The 1925 season began on a casual basis as was the norm. El Paso was the first city to formally organize when the local businessmen met to form the club. Dr. T. J. McCament appears to have been one of the primary movers. The first order of business was to organize the funding and this was accomplished in a simple fashion. Local individuals and businesses were asked to subscribe to the team with a donation of at least $5 and no more than $10. Admission to the games was to be 50 cents and all proceeds from the concessions were to go to the club.64
Juarez, sister city to El Paso, was also likely organized along similar lines. The moving force behind the Juarez club was Raymond S. Garcia.65 Of these two Rio Grande teams little was reported of the Juarez team except for the more sensational facts. Little common information has survived in the English language papers.
Fort Bayard was organized no later than March 31 when it was announced that Dr. C. A. Couplin, of the hospital staff, was to be chairman of the club.66 Fort Bayard had been busy during the off season and had added a new pitcher to their staff. Harry (Big Train) Althouse had pitched the previous year for the Douglas team and had been a powerful pitcher.67 Althouse had probably pitched in the minor leagues, either in the Texas League or the West Texas League, or both. Local rumor held that Alhouse had beaned a batter and had been so distraught that he had quit organized baseball and had moved west. Over time he had relented and began pitching again. However he never again pitched in professional baseball. The fort hired him to work in the hospital, probably the fire department and motor pool and he stayed at Fort Bayard until he retired.68 Althouse was such a powerful and dominating pitcher during the following years that some individuals found it hard to believe that he had not been a member of a major league team and some persons came to believe that he had been a member of the Black Sox.69
During the off season the Douglas city team had also made some additions. During the first week of March, members of the Douglas club had offered the manager’s job to Hal Chase of Nogales.70 Chase was well known in Douglas, particularly for his success with the Nogales Internationals during the 1923 season. Chase had recently mad national news, by negotiating for a position as commissioner of a new Mexican League. When Chase’s hopes for working with the Mexican League dimmed, he quickly accepted the appointment as manager with Douglas.71
Douglas was well organized with Tom Glenn, chairman, J. W. Tardy, secretary and Henry T. Williams, treasurer. Douglas was very interested in joining the Copper League. However it was well known that the league, and particularly the El Paso club were opposed to the use of outlaw players. It was reported that during the 1924 season, the Santa Rita team had signed up former major leaguer Red Oldham to pitch. Santa Rita tried to sneak him into the game under the assumed name of Miller. El Paso, however, caught them at their game and refused to play if he participated.72
During the first week of April, representatives of the four cities, Douglas, El Paso, Juarez and Fort Bayard met in El Paso. Santa Rita and Bisbee had also been invited but for various reasons had not accepted. This was not popular with the fans in either of the towns, particularly in Bisbee. Apparently one of the concerns in Bisbee was the feeling that they would not be able to compete. A strongly worded editorial called for Bisbee to quit requiring its players to hold full time jobs, to solicit money and to get a good team.73
There were many issues to be determined. The most controversial issue was the request by Douglas to use Chase as manager and player. Whatever the feelings of the four clubs it was unilaterally agreed that Chase could join the Douglas team. McCament sent a letter to the team expressing the opinion in which “he heartily endorsed the selection of Chase as manager and expressed the opinion that the former major league performer would be a big drawing card not only to Douglas but to the other towns as well”74
With the Chase problem now taken care of, the league got down to the actual organization. The league was to officially be called the Frontier League. The four team organization was approved with the clubs playing a three game series on the weekends. The season was to divided into a first half and a second half with champions for each half. A league champion would then be determined from a play-off between the winners of each half. This was format that was very popular in the Texas League during this time period. Seven members were elected to the governing board. The officers were McCament as president, Simon Silva of Juarez as vice president and Tardy as treasurer. The representatives of the clubs to the board were Couplin, Glenn, Garcia and Bill Pelphrey of El Paso. Umpires were to be chosen by the league and paid by the league. A schedule was drawn up and it was decided that two games would be played each week-end. It was also decided to give first “crack” at all Mexican citizens to the Juarez club.75
With Chase now officially accepted by the league, the Douglas club announced their strategy for the year. The Chamber of Commerce was to act as the agent for the team. Chase was to be paid a monthly salary (no amount was stated), the players were to be given a cut of the gate receipts and an appeal was made to all employers of players not to cut their salaries for taking time off to play.76
At the beginning Chase had a difficult time. The first day he arrived he left his borrowed Chevrolet on the Douglas side while he visited Agua Prieta. When he returned that evening the wheels were all missing. Fortunately for him his suitcase with all of his belongings was left untouched inside the car.77 Two weeks later he received word that his mother was sick in San Jose, California. He arrived in time to be by her side when she died.78
The week-end of April 17 was to be the inaugural of the new season. El Paso was to play at Douglas and Fort Bayard was to play at Juarez. While Juarez and Fort Bayard split their two games El Paso swept both ends of the series with Douglas. The following weekend at El Paso, Douglas was again swept. It was the sixth game on the week-end of May 2 before the Douglas finally managed to win the game, beating the Fort Bayard nine after their initial five losses.
It was in the third week-end that the first major controversy of the year arose. Juarez had signed up a big, commanding, right handed, spit ball pitcher by the name of Thomas Gordon Seaton of Tucson. Seaton had been a major league pitcher from 1912 to 1914 with Philadelphia of the National League where he won sixteen games in 1912 and twenty seven in 1913. In 1914 he joined a number of other players and jumped to the Federal League where he won twenty five games for the Brooklyn club. In 1915 he split time between Brooklyn and the Newark club, winning seven games for each team. When the league folded after the 1915 season, the rights to his contract reverted to Chicago of the National League. He never regained his earlier form and won only six game in 1916 and five games in 1917. He compiled a record of ninety three wins and sixty five losses in two hundred and thirty one games in just six short years. He never played in the major leagues again.79 It is not known where Seaton went after his major league years. However by 1923 he was living in Tucson, Arizona and pitching for the Tucson Motive Power team.80 By 1925 Seaton was working for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Tucson when the Juarez team signed him to a contract.
El Paso protested that Juarez could not use Seaton as he was an “ineligible player.” Chase was to be the only “ineligible” to play because Douglas could not play in the League without him.81 This gives a strong indication that at least in the beginning the majority of the league continued to be opposed to the outlaw players and were probably coerced into accepting Chase. The nature of what made Seaton an ineligible or outlaw player was never disclosed in the media. However, one week later it was reported that Seaton had produced a letter from the San Francisco Seals club of the Pacific Coast League that released him from any contract he may have had with them.82 No further information has surfaced as to the nature of Seaton’s problem with the Pacific Coast League. During the following three years Seaton was an active participant in the Copper League, pitching for every team except Douglas and Fort Bayard, but no further mention was ever made as to his eligibility.
On the week-end of May 23 Douglas was scheduled to play Juarez in Juarez. However when the team arrived they were unable to cross the border due to technical difficulties with the immigration authorities. Fans were unable to cross and finally the game had to be canceled. The next day a double header was scheduled but had to be played in El Paso and not Juarez.83 This was to be a problem for Juarez the remainder of the season and games had to be relocated on several occasions.
By the second week of June, Seaton had been named to manager of the Juarez club and the race was between the strong clubs of Juarez and Fort Bayard. El Paso and Douglas were simply not competitive.84 Chase was commended for running the program on a “shoe-string”, but it was recognized by the club that there were insufficient funds to attract and keep quality players.85 Shortly thereafter Chase was reported as leaving for California to find new players. Chase had been a dominate player during the first half of the season. His batting average of .375 was sixth in the league. Included was twenty four hits in sixty four at bats, with seven doubles, three triples and three home runs. He was also the best fielding first baseman with a fielding percentage of .986, with 117 put outs and only two errors.86 What makes these statistics more remarkable was that Chase was forty two years old at the time.
However, in spite of Chase’s play, Douglas finished the first half with a dismal four wins and sixteen losses. El Paso was slightly better with nine wins and thirteen losses. Juarez was second with thirteen wins and nine losses. Fort Bayard was threatening to make the year a runaway with an incredible eighteen wins and only four losses.87 A quick look at the statistics indicated why Fort Bayard was so dominating. In addition to the strong pitching of Roy Johnson, the Veterans had three players, LaSalle, Ellis and Smith, all batting over .400 including LaSalle’s .424.88
In Douglas, rumors were beginning to circulate that Chase had been successful in his search for new talent. The rumors became fact when two new players appeared in town and during the second week of July, Buck Weaver appeared in uniform and it was known that Chick Gandil was quickly to follow.89 Seemingly at some time after the challenge of Seaton and June 13, Douglas received some tacit or official approval from the league to use more outlaw players. During the first week of August word reached Douglas that the Nogales Internationals had gone defunct. Chase immediately traveled to Nogales and returned with Cowboy Ruiz, a highly rated local ball player who had played for Chase in Nogales. With Chase at first, the Blues now had Gandil at second, Weaver at shortstop and Ruiz at third base, a powerful infield by any standard.
With the infusion of these new players the race for the second half crown reversed itself from the first half. Only El Paso continued its losing ways. Fort Bayard fell on hard times and had difficulty remaining at the .500 level and finally fell below .500 for the second half. The race was between the resurgent Douglas squad and a much stronger Juarez team. The major problem that appeared to keep the Douglas team from walking away with the championship was its lack of pitching. On several occasions Chase took the mound and at least once Gandil took a turn. It was the consensus of the Douglas fans that the team badly needed pitchers.90
The race went down literally to the last day and the season ended with yet another controversial act. The problem had begun on August 15 when Douglas was playing at Juarez. Juarez had been the apparent winner eight to three. However Douglas had filed a protest that one of the Juarez players named Allison had been thrown out of the game by the umpires, but had refused to leave and had completed the game. The league upheld the protest and ordered a replay of the game and scheduled it to be played as a part of the season ending series between the two teams on Friday, September 18. However, during the week before the scheduled series, Douglas sent word that they would not be able to make the game on Friday. The proposed that the two teams go ahead and play the series. Juarez had to win all three of the games in the three game series in order to have a chance to tie Douglas for the second half championship. If the replay was necessary Douglas agreed to play the game on Monday after the regular two game series. Unfortunately for Douglas, Juarez did win the needed two games. After the second game on Sunday, Douglas announced that the season had officially ended on that day and no further games could be played. Due to this scheduling irregularity, El Paso and Fort Bayard had each played twenty five games, with El Paso ending up with twelve wins and thirteen losses and Fort Bayard with a dismal ten wins and fifteen losses. Douglas and Juarez, without replaying the disputed game, ended up fourteen and ten and thirteen and eleven respectively. As the Douglas’ team winning percentage was higher than Juarez, they declared themselves the winner of the second half championship and returned to Douglas. On Monday, September 21, Juarez showed up at the ball part at the appointed time. After thirty minutes the game was declared a forfeit and Juarez was declared to be the winner by the umpire. Douglas and Juarez now had identical fourteen wins and eleven loss records.91
The Douglas team contended that when the replay was ordered T. J. McCament, president of the league board, told Douglas that it was optional for them to replay the game. Douglas chose not to play. In any case the directors of the club took full responsibility for the action.92
McCament declared the forfeited game to be a win for Juarez and a loss for Douglas, certifying the second half championship as a tie and ordered Douglas and Juarez to play a one game play-off to determine the championship. Douglas appealed the decision to the board of directors. Douglas announced that they had already scheduled first half champion Fort Bayard to play the championship series during the week of October 2. The board on a tie vote, upheld McCament’s ruling with Douglas and Fort Bayard voting against and Juarez and El Paso voting for the ruling. The Douglas-Fort Bayard series was declared to be an exhibition and the play-off game was scheduled for October 1.93
On October 1 Juarez beat the Douglas team three to one and was officially the second half champion. Immediately the league scheduled a three game play-off between Fort Bayard and Juarez for the following week-end. When the series opened, Fort Bayard had acquired the services of Chick Gandil. In what was obviously an anticlimactic series, Juarez swept the once mighty Veterans in straight games. Behind the strong arm of Seaton pitching both games, the Juarez team won four to two and six to one.94
This disastrous ending to what had been, up to that point, a highly successful season, caused immediate problems. It was leaked out in the news, at the end of the season, that El Paso had officially applied to be accepted as a minor league franchise in the Texas League. That the giants were quickly rejected did not lessen the impact that the El Paso club was very dissatisfied and obviously looking around.95
The Douglas team was equally affected by the controversy. Some individuals in Douglas seemingly must have speculated that Chase was to blame for the controversy, for during the winter it was rumored that Chase would not be back. When the 1926 season opened Chase was back, but only as a player not as a manager. It again appears as though Chase’s reputation affected people’s perception. The move by the Douglas team was a calculated risk. After losing the two games to Juarez, Douglas was going to have to play another game with Juarez if they lost the appeal. If they won the appeal they did not have to risk playing the game. The decision to leave and not play the game was not the type of judgment made by a field manager but rather by the front office. Indeed when the board vote was taken, the Douglas representative of management voted to support the move. The only possible criticism of Chase would have to be his on-field playing or managing and never a hint of criticism had or has been found to support this possibility. The unfortunate ending seems to be that a controversy occurred, Chase was a controversial individual, so Chase must have in some way been involved. During the three years of the league this negative halo around the outlaw players always seemed to be just below the surface and whenever controversy arose, questions about the integrity of the players quickly surfaced.96
The Fort Bayard team had to be rudely shocked by their dismal performance during the second half of the year and in the championship play-off. During the ensuing winter, efforts were made to upgrade the team and to specifically acquire outlaw players. Not only would the players have a guaranteed job when they arrived, but also a scheme was devised to help defray the costs of coming to Fort Bayard. To this end, the concessionaires of Fort Bayard instituted an informal tax on all services and products available on the hospital grounds. From this fund, money was used to help the players travel to this isolated little community.97
Only the Juarez team appears to have ridden the crest from their amazing comeback. While other teams and players departed for various locations, the Juarez team stayed together and arranged a great cross country tour of Mexico, including the highly vaunted Mexico City Tigers, a series that they swept with little difficulty.98
After the end of the 1925 season the future of the Frontier League did not look rosy. One team was physically looking for another league, one team was torn by dissension, only Juarez appeared to have an optimistic future.
64 El Paso Times, February 6, 1925.
65 ibid., March 11, 1925.
66 ibid., March 31, 1925.
67 Felipo “Chon” Bernal, Personal Interview, July 7, 1988.
68 Thomas P. Foy Sr., Personal Interview, December 28, 1988,
69 Juanita Fisher, “The Fort Bayard Story,” Unpublished Manuscript, Silver City, New Mexico Public Library, p. 22. Interview with Sergeant Sullivan, a former barber shop concessionaire at the Fort. Althouse was specifically mentioned as a White Sox player and as being hired as the fire chief.
70 Douglas Daily Dispatch, March 8, 1925,
71 ibid., March 14, 1925,
72 ibid., March 25, 1925, Nothing else has been located to support or deny the story. According to official records Oldham was not in the major leagues during the 1924 season. On the other hand this newspaper account credits Oldham as playing with St. Louis when the records show that he had most recently played for Pittsburgh and never for either St. Louis team. For now it will remain as one the many tantalizing stories that is more folklore than fact.
73 Bisbee Daily Review, April 17, 1925.
74 ibid., April 3, 1925.
75 El Paso Times, April 6, 1925.
76 Douglas Daily Dispatch, April 3, 1925.
77 ibid., April 2, 1925.
78 ibid., April 28, 1925.
79 Hy Turkin and S. C. Thompson, Revisions by Pete Palmer, The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball (tenth revised ed.; Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1979) p. 365.
80 Border Vidette, July 28, 1923.
81 El Paso Times, May 4, 1925.
82 ibid., May 9, 1925.
83 Douglas Daily Dispatch, May 24, 1925.
84 El Paso Times, June 13, 1925.
85 Douglas Daily Dispatch, May 9, 1025.
86 El Paso Times, July 4, 1925 and July 11, 1925.
87 ibid., June 26, 1925.
88 ibid., July 24, 1925.
89 ibid., July 13, 1925.
90 Douglas Daily Dispatch, July 28, 1925.
91 El Paso Times, September 22, 1925.
92 Douglas Daily Dispatch, September 22, 1925.
93 El Paso Times, September 23, 1925.
94 ibid., October 12, 1925.
95 ibid., October 9, 1925 and October 12, 1925.
96 O’Carroll Arnold, “Copper League Baseball Drew Some of the Best ‘Outlaws’,” The Arizona Daily Star, October 16, 1983. Arnold reports that he remembers Chase and later Jimmie O’Connell as being the recipients of numerous taunts about whether they were trying to throw the game.
97 Fisher, p. 22. Sergeant Sullivan, a Fort Bayard concessionaire, reported that one concessionaire did object to the scheme, however they were able to pull it off without his knowledge by enticing him to bet against the Veterans and then using his lost money for the fund.
98 El Paso Times, October 19, 1925.