Baseball Select Stories

Baseball History in Dayton Ohio


From: Baseball Days—Dayton’s North Side Field 1922-1934

Written by Roland L. Larke, Sponsored by the Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1992

After an absence of 11 years, minor league baseball was revived in Dayton with the restoration of the Central League. The renowned Branch Rickey of the St. Louis Cardinals felt that Dayton fans would support professional baseball and established a farm club to be called the Dayton Aviators. Rickey called on men with backgrounds of minor league experience to serve as officials. Phil Bartelme became president, and Rickey himself was vice president. Ernest Lanigan as secretary had impressive credentials with years of service as a press writer with such organizations as the New York Press and Cleveland Leader, the Philadelphia Symphony and Washington and Lee University. He was also author of the Sporting News column, “Candid Comments.”


In anticipation of larger crowds, the North Dayton Amusement Company added two more grandstands to increase seating capacity to 4,000. Everett Booe, as manager, had two years experience with Pittsburgh in the major leagues. Born in Mocksville, North Carolina, he was a graduate of Davidson University where he played baseball and served as quarterback on the football team. Truly a gentleman of the south, L. H. Addington of the Sporting News had this to say: “Booe is a clean, high-class fellow and nothing of a slave-driver, but a man who makes himself so well-liked by his players that they will go the limit for him.”

Stars of the team who went on to the major leagues were Ab Wright, later with Cleveland; Jim Jordan of Brooklyn; Mike Ryba, St. Louis; and Marvin Gudat of the Cincinnati Reds.


The infield of Thumb Cunningham at third, Jim Jordan at shortstop, Art Funk at second, and Jim Brewer at first were leaders in fielding and hitting and instrumental in the team’s placing second. Manager Booe adequately filled in mostly as an outfielder and at times as an infielder.


With this stellar group the team deserved better fan support. A combination of poor scheduling and bad weather were given as reasons for inadequate support (gate receipts). It could be seen why calloused baseball fans shouted Booe’s name deliberately at times. The franchise was moved to Ft. Wayne in the 1929.


Class B Players

Success for a player in the minor leagues was dependent not only on talent but an ability to survive the debilitating effects of a day-in-day-out routine of playing during the hot summer months. Many rookies flourished in the days of May and June only have to have their careers fade during the relentless heat of the dog days of July and August. Enduring the discomforts of road trips was another character building experience. There were the long trips on small buses crammed with 14 players, a manager and perhaps a traveling secretary, playing equipment and personal luggage, then a three or four nights stay in a second-rate hotel.


Players dressed at the hotel and rode the bus to the ballpark. After the game, it was back on the bus in a sweaty, dusty uniform, a shower, and on to a meal and an evening’s entertainment on a meager daily expense allowance.


It was a welcome relief to return to the home field and put on a clean white uniform in the clubhouse beneath the stands. There was the luxury of the clubhouse boy who provided a daily shine to playing shoes and who hung out your sweat-soaked playing apparel to dry each day.


Unlike the teams of upper classification there was no trainer or training facilities. Teammates provided rub downs, and the treatment of cuts and bruises was self-administered from the clubhouse first-aid kit. Other pleasant features of the home stand were the return to friendly fans and the wife or girlfriend in the stands. Not so pleasant for some of the players was the return to the ranting and raspberries of the hometown wolves.

Interview with Babe Ruth

In an interview with Carl Finke, Dayton Daily News sports columnist, before the exhibition game, Ruth had this to say:

“Say Finke, can you find out what kind of baseballs they are going to use in today’s game? Over in Columbus they had 50-cent balls that you couldn’t hit hard. And then the fans were disappointed because Lou and myself didn’t hit any home runs. The fans want to see us knock them out of the lot and they are disappointed when we fail. If they use cheap balls today I just won’t play.”


Ruth/Gehrig 1928 Exibition

On a cool but clear October day in 1928, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig stopped in Dayton on a barnstorming trip across the country. Ruth became a member of the Thompson Yellow Jacket Team, Dayton amateur champions, renamed the “Bustin’ Babes.” Gehrig was a member of McCall’s, the city’s semi-pro champs, the “Larruping Lous.”


Both played first base and pitched. Gehrig hit four consecutive homers, the first over the fence in the farthest part of the park in center field, one of the longest in the park’s history.


It looked like a dismal day for the Babe, but his lone homer in the eighth inning with the bases loaded made it a complete day for him and the fans.