10/23 Mesa’s Robert Brinton dead at 60

Robert Brinton, a key force in keeping the Cubs in Arizona, died unexpectedly on Friday. A past Cactus League Association president, Brinton was not feeling well in his office at the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said when Brinton failed to return from the restroom, another employee found him slumped over. He was 60.

“I was just absolutely stunned,” Smith told the Arizona Republic. “I lost a friend, a co-worker, a giant.”

Brinton and Smith partnered to save the Cubs from a potential move to Naples, Fla. The two men campaigned together for approval of a Mesa ballot measure that approved financing for a new Cubs Spring Training complex at the present site of Riverview Golf Course, near the interchange of Loops 101 and 202 in west Mesa.

“Everything he did was for the love of his community and people,” Smith said. “He gave selflessly because he believed in it. He was that kind of person.”

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement that Brinton helped persuade him to keep the Cubs in Arizona after he bought the team in 2009.

“Robert was as passionate a Cubs fan as there ever was,” Ricketts said in a statement. “His love for baseball helped fuel the success of the Cactus League through more than five decades. His leadership this past year is a big part of the reason our team is staying in Mesa, and his legacy to future generations will be evident each spring as the Cubs take the field. He was a true friend and we will miss him dearly.”

Former Arizona Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola Jr. said Brinton’s respectful manner and credibility helped persuade the Cubs to stay in Mesa in 1989, when the league had eight teams and was endangered. He said the Cubs were listening to Florida politicians, who were hoping to lure the remaining teams to their state.

“The debt that the Cactus League owes Robert Brinton is immeasurable,” Garagiola said. “Everyone who knew him has a hole in their heart today.”

Brinton served as president of the Cactus League Association for two years, but he was a board member for 20 years. He also was executive director of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau and the past president of the Mesa HoHoKams, a civic group that performs many functions at Hohokam Stadium during games.

Under Brinton’s leadership and through his tireless efforts, “the Cactus League exploded into a 15-team league that rivals the Super Bowl in economic importance,” said Dave Dunne, the league’s treasurer and manager of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the spring home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. The Cactus League drew more than 1.5 million fans this year and had an estimated economic impact of $360 million.

Dunne said Brinton was “this generation’s Dwight Patterson,” the hotelier who helped found the Cactus League by luring the Cubs to Mesa in 1952.

“Heaven’s baseball team just added another player,” said Mark Gallo, current HoHoKam stadium manager. “I loved the man.”

Brinton is survived by his wife, Nannette, and seven adult children. Services are pending.

– Carrie Muskat

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