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

The determination of Ducky Holmes to install minor league baseball in Dayton began in 1932. As an independent owner and manager he fielded a team at North Side Field, appropriately called the Ducks. They played in the Central League, a league stumbling for stability. On June 21 the Akron owners moved their franchise to Canton.  On July 21 Canton and South Bend disbanded which left a four team league.  The remaining teams were Dayton, Youngstown, Erie and Fort Wayne.


The ensuing season was a fairly successful one, with Dayton winning parts of a split season and the league championship.


Erie was a New York Yankee farm club managed by the great Hall of Famer Chief Bender, the former Philadelphia Athletic pitcher under Connie Mack. A highlight of the season was the firing of Bender, who took his team off the field after a squabble with the umpires. Willard Hershberger, a future Cincinnati Red Leg, became acting manager. Hershberger was a star of the team. Besides catching, he played the infield. He was called upon to manage the team in Dayton after manager Chief Bender was fired. Hershberger was a popular member of the Cincinnati Reds, serving mostly as backup catcher for Ernie Lombardi. His life ended tragically when he committed suicide on a road trip in Boston.


Another noteworthy figure was Fort Wayne manager Bill Wambsganss who still owns the record of having executed the only unassisted triple play in World Series Games, the feat occurring as second baseman for Cleveland against Brooklyn in 1920.


The antics of fiesty Ducky Holmes stirred the interest of fans. Most famous was his managing the team perched on a light pole after being ejected from a game in Fort Wayne.


Players who attained notable major league status were Dick Siebert and Phil Weintraub of Dayton, a future member of the Jewish players’ Hall of Fame, Jake Powell and Babe Phelps of Youngstown, and Willard Hershberger of Erie.


Daytonian Bun Hungling, once with the St. Louis Browns, served as catcher at the end of the season with the Ducks.


Wally Dunham, catcher, was a colorful, resolute and sometimes rambunctious member of the team. Deserving mention is Frankie Young, a favorite of the fans because of his dogged play.


Another event of interest was the visit of Casey Stengel and Max Carey to scout rookie Dick Siebert.


Lights were installed in the spring and the park became one of the best-lighted fields in the country. Ducky booked exhibition games at night under the lights and its possibilities as a means of attracting more fans to their parks.