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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Historic Warren Ball Park

Warren Ball Park in Bisbee, AZ (about an hour and a half’s drive southeast of Tucson) is the oldest operational multi-use sports park in the U.S. The first ballgame recorded is June 27, 1909 when the El Paso Browns matched up against the Bisbee Beautiful. And yes, ball park was spelt as two words back in the day.

Sitting at the corner of Ruppe Ave and Arizona St, the stadium is not built in the downtown area of Bisbee (now known as Old Historic Bisbee) but in the at-the-time, very affluent Warren District just a few miles south of downtown. Downtown was (and is) just too hilly to build a stadium.

When arrangements began in the early 1900’s for a ballpark, more and more copper was discovered when inspection began at other potential sites in the neighboring area. That, due to the financial impact and income, took precedence. Bisbee was once known as the “Queen of Copper Camps.”

The ball park, first built of wood, was purposely designed to accommodate baseball, football, and a variety of other sports. Phelps Dodge (a former copper mining company) first owned the ballpark, and after the depression by the mid-1930’s, the park showed its age. In order to get WPA funding, Phelps Dodge sold the then-unused, deteriorating ballpark (it shut down during the depression) to the Bisbee Unified School District for $10.

Subsequently, in 1936/37, the venue received a renovation that included adding plumbing, a hot water heater, restrooms, locker rooms and offices enclosed in raw adobe main walls, a concrete grandstand, and a fence surrounding the park.

Warren Ball Park Hallway – 1936/1937 Renovation, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Warren Ball Park Urinals – The hope is to one day get these restored and used for museum artifacts

Warren Ball Park hosted a slew of teams and leagues dating back to 1909: Arizona State League Bisbee Bee’s, minor league Bisbee Yanks, mining company leagues, town teams, outlaw baseball – known as the Copper League, semipro leagues, spring training/exhibition games, and barnstorming matches. And in addition to baseball, it hosted captivating soccer, football, cricket, rugby, and softball contests. Its last, though unsuccessful, professional team was the Bisbee Blue of the Pecos League in 2014.

Warren Ball Park Grandstand – First Base Side, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Deportation 1917

The ballpark was used in a horrific event on July 12, 1917 known as the Bisbee Deportation. Copper mine strikers and their sympathizers were rounded up in the early morning and marched four miles, under armed guard, and held in the ballpark for several hours. About 1200 individuals were then herded into filthy boxcars (the trains tracks ran just behind right field at the time) and deported to New Mexico and were abandoned.

Twelve hours later, a nearby army camp provided some water and food was sent from El Paso. Most of the deportees slipped away and never returned to Bisbee. It was a turning event in the town’s history and boosted pro-labor union efforts across the country.

Striking miners and others rounded up by the armed posse on July 12, 1917, sit in the bleachers in Warren Ball Park. Armed members of the posse patrol the infield (University of Arizona Library)

Performed two years ago, an archaeology dig/undertaking along the first and third baselines took place as part of a community college and high school training project. Amongst other items, recovered and analyzed were mason jars, and based on old photographs, archeologists verified cars used to park along those baselines during Prohibition. That “parking arrangement” allowed fans to watch games from their cars while being able to drink their own moonshine.

Cars parked along the baseline during Prohibition at Warren Ball Park, Photo Courtesy of Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum

Today, the Bisbee high school baseball and football teams continue to use the field. I’m told the second biggest high school football rivalry played in the U.S. is played here between the Bisbee Pumas and the Douglas Bulldogs.

Each season, a crowd-pleasing vintage baseball game, called the Copper Classic, is hosted and proceeds go towards the Friends of Warren Ball Park to help with upgrades and maintenance to the park the school district is just not able to provide. Other successful events the park hosts are Mariachi Festivals, mining safety classes, wild west shows and a circus or two have also been held here.

Warren Ball Park View From Home – Football bleachers and goal post are seen in the outfield

Bisbee is a quaint, historic town with a thriving arts scene and is well worth a trip. Visit the Copper Queen Mine and the Bisbee Mining & History Museum, have a beer at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company, a cup of specialty coffee at Old Bisbee Roasters, tour the art galleries and eccentric shops, and see the ballpark. The town has a few hotels and visitors will find plenty of VRBO and Airbnb places to spend a night or two.

It’s just a day trip to/from Tucson and three hours from Phoenix. Definitely a good get away for some rich history and charm. And the weather is cooler.

Special thanks to Mike Anderson, Warren Ball Park Historian, for the tour and the chat.

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