The golden years of outlaw baseball in the southwest borderlands were over. Many factors contributed to its end. At the bottom line the use of the outlaw players generated a level of competition that required the use of talented and expensive players to support the former major leaguers. No team was ever able to generate sustained economic autonomy from gate receipts alone. Every team that was successful and remained successful for the duration of the three years received financial support from a corporate donor. Fort Bayard was able to hire its baseball players into existing jobs at the hospital. Chino and Bisbee received monthly payments from the local mining companies and at least Chino also provided off season employment for the players. El Paso, Juarez and Douglas tried to survive with a more populist program of gate receipts and various fund raisers. All three of these cities suffered from chronic money problems and were never able to escape the problems associated with their financially strapped programs. Ultimately there were not enough locations in the borderlands with the interest and fiscal ability to support the programs necessary to develop and maintain consistent, viable winning teams.
Of all of the cities, Douglas appears to have been the biggest loser. The Blues were the leader in introducing the outlaw players to the league. The consistently supported their use and supported most moves to develop a more professional like league. However the continuing money problems seemed to drain the interest of the fans and especially the sponsors, the Douglas and Agua Prieta Chambers of Commerce. After the 1926 season, Douglas returned to having only a local Douglas area league. Although Douglas continued to be a trade and commerce center of Southeastern Arizona, they never did develop another team on its own that competed outside of the local area. Organized baseball reached Southern Arizona in 1928. However Arizona never had an organized team in the resulting Arizona League except briefly when they joined with Bisbee in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s in the Arizona-Texas League.176
Juarez was the other big loser. After suffering through a humiliating equivalent of bankruptcy in 1926, the Juarez club and its sponsors dropped out of the league. It was thirty years before Juarez was able to offer a team that would compete regularly with teams from the United States.177 Juarez was forced to look south to its sister cities in the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua and beyond. In 1973 Juarez joined the class AAA Mexican League and has produced many strong teams over the years.
In 1928 and 1929 El Paso also lost the ability to produce a team for regional competition. The Giants, much like the Douglas Blues, were never able to develop a stable financial plan. This always seemed to overshadow their ability to field an entertaining and winning team. One can only speculate what would have happened if the El Paso club had found the means of paying Joe Jackson the $500 a month he required. Perhaps Jackson would have breathed life into the irregular Giants or perhaps he to would have been drawn down by the lethargy that appeared to take over. Although the El Paso fans and club executives seemed to be exhausted by their efforts in the Copper League, unlike Douglas they were in an area that had a larger population and the city was growing. In 1930 El Paso joined the Class D Arizona State League and in the 1931 the league name was changed to the Arizona-Texas League to reflect the presence of the Giants.178 Through the years El Paso has continued to be the site of a professional baseball team in various leagues. In 1962 they finally joined the Texas League. As of 1975 El Paso still had a representative in the Class AAA Texas League.179
Chino Twins eventually suffered a drastic drop not due to the declining fortunes of baseball, but rather to the declining fortunes of the towns of Santa Rita and Hurley. When the great depression struck, the large mine at Santa Rita was forced to curtail production and remained totally or partially closed during parts of the 1930’s. Baseball dropped in importance and the great teams of the teen’s and twenties were never seen again. However interest among a core of players always stayed with the team and even though they left during the times of mine closures, they returned when the mines reopened.180
At the best of times, Hurley and Santa Rita were small company towns and they were never able to seriously consider going into organized baseball. Today the city of Santa Rita no longer exists as it was dug out to expose the copper below and now the town lives only in memory.
Fort Bayard still exist today as a small New Mexico state hospital for the chronically ill. Of the six teams that participated in the league, Fort Bayard appeared to be the least influenced by the failure of the Copper League. The fort continued to field teams through the the 1930’s and the 1940’s. They reverted to a barnstorming format and continued to play various teams from the region including Cananea, Fort Huachucha, the White Mountain Apache Reservation and on occasion the miners of the town of Madrid in Northern New Mexico. The fort also served as a center of activity for developing young players in the area and ran youth teams and leagues.181 Under the leadership of Jimmie O’Connell and Harry Althouse, the fort reorganized as the Fort Bayard Vets. Many young men in the Silver City area began their baseball careers under the tutor ledge of these two men.182
Of the teams that survived the Copper League, the Bisbee team appeared to emerge with the best future. After protesting its adamant opposition to the outlaw players during the 1926 and 1927 years, the Miners emerged as the Bisbee Bees in the newly formed Class D Arizona State League in 1928. The other three teams in the league were Miami, Phoenix and Tucson.183 While Arizona may well have been deserving of a Class D league, it would appear to be a striking coincidence that during the winter of 1927 Commissioner Landis offered his help to secure a Class D team for any town that would not use outlaw players. Bisbee strongly objected to the use of the outlaw players and when the Copper League failed they gained a Class D team the following year. On the other hand El Paso, a much larger metropolitan area, did not object to using the outlaw players and even tried to recruit Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver and Hal Chase. When the Copper League failed it was two years before the Giants were able to secure a professional affiliation. The possibility remains that the Bisbee franchise and indeed the entire Arizona State League was a pay off by Landis for the support of the Bisbee club. Up until World War II Bisbee had a team in the various configurations that made up the Arizona and Arizona-Texas League. After World War II Bisbee joined with Douglas and competed until 1954.184
Of the five outlaw players that actually participated in the Copper League, each went on to other pursuits. Buck Weaver had left after the 1926 season and likely never returned to the Southwestern region. He played the 1927 season for a semi-pro team in the Chicago area and spent the remainder of his life in the same Chicago area. Of the eight Black Sox players, Weaver appeared to have the strongest case for reinstatement. However each attempt fell upon deaf ears. He made his living as a para-mutual clerk on Chicago’s south side and died on January 31, 1956.
Chick Gandil was a part of the league for two and one half years and played for three different teams, the Douglas Blues, the Fort Bayard Veterans and the Chino Twins. He also managed the Chino Twins. Of the five outlaw players, Gandil appeared to have the least following by the fans of the area. When he suddenly left before the playoffs of the 1927 season the local papers did not even mention any details as to his departure. Fifty years later Silver City area residents remember Gandil as a players of great ability but also one capable of any activity.185
Lefty Williams remains one of the least understood members of the Black Sox and also of the outlaw players in the Copper League. He was quite content to play at Fort Bayard and fort certainly offered a stable paying job as well as extra money for playing baseball. However after being mentioned as a player on the Juarez Brewer’s barnstorming team after the completion of the 1927 year, no further mention of Williams has been found. With the competition of the Copper League gone, Williams left the area.186 Williams returned to Chicago at some point but later moved to California where he ran a nursery. He died on November 4, 1959 in Laguna Beach, California.
Of the five players only Jimmie O’Connell remained in the immediate area and continued to play baseball. He was the youngest of the five outlawed players and still at his prime baseball playing age. He continued to work at Fort Bayard and his wife became the fort’s postmistress. O’Connell, along with Harry Althouse, was instrumental in organizing the youth teams. To the many youths of the Silver City area, O’Connell came to be a figure of gigantic proportions and is still revered among the generation that came to know him so well.187 He remained at Fort Bayard at least until 1934 and possibly as late as 1935 or 1936 when he finally returned to his native California.188 He went to work for Richfield Oil Company where Thomas Foy later went to visit him. O’Connell died in Bakersfield, California on November 11, 1975.
Of the five players, the saddest case was undoubtedly that of Hal Chase. Unable to play due to the knee injury suffered during the 1926 season, Chase still remained in the Douglas area during that year and probably remained for 1927 where he had a job selling cars. He returned to California some time after that period and stayed until 1930. In the summer of 1930 he returned to Williams, Arizona where he played baseball and lived for two years.189 Sometime in 1932 he moved to Tucson, Arizona where he played more baseball and stayed until 1934 or 1935. He then moved back to California to live with his niece.
Always a heavy drinker, it appears that he started using alcohol at an alarming rate around 1930 and was likely an alcoholic by that time. He was hospitalized in 1941 in California for the treatment of beri-beri, a disease often associated with chronic alcohol ingestion.190 He was totally destitute and had no idea how he would pay his hospital bills. He died on May 18, 1947 in Colusa, California of alcohol abuse related effects.
Chase worked briefly as a plumber’s assistant, a car salesman, in pool halls and in bars, but he remained until his death a baseball player. In 1935 when Chase was fifty two years old he was listed in the Tucson City Directory. It gave his name, address and his occupation. His occupation was listed simply as “ballplayer.”191 Hal Chase is undoubtedly one of the most controversial players to eve play professional baseball. He has been vilified, called amoral and immoral and is generally included in any list of banned baseball players. But to his many fans of Arizona he always remained the star. It is most ironic that of the outlawed players who played in the Southwest he was the one who was technically probably never banned and yet he was also the one who was never able to resist the call of the boys of summer.
176 Robert Obojski, Bush League: a History of Minor League Baseball, (New York: Macmillan, 1975), p. 326.
177 ibid., p. 325. In 1958 Juarez competed with other Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico teams in the class C Arizona-Mexico League.
178 ibid., p.192-3.
179 ibid., p. 178.
180 Thomas P. Foy Sr., Personal interview, December 28, 1988.
181 Frank Duran, Personal interview, Central, New Mexico, July 28, 1985. Mr. Duran played baseball with the various Fort Bayard youth teams and participated in the games against the teams mentioned.
182 Thomas P. Foy Sr.
183 Obojski, p. 236.
184 ibid., p. 326.
185 Frank Duran. Sonny Marshall, Personal interview, Hurley, Arizona, July 29, 1985. Mr. Marshall had less contact with Gandil but he also reiterated Gandil’s unsavory reputation. Thomas Foy Sr. Mr. Foy, who served as a kind of mascot for the Veterans, remembers Gandil will and refers to him as a “scoundrel.”
186 Thomas Foy Sr. Mr. Foy states that after the money dried up Williams left the area. No written sources have been found to back up this contention but this is probably due to his lack of popularity. Williams was never disliked by the fans, but he certainly never attracted any strong following and his leaving probably just went unnoticed by the news sources.
187 Frank Duran. Thomas Foy Sr. Mr. Foy still calls him one of the kindest, gentlest men he has ever known.
188 Silver City Enterprise, May 4, 1934. O’Connell was mentioned in a newspaper article. Frank Duran felt that he was at Fort Bayard until at least 1935 and probably until 1936.
189 It is very unclear exactly how much of 1930-32 Chase actually lived in Williams. According to accounts in the Williams News, Chase arrived in mid July of 1930. With him playing in his old spot the Williams Merchants became a power in Northern Arizona. Given the title Captain for the Labor Day weekend playoffs, Chase led the team to a championship over seven other teams. However during 1931 he was not a part of the team. In 1932 Chase did not appear in any games until the weekend of August 8-9. Chase was now 50 years old but still collected two hits in three at bats. He did not appear in any other games.
190 Lester Grant, “Hal Chase, Broke and Ill at 58, Recalls Life’s Errors, Including His Terrible Boner on Black Sox Scandal.” The Sporting News, September 18, 1941, p. 3.
191 Tucson City Directory, 1935, p. 192.