Vintage Base Ball Event Honors Bisbee’s Forgotten Black Teams

More than a century has passed since Thomas “Blue” Webster and Roy Jones put on cleats and took the field at Bisbee’s Warren Ballpark, but they and their African American teammates will be remembered for their contributions to local baseball history during this year’s Ninth Annual Copper City Classic Vintage Base Ball Tournament, scheduled for April 7 and 8.

Nine teams, dressed in period uniforms and playing the game of base ball as it existed when Abraham Lincoln first ran for president, will take part in the event at Bisbee’s 108-year-old ballpark. This year’s two-day tournament will commemorate early Bisbee’s black town teams, the “Buffalo Soldiers” teams of the 10th U.S. Cavalry and 25th U.S. Infantry Regiments that played in Bisbee, as well as the men who broke professional baseball’s color barrier as members of the Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings minor league ball club at Warren Ballpark during the 1951 season.

Gates open at 9 a.m. both days. Tournament action gets underway at 9:30 a.m. and will continue through early evening. This year’s tournament, featuring eight teams from the Arizona Territories Vintage Base Ball League and a travelling team from the Colorado Vintage Base Ball league, will include night games – a first for the event.

Vintage base ball is played without gloves, using an 1870-style lemon peel ball. Similar to modern baseball, the game also has some archaic rules that make it fun to watch and to play.

The tournament is hosted by the Friends of Warren Ballpark, a non-profit organization tasked with raising funds to renovate and improve the Bisbee Unified School District’s historic baseball and football facility. All proceeds from the event will go towards projects to upgrade Warren Ballpark, which was constructed in 1909 and has been in continuous use since.

Tickets for a single day cost $10. A two-day ticket costs $15. Children 12 years and under will be admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. Tickets can be purchased on line on the tickets page or at the gate on April 7 and 8.