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.