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Southwest Life Health And the West is History Community Travel

And the West is History: Old Timers Baseball Scene – Ca. 1952

In 1951, the Durango Junior Chamber of Commerce needed someone to take over the Old Timers Youth Baseball program. The civic organization chose a 17-year-old Durango High graduate, Ward Lee, to assume direction of the program midway through the 1951 season. Lee jumped at the chance and ran the program for the next 42 years, even coming home every year from college to spend his summer coaching and directing the program. While at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Lee played in the College World Series and later had the opportunity to play professional baseball. He opted to return to his hometown and teach social studies for District 9-R and devote his summers to the Old Timers program. Lee hired high school-age boys to coach, umpire and mentor the youth league players. Remarkably, the program was administered without the involvement of parents. He financed the cost of the program through sponsorship of teams by local businesses. The cost to each player was exactly zero. He credits The Durango Herald for its significant support of the program by publicizing the businesses through printed daily accounts of each game that included team sponsor and key player names. It has been estimated that Durango Old Timers Baseball served more than 10,000 boys in the 42 years Lee ran the program. Here, Lee speaks to a group of aspiring ball players in likely his first or second year in charge. – Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, edhorvat@animasmuseum (Courtesy of La Plata County Historical Society)