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Gaylord Perry Signs Cactus League Book Saturday at Camelback Ranch Event

Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry will help raise money and awareness for Play Ball with an appearance this Saturday, March 3, at the Camelback Ranch Spring Training Complex in Glendale.

Perry will help promote a new book that showcases the unique history of the Cactus League just in time for Arizona’s 58th Spring Training season. Perry wrote the forward for the book, which is a fundraiser for Play Ball. The Hall of Famer will sign purchased books Saturday for an extra $10 donation. Perry will sign from 9 a.m.-10 a.m.; author Susie Steckner will sign for free from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

The signing is part of a free Fan Fest at the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. The event will include on-field batting practice and autograph sessions with both teams. The Spring Training complex is at 107th Avenue and Indian School Road.

The book, Cactus League: Spring Training (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99) features more than 200 photos that take readers on a historic journey from exhibition games in the early 1900s up to the modern day 15-team Cactus League.

The 128-page book, which includes many never-before-seen photos, offers an insider’s look at the players, personalities, fans and destinations that helped shape the league. The photos include: players with the short-lived Seattle Pilots at Tempe Diablo Stadium; announcer Harry Caray soaking up the sun in the bleachers; legend Dizzy Dean at Scottsdale’s Pink Pony restaurant; Willie Mays on the massage table in Mesa; and “Mr. Cub’’ Ernie Banks saying goodbye to his long-time Mesa spring training home, Rendezvous Park. The book also includes photos from games in the old Sun City stadium, then-Yankees owner Del Webb, and photos of all the modern day Cactus League stadiums.

The Cactus League’s history is filled with social, political and cultural intrigue, not to mention a roster of baseball greats. Early on, fans watched Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mays, and the American League’s first black player, Larry Doby. Baseball became part of the state’s social fabric, as players and fans flocked to watering holes, hotels and a desert oasis famous for its mineral baths. History also saw political battles to save the Cactus League and fend off Florida’s attempts to lure teams away.

Cactus League: Spring Training is available through Changing Hands Bookstore, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and at www.arcadiapublishing.com. The Mesa Historical Museum, 2345 N. Horne, also will carry the book.

A portion of all sales benefits the non-profit Mesa museum, which houses the nation’s only collection chronicling Arizona’s spring training journey. In 2008, the museum launched “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” and has amassed a collection of 3,000 photographs and objects. The Play Ball collection is on display at a variety of locations around the Valley. For details, go to www.playballexperience.com.

Cactus League: Spring Training author Susie Steckner is a freelance writer in Arizona and a veteran newspaper reporter who has worked in Arizona, Texas and Wisconsin. She lives in Tempe.