City Week

Baseball Like It Used To Be

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5th Annual Copper City Classic Vintage Baseball Tournament

9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13

Warren Ballpark, corner of Arizona Street and Ruppe Road, Bisbee

(520) 432-3813; www.friendsofwarrenballpark.com

Major League Baseball just held its Opening Day last week, with 30 teams full of world-class athletes starting a long season of competition during which they'll be paid millions to play. It's a far cry from baseball's humble beginnings, back in the mid-1800s, when the sport was as much recreational and friendly as it was competitive, as well as without salary. Much of the game has changed since then, but that doesn't mean the old-time version of baseball has been forgotten. Arizona is one of several states that has a vintage baseball league, and its league championship tournament is set for this weekend in Bisbee's Warren Ballpark, the nation's oldest continually operated multi-sport stadium in the country at 109 years old. The fifth annual Copper City Classic Vintage Baseball Tournament will feature the seven teams from the Arizona Territories league (five from the Phoenix area, one from Tucson and one from Bisbee) as well as a traveling vintage team from Colorado. The double-elimination event will run both Saturday and Sunday. The tournament will use old-time rules, equipment and even terminology, said Mike Anderson, historian for and a founding member of Friends of Warren Ballpark, which hosts the event. "This is one of the earliest forms of baseball, after it was formalized as a game in 1840s in New York, but before a lot of the changes late-1800s," Anderson said. "We play the games at it was played ... when Lincoln was running for his first term as President." Some of the most noticeable differences: the bats are bigger, as is the ball, which is also slightly softer. Fielders (known as gardeners, while pitchers are hurlers, catchers are behinds and batters are strikers) do not wear baseball gloves, though some may wear the equivalent of a gardening glove. Pitching is underhand, and strikers are "dead" instead of out, a situation that occurs even if a ball is caught on one bounce. Uniforms and physical appearances of the players are also as close as possible to how they looked in 1860, though Anderson said that can only go so far. "None of us have small pox scars," he said. The tournament serves as the league's end-of-season championship this year, while in the past it was an exhibition event. A ticket to one day of games costs $10, while a two-day pass is $15, and children 12 and younger are free with an adult. The ticket also includes access to a post-tournament concert featuring the Cholla High School Blues Standard and Bisbee act Cat Daddy and His 12 Bars Blues Band.

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