Book: “Who is Gym”

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Ever wonder how a high school sports facility got its name? A local author answers those questions for high school stadiums and gyms in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Corporations pay big money to see their names on the sides of stadiums and arenas. But in high school sports the naming of a field is a much more humble and meaningful story. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Langston Fields introduces us to a Phoenix author answering the question who is Jim.

Video: By day Scott Hanson runs a successful public relations company. But during high school football season he trades in his suits for stripes as a head referee. It was at one of those games that Hanson found his newest venture.

Scott Hanson: I have been officiating high school sports in Arizona for 30 years. Three years ago my football crew and I arrived at a high school, it was Cactus High School and I looked up at the stadium and saw the name. It was M.L. Huber stadium. I asked the guy in the parking lot, who is M.L. Huber? He didn't know. Next week, our crew arrived at another high school, Independence High School, Friday night, it says POLMACHOV stadium. I asked the guy in the parking lot, who is that? He didn't know.

Video: Hanson loves history and a challenge so he decided to do a little research and find out the who and why football fields and gymnasiums are named for. What emerged after three long years is the book, Who Is Jim?

Scott Hanson: Really what's happened is all of these facilities in Arizona, many of them were named for people a long, long time ago and it's become lost Arizona history.


Video: His request has taken him all over, from parker to Thatcher, from Flagstaff to Nogales. In Bisbee he found the answer to Warren field.

Scott Hanson: George Warren was an old prospector back in the 1800s. He discovered the copper queen mine. He passed away before he had a chance to make any money from that mining operation but the people around him that knew him enough named that ballpark Warren ballpark. There's a little more about George Warren. Think about the seal of the state of Arizona. There's a prospector holding a shovel. That's George Warren.

There are fields dedicated to military personnel. McClintock high in Tempe is named after a member of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders member James McClintock. McClintock was in the first graduating class of what is now known as Arizona State University.

Scott Hanson: In Winslow, Arizona, they have the Jay Vargas baseball field. Well Jay
Vargas was a Vietnam War hero, received a medal of honor while he was in Vietnam. That's so important to not only Winslow but to Arizona and the United States in general. We just can't forget some of those stories that are really a part of what makes Arizona such a great place.

Video: Hanson met many challenges along the way.

Scott Hanson: Much of it had to do with the people at the schools today don't know the history of their own schools.

Video: And discovered that sometimes the most obvious answer is the wrong one.

Scott Hanson: I grew up right here in Phoenix. I always thought greenway high school was named that because it's on greenways road. But come to find out in my research Isabella greenway was the first congressional representative from Arizona and her husband John was a copper executive who founded Ajo, Arizona.

Video: But when it came to his own Alma matter, Washington High School, that was perhaps the easiest one of all. The field is named for Coach Tom Hagel. Hanson played ball for Coach Hagel. In all who is Jim highlights 200 fields and gymnasiums. And despite the varied stories, Hanson says the honorees have one common thread.

Scott Hanson: I think what I really found in doing the research is that the people who are included in the book are or were the fabric of their community. They had such an influence on the student athletes that they coached, the kids that they taught, the community at large, whichever small town or large town that they lived in they were so important to that particular area that we have memorialized them forever with the names of schools and gyms and those types of things.

Ted Simons: You can find copies of who is Jim at appropriately enough whoisjim.com.

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Scott Hanson: Phoenix author

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