A Scottsdale Giant Gets His Due: Don Carson

The Cactus League gives us all a chance to get out in the sun before it gets too warm, to have a few brews and check out some baseball with friends and family. Every once in a while it also offers a few surprises, such as an opportunity to recognize a local icon and his contributions to the area.

The Cactus League recently announced new entrants to its Hall of Fame, and Don Carson made it in this year. The name might not immediately jump out at you, but you have probably had your life impacted by his accomplishments, especially if you have been in Scottsdale for a long time.

Carson came here from Chicago and quickly made a major imprint in the city. He soon opened up his famous trio of restaurants, the Pink Pony, Don and Charlie’s, and the Italian Grotto. While all three became mainstays for Cactus League tourists and Scottsdalians alike, it was Don and Charlie’s, which Carson purchased in 1981, that turned into one of the most iconic institutions in Scottsdale’s history.

Anyone who has been to Don and Charlie’s knows precisely why it is so intrinsically tied to baseball: because Carson is a huge baseball aficionado, and the walls were lined with memorabilia. It was in and of itself a bit of a baseball museum. It was so stuffed with baseball history that it became a target: sadly, thieves stole an estimated $600,000 in signed baseball from Major League Baseball’s biggest names in 2019, an event that the restaurant never seemed to truly rebound from.

The same year, Don and Charlie’s closed up shop for good, and Carson sold the land. The building has since been repurposed into a boutique hotel, exemplifying both the beautiful ghosts of Scottsdale’s past as well as the constant need for that which is fresh and new.

Carson remains active in Scottsdale life, and is currently a member of the Scottsdale Charros. And even though the restaurant is gone, Carson’s dedication and passion for the game, as well as providing a venue that was beloved by players, coaches, fans and media alike, is finally properly recognized and very well deserved.