From the ‘Gem Citys’ 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. Thereafter, Dayton again had teams in the Tri-State League, Interstate, Western Association, Central, Middle Atlantic, Ohio State, and Central League during the 1951 season.

Also playing the Dayton Marcos, who competed in the Negro Leagues, when “organized” baseball did not welcome blacks. The Marcos played primarily at Westwood Field.

Dayton Marcos (1920-1940) The Dayton Marcos, chartered as one of eight Negro League Baseball teams in 1920, played their first game on June 12, 1920 at Westwood Field on Western Avenue (now James H. McGee Blvd.) against Chicago Giants. HANDLEET

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Dayton Marcos (1920-1940) The Dayton Marcos, chartered as one of eight Negro League Baseball teams in 1920, played their first game on June 12, 1920 at Westwood Field on Western Avenue (now James H. McGee Blvd.) against Chicago Giants. HANDLEET

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Dayton teams were named Gem Citys, 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 did not finish the 1890 season. You’ve heard of Cincinnati’s Johnny Vander Meer fielding back-to-back no-hitters in 1938; but how about if Clarence Wright beat him at that feat, leading Columbus (9-0) and Grand Rapids (2-0) in back-to-back starts for the Western Association Dayton Old Soldiers on September 1 and 4, 1901 without hit struck?

Dayton teams from this 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 on April 14, 1901, and beat the Old Soldiers 3-2 in 11 innings, with a young right fielder—later shortstop—tapping in two runs. His name was Honus Wagner and 2,000 fans watched him on that cold day.

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

Dayton Duck’s Hudson Field late 1930s

Credit: Marvin Christian

Dayton Duck's Hudson Field late 1930s

Credit: Marvin Christian

Dayton Duck’s Hudson Field late 1930s

Credit: Marvin Christian

Credit: Marvin Christian

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

From a year of professional baseball, Dayton returned with a team to a reorganized Central League in 1903. By 1905, Elmer Redelle, manager of the Victory Theater, became secretary of the Dayton team and later president.

In 1910, shortstop Dolly Stark—who later became a major league umpire—was bought from Brooklyn for $3,000 by the team now calling themselves the Dayton Veterans.

Dayton Indians roster.

Source: copy of DDN

Dayton Indians roster.

Source: copy of DDN

Dayton Indians roster.

Source: copy of DDN

Source: copy of DDN

Dayton played at Fairview Park until 1913, then moved to Highland Park in East Dayton near Santa Cruz Avenue. This move created a transportation problem as no tram lines reached this destination. Despite this, 4,661 fans showed up on opening day in 1913.

Dayton remained in the Central League through the 1917 season when the league collapsed.

After a decade without professional baseball in Dayton, the sport returned once again to the Central League in 1928. This time, the Dayton franchise had a working arrangement with the Louisville Colonels of the American Association.

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

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


Year league (class) Surname recording
1884 Ohio State Association jewel towns 55-21
1889 Tri State League Red 48-54
1890 Tri State League Red 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 Middle League (B) veterans 61-76
1904 Middle League (B) veterans 67-70
1905 Middle League (B) veterans 72-64
1906 Middle League (B) veterans 78-71
1907 Middle League (B) veterans 66-71
1908 Middle League (B) veterans 77-63
1909 Middle League (B) veterans 56-77
1910 Middle League (B) veterans 74-63
1911 Middle League (B) veterans 86-51
1912 Middle League (B) veterans 73-56
1913 Middle League (B) veterans 62-77
1914 Middle League (B) veterans 85-49
1915 Middle League (B) veterans 43-79
1916 Middle League (B) veterans 73-57
1917 Middle League (B) veterans 44-68
1928 Middle League (B) aviator 76-59
1929 Middle League (B) aviator 68-69
1930 Middle League (B) aviator 56-81
1932 Middle 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) wing 60-69
1940 Mid-Atlantic League (C) wing 60-65
1941 Mid-Atlantic League (C) ducks 50-75
1942 Mid-Atlantic League (C) ducks 74-53
1946 Ohio State League (D) native american 58-79
1947 Ohio State League (D) native american 62-73
1948 Middle League (A) native american 84-55
1949 Middle League (A) native american 80-57
1950 Middle League (A) native american 69-63
1951 Middle League (A) native american 87-50
2000 Midwest League (A) dragon 70-67
2001 Midwest League (A) dragon 82-57
2002 Midwest League (A) dragon 73-67
2003 Midwest League (A) dragon 61-78
2004 Midwest League (A) dragon 48-92
2005 Midwest League (A) dragon 60-79
2006 Midwest League (A) dragon 67-73
2007 Midwest League (A) dragon 78-62
2008 Midwest League (A) dragon 66-72
2009 Midwest League (A) dragon 59-80
2010 Midwest League (A) dragon 53-85
2011 Midwest League (A) dragon 83-57
2012 Midwest League (A) dragon 60-78
2013 Midwest League (A) dragon 65-74
2014 Midwest League (A) dragon 68-70
2015 Midwest League (A) dragon 71-68
2016 Midwest League (A) dragon 47-93
2017 Midwest League (A) dragon 71-69
2018 Midwest League (A) dragon 58-80
2019 Midwest League (A) dragon 58-82
2021 High-A Middle (A) dragon 65-55

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