|(c) International Baseball Foundation 2013
OUTLAWS IN THE OLD SOUTHWEST
Before Organized Baseball came to stay in 1928 with the founding of the Class D Arizona State League, outlaws
ruled the playing fields of the southwest. These were not desperadoes with six-shooters, but men who for whatever
reason were unable to secure contracts with teams in organized ball. What we now call independent leagues, such
as the 2003 Arizona-Mexico League, and current Mexican Rookie League, were then known as outlaw leagues,
because like todayâ€™s indies they were outside the National Association, and thus beyond the control of Major
League baseball. The Douglas Blues of the 1925 Frontier League and 1926 Copper League lived up to the outlaw
moniker by hiring players banned from Organized Baseball to play and manage, in the persons of the notorious Hal
Chase and members of the Chicago Black Sox.
Although acquitted in a court of law, seven members of the 1919 American League champion Chicago White Sox
were banned for life--and beyond, as Shoeless Joe Jackson's inexcusable exclusion from the Hall of Fame attests--
for their varying roles in throwing that year's World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Chase was never officially banned,
but he was blackballed from ever playing again due to his suspected involvement in the incident, although he was
playing for the New York Giants at the time. He was one of the greatest first basemen ever, but he was widely
thought to be a dishonest player. After newly-appointed commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis announced the
bans on the Black Sox players in August, 1920, Chase became a pariah.
Hal Chase first appeared on the Arizona baseball scene in 1923 as player-manager of the Nogales Internationals, in
spite of American League president Ban Johnson's attempt to get the Mexican embassy in Washington to prevent
him from playing for a team partly-owned by the ex-governor of Sonora. After stints in Williams and Jerome the
following season, he landed a spot with the Douglas team for 1925 as a player, soon adding the position of manager
to his duties. It was a controversial hire throughout the league. Locals who opposed Chase due to his outlaw status
were initially quite vocal, and his borrowed car was vandalized when he parked it near the border for a visit to Agua
Prieta. The flamboyant "Prince Hal" lived quietly, sometimes with his son Hal Jr., rooming at the home of Dr. Oscar
and Dorothy Weeks at 1305 11th Street.
Chase eventually hired three Black Sox to play for the Blues: Buck Weaver, Chick Gandil, and Lefty Williams. Gandil
had played for Cananea in the Cactus League before his Major League tenure. He and Weaver, second baseman
and shortstop respectively, along with Chase at first and Cowboy Ruiz from the disbanded Internationals at third,
gave Douglas an infield to rival the best anywhere during the second half of the season. The Black Sox and Chase
came to be admired locally for their great skill as players, but were remembered as rough characters who hung out
at the Smokehouse and B&P pool halls on G Avenue. Douglas lost the second half championship in a controversial
manner, and with it a chance to play in the Frontier League final playoff series, losing a one-game tiebreaker to the
eventual champion Juarez Indians on October 1 while claiming to have won the second half outright.
The biggest news in 1926 was made my one of the Black Sox who didn't play in the league. Joe Jackson visited the
southwest and negotiated with both El Paso and Ft. Bayard, but never signed. Weaver was hired as Douglas player-
manager for the 1926 season in the re-named Copper League, with Chase retained as a player only, but he soon
relinquished his managerial duties. Chase was allegedly involved with a gambler from Lordsburg in an unsuccessful
attempt to fix a game in favor of opposing Juarez. Gandil had played for Fort Bayard in the 1925 post-season, and
remained there as first baseman in 1926, joined by outfielder Jimmy O'Connell, who was banned from Organized
Baseball for trying to throw a game while with the New York Giants two years earlier.
Black Sox pitcher Lefty Williams began the season with Douglas, but was ineffective and soon signed with Ft.
Bayard. He took Gandil's spot on the roster when the latter was released after being chased off the field by bat-
wielding teammate O'Connell. The normally good-natured O'Connell snapped after Gandil, an ex-boxer, continued
to ride him about his play. Gandil then signed with the Chino team as a player-manager for the remainder of the
season, while O'Connell became the dominant hitter in the league, batting .558 with 12 home runs, and led by him
and Williams, Ft. Bayard won the league title. Gandil led Chino to a strong second place showing in the second half,
while Douglas limped in at third in each half.
Chase remained in Douglas in 1927, unable to play due to a knee injury suffered the previous season except for a
brief stint with El Paso, and held a job as a salesman with a Douglas car dealership at least through 1928. O'Connell
stayed in Ft. Bayard as a player after the league disbanded, remaining there until the mid-1930s, and achieved a
great reputation in the Silver City area as an organizer of youth baseball teams. With the demise of independent
league baseball in the area following the 1927 season, true "outlaw" ball disappeared from the southwest.
|BISBEE-DOUGLAS COPPER KINGS
2003 PROFESSIONAL TEAM
ORIGINAL STRUCTURE 1909
COPPER KING STADIUM
ORIGINAL STRUCTURE 1915
A TALE OF TWO BALLPARKS
Bisbee's Warren Ballpark may be the oldest ballpark in the country still used for baseball. It was opened more
than a year before Rickwood Field in Birmingham, which the Friends of Rickwood preservation group and the
National Park Service refer to as America's oldest ballpark. Bisbee played El Paso on June 27, 1909 in the first
contest at Warren, while Birmingham took on Montgomery to open Rickwood on August 18, 1910. The Arizona
venue was built by the Warren Company, a subsidiary of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company (absorbed by
Phelps Dodge in 1931) which was created in 1907 to develop Warren as a company town. Not coincidentally, the
ballpark was the last stop on the streetcar line, which was also owned by the Warren Company. The first tenants
were mining company teams and other semi-pro and amateur organizations. The Bisbee Miners of the 1926-27
independent Copper League called Warren home, as did the Bisbee clubs in the various National Association
leagues that played in the region from 1928 to 1955.
Highlights of Bisbee's nineteen seasons in Organized Baseball included two disputed championships in 1929 and
1930, and the start of a classic feud in 1947. In 1929, the Bisbee Bees squared off against the Miami Miners in the
Arizona State League playoffs. Bisbee entered the series with a .667 winning percentage, the best in the minors that
year. In the seventh and deciding game of the championship series, Bisbee was leading in the ninth inning at Miami
when home team supporters stormed the field and the game was declared "no contest". The following season the
Bees won the second-half championship, but were again denied a chance to win the title on the field. Facing a
seventh game in Bisbee in the final playoff series, Globe refused to take the field, and the Bees were awarded the
victory by forfeit and with it the league title.
Two New York Yankee farmhands began in 1947 what would become a feud that would last for years. The rivalry
started when shortstop Billy Martin of the independent Phoenix Senators sought revenge after Bisbee Yanks catcher
Clint Courtney spiked Martin's manager and double-play partner, Senator second sacker Alton Biggs, Retaliatory
spiking, a fistfight, and just plain brawling continued throughout the season, The feud spilled over into the majors
and lasted into the 1950s, when Billy played for the Yankees and Clint for the St. Louis Browns and Washington
Perhaps the two greatest seasons for individual Bisbee players occurred in 1930 and 1931. Tony Antista hit .430
and Johnny Keane batted .408 in those successive years, leading not only the Arizona State League but all of minor
league baseball. Antista and Len Rodriguez, who matched his mark in 1954 while playing for Cananea, are tied for
the league single season league record and also rank 19th all time in the minor leagues, with records having been
kept for 120 years.
The most important historical event to take place at the Warren Ballpark has nothing to do with baseball. In 1917,
the radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) called a strike of Bisbee copper miners, which was
especially controversial due to the high demand for copper to be used in World War I. The work stoppage triggered
a roundup of miners, their supporters, and even tradesmen who had done business with them. In the early morning
on July 12, a posse led by the notorious Indian-killer sheriff Harry Wheeler marched nearly 2000 people (three of
them women) to the company-owned ballpark and held them there under armed guard. The women were released in
short order and almost any man who promised to return to work or was vouched for by a respectable citizen was
allowed to return home. The remaining 1200 people were loaded onto cattle cars of the Phelps Dodge's owned El
Paso and southwestern Railroad and taken away to be abandoned in the desert near the small New Mexico
settlement of Hermanas. The Victims of what is known as the Bisbee Deportation were saved by the US Army, which
President Woodrow Wilson had refused to allow to intervene in the strike, but they were not permitted to return to
Copper King Stadium opened in 1948, completely rebuilt for the return of Organized Baseball to Douglas. But this
park is also an historical relic, being where baseball had long been played in the border city. Known simply as the
Douglas Diamond or Douglas Field, it played host to professional baseball as early as 1913, when the New York
Giants and Chicago White Sox squared off as part of their around-the-world tour. Douglas was a member of the Rio
Grande Association in 1915 as part the National Association's initial foray into the Southwest. Semi-pro ball was the
bill of fare for the next decade. The old diamond had its glory days in the 1920s, when the Douglas Blues of the
independent Frontier and Copper Leagues featured "outlaws" who had been banned from organized ball.
What was then known as Douglas Stadium debuted on May 2, 1948, as the Bisbee-Douglas Javelinas played an
Arizona State League doubleheader against the Juarez Indios. Pitcher Russ Kusmertz hit a three-run homer in the
initial contest. The ballpark had been scheduled to open the previous week, but it was not ready on time and the
intended stadium opener was switched to Bisbee. Bisbee had operated as the area's lone franchise in the Arizona
State and Arizona-Texas League for the previous two decades, but diminishing attendance had dictated that the
team split its season between Bisbee and Douglas. Club owner J.C. Agajanian of San Pedro, CA, better known for
his involvement in auto racing, make the commitment to Douglas, and for the next eight years the usual three-game
series were typically split between the two communities, with the first game in the town, the next in the other, and
back to the last venue for the third game.
The ballclub was renamed the Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings in 1949, and the Douglas park acquired its current
name. After the 1955 season, Bisbee lost its share of the franchise. From 1956 to 1958, Copper King Stadium was
the home of the Douglas Copper Kings. The team folded along with the Arizona-Mexico League in 1958, leaving
Bisbee and Douglas without pro ball until the league was revived in 2003. But the two venerable ballparks remained
in use for school sports. Warren Ballpark is currently owned by the Bisbee Unified School District, and Copper King
Stadium is owned by the city of Douglas. With the revival of professional baseball this season, the Bisbee-Douglas
Copper Kings have begun restoration work which should assure that the two grand old parks remain in prime
playing condition for many years to come.
David Skinner - Bisbee, Arizona - 2003
THERE IS A NEW TEAM IN TOWN!
The Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs, entering their forth year of play, has
announced that they have reached an agreement with Bisbee USD to play games at
Historic Warren Ballpark. The new professional team will be known as the Bisbee Blue.
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