Researcher: Todd Hollst
2000 & Beyond
The roots of organized baseball in Dayton can be traced back to the years following the
Civil War. The Dayton Baseball Club was established in the late 1860s, and played
their games at Bimms Park.
The highlight of the early days of baseball in Dayton came on May 26, 1870. The Dayton
Baseball Club invited the Cincinnati Red Stockings, led by founder George Wright, to
Dayton for an exhibition game. The Red Stockings are known for among other things, as a
team that compiled a winning streak of 130 games.
That day in May, the Dayton club was able to hold the Red Stockings to just six
in the first inning. Dayton was able to muster nine run that day, however they
lost resounding to the Stockings, 104-9.
By all accounts, the first professional baseball team in Dayton played their first game in
1884. The Gem Citys were a part of the Ohio State Association, which included
entries from Springfield, Hamilton, Portsmouth, Ironton, and Chillicothe. According to
early reports, all home games were played on Association
In 1889 the Dayton Reds took the field and played in the Tri-State League. They played
their games at West Side Park, located
on Williams Street, and were operated by a man named Harry T. Smith of Springfield, Ill.
Smith lost his investment however and folded the team during the 1890 season, after only
Teams from Dayton were known by many different nicknames during the early days. They were
the Gem Citys, Reds, Old Soldiers, Veterans, and Aviators. The teams finished first in
1884, 1898, 1900, 1911, and 1914, last in 1909 and 1915. Photo of a 1904 Dayton team
In 1897, the Dayton Old Soldiers played in the Tri-State League. The team took its name
from the Veterans Administration Hospital and grounds that was established to care for
Civil War veterans. Photo of Soldiers' Home
Base Ball Park
On the Old Soldiers team was a player named Elmer Flick, a native of Bedford, Ohio. Flick
eventually made it the Major League and played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland
Bronchos, Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland Naps, which became the Indians. He was
elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963.
On April 14, 1901, nearly 2,000 Dayton fans were treated to an exhibition game between the
Old Soldiers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates won that day 3-2, in 11 innings. The
Pirates won that day in part on two runs knocked in by a young player named Honus Wagner.
Wagner is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and was inducted in the first
class in 1936, along with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson, and Babe Ruth.
Another highlight of the 1901 season included back-to-back no-hitters by Clarence Wright.
He beat Columbus 9-0 on September 1, and Grand Rapids 2-0 on September 4.
In 1903, the year the Wright Brothers invented powered flight, the team changed its name
to the Veterans and began play in the Central League, as part of the National Association
of Professional Baseball Leagues. The team became Daytons first official
minor-league professional baseball team.
The Veterans played at Fairview Park
until 1913. The team then moved to Highland
Park in East Dayton, but the move caused a problem for the Veterans fans. There
were no streetcar lines to that part of town. However, on opening day 1913, 4,661 fans
appeared on Opening Day.
Dayton had an entry in the Central League on and off during the following fourteen years.
The league disbanded in 1917 at the start of World War I.
Several players from the Miami Valley area spent time in the Major Leagues.
Editor's note: During this era, the most
significant Dayton professional baseball team, the Dayton
Marcos were formed.
From 1928 through 1942, with the exception of 1931, minor league baseball had a home in
Dayton. In 1928, 29, and 30, the reestablished Dayton Aviators took to the
field after an absence of more than a decade. Those three seasons, the Aviators lost more
games than they won, and they dropped out of the league before the 1931 season.
In 1932 baseball returned with a new name, and a new character on the baseball scene. The Dayton Ducks are by far the most
well-known and remembered team in Dayton baseball history. The team was owned and managed
by a former major leaguer named Howard Elbert Holmes, better known to all as
Ducky Holmes. Holmes played for one season in the big leagues in 1906 for the
St. Louis Cardinals
The Dayton Ducks were part of the Mid-Atlantic League, which included teams from
Zanesville, Canton, Springfield, Lima and Akron in Ohio, as well as Fort Wayne, Indiana,
Erie, PA, and Huntington, W.Va. The Ducks were affiliated with the Brooklyn Dodgers and
St. Louis Cardinals.
Ducky Holmes was quite the character. On more than once occasion he had run-ins with
umpires, and ended up watching the game from the stands after being tossed out. One time
he watched from the heights of a light pole near the field and heckled the umpire who had
tossed him out of the game
Holmes was also known for many promotional gimmicks, and was the owner of several pet
ducks who found their home in a pen behind the grandstands. The ducks were given to Holmes
as a gift on opening day 1932.
The Ducks played their home games at North
Side Field for three years before moving to Hudson Field. Six players who suited up for the Ducks eventually made
it to the major leagues, most notable was a pitcher named Johnny Vander Meer. Vander Meer
was an All-Star for the Cincinnati Reds and threw back-to-back no-hitters in 1938.
The team played from 1932 to 1942. Ducky Holmes led the team for at least four seasons,
and a bevy of other managers handled the rest. The team folded when World War II began,
and Holmes made ends meet by running a grocery store in East Dayton. He died on September
Following World War II, minor league baseball returned to Dayton. In 1946 local business
owners Dr. Warren G. Bradford, and concession operator Hy Shumsky established the Dayton Indians. The team played in the
Ohio State League as a class D team. On the field they struggled, finishing near the
bottom of the standings both years.
In 1948, baseball promotion maverick Bill Veeck who was operating the Cleveland Indians,
bought the Dayton Indians. The team became a Class A team in the Central League, and a
farm team for the Cleveland Indians. In 1951 the team became a St. Louis Browns farm
The league consisted of six teams- four in Michigan (Muskegon, Saginaw, Flint, and Grand
Rapids), Charleston, W.Va., and Dayton.
The Dayton Indians played at Hudson Field
and fans that couldnt make it the game were able to listen to the play-by-play
action from announcer Les Spencer on WONE radio.
In 1951 the Indians won the Central League Championship by compiling a record of 87-50.
The winning team split the championship winnings of $2000. Each player received around
The league however would fold following the 1951 season. Attendance was a problem for many
of the leagues teams. Dayton averaged just fewer than 1,100 per game and drew a
total of 58,989 paying customers over 54 games. Other teams in the league couldnt
sustain a portion of that. For example, a game in Flint, Michigan, the paid attendance was
only 2- a married couple.
The last game for the Indians in Dayton was at Hudson Field on September 3, 1951. They
lost to the Charleston Senators 6-3, in front of 720 people.
The Indians finished the season in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They split a doubleheader with
their hosts, losing the second game by forfeit. The lights went out at the stadium, and
Indians manager Jim Crandall refused to have his team wait around two days for the
situation to be fixed. The team got on a bus and returned to Dayton.
The Dayton Dragons: Dragon Mania
After nearly fifty years, forty-nine to be exact,
professional baseball returned to Dayton, Ohio. In the spring of 2000, the Dragons became
the first professional minor league team to take the field in Dayton since the 1951 Dayton
While long awaited by many, the return of professional baseball to Dayton was not without
a struggle. City officials had been talking about bringing baseball to Dayton as a way to
help revitalize the downtown area. However, with the Cincinnati Reds organization so close
to the Miami Valley area, questions arose as to whether a team could succeed.
On February 23, 1999, the announcement came. Mandalay Sports Entertainment confirmed that
indeed an agreement had been reached and baseball would be returning to Dayton.
On May 3, 1999, Dayton Professional Baseball announced the team would be nicknamed the
A Ballpark Like None Other
Now that the city had a team, where would they play?
Once a location was secured in downtown Dayton, construction began on a new state of the
art minor league stadium. A design was chosen that would allow fans to be as close to the
action as safety would allow (watch out for those foul balls).
On September 14, 1999, construction on the $22.7 million dollar ballpark began. Though
workers put in long hours and overcame many obstacles, primarily the weather, the stadium
would not be fully completed until after the start of the 2000 season. Still however,
completion of such an enormous task in less than a year is impressive.
Lets Play Ball!
The Dayton Dragons became part of the Mid West League and
took the field for the first time at home on April 28, 2000. The Dragons began the
Inaugural 2000 season on the road because construction on Fifth Third Field was not complete.
Some of the highlights of opening night included a parade of public officials who helped
bring baseball back to Dayton. Also in attendance was Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer and
Fifth Third Bank spokesman Johnny Bench, who caught the ceremonial first pitch.
Highlights of the Dragons Inaugural 2000 season on the field included the outstanding play
of Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns. Austin Kearns made it to the big leagues in 2002. He
knocked out 13 homeruns, batted .315, and drove in 56 RBIs in only 107 games. He too
has become a permanent addition to the Reds roster. Adam Dunn was moved up to the big show
in the middle of the 2001 season and played in 66 games with the Reds. He has become a
permanent addition to the big league club.
While the Dragons made news on the field, the real news was made in the stands. The Dayton
Dragons managed to sell-out every game of the season. Whats more, they did it before
the first pitch of the season was even made. To date, the Dragons organization has
continued the streak and have sold-out every game in the teams short history.
Hey Now, Youre An All-Star
On June 19, 2001, the Midwest League All-star game was held
at Fifth Third Field. The Dragons, part of the Eastern Division of the Midwest League,
sent four players to the all-star game.
Dragons manager Donnie Scott was at the helm, and four Dragons players were on
the roster. Those players included Randy Ruiz (1B), Wandel Campana (2B), Samone Peters
(DH), and Dustin Mosely (P).
The Eastern Division beat the West Division 7-3. Michigan Battle Cats slugger T.J.
Soto broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning with a grand slam.
Researcher: Todd Hollst