Wirth Watching: Mining and Baseball

From Utah’s territorial days to the 1950s much of our history was made in mining towns. No mine wanted another one to beat it in production and no miner or copper worker wanted to think the guy in the next town was better than he was.

Good 4 Utah’s Craig Wirth says the competition spilled out into daily life and into one important summer passion.

In the old days there was a lot of competition between the smelters and mines in Utah not for the gold silver and coal, but baseball.

Every mining town had a team including Scoffield, Eureka, Tooele

They took it seriously more than 60 years ago some of the most hard fought games were in Magna.

Virtually all the greats are gone: those who remembered the hot summer days in the dugout.

Twenty-five years ago, one of the last at that time, Denzil Hancy remembered the rough and tumble games.

“Many times I was knocked down…about all you can do is get up and start over… you can bluff a lot of people .. .these young kids. They accused me of throwing at the hitters. Well sure I threw at the hitters. Admit they were throwing at me… that’s the difference between the players then and today… Now you throw at a guy or pitch him close they want to come out to the mound punch you out… they are bloomer buttons as far as I am concerned,” said Hancy.

Hancy was playing for the Idaho Falls Spuds. When Garfield needed another pro, they hired him at the Smelter, but made it clear baseball was what they wanted.

“At game time, we were allowed to get off 3 or 4 hours early and go to the ball park and get ready to play ball,” said Hancy.

Those other teams were just as serious. Only the best took their places on this field.

“They had quality players … one of the fellows was an ex-major leaguer name of Perry. I don't recall his first name. He was a great pitcher and every time I played against him, I hit him like I owned him,” said Hancy.

The crowds were just as passionate about this all. It was more than just entertainment in the company town.

“The ballpark packed maybe a thousand to 1,500 people,” said Hancy.

The days of the great games… we have lost their names-- even some of the companies… but memories are all around the community ball park.

It was passion down to one's ball mitt.

“It took me two years to break that thing in… I took it apart and I put it back together, pounded a bat in it to make a pocket … I used a lot of oil . I even soaked it in water to make it flexible,” said Hancy.

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