DAYTON SOFTBALL HISTORY
By Neil W. Coleman
Softball first started on the City of Dayton playgrounds back in the early 1920s. At first, 9” and 12” outseam balls were used. Only the first baseman and catcher were permitted to use gloves. Spike shoes were not allowed. About 1928, the 9” ball was dropped from the program and the 12” ball no longer had an outseam. Tournaments and leagues before 1929 were played in the Catholic and church leagues with tournaments being organized by interested individuals. The first lighted softball diamond was Edgemont Elms, located just south of St. Elizabeth Hospital. Later, Sucher Packing Company installed lights at their ballpark on Western Avenue, followed by diamond #4 at Kettering Field.
The Dayton Amateur Softball Commission
In 1929, the Dayton Amateur Softball Commission was formed and Leslie Diehl was elected the first president, a position which he held through 1947. Then followed Hank Malloy, 1948-49; Dan Wagner, 1950-51; John McGee, 1952-53; Clarence “Shorty” Minzeler, 1954; Hank Malloy, 1955; Jim Schwartz, 1956; Ray Gillaugh, 1957; Les Pointer, 1958; Vic Lyons, 1959-60; Ray Gillaugh, 1961; Hugh Trevene, 1962; Dick Clark, 1963; Jim Gift, 1964; Harry Bradbury, 1965; Ken Amick, 1966; Jim Boyles, 1967-68; Ron Brown, 1969-70; Russ Willoughby, 1971-72; Larry Chambers, 1973-74; Tom Griffin, 1975-76; Jim Stathopoulos, 1977; Clyde “Shorty” Brewer, 1978-80; Jerry McConnell, 1981; George Cuny, 1982; Neil Coleman, 1983-84; Bev Weng, 1985-86; Dick Burgmeier, 1987-88; and presently Denny Martin, 1989.
Vic Lyons was elected for two consecutive terms because slow pitch was just getting started and the DASC thought it best to let him stay at the helm. In 1967, Jim Boyles was elected president. He started the men’s 35 and over program and the women’s softball program. It was requested that he remain president another year. The two-year reign seemed to remain in effect until 1977. Clyde “Shorty” Brewer was elected for an extended period because of several outstanding programs started which were seen to completion under his leadership.
During these 59 years, seven men held the Secretary-Treasurer position, which automatically went to the City of Dayton, Director of Athletics. Mike Soloman first started, and along with Ellsworth Baer, held the position for many years. Then followed John Somers, Ray Neff, Bob Anderson, Tom Taylor and Ed Knox. This position, City of Dayton, Director of Athletics, was eliminated in 1981, in a re-alignment of the two divisions, Recreation and Parks.
The Division of Recreation and Parks
In 1981, the two divisions, Recreation and Parks, were united into one division, to be known as the Division of Recreation and Parks, with Michael P. Alexinas as Superintendent. The City of Dayton was divided into three zones, and softball became the responsibility of the River Zone, with Gerald LaRue as Zone Manager. Gary Serelson is the River Zone Coordinator with John Jacobs as Program Supervisor and Gina Bier as the Recreation and Parks Aide. This re-alignment of the two divisions was accomplished to provide a better operation and management of the old athletic section for softball and all other athletics, which occur in our city. The other two zones of the city are east, with Peggy Buris as Zone Manager, and West, with Jake Sweeney as Zone Manager. Each area of the city experiences a much more efficient operation of athletics.
Banquets were held each year honoring the champions in each division of the Annual City of Dayton Softball Tournament through 1981. At first, it was fast pitch only. In the 1930’s, the women’s program was initiated. Then, in the early 1950’s, slow pitch seemed to take over. Fast pitch had to struggle to survive, but seemed to make a fairly big comeback in 1981. Due to the complaints of the teams and managers involved, the banquet was been discontinued. Many complaints were received by the DASC stating that the banquet program lasted too long with too many boring speeches. The DASC, with the concurrence of the Division of Recreation and Parks, voted to discontinue the banquet as of 1982. Also taken into consideration was the state of the economy.
Hall of Fame
Always making improvements, the Fast Pitch Hall of Fame was organized by Jim Boyles in 1965. Eight years later in 1977, Larry Chambers formed the Slow Pitch Hall of Fame. Jim Boyles came out of retirement to form the Women’s Hall of Fame, which includes both fast and slow pitch.
Age and years of hard work plus illness caught up with many, and this brought about the Honorary List of past members to be added to the commission. In 1971, with Russ Willoughby at the helm, Jim Boyles gave notice that he was going to retire. After having served for many decades, Tom Taylor presented a motion, which was approved, that Jim Boyles be given honorary status, the first in 47 years. Since then, Ron Brown, Harry Bradbury, Larry Chambers and Charlie Zweisler have all been recognized and given honorary status. This can only be achieved if you have served over 10 years on the DASC. Four present members who are eligible are Clyde Brewer, Neil Coleman, George Cuny and Russ Willoughby.
Dayton Softball Today
Dayton softball has come a long way from the days it was played on the city playgrounds, to its present status of over 400 teams participating in the softball program. Gone are the days when competition was between the park teams of Bomberger, Linden Center, Clegg, Patterson, Barney’s, Burkhardt, Burkham and Washington Park. Now, instead of not only city champions, we have champions in fast pitch and slow pitch from all of the 50 states, competing for national titles, in all divisions for men and women.
The Dayton Amateur Softball Commission has 12 active members with voting privileges and 5 honorary members. Each member is assigned to one or more separate committees to govern the overall activities such as: protests, city tournament, extra tournaments, three Hall of Fame, etc. Members from the Greater Dayton Umpires Association, A.S.A., and I.R.A.D., are all represented. Two player representatives also represent all softball players in the city. A legal representative covers the DASC in matters of law.
To further coordinate and bring about better working relationships with all participating in softball, the DASC instituted a picnic. In 1977, present day participants held a picnic honoring all halls of famers. The picnic was so successful, it was held every year and was a family affair. The DASC hoped to be able to obtain something of value to be given as door prizes, but this proved more difficult each year in those economic times of trouble.
In 1981, a further change for improvement was initiated by the DASC. The Annual DASC Softball Picnic was combined along with the City of Dayton Annual Softball Tournament Finals. Also held this day was induction of new members in the Halls of Fame. What a day for advocates of softball in our area! Three super events at one and the same place, and on the same day. These three events took place at Lyon’s Field, Deeds Park on Sunday, September 19, 1989.