campus at UA Field and Hi Corbett Field, with its lights, hosted the nightcap. Rivalry games with the ASU Sun Devils and NCAA District Playoffs were commonly played in the evenings at Hi Corbett.
Now, down each foul line are additional oversized grandstands with bleacher seats, and down the right field foul line is a grass lawn with shade trees.
In 2017, under a 25-year agreement with Tucson, the University of Arizona took over the day-to-day management of the baseball stadium. That year, enhancements included a new hitting center, a retrofitted clubhouse with new branding and graphics, and installation of a new backstop netting and video board.
Hi Corbett Field Exterior Sept 2020, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
The ballpark sits in Gene C Reid Park, a 131-acre urban park which also features the Reid Park Zoo, baseball practice fields, picnic areas, a bike trail and duck pond, municipal golf courses, a tennis center, and an outdoor amphitheater.