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The Absolutely Arizona history of Hi Corbett Field

Nearly a century of baseball played at Hi Corbett
Posted: 2:38 PM, Apr 24, 2023
Updated: 2023-04-24 17:38:07-04
Hi Corbett Field home of the Arizona Wildcats

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For nearly a century Hi Corbett Field has been home to baseball in Tucson.

From the Tucson Toros to the Cleveland Indians, the Tucson Lizards to the Colorado Rockies, Hi Corbett has had a remarkable history.

Today, Hi Corbett is home to the University of Arizona Wildcats, continuing a baseball legacy that began all the way back in 1927.

Originally called Randolph Municipal Baseball Park, a Tucsonan named Hiram "Hi" Stevens Corbett was instrumental in bringing the Cleveland Indians to train here.

In 1946, Corbett convinced Indians owner Bill Veeck, who had a ranch near Tucson, to bring the Indians to train in the Old Pueblo.

Cleveland Indians hold spring training in Tucson, Ariz.

"Bill Veeck was my hero," said Mike Feder, a longtime promoter and minor league baseball executive who knows Hi Corbett well.

"A lot of my craziness came from his ideas," admitted Feder.

Veeck's idea of moving the Indians to Tucson for spring training in the 1940s was anything but crazy.

Cleveland owner Bill Veeck with pitcher Bob Feller
Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller (left), and club President Bill Veeck reach an agreemen on Feller's 1948 contract. (AP Photo)

The team flourished, winning the World Series in 1948.

For Hiram Corbett's efforts in getting Veeck and the Indians to train in Tucson, the name of the stadium was changed to Hi Corbett in 1951.

Veeck would go on to own and promote other major league teams.

Hi Corbett Field would go on to play a starring role in the hit 1989 movie 'Major League'. The classic sports comedy showcased the Indians' spring training home.

The Indians, now known as the Guardians, would hold spring training at Hi Corbett for six decades, until 1992.

The expansion Colorado Rockies would take their place in 1993.

Rockies at Hi Corbett
Tucson fans take in the last spring game of the season at Hi Corbett Field, the Colorado Rockies against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in Tucson, Ariz., on Thursday, March 28, 2002. (AP Photo/John Miller)

But the Rockies would also leave Tucson after the 2010 Cactus League season.

Hi Corbett was much more than just a home for major league spring training, though.

During its nearly 100-year history, the stadium was occupied by nine different minor league or independent baseball teams.

The Tucson Cowboys called it home from 1933 to 1958, with Hiram Corbett serving as president of the baseball club.

Hi Corbett Field

The best known occupant of Hi Corbett had to be the Tucson Toros.

Starting in 1969, and for the next 29 seasons, the Toros were the summer entertainment for Tucson.

During the 1980 season, the Toros earned the dubious distinction of having the ugliest uniforms in baseball.

"They threw it in the washing machine and everything orange turned brown," explained Feder.

Tucson Toros ugly uniforms

The Toros were better known for their ugly uniforms in the early '80s than their play on the field.

Mike Feder became the Toros GM in 1989, bringing that Bill Veeck promotional style back to Hi Corbett for the first time since Veeck moved the Indians here in the '40s.

"I didn't do something as crazy as the disco demolition, but I had beer nights."

His fondest memory at Hi Corbett?

"I've run sports teams, been involved in sports for over 35 years—the championship in '91 is my favorite memory," Feder said.

Toros celebrate 1991 PCL Championship

The Toros won the 1991 Pacific Coast League title in thrilling fashion, scoring in the bottom of the 9th. Former Wildcat basketball and baseball star Kenny Lofton was an outfielder on that team.

The Toros won the title again in 1993.

During the run of the Toros, Hi Corbett was transformed into a quirky and unique Triple-A park.

During Feder's time as GM, they installed a Toro in right field that came to life when the home team hit a home run.

"The bull was from the foul line over to the right," Feder said pointing to the exact spot. "We added the lights and we added the smoke."

Old Tucson Toros logo and uniform

The quirkiness of minor league baseball left Hi Corbett Field in 2010. The U of A moved in two years later and has since made some major improvements.

Hi Corbett Field main grandstand

"Thank goodness for the U of A," said Feder. "This is home for them. They're not going to let this thing go away. There's no money in this community to build the Arizona Wildcats a new stadium. So, you just got to keep upgrading this one."

Terry Francona Hitting Center

2027 will mark 100 years of Hi Corbett Stadium.

It will be the Arizona Wildcats who take Hi Corbett into its second century of baseball.

Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.