Popular in Southern Colorado since the 1800s, the game of baseball widely became a favorite pastime of the Steelworks laborers. The Y Baseball leagues were integral in community building, as all laborers were welcome to join the leagues, including immigrants.
As recorded in the Huerfano County Ethno-History Documentation Project housed at the Huerfano County Library, during the warmer months, baseball was played at all levels from children’s teams to semi-professional traveling leagues. Huerfano County resident Clarence Cordova states in the documentation project that baseball was eagerly embraced because, “That’s all the entertainment there was. Oh, a circus would come once in a while. But baseball…that’s what was going on every Sunday.” Every mine or mill department had at least one, if not two baseball teams, and the best players were often offered better employment and housing. Wagering was common, and local rivalry between teams was fierce. Newly arrived immigrants caught the enthusiasm for the American pastime and often formed their own teams based on their own racial and ethnic preferences. Following the introduction of the Employee Representation Plan in 1915, workers in management positions formed their own baseball teams and played in championship games against the teams comprised of laborers.
Women’s Steelworks YMCA softball team, 1940s
The sport wasn’t just played by men. Women and children of all ages were included within the sport’s activities. The game played in the Canon City District in 1928, included a challenge between married and single women, with the single women emerging triumphant.
Playing sports helped the newly arrived immigrants feel more comfortable socializing outside of their neighborhoods and served as a unifying force bringing together employees of diverse nationalities, ethnicities and languages.
Grandstand and baseball field played between CF&I and the Neefs team of Denver, July 6, 1902.
To support the baseball (and softball) games, CF&I maintained baseball fields. In 1916, CF&I built a grandstand in Pueblo, complete with dugouts, showers and drinking fountains. Although the grandstand burned in 1921, baseball remained very popular into the 1930s and 1940s. The June 3, 1938 edition of the company publication, The CF&I Blast, reported a game between the Finishing Department team and the Colorado Supply Company team, saying: “When the local papers see fit to publish a complete box score of a CF&I softball game, you know it must have been some game.”