Athletics and team sports have always represented a very important element of society in the United States. Of the many team sports that have evolved and are popular in this country, baseball is arguably the American sport. While recognized as an American sport and played almost exclusively in the Western Hemisphere until well into the second half of the twentieth century, baseball actually originated in England and was recorded as early as 1700.1 However, modern baseball, as we understand it today, probably came into being in 1845 when a committee of gentlemen organized the New York Knickerbockers and issued a set of rules. This set of rules is generally attributed to Alexander J. Cartwright, a member of the committee. 2 Although baseball continued to grow and evolve for the next fifteen years, this growth was focused upon the various gentlemen’s associations, especially those located in and around New York City.
The next important event in the growth of baseball was the American civil war. From 1861 to 1865 the incidence of baseball among the gentlemen’s associations dropped. Among the large armies of the Union however, baseball quickly became one of the favorite recreational pursuits. This interest extended even into the large prison camps in the south where many of the rural residents had never seen and even possibly heard of this sport. In 1866 baseball rebounded and for the first time became a truly national sport. Now teams were located in areas as far flung as Missouri and Oregon.3
Interest in baseball continued to grow and expand both on the amateur level, and after 1869, on the professional level, when the first entirely professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was organized. In the next thirty one years at least four major leagues and a vast number of minor leagues were to be formed. By 1901 the National and American Leagues had survived the often vicious competition and were the two recognized major leagues. They have survived relatively intact since that period down to modern times.4
In 1873 Silver City, New Mexico was an unincorporated town developing around a large silver deposit first discovered in 1869. Baseball had already reach this little isolated town when the following article appeared in the local paper,
BASEBALL–Mr. Kidder brought with him from
Santa Fe the necessary collateral’s for this bone
breaking, joint dislocating sport, and on Thursday
evening a goodly number of the boys were out
practicing. Only one of these was laid out for the
evening. Which argues well for proficiency of
In the isolated camps of the Southwest, athletics, particularly baseball and boxing, became important aspects of the culture of these towns. Work in these mines was dangerous, unhealthy and time consuming. Most jobs were in underground tunnels. If accidents did not claim the miner, the dreaded black lung and consumption waited around the corner. Even after the worker left his job for the day, the problems did not end. Living conditions and the high cost of living in remote areas compounded the concerns of the workers. Most of these communities were company owned towns and were run to maximize profits for the company. Workers often lived in company owned housing or in other low quality dwellings. Generally the only store was also owned by the company. In this dangerous and often unhealthy environment the relationships between management and employee were often strained.6
Given the tense relationships, the owners and managers quickly learned the value of athletics. Workers watching a boxing match or a baseball game were not protesting against the company. Baseball added yet another ingredient. By encouraging rivalries, the disgruntled worker would often vent many of his frustrations upon rival teams rather than upon his employer. While these athletic contests certainly served as excellent safety valves, they also led to some often violent confrontations.
In May, 1921, the Douglas (Arizona) team traveled to Nogales (Arizona) to play the local city team. Interest ran high in the game and it quickly became obvious that there was no baseball field in Nogales, Arizona big enough to hold the expected crowd. The game was moved across the border to Nogales, Sonora, the proud home of a 10,000 seat municipal stadium. The game started at high noon on May 29th, to a full house, and the temperature was at least 100 degrees. In addition to the 10,000+ fans, a contingent of Federales (Mexican Army) was assigned in case of possible incursions by Pancho Villa.
The game was a no-hitter on both sides until the fifth inning and continued as a shutout into the ninth inning. A disputed call against a Douglas player led to an emptying of the stands by fans from both cities. The Federales moved out to restore order. Around the pitcher’s mound one of the Federales fired his rifle, and then the panicked soldiers began firing. Before the field was cleared one person was shot and killed and at least a dozen others were wounded. In addition, dozens of others suffered various non gunshot injuries. Incredibly, once the field was cleared the game was ordered renewed. The Nogales pitcher, perhaps unnerved by the blood on the pitcher’s mound, proceeded to give up two walks and a game winning home run. However, the victorious Douglas team was unable to leave town due to a series of roadblocks set up by disgruntled Nogales citizens. The next day the Douglas team dutifully played and lost to the Nogales team, and they were then allowed to return home.7
In the plains south of Silver City, baseball of high quality was well known to the residents. In the 1880’s Albert Spalding, former baseball player and owner of the Chicago Nationals (later the Cubs), bought a large tract of land, adjacent to the railroad running from the town of Deming to Silver City. About twenty miles north of Deming he planned and built a model, utopian community that would have no need for jails, for it would have many baseball fields. Predictably, he called the town Spalding. In 1899 he brought out the majority of his Chicago Nationals team for spring practice. The team spent little time on the scraped , bare fields that were located at well over 5000 feet in altitude. Often exposed to cold winds and spring rain showers, the players would often ride the train up to the celebrated Faywood Hot Springs and soak in the sweltering pools. The team went elsewhere for spring training after that year. Although Spalding’s plans for his team and his community never came to fruition, he continued to visit the area until 1913.8
About ten miles south and east of Silver City and twenty miles north of Spalding was the little town of Santa Rita, New Mexico. Lodged on the edge of the large Santa Rita del Cobre open pit copper mine, the citizens of that town felt that their baseball team was capable of playing with any team, including the major league teams. In 1918 they gained their chance when a veteran Chicago Cubs team came to town during a spring training tour. The strong Cubs, led by their great pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, swept into town on April 18. While diminished from former years by World War I and the many players in the army, they still represented a formidable opponent, especially in the person of Alexander, a future Hall-of-Fame pitcher. By the fifth inning Alexander was gone and the powerful Santa Rita team continued to play well. When the game ended Santa Rita had won by a score of 6-3.9
As early as 1913, major league scouts had already discovered the quality of baseball played among the teams located around the Silver City area. Frank Eckstone, scout for the Chicago White Sox, was one of several scouts who traveled to the area to observe weekend games played by Silver City, Hurley, Santa Rita, Fort Bayard and Tyrone.10
Among the far flung communities of West Texas, Southern New Mexico, Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico a loose confederation of teams evolved. This loose confederation included a wide range of representatives. The larger towns such as El Paso, Texas and Tucson, Arizona were often involved and frequently served as the headquarters when a league formed. Mining towns such as Silver City, New Mexico, Bisbee, Arizona and Cananea, Sonora, Mexico also often fielded teams and at times entire leagues. As a result of the hostilities along the Mexican American, associated with the Mexican civil war, numerous army forts, posts and camps were established. Many of these posts boasted at least one team. Many of these posts were garrisoned by troops with segregated all black units.
In 1919 Fort Huachuca, Arizona had a highly competitive team made up of veteran soldiers who had fought in the Philippine Islands. When Casey Stengel, a future manager and hall-of-famer, brought a barnstorming team in late summer to Fort Huachuca, they played several games with the soldiers. He was very impressed with the caliber of play. Upon his return to Kansas City he spoke to James L. Wilkinson who was in the process of organizing the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.11 Wilkinson signed up five players from the Wreckers, including Dobie Moore, Oscar (Heavy) Johnson, Lemuel Hawkins, Bob Fagin and Wilbur (Bullet Joe) Rogan. These players were such an influence upon this team that it was often called the “army team” rather than the Monarchs.12 Rogan became the pitching mainstay of the Monarchs for almost twenty years and is considered by many to be the second greatest pitcher in the segregated leagues after Satchel Paige.13
These far flung cities, towns and posts regularly played games and on occasion several of these teams would band together in a formal organization and call it a league. The name would vary from the Cactus League to the Frontier League to the Copper League. However even in years when a formal league was in place, teams would often play other games. Sometimes these games would be against non league teams and sometimes they would be against league teams but not for official standing.
As might be expected in this rough and ready world of the Southwest, drinking and gambling were not only accepted but were an integral part of the games. The access to the Mexican border meant that after Arizona became legally dry, and even after national prohibition, alcohol was readily available. Gambling was also interwoven with the game and may have played an important part in the increasing level of competition among the various teams. While little documentation survives, it seems likely that gambling was probably a factor in all of the towns. In some towns it was probable that gaming tables were actually set up at the ballparks.14
While segregation of Blacks was a fact of life in the Southwest, games with the all Black army units were regularly played. The same is not necessarily true for the numerous Hispanics in the area. Because of the close proximity to the Mexican border, players from Mexico and of Mexican ancestry were readily accepted. With the intertwining of the cultures and people along the border, baseball often served to temporarily break down the artificial barriers created by national boundaries and prejudice. On numerous occasions border guards would open the border to allow residents to attend games in a twin city. In both Douglas and Nogales their twin cities (Agua Prieta and Nogales) had larger playing fields.15 However the often changing political climate of Mexico also interfered with the teams. In 1906 and 1907 the Cananea, Sonora, Mexico teams won the Cactus League with an all Anglo line-up.16 By the late 1920’s and early 1930’s no Anglos were allowed to play on the team. While U.S. teams were invited to Cananea and were treated royally, Cananea would not travel to the U.S. and would not participate in any league play.17
The evolution of baseball in the Southwest from a game of amateurs to a game of professionals followed no straight time line and varied from place to place. In the beginning, teams most likely followed a true amateur pattern. In a company or town a few people would get together and form a team. At some point individuals with athletic ability found it easier to secure a job, provided they would play baseball in addition to their regular duties. It was only a short step before some of the better players attained semi-professional status. The players might split the gate or play for a guaranteed amount per game. Chick Gandil is a good example of such a player. Later a major league star with the Chicago White Sox, a conspirator in the Black Sox scandal and participant in the Copper League, he traveled to Cananea around 1906 while only seventeen years of age. He was hired part time as a boilermaker in the mines. The rest of the time he played baseball and fought as a boxer for up to $150.00 a fight.18 The lure of money and/or some type of steady job was a strong draw. While many of players were home grown talent, players with former profession experience began to show up. Tom Seaton, a former major league spit ball pitcher moved to Tucson and by 1923 was working for a local railroad and pitching for teams in the area.19 Harry Althouse, a former Texas Leaguer, pitched for Douglas in 1924.20 In 1925 he was recruited and hired as the fire chief at Fort Bayard, New Mexico.21 By 1925 a number of former professional players, mainly minor league, were playing in the Copper League cities and were escalating the competition between the teams.
Gambling and baseball have always had a fatal draw to each other. From early on, betting upon the outcome of games was an integral, but unsavory, part of the game. The potential for abuse always exits in any situation where an individual’s performance or lack of performance can influence the final outcome. The common mythology of baseball holds that the sport of professional baseball has been pure except for one fatal slip-up, in the Chicago Black Sox scandal. The truth, however, is that from the beginning of profession baseball, gambling has been a constant problem.22
During the nineteenth century, the title, professional, did not necessarily mean anything more than the fact that the players were paid a salary for competing. The game was relaxed and informal. Drinking and smoking on the field and even during the game were common. Rules and expectations controlling behavior had not yet developed and the idea of the athlete as a positive role model was still in the future.23 With the abundance of gamblers around the sport, it was not a great surprise that the players would place bets. Likely these bets would often begin with friendly wagers between competitors. The danger of any gambling situation containing the participants does not involve a player betting for his own team. Indeed, case could be made that betting on ones own team to win would motivate a player. The problem arises when a player bets against his team or accepts payment to control the pattern of the game. In 1877 this very situation arose with at least four players on the Louisville, Kentucky team of the National League. The resulting controversy led to the permanent suspension of the players and seriously injured Louisville’s reputation as a baseball city.24
The best known of the scandals involved the 1919 Chicago White Sox, considered by some as one of the greatest baseball teams of the twentieth century. The exact events that led to the scandal are not completely clear and likely will never come clear as all the participants are now dead. Barring any new information surfacing, the story will remain as it is with some salient facts still unclear.25
The 1919 Chicago White Sox were a dominating team and easily took the American League crown. They were scheduled to play the Cincinnati Red Legs in an experimental, best of nine game, World Series. The White Sox were five to one odds to take the series. However, by the time the series opened the betting was even money or , in some locations, the Red Legs had a slight edge in the odds. In what was at the time a great upset, Cincinnati took the series five games to three. As the series was being played there was a great deal of discomfort among other players and especially sports writers. After the first two games were played, as the team train rode back to Chicago, sports writer Ring Lardner was reported to have sung the following song.
I’m forever blowing ball games,
Pretty ball games in the air
I came from Chi
I hardly try
Just go to bat and fade and die:
Fortunes coming my way,
That’s why I don’t care.
I’m forever blowing ball games,
And the gamblers treat us fair…
According to accounts, no player or coach told him to stop.26
Regardless of the rumors, no official action was taken. The 1920 season opened with the team intact except for Charles (Chick) Gandil, first baseman, who unexpectedly retired after the 1919 season. Even without Gandil, the White Sox were still a formidable contingent and competed for the American League crown down to the final few games. Shortly before the end of the season, the story broke that eight members of the White Sox had conspired and thrown the 1919 World Series. The seven active players were all suspended. They were the heart of the team: pitchers Edward Victor (Ed) Cicotte and Claude Preston
(Lefty) Williams, infielders Charles August (Swede) Risberg and George Davis (Buck) Weaver, outfielders Oscar Emil (Happy) Felsch and Joseph (Shoeless Joe) Jackson and utility player Frederick William McMullin. Also accused was retired first baseman Gandil.
Jackson and Cicotte appeared to be almost certain future hall-of-famers. Weaver and Williams were both young up-and-coming players and appeared to be moving toward super star status. Some people were stunned, some outraged and some indifferent. The entire story began to develop into a mystery befitting the best of fiction writers. Behind the scenes a power struggle developed between the president of the American League, Ban Johnson, and the new “czar” or commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Johnson wanted to try the players in a court of law and Landis appeared to be more inclined to handle the matter internally.
By the time the case came to trial the entire matter had turned into a great controversy. At least two players, Cicotte and Jackson, had allegedly signed confessions. However when the trial opened these confessions and other pertinent documents could not be found. Who had taken the documents, and why, has never been deduced. After completing the trial the jury found all the players innocent of the charges.
Even as the players celebrated their “victory,” Landis was preparing his letter of banishment. The next day each of the players was told that regardless of the court’s decision, Landis would not tolerate these players and they were henceforth banished or outlawed from all of organized baseball. This outlawing was actually much more extensive than appeared on the surface. Accusations against players and teams continued for another six years. Even such players as Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb stood accused. By the winter of 1926-27, Commissioner Landis was moved to say, “Won’t these God damn things that happened before I came into baseball ever stop coming up?”27
Indeed, problems with gambling and thrown games were not limited to the major leagues. The minor leagues also suffered through a number of serious controversies. During the early 1920’s the Texas League endured a number of potential problems and in one case the results of a game had to be stricken from the record. In 1921 league president J. Doak Roberts was so sure of his suspicions that a game had been thrown that he negated a Dallas victory over Wichita Falls.28
When players were outlawed from organized baseball they faced only two choices. Either they quit baseball altogether or they tried to play for teams that were not affiliated with organized. Because unaffiliated leagues employed these outlaw players, the leagues were also called outlaw leagues.
The Outlaw Players
From 1925 to 1927 five men played baseball in the Copper League and were identified as players outlawed from the major leagues. One other former major league player was accused of being an outlaw but cleared himself of the charge. It seems likely that of the many former minor league players who were also present, that at least some of these players had been outlawed. Slam Marshall, columnist for the El Paso Times and later president of the Copper League, speculated that there were probably six to eight additional outlawed players competing under assumed names during the 1925 season alone.29
The man who introduced outlaw players on a grand scale to the Copper League was one of the most enigmatic players to ever play professional baseball. Harold Homer Chase was born in Los Gatos, California, just south of San Jose in 1883, and attended college and played baseball at Santa Clara University from 1902 to 1904.30 In 1905 he joined the New York Highlanders (later to be the Yankees) and from then until his last season he average a .291 batting average, including a National League leading .339 in 1916. He also established a reputation as one of the best, if not the best, fielding first baseman to ever play the game. And yet there was another side to Chase that never allowed him to gain the reputation his abilities seemed to deserve. He appeared to have a drive to resist the overwhelming control by the owners of baseball.
After the 1905, 1906 and 1907 seasons Chase returned to San Jose to play ball in the California League. Other major league players also joined this league as the loop played well into November. However in late October, 1907, the National Commission, representing organized baseball, declared that anyone playing in the California State League would be outlawed. All the other major leaguers dropped out, except for Chase. He changed his name to Schultz and continued to play. Everyone seemed to know, but he was allowed to return for the 1908 season with the New York Highlanders.
In 1908, after warring with the New York manager Norman (Kid) Elbedrfeld, Chase left the team or “jumped” to the Stockton, California team. Chase declared that he would never again play in the East. After playing the last month and a half, Chase was offered $9,000 to join Oakland in the outlaw California State League the following year. Chase was interested but, fearing the venture was doomed, rejected the offer and returned to New York for half that amount in 1909.31
Over the winter before the 1910 season, he successfully helped to remove the new manager of the Highlanders, George Stallings. When challenged by the owner, he accepted the manager’s job and for the next two years played first base and managed the team. While his on field attempts were often better than his off field attempts, he did not disgrace himself and resigned as manager after two years. During the 1913 season he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
In 1914 Chase displayed an amazing audacity and jumped to Buffalo of the new Federal League. Standard baseball contracts of the day allowed the owners to give any player ten days notice to cancel any existing contract. Chase turned this around, gave the Highlanders ten days notice and jumped to the Buffalo team. The remainder of the 1914 season and the 1915 season were spent with Buffalo when a preliminary judicial ruling upheld Chase’s action.
After the 1915 season the Federal League dissolved and Chase was determined to be the property of the Cincinnati Redlegs of the National League. 1916 was one of Chase’s finest years, winning the National League batting crown and having an all around outstanding year. However during the following years he ran afoul of the highly popular future hall-of-fame pitcher and manager of the Redlegs, Christy Mathewson. Mathewson accused Chase of “dogging” or doing a poor job of playing his position and of making money by betting against his team and of then playing poorly to win the bet. Mathewson was reported to want to pursue his allegations, but he joined the U.S. Army and the allegations ended. The Redlegs probably suspended Chase, but during the off season he was traded to the New York Giants of the National League. While much has been made of Mathewson’s allegations, what is less clear is that when he returned from France in 1919 Mathewson was offered and accepted a position as coach for, of all teams, the same New York Giants. Whatever were the difficulties between the two men they were not serious enough to interfere with both men being on the same team.
Chase did not return for the 1920 season. Chase claims that the Giants offered him a contract for the season, but that personal turmoil in his life, including an impending divorce, led him to not sign the contract and to stay on the West Coast.32 Other accounts have left a strong impression that the Giants let Chase go before the 1919 season ended, under conditions of disgrace.33 However Chase finished the season with the Giants as a player and, after spraining his wrist, as a first base coach when Mathewson temporarily took over managing the club. Chase was still being carried on the Giant’s reserve list, released on October 18, 1919, well after the season ended.
When the seven Black Sox were indicted, the name of Hal Chase was also included as somehow being involved. An extradition order was sent to California. Californian refused to extradite Chase and the matter was dropped. Chase admits to having met with Sleepy Bill Burns, one of the Black Sox instigators. He also admits to having been told that the series was to be thrown, but that he felt that he did not want to be a “stool pigeon.”34
In 1923 Chase accepted a position as manager of the Nogales (Arizona) Internationals. The Internationals played games on both sides of the border and the personable Chase was both successful and popular as the team trumped all of its regular competitors, including a rousing tour through Mexico.35
When the 1924 season opened, Chase had moved to Williams, Arizona where he was listed as Captain and first baseman.36 Chase was again very popular and even after sixty four years Thomas Way, Williams’ author, remembers that he and other high school boys shagged fly balls as Chase practiced his hitting. Way said that Chase was immensely popular and always would take time to sign autographs or to just talk.37 On July 20, it was announced that Chase had resigned from the Williams team and was going to play for a powerful Jerome team. While Williams had a poor record, Chase must have impressed the Jerome management during the Jerome-Williams game the previous weekend.38
The town of Jerome was another of the many Arizona mining towns that placed a strong emphasis on baseball. The primary competition for Jerome was the team from Clarkdale, the smelter town, less than five miles down the hill from Jerome. During the 1924 season, Jerome did not stack up to Clarkdale and Chase appeared to be just what the team needed. Under Chase’s leadership Jerome quickly became a winner and more importantly defeated the Clarkdale team in a climatic series.39 Chase left Jerome after the end of the season. According to local historian and former agent for United Verde Copper Company, Herbert V. Young, Chase left under a cloud that included a de-emphasis of baseball by United Verde Copper Company. Chase was also accused of pilfering stores from the hospital dispensary where he worked.40
Chase probably returned to Nogales, for it was during this winter that one of the many tantalizing events of Chase’s later life occurred. National reports held that Chase was in Southern Arizona and that he was negotiating with the President of Mexico to appoint Chase as the commissioner of an all Mexico baseball league. According to Chase he would become the “Landis of Mexico.”41 Nothing else was found on the strange report and it is unknown whether this was a flippant conversation or if this represented a serious possibility that suffered due to the instability and vagaries of Mexican politics.
Charles Arnold (Chick) Gandil was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1887. A school dropout and admitted rough-and-ready character, Gandil ran away from home at the age of seventeen. He first went to Amarillo, Texas and then to Cananea, Sonora, Mexico, a frontier mining town located fifty miles south and west of Douglas, Arizona. The town was dominated by the Anglo owners and mangers and took its sports very seriously. Gandil played baseball on the Cactus League championship team, fought in boxing matches and also worked as a boilermaker in the mines. Age and a successful marriage brought Gandil back to the United States and in the middle of the 1910 season he joined the Chicago White Sox where he played first base, as he did the rest of his major league career.42 The following year he was traded to the Washington Senators of the American League. In 1916 he was traded to the Cleveland Indians and in 1917 was sent back to the Chicago White Sox where he continued until the end of the 1919 World Series. Gandil did not return for the 1920 season, claiming Charles Comisky, the owner of the
White Sox, would not give him a raise.
When the Black Sox scandal broke, Gandil was indicted along with the other seven defendants. Testimony given at various times seems to indicate that Gandil was, if not the leader, one of the instigators of the whole conspiracy. Gandil was the only one of the eight to formally give his side of the story. In 1956 during an interview, Gandil stated that several of the accused players did indeed conspire to throw the series. However the gamblers did not come through with their promised money and so the series was actually played straight.43 After his outlawing Gandil probably moved to California.
George Davis (Buck) Weaver was born in Stow, Pennsylvania in 1890. In 1912 Weaver joined the White Sox where he played shortstop for the first four years and shortstop and third base for the remainder of his career. A strong hitter, he batted .272 during his career, including averaging over .300 during the last four years. A versatile player, he was known as a fast infielder.
When the eight players were indicted, Weaver loudly proclaimed his innocence. He admitted to attending the conspiracy meetings but until his death, continued to plead that he played the series straight and that his only crime was in failing to report the meetings. Although statistics can be deceiving, Weaver batted .324 in the series and played errorless ball on the field.44 After his outlawing he made his home in Chicago.
Claude Preston (Lefty) Williams was born in Aurora, Missouri in 1893. He pitched briefly for Detroit during the 1913 and 1914 seasons. In 1915 he joined the White Sox where he was a regular pitcher in the starting rotation. During his short career he had a record of eighty one wins and forty five losses including forty five victories during the 1919 and 1920 seasons.
After the indictment of the eight players, Williams said little about the scandal. He did indeed have a terrible series and was knocked out of three games he started. Of all of the conspirators, only Williams ever gave a clue as to the involvement of the gamblers. Years later his wife talked to a young boy and told him that Williams did not really realize what he was doing and that he just fell in with the group. She said that he only got $150 from the whole thing but that he had been “threatened” if he did not cooperate.45
Williams pitched on various outlaw teams in and around the greater Chicago area. Possibly as a result of his outlawing and the stress of the threats from the gamblers, Williams took to drinking very heavily. On occasion the players would be forced to canvass the bars to find him before a baseball game.46 His heavy drinking continued into his years in the southwest. It was reported that he would often take a drink between innings and that by the time the later innings were reached he was a devastating and intimidating pitcher.47 During his stay at Fort Bayard he frequented the “soda fountain” at Central, a small town two miles south of Fort Bayard. On occasion when he was not scheduled to pitch he would not even report to the park, but would stay in Central drinking. At least once he confused his pitching day. He was brought back from Central and proceeded to pitch one of his best games ever.48
James Joseph (Jimmie O’Connell was born in Sacramento, California in 1901. Of the outlaw players to play in the Copper League only O’Connell had no association in any way with the Black Sox scandal. O’Connell played for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League and in 1922 was voted the most popular player. After the end of the 1922 season, the New York Giants purchased his contract for the all time high price of $75,000. This lead to his newspaper nickname of the $75,000 bonus baby.
O’Connell played as a utility outfielder during the 1923 and 1924 seasons and was, in general, very peripheral to the team. Late in the 1924 season, Heinie Sand, shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies, reported that O’Connell had offered him $500 to not bear down in a series with the Giants. When confronted by Commissioner Landis, O’Connell readily admitted to the act and said that he had been put up to the deed by four individuals; Cozy Dolan, a coach, Frankie Frisch (a future hall-of-famer), George Kelly and Ross Youngs. Of the four, three strongly denied the charge and Dolan refused to answer questions. Faced with these facts Landis felt he had no choice but to ban both Dolan and O’Connell for life from organized baseball.49
“It is doubtful whether any Pacific Coast baseball player was ever
more idolized than O’Connell, …Leading the league in batting,
O’Connell’s future was thought to be extremely bright when he was
bought by New York. Fans and players in the league alike united in
saying that O’Connell was the best ball player ever turned out by the
At this time there appears to be no clear explanation of why O’Connell committed this act or for that matter what actually happened.
The Outlaw League
The pivotal city for the Copper League was El Paso, Texas. Located on the border of Texas and Mexico, less than twenty five miles south of the New Mexico border, El Paso served as the headquarters city from 1925-1927. With a population of over 75,000,51and adjoined by the city of Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico with a population probably exceeding that of El Paso, these twin cities were certainly the largest population concentration for hundreds of miles in either direction. Sports was a high priority item in El Paso with a local college, Texas Western College, an army base, Fort Bliss and numerous local amateur teams. The team representing El Paso in the Copper League was known by at least two names, the Colts and the Giants. The Giants seems to be the name commonly used. Baseball was financed primarily by the sale of tickets and by subscription from individuals and small businesses. No large business ever adopted the team and as a result the club was never on a sound financial basis, despite its relatively large population base.
The town of Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, was also a city with a high sports interest. In addition to baseball and other team sports, Juarez often served as the location for prize fights during the 1920’s. Unhampered by the U. S. laws against alcohol and gambling, U. S. sports fans could cross the border and watch a boxing program, drink a few beers and place a legal bet on the outcome. Juarez was also suffering from the problems of being a Mexican border town. This has become especially bad during the revolutionary years of the teens and continued into the twenties. Revolutionaries preferred the border cities with their easy access to arms and money in the U. S. In the event of reverses, the border also offered quick sanctuary. While the sports events might often lead to an opening of the border, violence or the threat of violence might also seal the border, effectively canceling a contest. The Juarez team probably never adopted any official name and was initially called the Brewers in the newspapers (named after the numerous and large breweries). Later they were called the Indians, a name that seems to have been the most popular. Juarez also was financed by gate receipts and popular subscriptions. By decree Juarez had first crack at all Mexican citizens who came from any of the cities and towns of Mexico.52 In spite of having teams that played well, Juarez was never on a sound financial footing and actually went bankrupt during the 1926 season. The lack of a large corporate donor was always a serious problem for the Juarez organization.
Fort Bayard, New Mexico was the constant puzzle of the Copper League. Originally built as a military post in 1866, it remained as an active post until 1899 when it became an army hospital for the treatment of veterans with tuberculosis. In 1920 it was turned over the U. S. Public Health Service and the Veteran’s Administration to continue treatment of veterans with tuberculosis.53 Many of the patients had suffered lung damage from mustard gas during World War I and then developed tuberculosis. Around the area the patients were popularly called “lungers” and many recovered and stayed in the area.54
With a population of 550 listed in the 1920 census,55 Ford Bayard regularly produced competitive baseball team. Like the other cities involved in the Copper League, Fort Bayard sold tickets for the games. Virtually every patient, even those bedridden, would buy a ticket and then the hospital had the broadcast of the game piped into the hospital wards.56 In addition Fort Bayard had a means of funding their players that enabled them to have a consistent, quality team. The Fort hired all of their players to work at the hospital. Gandil, O’Connell and Williams were reported to be working in the motor vehicle section. Other players were also reported to be working in the many other departments.57To make this even more lucrative, the players each took a cut of the proceeds from the gate.58 Fort Bayard was generally called, logically, the Veterans. However, on occasion, they were also called the burros.
Only a few miles east of Fort Bayard was the large Santa Rita del Cobre mine, owned by the Chino Copper Company. Several small towns were located in the area, but Santa Rita, perched on the edge of the pit was considered the mine town and Hurley, several miles south was the smelter town. During the 1925-1927 period these two cities combined to produce one team. Representative of this joining, Chino was always referred to as the “Twins”. As reported earlier in the paper quality baseball was strongly supported in the Santa Rita area. In addition to the gate receipts, the Chino Copper Company was always a strong supporter of sports. The company was reported to put in $1500 a month toward the monthly payroll.59 In addition the company was reported to have a dormitory just for the athletes.60
Douglas, Arizona was a bustling town with a population of almost 10,000 in the 1920 census.61 More importantly it was a center for the surrounding area, including its sister city, Agua Prieta, located immediately across the border. Built around the turn of the century, Douglas was one of the larger cities in Arizona territory and like most mining towns it took sports very seriously. However Douglas, like El Paso and Juarez, was never able to secure any large corporate support and so had to depend upon gate receipts and individual subscriptions. During the two years Douglas fielded a team it had constant money problems and often had to resort to ineffective fundraisers. All newspaper accounts called the Douglas team the Blues. However Chon Bernal of Douglas argues strongly that in Douglas they were called the City team. He says that a local team, sponsored by a bar and restaurant called the Smokehouse was called the “Blues”.62 This disagreement over the name of the team demonstrated the relatively informal nature of the teams. While there was a strong interest in the games, the organizations often appeared to border on anarchy.
Just a few miles west of Douglas lay the city of Bisbee. Built among rugged mountains, steep gulches and man made pits, Bisbee was in many ways the prototype of a southwestern mining town. Athletics was always strongly supported by the local mines. The Bisbee entry into the Copper League, generally called the Miners, was no exception. Each mine was reported as putting in $500 a month for salaries and all games were well attended.63 Unlike Fort Bayard and Chino, Bisbee took a strong stand against the use of outlaw players. They were also slow to recruit talent outside of their area. As a result, Bisbee was a success in every area except in the win column. Bisbee was one of two teams (the other El Paso) that was later granted a professionally recognized minor league team. This granting of a team may have been related to its strong stand and constant opposition to the use of outlaw players.
Of the six teams that played in the Copper League from 1925 to 1927, only two were successful both on the field and at the gate, Fort Bayard and Chino. The were two of the three teams that received some type of institutional monetary support (the other being Bisbee) and were two of three teams that freely used outlaw players (the other being Douglas). It appears that in order for a team to have been successful in the Copper League it needed strong institutional support and a willingness to use outlaw players.
1 Robert W. Henderson, Ball, bat and bishop: the origin of ball games (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1974), p. 132.
2 Harold Peterson, The man who invented baseball (New York: Scribner’s, 1973), pp. 1-4. The other members of the Association were W. R. Wheaton, D. F. Curry, E. R. Dupignac and W. H. Tucker.
3 Irving A. Leitner, Baseball: diamond in the rough (New York: Criterion Books, 1972), pp. 61-4.
4 Ibid., Leitner Baseball: diamond in the rough, provides one of many excellent accounts of 19th century baseball including the rise of the various professional major leagues.
5 Mining News (Silver City, New Mexico), September 6, 1873.
6 James Burkit, Forging the copper collar (Flagstaff, Arizona: Northland Press, 1982) This account by Burkit provides many insights into the relationship between mining companies and their employees and while his account relates to Arizona, the contents could equally well be applied to any mining area of the time.
7 Tom Denehy, “High Stakes at Noon Turned a Baseball Park Into a Battleground,” Sports Illustrated, VI (April 16, 1984), pp 90-2.
8 Marjorie White, “Spalding Called Father of Pro Baseball,” Sundial the Sunday Magazine of The El Paso Times, August 3, 1969.
9 John M. White, “Championship Baseball in the Copper Country,” The New Mexico Magazine, October, 1957, pp.14-5, 44.
10 Silver City Enterprise, (Silver City, New Mexico), August 29, 1963.
11 Robert W. Creamer, Stengal: his life and time. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), pp. 129-30.
12 Janet Bruce, The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1985) p. 21.
13 Robert Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1970), pp. 214-5.
14 O’Carroll Arnold, “Copper League Baseball Drew Some of the best ‘Outlaws’,” The Arizona Daily Star, October 16, 1983.
15 Felipo “Chon” Bernal, Personal interview, Douglas, Arizona, July 8, 1988 and Tom Denehy, “High Stakes at Noon Turned a Baseball Park Into a Battleground,” Sports Illustrated, April 16, 1984, p. 90.
16 “Mexico, Baseball Team 1906 Cananea, Sonora,” Arizona Historical Society Library, Tucson, Arizona, Photograph #48127 and “Mexico Baseball Team 1907 Cananea, Son.,” Arizona Historical Society Library, Tucson, Arizona, Photograph #48128.
17 Frank Duran, Personal Interview, Central, New Mexico, July 8, 1985.
18 Arnold (Chick) Gandil as told to Melvin Durslag, “This is My Story of the Black Sox Series,” Sports Illustrated, September 17, 1956, p. 64.
19 El Paso Times, May 9, 1925.
20 Felipo “Chon” Bernal, Personal Interview, Douglas, Arizona, July 8, 1988.
21 Juanita Fisher, “The Fort Bayard Story,” Unpublished Manuscript, Silver City Public Library, Silver City, New Mexico. Sergeant Sullivan, a former concessionaire at Fort Bayard reported that Althouse was the fire chief. Sullivan also thought that Althouse was a former major leaguer and member of the Black Sox.
22 David Voight, “Chicago Black Sox and the Myth of Baseball’s Single Sin,” Illinois State Historical Bulletin, 63 (autumn, 1969), pp 293-306.
23 Ralph Andreano, No joy in Mudville: The dilemma of Major League Baseball (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Schenkman Publishing, 1965) pp. 3-16. Andreano discusses the rise and importance of the folk hero factor in baseball.
24 Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson, The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball (10th ed.; Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1979) pp. 22-4.
25 Eliot Asinof, Eight men out: the black sox and the 1919 World Series (New York: Holt Rinhart and Winston, 1963), Asinof is accepted as the authority on the scandal. David Quentin Voight, America through baseball (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1976) and Dean Smith, “The Black Sox,” American History Illustrated XI (Jan., 1977) pp. 16-24. Both also give excellent accounts, however they both quote extensively from Asinof. This account of the Black Sox is taken from Asinof’s work unless footnoted otherwise.
26 Asinof, pp. 93-4.
27 J.G. Taylor Spink, Judge Landis and twenty five years of baseball (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1947) p. 164.
28 Robert Obojski, Bush league: a history of minor league baseball (New York: Macmillan, 1975), p. 192.
29 S.L.A (Slam) Marshall, “Slam Bangs,” El Paso Times, February 12, 1926.
30 Robert Hoie, “The Hal Chase Case,” The Baseball Research Journal, 3 (1973) pp. 26-34. This article provides an excellent description of Chase and is the basis for this biography except where otherwise footnoted.
31 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. 1, 3.
32 ibid., p. 3.
33 Donald Honig, Baseball America: the heroes of the game and the times of their glory (New York: Macmillan, 1985) pp. 97-100. Honig states that Chase and fellow player Zimmerman were suspended indefinitely in mid August o 1919 and that indefinitely meant permanently. Lee Allen, Cincinnati Reds (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1948) pp. 123-30. Allen was probably the first historian to intimate that Chase left early and did not finish the season.
34 Grant, September. 18, p. 1.
35 Border Vidette, (Nogales, Arizona) summer, 1923. The newspaper regularly reported on the international games as well as describing the town’s feelings for Chase. A.M. Beck, “In the Memory of Man.” (Unpublished manuscript, Pimeria Alta Museum, Nogales, Arizona, n.d.) p. 466. Mrs. Beck quotes from the Border Vidette and reaffirms the town’s feelings for Chase.
36 Williams News, May-Jun, 1924. The paper carried accounts of all games played by Chase from May to the July 4 weekend.
37 Thomas Way, Personal interview, Williams, Arizona, July 27, 1988.
38 Williams News, June 20, 1924.
39 Verde Valley News, Jerome, Arizona, July-August, 1924 reported the results of the various games.
40 Herbert V. Young, They came to Jerome (Jerome, Arizona: Jerome Historical Society, 1972) pp.234-5.
41 New York Times, March 11, 1925.
42 Arnold (Chick) Gandil, “This is My Story of the Black Sox Series.” Sports Illustrated, 5 (September 17, 1956), p. 62-68.
44 James T. Farrell, “Did Buck Weaver Get a Raw Deal?” Baseball Digest, XVI (August, 1957), 69-78. Reprinted in Charles Einstein ed., The second fireside book of baseball (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1958), pp. 127-132.
45 J.M. Flagler, “Requiem for a Southpaw.” New Yorker, XXXV (December 5, 1959) p. 234. When gambler Billy Maharg had testified before the Grand Jury in 1920 he intimated that Williams had been threatened. Harold Seymour, Baseball: the golden age, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 304.
46 Peter Dexter, “Black Sox Blues; in 1919 Scandal Touched the White Sox. Then it Touched Darby Rathman and it Never Went Away.” Esquire, October, 1984, p. 267.
47 Frank Duran, Personal Communication, July 28, 1988.
48 Thomas P. Foy Sr., Personal Interview, Bayard, New Mexico, December 28, 1988. Mr. Foy was the assistant to the batboy, Meyers, for the Fort Bayard Veterans from around 1924 until 1927. He described himself as more of a mascot. When the Copper League failed in 1927, he became the bat boy for the new Fort Bayard Vets team and remained so until he left for college in 1933.
49 Lowell Blaisdell, “The O’Connell-Dolan Scandal.” The Baseball Research Journal, XI (1982), 44-48. This article appears to be the most comprehensive account about O’Connell and his outlawing and is the basis for this biography unless otherwise footnoted.
50 New York Times, October 2, 1924.
51 Hammond’s Modern Atlas of the World, (New York: C.S. Hammond & Company, 1926) p. 136. These statistics were drawn from the 1920 census and are probably a conservative estimate during the 1925-27 years.
52 El Paso Times, April 6, 1925.
53 T. M. Pearce, New Mexico Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1965), p.58.
54 Thomas P. Foy Sr., Personal interview, December 28, 1988.
55 Hammond’s Modern Atlas of the World, 1926, p. 124.
56 Frank Duran, Personal interview, Central, New Mexico, July 28, 1985.
58 Thomas P. Foy Sr., Personal interview, December 28, 1988.
59 El Paso Times, August 13, 1926.
60 Sonny Marshall, Personal interview, July 29, 1985.
61 Hammond’s Modern Atlas of the World, 1926, p. 105.
62 Felipo (Chon) Bernal, Personal interview, Douglas, Arizona, July 8, 1988.
63 El Paso Times, August 13, 1926.