From the ‘Gem Cities’ of 1884 to the surging Dragons of today

According to The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball compiled by Baseball America, Dayton’s first association with a professional league was in 1884 when the city participated in the Ohio State Association. After that, Dayton had teams in the Tri-State League, Interstate, Western Association, Central, Middle Atlantic, Ohio State and Central League again, through the 1951 season.

Also playing were the Dayton Marcos, who participated in the Negro Leagues when “Organized” baseball did not welcome blacks. The Marcos played mostly at Westwood Field.

Dayton Marcos (1920-1940s) Chartered in 1920 as one of eight Negro League Baseball Teams the Dayton Marcos played its first game at Westwood Field on Western Avenue, (now James H. McGee Blvd.) on June 12, 1920, against the Chicago Giants. HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Dayton Marcos (1920-1940s) Chartered in 1920 as one of eight Negro League Baseball Teams the Dayton Marcos played its first game at Westwood Field on Western Avenue, (now James H. McGee Blvd.) on June 12, 1920, against the Chicago Giants. HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Dayton teams were called the Gem Cities, Reds, Old Soldiers, Veterans, Aviators, Ducks, Wings and Indians. They finished first (1884, ’98, ’00, ’11, ’14, ’28, ’49 and ’51), last (1909, ’15 and ’30) and didn’t finish the 1890 season. You’ve heard of Cincinnati’s Johnny Vander Meer pitching back-to-back no-hitters in 1938; but how about Clarence Wright beating him to that feat by no-hitting Columbus, 9-0, and Grand Rapids, 2-0, in consecutive starts for the Western Association Dayton Old Soldiers on Sept. 1 and 4, 1901?

Dayton teams from that era played at old Fairview Park on the corner of North Main and Fairview Avenue.

The Pittsburgh Pirates came to town for an exhibition game April 14, 1901, and beat the Old Soldiers, 3-2, in 11 innings with a young right fielder – later shortstop – knocking in two runs. His name was Honus Wagner, and 2,000 fans watched him play on that cold day.

Two days later, the Reds came to town and beat the Dayton team, 7-3. Bid McPhee, who will go into baseball’s Hall of Fame this summer, was Cincinnati’s manager.

Dayton Ducks late 1930’s Hudson field

Credit: marvin christian

Dayton Ducks late 1930's Hudson field

Credit: marvin christian

Dayton Ducks late 1930’s Hudson field

Credit: marvin christian

Credit: marvin christian

On April 26, almost 99 years ago to the day that the Dragons will open at home, Robert Wicker pitched a 3-hitter as Dayton beat Columbus, 15-1, in front of 900 fans.

Out of pro baseball a year, Dayton returned with a team in 1903 in a reorganized Central League. By 1905, Elmer Redelle, manager of the Victory Theatre, became secretary of the Dayton team, and later president.

In 1910, shortstop Dolly Stark – who later became a major-league umpire – was purchased by Brooklyn for $3,000 from the team now called the Dayton Veterans.

Dayton Indians squad.

Credit: copy of DDN

Dayton Indians squad.

Credit: copy of DDN

Dayton Indians squad.

Credit: copy of DDN

Credit: copy of DDN

Dayton played games at Fairview Park until 1913, then moved to Highland Park in East Dayton, near Santa Cruz Avenue. That move created a transportation problem as no streetcar lines reached that destination. Still, 4,661 fans appeared on Opening Day 1913.

Dayton stayed in the Central League through the 1917 season, when the league folded.

After a decade of no professional baseball in Dayton, the sport returned in 1928, again in the Central League. This time, the Dayton franchise had a working agreement with the Louisville Colonels of the American Association.

Editor’s Note: This story first published on April 6, 2000, in the days leading up to the inaugural Dayton Dragons season

Here’s a look at Dayton’s complete minor league baseball history

Year League (Class) Name Record
1884 Ohio State Association Gem Cities 55-21
1889 Tri-State League Reds 48-54
1890 Tri-State League Reds 17-19
1897 Interstate League Old Soldiers 74-51
1898 Interstate League Old Soldiers 85-66
1899 Interstate League Veterans 55-85
1900 Interstate League Veterans 90-43
1901 Western Association Old Soldiers 84-55
1903 Central League (B) Veterans 61-76
1904 Central League (B) Veterans 67-70
1905 Central League (B) Veterans 72-64
1906 Central League (B) Veterans 78-71
1907 Central League (B) Veterans 66-71
1908 Central League (B) Veterans 77-63
1909 Central League (B) Veterans 56-77
1910 Central League (B) Veterans 74-63
1911 Central League (B) Veterans 86-51
1912 Central League (B) Veterans 73-56
1913 Central League (B) Veterans 62-77
1914 Central League (B) Veterans 85-49
1915 Central League (B) Veterans 43-79
1916 Central League (B) Veterans 73-57
1917 Central League (B) Veterans 44-68
1928 Central League (B) Aviators 76-59
1929 Central League (B) Aviators 68-69
1930 Central League (B) Aviators 56-81
1932 Central League (B) Ducks 77-64
1933 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 71-63
1934 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 71-54
1935 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 69-55
1936 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 70-59
1937 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 61-65
1938 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 58-72
1939 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Wings 60-69
1940 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Wings 60-65
1941 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 50-75
1942 Mid-Atlantic League (C) Ducks 74-53
1946 Ohio State League (D) Indians 58-79
1947 Ohio State League (D) Indians 62-73
1948 Central League (A) Indians 84-55
1949 Central League (A) Indians 80-57
1950 Central League (A) Indians 69-63
1951 Central League (A) Indians 87-50
2000 Midwest League (A) Dragons 70-67
2001 Midwest League (A) Dragons 82-57
2002 Midwest League (A) Dragons 73-67
2003 Midwest League (A) Dragons 61-78
2004 Midwest League (A) Dragons 48-92
2005 Midwest League (A) Dragons 60-79
2006 Midwest League (A) Dragons 67-73
2007 Midwest League (A) Dragons 78-62
2008 Midwest League (A) Dragons 66-72
2009 Midwest League (A) Dragons 59-80
2010 Midwest League (A) Dragons 53-85
2011 Midwest League (A) Dragons 83-57
2012 Midwest League (A) Dragons 60-78
2013 Midwest League (A) Dragons 65-74
2014 Midwest League (A) Dragons 68-70
2015 Midwest League (A) Dragons 71-68
2016 Midwest League (A) Dragons 47-93
2017 Midwest League (A) Dragons 71-69
2018 Midwest League (A) Dragons 58-80
2019 Midwest League (A) Dragons 58-82
2021 High-A Central (A) Dragons 65-55

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