BISBEE, Ariz. – Fall is the time of year for high school football in Arizona, and one of the best places to catch a game is in Bisbee.
The Bisbee High School Pumas play their home games at Warren Ballpark, a historic hybrid football and baseball stadium that the locals call the real “Field of Dreams.”
Bisbee is an old mining town just seven miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border. Friday night lights are alive and well here.
“Everybody is behind the Pumas,” said Mike Anderson, the historian for Warren Ballpark. “These kids are great kids. They have really fine coaches.”
Not only are the schools well represented, but the atmosphere for high school football is terrific.
The team meets at Bisbee High, then boards a bus and gets a police escort through the town to the stadium. The lights and sirens from the police cars alert their cheering fans that the team has arrived. During the game, fireworks are shot off in the stadium every time the Pumas score.
However, Anderson thinks that one of the best things about playing the game is the location.
“It is the oldest multi-sport facility in the United States,” he explained.
The ballpark was built in 1909, and is five years older than Chicago’s Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. The Bisbee High School baseball teams also play their home games at Warren Ballpark. It was built by the company that operated the copper mine as a way to provide entertainment for the minors.
Scott Hanson is the author of the book “Who is Gym?” which is about the names that appear on Arizona’s high school sports fields.
“George Warren was an old prospector (in Bisbee). He found a huge ore deposit there, but he ended up dying before he made any money on it,” Hanson said. “But he was the model for the prospector that appears on the seal of Arizona.”
There’s a lot of history in this old ballpark.
“It has been used since 1909 for high school baseball and football, as well as semi-professional and professional minor league baseball,” Anderson added. “We also saw Major League Baseball teams come and play baseball here from 1913 to 1947.”
Baseball immortals Honus Wagner and Connie Mack managed against each other in an exhibition game at Warren Ballpark in 1940. Wagner managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics. Anderson said the locker rooms aren’t much different now than they were nearly 80 years ago.
“It even has the smell of liniment and sweat,” Anderson described. “It’s interesting architecturally because the interior walls are all adobe and there’s no other ballpark like it in the southwest.”
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been recent improvements. New restrooms were built at a cost of $100,000, and two new scoreboards are set to be installed this month. The Pecos league still plays semi-pro baseball games here and Warren Ballpark has also hosted rugby.
“English immigrants, when they came over from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, back in the early part of the 20th century, brought their ball sports with them,” Anderson said. “The Cousin Jacks stopped playing their ball sports here when World War I started, and never resumed them after that.”
Rugby is making a return at Warren Ballpark, however. On Dec. 10, it will host its first rugby game in 100 years.
Anderson added that Warren Ballpark is a special place, and watching the Bisbee High School Pumas play football here is a real treat.
“This is Friday night lights. It doesn’t get any better than that,” he expressed. “Coming to a football game in a small town in rural Arizona is still just like it used to be.”
For pictures and more information about Warren Ballpark, go to www.friendsofwarrenballpark.com.
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