El Inde Arizona
The Copper City Classic, a two-day vintage baseball tournament using the rules, uniforms and equipment from the 1860s, returns to Bisbee this weekend.
Nine teams will compete in games on Saturday, April 1, and Sunday, April 2, at Bisbee’s historic Warren Ballpark, on the corner of Arizona Street and Ruppe Avenue. Seven of the teams are from Arizona and one each from California and Colorado, according to organizers.
The teams will play nine games on Saturday and four on Sunday, with each game limited to an hour time limit. Clubs will be allowed to finish their inning if time runs out and the two teams are in the middle of play. Players will not wear gloves and the games will follow the rules in place in the 1860s including the quirky one in which a ground ball has to bounce more than once or the batter is out.
It should be a nice weekend for baseball; the Weather Channel forecasts a high of 75 Saturday and 77 on Sunday, with limited clouds and, so far, no chance of rain.
“It’ll be a perfect day for a ballgame.” said Mike Anderson, historian for the event’s host Friends of Warren Ballpark.
As a founding member, Anderson, 69, has been helping run the event since its inception in 2009. The tournament has occurred every year since with the exception of 2020 and 2021, when it was canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, with proceeds benefiting ongoing renovations and maintenance of the ballpark.
Anderson says Warren Ballpark, now standing at 113 years old, is the oldest multi-sport facility in the country. Bisbee Unified School District owns the park and uses it for soccer, baseball and football.
With its age comes natural wear and tear. The aim of the Friends of Warren Ballpark is to raise money through donations and events like the Copper City Classic to support renovations and upkeep while also preserving the historical significance that makes the park so special.
“Bisbee is frozen in time… our ballpark is no different,” Anderson said. “It looks almost exactly the way it did in the 1950s. That’s one of the charms of being in our ballpark.”
“If we could bring players back to life, like in the ‘Field of Dreams’ movie, they would say that nothing has changed,” he added.
In recent years the organization has helped to renovate the bathrooms, making them ADA compliant; replace the wood fencing on the walls of the field; and implement a new electronic scoreboard. But the overall ballpark has remained eerily similar to its original construction.
Anderson and the Friends of Warren Ballpark hope to have somewhere around 1,000 guests attending this year’s games, which would be 200 more than last year.
The Bisbee ballpark has a rich history. Eighteen Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees have played, umpired or coached at the ballpark. It’s been home to several professional minor league teams and hosted the infamous Chicago Black Sox team after it was barred from professional play because of its 1919 World Series scandal.
The ballpark also has a few connections to the University of Arizona including being the high school home of John Button Salmon, the famous quarterback for the university who on his deathbed in 1926 advised his teammates to “bear down.”
During this weekend’s event, the Copper City Classic also will honor Jesse Flores, the first Mexican-born pitcher in MLB history who spent part of his professional career in Bisbee. Flores signed with the Chicago Cubs, which sent him to Bisbee in the late 1930s.
He led the Class D Arizona-Texas League in wins, with a 24-6 record and an earned run average of 2.38, according to the Society for American Baseball.
If You Go
What: Copper City Classic
Featuring: Nine baseball teams wearing uniforms and using equipment from the 1860s will compete in games that go by the 1860s rules
When: 10 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 1, and Sunday, April 2
Where: Warren Ballpark, 300 Ruppe Ave., Bisbee
Tickets: $10 a day, $15 for both days; kids 12 and younger free with paid adult