Arizona Diamondbacks Information
In the fall of 1993, Jerry Colangelo, owner of the Phoenix Suns, the area's wildly popular and successful NBA franchise, announced he was assembling an ownership group to apply for a Major League Baseball expansion team. This was after a great deal of lobbying by the Maricopa County Sports Authority, a local group formed to preserve spring training in Arizona and eventually secure a Major League franchise for the state. This group was headed at the time by sports attorney Joe Garagiola, Jr. (Garagiola would go on to become the team's first general manager). Maricopa County superviors Jim Bruner and Mary Rose Wilcox were also key proponents of baseball in Phoenix, aligning themselves with Garagiola's group. A firestorm of local controversy was the result. Many area residents did not want public tax money used for a sports team. However, just as many residents felt that by the early 1990's, Phoenix had finally "arrived" as a major American city and deserved a Major League Baseball team.
All this was after a previous attempt was mounted by Martin Stone, owner of the Phoenix Firebirds, the city's Triple-A minor league baseball team and an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. In the late 1980's Stone approached St. Louis (football) Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill about sharing a proposed 70,000 seat domed stadium in Phoenix; Bidwill, with plans already in the works to leave St. Louis, opted instead to sign a long term lease with Arizona State University to use its Sun Devil Stadium as the home of his soon-to-be Arizona based NFL franchise, thus ending Stone's bid.
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Colangelo's group was ultimately successful. On March 9, 1995, the city of Phoenix was awarded the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise for play beginning in the 1998 season, along with plans for a new retractable-roof ballpark, Bank One Ballpark (renamed in 2005 to Chase Field) to be built in an industrial/warehouse district on the southern edge of downtown Phoenix. The name "Diamondbacks" was the winning choice in a name-the-team contest sponsored by Colangelo's group, which took out a full page ad promoting the contest in the sports section of the February 13, 1995 edition of the Arizona Republic. (The group was known as "Arizona Baseball, Inc." and seemed reasonably confident that a franchise would be awarded.) First prize was a pair of lifetime season tickets awarded to the person who submitted the winning entry.
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An estimated crowd of 300,000 celebrated at the Diamondbacks victory parade, held at Bank One Ballpark and the surrounding downtown Phoenix streets on November 7, 2001. This was the first major professional sports championship for the state of Arizona and the first for a team (in the four major North American professional sports leagues) owned or controlled by Colangelo, whose basketball Suns made it to the NBA Finals in 1976 and 1993 but lost both times. (Colangelo's Arizona Rattlers won the Arena Football League championship in 1994 and 1997.)
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Following the 2004 season, the Diamondbacks also hired Wally Backman to be the team's manager. Backman was formerly manager of the Class A California League Lancaster JetHawks, one of the Diamondbacks' minor-league affilliates. Backman was fired after management learned of legal troubles and improprieties in Backman's past, and former Seattle Mariners manager and Giants catcher Bob Melvin became the new manager after a ten-day tenure for Backman.Following the Backman incident, the Diamondbacks spent heavily on free agents in order to build a contender. The club signed 3B Troy Glaus, P Russ Ortiz, SS Royce Clayton, and 2B Craig Counsell, among others. Then, they traded Randy Johnson to the Yankees, while acquiring Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey and Shawn Green in a three-team trade that included the Dodgers, and sent Shea Hillenbrand to the Blue Jays. Finally, they traded Casey Fossum to the Devil Rays for José Cruz, Jr..
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The Diamondbacks were considered by some to be the favorite to win the division after spending big money on the aforementioned free agents; however, injuries hurt the team's chances of reaching its expected potential. Starting pitcher Ortiz was out for some time which really hurt the pitching staff. Glaus played with a hurt knee all season. Of all the free agents that signed before the season, no one had a better season than first baseman Tony Clark. Clark started the season as a bench player and ended the season starting and being an important part of the team. Clark was rewarded with a new contract at the end of the season.
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By the 2004 season, however, the Diamondbacks had dropped to a dismal 51-111 record, the worst in Major League Baseball that year, despite Johnson pitching a perfect game on May 18 of that season. Brenly was fired partway through the season and was replaced on an interim basis by coach Al Pedrique. By this time Colangelo and the other partners were embroiled in a dispute over the financial health and direction of the Diamondbacks. He resigned his managing general partner post in the late summer of 2004.
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Just a little more than a year after signing him to a four-year, $45 million contract, the Diamondbacks traded third baseman Troy Glaus along with Minor Leaguer Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for second baseman Orlando Hudson, a Gold Glove award recipient in 2005, and right-handed pitcher Miguel Batista, a member of the Diamondbacks from 2001-2003, including the 2001 World Series team.
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The D-Backs defeat the White Sox by a score of 9-2 in their first game of the Cactus League season. The game was played at Tucson Electric Park, the spring training home for both teams (the Sox were the home team). 3B Chad Tracy had 2 runs on 2 hits (went 2 for 2), both of his singles coming on line drives up the middle. Starting pitcher Miguel Batista pitched well as he allowed just one run -- on a wild pitch -- in his two innings. P Russ Ortiz, whom the team is hoping for a comeback season after a disappointing 2005, also was effective as he allowed just one hit over two innings.
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The primary television play-by-play voice is Thom Brennaman, who also broadcasts baseball games nationally for FOX Television. Brennaman was the TV announcer for the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds (along with his father Marty Brennaman) before being hired by Diamondbacks founder Jerry Colangelo in 1996, two years before the team would begin play. Greg Schulte is the regular radio play-by-play voice, a 25-year veteran of sports radio in the Phoenix market, also well known for his previous work on Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State University (ASU) broadcasts.
Jeff Munn is a backup radio play-by-play announcer and serves as the regular public address announcer at Chase Field. He is well-known to many Phoenix area sports fans, having also served as the public address announcer for the Suns at America West Arena (now US Airways Center) in the 1990's. He is also the play-by-play radio voice for ASU women's basketball.