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Sports: Findlay had a professional baseball team in 1930s

FDR was in the White House, pot roast was selling for 16 cents a pound, and Findlay had a professional baseball team.

The year was 1937 and Findlay was a mem­ber of the short-lived Ohio State League. The team was known as the Browns.

The conference, a loose-knit organization of minor league teams who often switched alle­giance from one season to another, began play in 1936 and folded in 1941.

But for those six years, towns like Findlay, Fostoria, Fremont, Lima, Tiffin, Sandusky, Mansfield, Marion and New Philadelphia could all claim their part of pro­fessional baseball.

The Ohio State League was an offshoot of the expanded minor league system pioneered by Branch Rickey of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Each team was owned and operated by lo­cal investors, but most had some kind of work­ing agreement with a major league organiza­tion — New Philadelphia and Fostoria with St. Louis; Fremont with the Cincinnati Reds; Tiffin with the Detroit Tigers; Mansfield with the Boston Red Sox.

Findlay entered the Ohio State League in 1937 and made an immediate impact.

Under the guidance of Grover Hartley, who had played in four World Series with the New York Giants, the Browns beat Marion in the semifinals of the league playoff, then lost in the finals to a Mansfield powerhouse stocked with some talented players by the Red Sox.

Problems with ownership and financing nearly canceled the 1938 season. Mansfield dropped out of the league. Marion followed suit, leaving just Findlay, Fostoria, Fremont and Tiffin.

Commissioner Harry Smith, one of the major founders of the league, resigned. But his replacement, Toledo attorney Paul Shank, instilled new life into the league. An innovative experiment — night baseball — also had a major impact.

Findlay, Fremont and Fostoria all installed lights at their fields and the jump in attend­ance was staggering. Findlay, for example, averaged 200 fans for day games, but 1,000 at night.

Findlay finished second in the 1938 race. The Browns took the 1939 league title, thanks to some solid pitching by Barney Fletcher and Bill Prussing late in the season, but lost a gru­eling seven-game championship series to the Lima Pandas.

In 1940, major league commissioner Kenne­saw Mountain Landis ruled that a team could no longer stockpile players in its minor league systems. Many major league teams dropped their affiliates, including those in Findlay, Fostoria and Tiffin.

Without major league backing, many of the Ohio State League teams struggled. Most lost money during the 1940 season, after which Hartley tried to sell Findlay’s franchise to a group of Marion businessmen.

3 Responses to "Sports: Findlay had a professional baseball team in 1930s"

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  1. dana motter

    June 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    nice article but it would of been interesting where the ballfield was located. I’m into baseball history

  2. David Matejczyk

    July 19, 2012 at 3:10 am

    Zane Gray’s book, “The Shortstop”, uses Findlay and its minor league team as a setting. It is an old baseball classic on minor league baseball written in the early 1900’s. The audio book is free due to its age and being in the public domain.

  3. David Matejczyk

    July 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    As a follow-up, Findlay also had a minor league baseball team in 1895, the Findlay Sluggers. They played in the Interstate League. One member of the team, Reddy Grey, went on to play in 1903 for the Pittsburgh Pirates (he played in only one major league game!). As noted in my earlier post, the famous author Zane Grey also played for Findlay. His descriptions of Findlay and turn of the century baseball in “The Shortstop” is a wonderful read. Grey’s book describes the ball park in Findlay in 1895 as having a beautiful grandstand. I am curious if anyone knows of the location of the field described in the book.

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