Ghosts of baseball history found in Harquahala

There are multitudes of ways to go ghost-town hunting in these parts. If you are fortunate, maybe you have a little pile of dirt somewhere in the high country. And, if you are like me, maybe your dwelling sits smack dab in the middle of what was once part of the Gold Rush.

Or was it silver? Or copper? I’m not sure, but I know that on more than one occasion, I have ventured off and discovered a few holes, a few shafts, and sensed more than a few broken dreams. Who knows, maybe they were realized. Maybe somebody took out of those holes enough ore to bring their family out west. Or maybe they worked those claims until they couldn’t work anymore. Maybe they died out there. I have no idea. But there isn’t a night that I don’t walk out onto my porch and wonder what it must have been like out in the rubble of the rubble.

I have always been fascinated with ghost towns. When I first moved to Arizona from upstate New York I promised that I would spend my weekends devouring all that this great state had to offer. I fancied myself a ghost town enthusiast. But, then school, then work, then friends, then family, then work, got in the way.

I have gone out and spent a few hours staring at and listening to a few abandoned mine shafts in Yavapai County. And, there have been a few long nights on line, scouring some very cool websites on the subject. I now feel like I can make my way around an old mining operation, or, sometimes, I can even spot the tailing pile, half obscured by growth and erosion. On a good day, if I am in the passenger seat, I can actually pick them out from the car as the traverse to the Black Canyon Freeway begins. Here’s a hint: Look for one strand of barbed wire at the top of a pile of dirt that looks out of place to the rest of the landscape. More often than not, there is a mineshaft nearby.

But the gold and the silver and the copper and the men who foraged for it aren’t the only ghosts that I chase from time to time. Let me introduce to you the greatest escape of them all! And you are forewarned, this website has the same sort of allure that the great minerals had and still have for those who have the fever. I can’t be responsible for what will happen as you make your way. I imagine the state of Arizona has the same feeling about trying to keep tabs on and protect us from the millions of miles of mines beneath its underbelly.

The baseball ghosts that I have chased and will continue to chase all reside in the pages upon pages of baseball-reference.com. There are teams, players, box scores, you name it, all right there before your very eyes. It spans the history of the game itself and it’s mind-boggling. There are times late at night that I will remember a game that I saw when I was a teenager, perhaps a vague memory of the “Game of the Week.” I recall, for instance, mowing the lawn the morning that Billy Martin benched Reggie Jackson at Fenway Park, after the “Straw” didn’t stir the drink and dogged it in right field. But what other record of that game exists besides a recollection of a hot and humid afternoon in my backyard? I remember wishing I were watching the rest of the game, but being scolded for the thought of it.

So, fast-forward a few decades and let’s go to baseball-reference.com. In a few moments, I am staring at the box score of a Yankees-Red Sox game from June 18, 1977. And there he is: Paul Blair coming in for Jackson in right field. I have the entire box, the play by play and just about every other fact from that game, that season, every player, every moment, at a keystroke.  It’s all there.

Reggie Jackson RF    3    1    2
Paul Blair RF             1    0    0

I can’t possibly do baseball-reference.com justice here and now. I will just say this:
There’s gold in them there pages. The landscape is rugged and at times difficult and can be unforgiving. I prefer to simplify when I am there. You don’t have to.

So what does this all mean and what does it have to do with anything? You see, I just spent a day in a ghost town and I have spent countless hours at baseball-reference.com. And if you had told me at either locale, real or virtual, that the two would somehow come together in my mind’s eye I never, ever would have believed you. But they have.

Arizona’s first major league baseball player hailed from what is now a ghost town. Long ago it was a boomtown that went by the name of Harqua Hala. And it says it all right there on his Baseball Reference page! Blink, and you might miss it. He made his debut and played his last big league game all in the in the same day.

Lee William Delhi

Position: Pitcher 
Bats: Right, Throws: Right 
Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 198 lb.
Born: November 5, 1892 in Harqua Hala, Debut: April 16, 1912 (Age 19) 
Team: White Sox 1912

So doing what the “Tenth Inning” does: telling stories that we have the time and the resources and the relationships to tell, we completed our mission statement.

I simply cannot believe the video of our trip. I can’t believe where we went, what we saw, and the story behind it.

Sometimes I sit outside the yawning circumference of an open mine shaft and I wonder what it was like to have found a vein of solid currency that only you have access to and only you can retrieve through blood, sweat and tears. I can hardly imagine the challenge and the hardship.

Other times, my mind, just like yours I bet, begs to recall a baseball game from yesteryear. Or perhaps you conjure up an old favorite player or foe. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, baseball-reference.com makes them all come alive.

This time around, though, it simply gave us a lead. The real story resides in the rock, the dirt and the dust of Harquahala, Arizona. Time has eroded most of it there, but it only enhances the pages that support the lore of “Flame” Delhi who will always have a home at baseball-reference.com.