Baseball in the Desert … nothing new under the “Sonoran Sun!”
What, Cyndy are you talking about here? Well, March IS Cactus League in the Sonoran Desert. Spring has sprung and the “crack of the bat” resounds in every suburb of the Metro Phoenix Valley of the Sun (with a few more teams joining them within the next few years!). Yes, it is a financial boom to our tourism base, restaurants, hotels, airlines, transportation companies, not to mention the teams themselves. But is also brings in close to 3 billion charitable dollars from the leagues! Long after the crack of the bat has quieted, youngsters of every age on on the fields for baseball and soccer. In some areas, they would not have these fields at all, but thanks to the leagues, they have invested in our youth out here and in our community. The Diamondbacks of AZ sponsor the Inter-Tribal baseball and softball tournaments which host Native Americans from all over the country.
They also invest in beautiful parks that reflect not only the flora of the Sonoran Desert, but they use solar, offer free water-refill stations for your water bottles, and the Rockies/Diamondback stadium (picture on right) is built with a lot of reclaim wood, iron, and other reusable building materials.! Responsible watering for both the fields and the plants is a constant for the stadiums as well. It is good for the desert and of course, it is good for the pocketbook!
But long before the glitzy stadiums, even the early days of Americana baseball, our local native tribes had their own forms of baseball. Stick & Ball, and most popular was a form of La Crosse that actually inspired today’s softball games! Like all kids, outdoor games were both fun, educational, and healthy. When pioneers moved west they adopted some of those ball games that we now have adopted as baseball, basketball, football and hockey. As always, the wisdom of the ancients speak to the next generation. Here are a few names that rose to fame in the very early days of baseball: Ed Summers, Chief Meyers, Chief Chouneau, Paddy Mayes, Mike Balenti, Frank Harter, Jim Thorpe, Chief Johnson, Ben Tincup, Jim Bluejacket, Mack Wheat, Chief Yellow Horse, and Chief Youngblood.
And speaking of that, we close this blurb with a very special “baseball theme” from, of all places-and a favorite of mine-Bisbee Arizona! Enjoy the pictures and the info from the Warren Ballpark historical archives.
Bisbee, Arizona boasts an exciting piece of baseball history. It is home to the Warren Ballpark, considered the oldest continuously used professional baseball venue in the country. The field was built in 1909, five years before Wrigley Field in Chicago!
Baseball was an important pastime in early Arizona, with many mining camps forming teams before becoming towns. Tombstone formed a team as early as 1880. For decades, Bisbee teams would play in loosely organized leagues against teams from Fort Bowie and Fort Huachuca, Tombstone, Morenci, and longtime archrivals in Douglas.
On November 7, 1913, the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox were the first big-leaguers to hit the Warren Ballpark, playing a post-season game as a stop on a thirteen nation global tour. Native American player Jim Thorpe, still legendary for his strength, speed, and endurance, literally hit the ball out of the park for a memorable home run.
Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians, part of the Orange League and later the Cactus League, stood on the diamond regularly between the 1910s and the 1950s. Sometimes these teams would face each other in exhibition games. Often, the barnstorming team would play a local team, as did the Cubs on April 5, 1919.
In 1928, the Warren Ballpark was the home turf for the Bisbee Bees, one of four teams constituting Arizona’s minor league that included the Miami Miners, Tucson Waddies, and Phoenix Senators. In 1930, a team from El Paso was added and the group was renamed the Arizona-Texas League. Financial woes sparked by the Great Depression ushered the collapse of the league in 1932. But baseball has never left Bisbee, the Warren Ballpark has been upgraded and is in use for games and community gatherings and is alive with “the crack of the bat!”