Baseball history in Cochise County

It seems fitting that this baseball blog post comes after the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series last night. Yay, team (I used to live there, so I’m partial)!

Bisbee, Arizona has quite a bit of baseball history. Some of the game’s legendary players and managers either started their careers at Warren Ballpark or got some of their biggest breaks there. Some say Warren Ballpark is the oldest baseball stadium of its kind in the U.S.

The photo below is a team photo of the 1947 Bisbee Yanks, a Class C farm team for the New York Yankees. It was taken in the first base-side bleachers at Warren Ballpark in September 1947. Mike Anderson, a member of the Friends of Warren Ballpark, says it looks a lot like the kids who played for the Bisbee Copper Kings this year! He supplied the history about the players below.

Photo courtesy of Pete Vucurevich

Photo courtesy of Pete Vucurevich

Front row: left to right: Jim Wirt, Jim Bynon, Bud “Whitey” Howe, Charlie Metro, Bill Collins, Bullet Joe” Jose Valenzuela, Frank Finnegan

Middle Row: Jim Propst, Sam Kitterman, Eddie Hughes, Frank Lucchesi, Bob Holland, Pete Vucurevich, Bob Keeler

Top row: Jim Rude, Wayne Peterson, George Smith, Max Hittle, Clint Courtney

Charlie Metro was manager of the Yanks. It was his first manager’s job. He moved up the ranks to manage class B, A, AA and AAA ball, later managed the ’62 Chicago Cubs and the ’73 Kansas City Royals. He was a good friend of Billy Martin. Metro played for Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, the Detroit Tigers, Casey Stengel’s Oakland Oaks and the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League prior to taking the Bisbee job. He is 90 years old and lives in Virginia with his wife.

Frank Lucchesi became, at age 23, the youngest manager in professional baseball in 1951. Like Metro, he worked his way up the managerial ladder, managed the Philadelphia Phillies in the 70s, the Chicago Cubs in the 80s and finally, the Texas Rangers. Frank is 83 and lives in Texas with his wife.

Clint “Scrap Iron” Courtney was a catcher (very briefly) for the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox. He also became a minor league manager, and at his death was manager of the Atlanta Braves’ AAA Richmond team. He and Billy Martin had a career-long feud that started when Courtney was with the Yanks and Martin was with the Phoenix Senators.

This photo is courtesy of Pete Vucurevich, who played for the Yanks in 1947 and the Bisbee Copper Kings in 1955. Between his Bisbee stints he played on minor league teams in Ventura, CA, Twin Falls, Idaho, Binghamton, NY and Norfolk, Va. He also played on several top-notch Navy teams from 1951-1954, including the Armed Services World Champion Los Alamitos Naval Air Station team team in 1954. His brother Dan played for the 1953 Copper Kings. Pete lives in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Dan lives in Bisbee, Ariz.

Pete says the Yanks’ uniform was the same as the Yankees – white with pinstripes but with a “B” instead of “NY.”

The historic Warren Ballpark in Bisbee, Arizona will be 100 years old in 2009. Check back for more info about events to be held July 5, 2009.

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7 Comments

Filed under Events, Travel

7 responses to “Baseball history in Cochise County

  1. Great post about Warren Ballpark! I am the captain of the vintage base ball club that represents Bisbee, the once great – Bisbee Bees.

    We play 19th Century Base Ball, and we’re working on playing an exhibition game at the park in 2009.

    Great article.

    Huzzah!!

  2. James Propst

    i just came across this web site..was a nice feeling to see that photo of the bISBEE YANKS….i HOPE SOME OF MY FORMER TEAMMATES ARE STILL AROUND. LEFT HANDED PITCHER JIM PROPST

  3. Mike Anderson

    Jim, contact me through the friendsofwarrenball.com website. I can put you in touch with some of your old teammates. I’d also like to talk to you about your playing days.

  4. Mike Anderson

    To Jim Propst: I’ve been in touch with some of your teammates. They would love to hear from you. Check out the Friends of Warren Ballpark online. Mike

  5. jim propst

    Mike Anderson..I just saw your remarks….would be nice to receive your emails about those bisbee yanks… if i remember i won 15 and lost 6 that year..

  6. BRUCE S.

    have 2 old photos that i just came acroos from my dad’s estate.
    the uniform shows the “KINGS”
    DOING A SHORT RESEARCH BRINGS ME TO THE CONCLUSION . THAT THE PITCHER PLAYS FOR THE BISBEE/DOUGLAS KINGS?
    MY DAD LIVED IN DOUGLAS ARIZONA IN THE LATE 1940’S TILL HE WENT TO KOREA.
    ANY IDEA WHO THIS HURLER COULD BE?

  7. tourcochisecounty

    Hi Bruce,
    Thanks for your comment. I will contact you about those photos via email if that’s okay with you. I’m sure the baseball fans would like to see them.
    Luanne Mattson, PR for the Cochise County Tourism Council

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