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Play Ball

11-3-times-past

This ragtag group of unnamed boys poses on a porch in Bisbee with a glove, a bat and four sad-looking baseballs. Pick-up baseball was all the rage, and this team is a testament to the nation’s fervor for baseball at the turn of the last century.

A group of Bisbee boys might only come together for a game or two, but what they lacked in training, they made up for in enthusiasm. Rivalry was intense, and games often ended in fisticuffs. In that, the boys were only following the example of their elders.

Almost every adult group had a team, and rivalry abounded. The north side played the south side, the pipe fitters challenged the boilermakers and even conservative Bank of Bisbee crossed bats with the Miner and Merchants Bank.

The bartenders played the mechanics, the brokers played the merchants, the Copper Queen engineers played the Calumet and Arizona technical department and the Free Coinage Saloon slugged it out with the folks at the Orient Saloon.

The married and unmarried men of Warren formed teams called the Benedicts and the Bachelors. Each team fielded players of star quality. Benedict C.G. Adsit (the Benedict of the Benedicts) had played at the University of Chicago; A.R. Malone, captain and centerfielder for the Bachelors, had played for the Chicago Black Stockings.

Malone kept his men on a tight leash. The Sunday wedding plans of a bachelor team member were moved to Monday when captain Malone encouraged (with the help of an $8 bribe) the player and prospective groom to rethink his commitments.

Another player yearned to see his girlfriend in Tucson. Malone wired her a train ticket to Bisbee, and the Bachelors won their game.

A team from the Irish Mag Mine challenged the Bachelors, then trounced them 11 to 4. Malone left the game early when, as described in the Bisbee Review, having misunderstood “instructions from the bleachers to keep his eye on the ball (he) made a serious mistake and got the ball on his eye.”

A team of hustling youngsters named the Bisbee Rubes whipped the Naco Athletic club at Bakerville 12 to 9. But when another team of Bisbee boys named the White Sox lost at Tombstone, they protested. The Tombstone team, they claimed, were mostly men.

In 1908, the Bisbee town team accepted a challenge from a group of senior players. The veterans, dubbed the “Has Beens,” recruited the opposing pitcher with a $5 bribe, but lost the game anyway. The game included fistfights, and was described by the local newspaper as a “farce of fighting and wrangling.”

In Lowell, a game between E.B. Mason’s wagon Works and the Bisbee Lumber Company team proved a poor exhibition. The buggy makers scored 19 runs in the first two innings and eventually amassed 34 runs in a lopsided win. One player lost a fingernail; another lost his temper. The newspaper reported the game was umpired just as it was played – poorly.

Arizona’s elite Rangers even fielded a team. They soundly defeated a picked squad from Bisbee in a game played at Naco. Harry Wheeler played star-quality ball as he drove in a run and made a dazzling catch that stopped a line drive on its way to Mexico.

But it was Ranger Chase, just returned from scouting patrol, who cinched the game for the Rangers. Looking cool after his long ride, Chase struck out 23 batters to lead his team to a 6 to 5 win in 10 innings.

The game advanced in good humor. The Bisbee squad joked that the Rangers all wore their six-shooters and forced the umpire to call strikes when the pitch was an obvious ball a mile over the player’s head.

Local saloon owners watched the event and bought a round of beer for the boys after the game.

Photo courtesy Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, Lea Collection; research by Tom Vaughan. (C)Arizona Capitol Times.

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