High School Sports: Lost Arizona History Preserved in ‘Who is Gym?’

After officiating high school football and baseball in Arizona for nearly 30 years, it occurred to Scott Hanson that there was a piece of Arizona history that was slipping away: the who and the why high schools, their football stadiums, baseball fields and gymnasiums were named. Here Hanson discusses how he came to write Who Is Gym and what the book is all about:

Do you know the history behind your high school alma mater’s football field?

Or the gym?

Or the school itself?

If not, you are not alone.

Book CoverA three-year project has resulted in the uncovering and preservation of the stories behind Arizona’s high school sports venues, culminating with new history book, Who is Gym?

I have been officiating high school football and umpiring high school baseball in Arizona for 30 years. The idea for the book was the result of some innocent inquisition.

It started on a Friday night in 2013 My football crew was preparing to officiate the varsity game at Cactus High School — at M.L. Huber Stadium. Not familiar with Huber, I asked a couple people at the school who he was. To my surprise, they didn’t know who Huber was either. Then a week later, our football crew was at Independence High School and I asked about the story behind their Tolmachoff Stadium. I got the same answer.

It wasn’t until a conversation with Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble that the book became a viable project.

Marshall and I got to talking, and he was quick to point out there was no one place where all of this history lived. No collection. No official records. He told me right then and there I should take it upon myself to create a record and collection for our state. Those were powerful words.

It was then that I officially began my quest to preserve at least some of Arizona’s history. I conducted exhaustive research and interviews with Arizona’s high school athletic directors, administrators, alumni, librarians, local historians, long-time school employees, relatives of those honored, the honorees themselves and others who may have known the people whose names adorn the buildings and fields across Arizona – from Fredonia to Nogales; from Parker to Thatcher.

Scott at O'Connor High School w Book

I found some relatively well-known stories, such as those related to Carl T. Hayden, Barry Goldwater and Sandra Day O’Connor high schools. I also uncovered dozens of lesser-known stories, such as the two United States Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who have been recognized: Jay Vargas Field in Winslow, named after Vietnam War hero Col. Jay Vargas, and Alchesay High School in Whiteriver, named after William Alchesay, former chief of the White Mountain Apache Tribe who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery during the American Indian Wars in the late 1800s.

Or Warren Ballpark in Bisbee, named after George Warren, who is credited with having located the body of copper ore which later became known as the Copper Queen Mine. In addition to the stadium name, his image was used as the model for the miner holding the long-handled spade in the Seal of Arizona.

There are stories related to some of Arizona’s pioneering families, such as the Hamiltons and the Dobsons, as well as others key to the state’s history, including James McClintock, Charles and Minna Orme, Isabella and John Greenway, Eddie Basha and Jean-Baptiste Salpointe, Arizona’s first Catholic Bishop.

In all, there are close to 400 entries and historical photographs.

Not only does the book feature information about Arizona’s historical figures whose impact on their communities warranted a school or stadium to be named after them, the book also features a section on all of Arizona’s high school mascots, which further piqued Trimble’s interest.

“Arizona has changed a lot since the 1950s but I take great comfort in knowing that one thing has remained constant; from the Nogales Apaches to the Fredonia Lynx and the Kingman Bulldogs to the Round Valley Elks, the mascots are forever,” Trimble stated. “Long live ‘um.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott 01In addition to his role officiating high school sports across the state, Hanson is the president of HMA Public Relations, a 35-year-old marketing communications firm based in Phoenix.  He’s a former Arizona sports broadcaster at both KNAZ-TV in Flagstaff and KPHO-TV in Phoenix. He has served on the board for the NAU School of Communication and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Phoenix Chapter. In 2012, Hanson was both inducted into the Rocky Mountain Emmy Silver Circle Society for his dedication to the broadcast community in the region and honored with the Public Relations Society of America Phoenix Chapter’s Percy Award for his dedication to the advancement of the public relations field across the state.

Hanson, an Arizona native, is an alumnus of Washington High School and Northern Arizona University, respectively.

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