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Less Than Minor: Life in the Pecos League

Starting May 13th a new Fox 1 show documents the independent Pecos League, where players get by on $50 a week on dusty Southwestern baseball diamonds.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

In baseball's nascent stage, the game spread across the US and gained a foothold in nearly every community. The Major Leagues might have been in the Northeast and Midwest, but nearly everywhere you went there would be a minor league team, or an industry team for the local mill, or a townball team determine which town ruled Minnesota. Many of these teams didn't last long, and a constantly changing landscape was the norm.

Like the larger American economy things became more standardized and consolidated over time. Starting in the 1930s and going through the 1940s the Major League teams signed minor league teams to specific development deals. Instead of signing their own players and selling them to any Major League team, these newly dubbed 'farm teams' became part of a regimented product pipeline.

Without official affiliations, many teams withered on the vine and died, and independent baseball as an institution largely disappeared until the early 1990s. Starting in 1993 a new generation of independent leagues have appeared to provide entertainment largely in cities that have little hope of getting even a short season A team. Most of these leagues are fly-by-night operations, churning along for a few years before folding, only to be replaced by another awkwardly named league. My hometown of Yuma has gone through a series of teams, from the Bull Frogs to the Scorpions, to Panthers and Desert Ghosts.

Arizona isn't just the home of the Diamondbacks, or two top level NCAA programs, the minor league Fall League, or the Rookie designated teams. It also has some independent teams still scratching out a living.

The Pecos League has set up shop in Douglas and Bisbee, two former mining towns south of Tucson with their glory days behind them. They play against teams from Roswell, White Sands, and other dusty New Mexico towns (and Las Vegas, the odd one out in the category of 'semi-forgotten Southwest towns').

I'd like to go down to Douglas and check out a game sometime, but I imagine you're like me and can't really justify the drive right now. Luckily for us, Fox 1 has our back. Starting on May 13th they're running a short series following the Pecos League in all its glory.

Okay, 'glory' might not be accurate. At $50 a week, the players are barely a set up from beer leagues.

Still. I'm always interested in seeing different levels and aspects of baseball, so I'll be tuning in.

The series debuts on Tuesday night on Fox Sports 1, at 6:30pm this Tuesday. That's channel 31/1031 if you have Cox; if not, check your listings.