Dayton's Major League Team

Old newspaper accounts and fading memories
are the only sources of informationon the Dayton Marcos

The picture shown here was apparently taken at Westwood Field - which no longer exists - on James H. McGee Boulevard (then Western Avenue). Alberta Robinson Sloan owned the photograph, and in the upper left is Bill Sloan. Although no others in the picture are identified, the man in the middle with the straw hat appears to be John Matthews, the team's owner. It would also appear the picture was taken close to 1920, the Marcos' first season in the Negro National League.

By Marc Katz

  The announcement appeared on Feb. 16, 1920, in the old Dayton Evening Herald , under the headline, "Organize League."
  It offers one of the few clues to an elusive chapter in Dayton's professional sports history.
  "The Dayton Marcos are scheduled to play in the National Negro Baseball association which was organized at Kansas City Saturday, according to (sic) announcement made by John Matthews, manager of the club, who returned home Monday. The league will be composed of eight teams and will start its season May 1."
  And while the Dayton community in 1997 wrestles with whether it can become a minor league baseball town, in 1920 Dayton was a charter franchise in the Negro National League - the major league for black players.
  Blacks were barred from "organized" major league baseball at the time.
  Coverage and records for the Marcos are extremely difficult to find, making a thorough history of the club and its members impossible to compile.
  Most of the information about the team has survived only by word of mouth. While several good new books on the Negro Leagues are currently available, they mention the Marcos only briefly.
  Even the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas City could provide little information on the team.


1920 Dayton Marcos (1920): Alexander (lf), Slim Branham (p), George (Chippy) Britt (p, 2b,c), George Brown (of, 1b), Clarence Coleman (p, rf), Cunningham (ss), S.R. (Eddie) Dewitt (2b), Gardner (of), G.E. Dolly Gray (p), Bruce Hocker (1b, of), William (Wise) Johnson (c,rf), I.S. Lane (p, rf), Leary (p), Edward (Boots) McClain (ss), McNeil (1b, c), Mitch Murray (c), Hurland Ragland (p), Curtiss Ricks (1b), Rudledge (p), Shelton (c), Candy Jim Taylor (3b, 2b), Thompkins (of), James (Sandy) Thompson (rf), William (Speck) Webster (c), Charles Wilson (p), Wingfield (2b, of).

1926 Dayton Marcos: Henry Baker (1b), Don Bennett (2b), Howard Black (p), Chester Blanchard (2b, ss), George Boggs (of), Bradshaw (of), Charles Brooks (of, inf), Albert Clark (p), Troy Dandridge (ss), S.R. Eddie Dewitt (3b), Dimes (lf), Ducey (rf, lf), Bill Evans (cf), Fields (p), Joe Hewitt (2b,ss), Hinkey (of), Eddie Huff (c, rf), Eugene Keeton (p), Kirksey (c, 2b), Bill Lindsey (ss, cf), Wm. Jack Marshall (2b), Wm. Stack Martin (p, lf), Ed. Boots McClain (2b, ss), George Meyers (p, ss), Omer Nwsome (p, 1b), Wm. Owens (ss, 2b), Leon Palmer (2b), Ev. Radcliffe (ss), Curtiss Ricks (1b), E. Russell (3b), Smith (p), Taylor (1b), Harold Tredwell (p, rf), Whitlock (1b), John Williams (p, 1b), Elmer Wilson (2b).

  Research with local sources, however, does reveal some facts about the team's history.
  In addition to Dayton, founding teams were the Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars (a traveling team that eventually settled in Cincinnati), Detroit Stars, Indianapolis ABCs, Kansas City Monarchs and St. Louis Giants. According to several reports, entry fee to the league was $500.
  The Marcos, who also played several exhibitions against local and other teams, opened the NNL home season on Saturday, June 12, 1920, against the Chicago Giants at Westwood Field on Western Avenue (now James H. McGee Boulevard).
  The Evening Herald reported: "Eight hundred chairs will be placed in front of the grandstand to take care of the fans.
  "If the attendance during this series is large enough, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City and Indianapolis will send teams to Dayton for Sunday games. These teams are booked for week-day games in Dayton, but the managements of the clubs fear Dayton will not turn out sufficient crowds to warrant Sunday games here."
  No recorded attendance figures can be found.
  The Marcos played mostly at Westwood Field. They also played at Burkham Field and later at Ducks Field, where the Dayton Ducks and later the Dayton Indians of the old Mid-Atlantic and Central Leagues played.
  It was tough for the black teams to obtain playing venues. The Cuban Stars rented Redland Field in Cincinnati in 1921, the first black team to become a tenant of a major league club.
  Club owner Matthews, a native Virginian, operated a hotel on Germantown Street that had a restaurant and bar. As a youth, Matthews was a boxer who "was good enough to go 20 rounds with Joe Choynski, one of the ranking middles of the old days," an obituary in the Dayton Evening Herald said.
  Also interested in baseball, Matthews operated the Marcos as a semipro team sometime prior to 1920. The team played one year in the NNL - no standings were published that season - before the franchise was shifted to Columbus. In 1926, the team came back, but only for half a season, posting a 7-32 record.
  After that, the Marcos existed into the 1940s before vanishing. Matthews died May 21, 1942, at the age of 62.
  Finding people who knew him is difficult.
  "He had a hotel," said Bill Pearl, who was born in 1914. "I lived in that neighborhood and knew all about it. I knew quite a few of the players.
  "Matthews was a big man. He weighed about 300 pounds. He called his hotel the Waldorf after the Waldorf in New York. It was on the corner of Dunbar and Germantown.
  "He was a nice man, a wonderful guy, especially to kids. He'd give you popcorn and peanuts and let you in the ballpark free - if you didn't climb under the fence - that kind of stuff."
  Not much else is known about the Marcos. Chester Blanchard, a middle infielder and last known survivor of the 1926 team, died last November at the age of 93.
  Portia Blanchard, his widow, met Chester after he was finished as a player, in the late 1940s, and said he didn't talk much about the Marcos.
  Said Charles Stokes, who played amateur baseball in the 1940s and '50s and is a member of the Dayton baseball Hall of Fame: "Nobody's going to remember what happened that many years ago.'
  He was also a water boy for an early Marcos team. "It's not in the libraries. Nothing any black player has done is recorded in the earlier years," Stokes said.
  That wasn't always the case with the Marcos, who played white teams in exhibitions. However, in an era when local newspaper sports reports were often less than a page, the Marcos received a paragraph here and a paragraph there.
  There were other black teams in Dayton from 1900-1930.
  A Dayton Giants team is mentioned in some places, and a Dayton Chappies, apparently named after catcher George "Chappie" Johnson. There was also a team named the CMIAs - Colored Men's Improvement Association - operated by funeral director Hazey Loritts.
  After 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Negro Leagues began a rapid decline.
  Most teams were gone by the mid-1950s. Remaining are memories and a few books chronicling Dayton's one-time existence in the major leagues.

Copyright (c) 1997, Dayton Newspapers Inc.
Published: Sunday, April 6, 1997