The city’s first wave of substantial industrial employment happened to correspond to the nation’s first wave of enthusiasm for the National Pastime.
Then the city’s next huge wave of immigrant labor corresponded to what is known as ‘the golden era’ of baseball: so balls and bats became the common denominator that united new Americans: speaking different languages, but running the same base paths on the ball field.
In 1907, the Renner-Weber team had men who spoke five different languages or dialects from areas of eastern, southern, and central Europe, but when they all put on the same uniform they were no longer Hunkies or Krauts; they were not Catholics or Protestants or Jews: they were all simply Mansfielders. And on the day one of them hit the ball out of the park: he was nothing but a hero.
The true Melting Pot of this city was the Industrial League.
In the 1800s Mansfield was very much a baseball town, with a series of professional teams, an enthusiastic base of fans, and a bona fide League Park. But by the turn of the century those inter-state leagues were faltering, and baseball fans were left with a haphazard summer of random teams and sporadic games.
So, in 1902 the city’s first industrial league was organized to fill the stands at the ball park. In that inaugural season there were six teams, and by 1903 interest was so wild that the league baseball news regularly took up an entire Sports Page by itself.
In the beginning years, Shop League ball was played on fields in the Flats: at the Steel Mill, at Ohio Brass; down the street from Mansfield Tire at League Park; or at the Fairgrounds. Throughout the further decades there were many more parks available, including Tappan Field, Prospect Park, Liberty Park, North Lake Park and Johns Park.
But the official home of the Industrial Leagues was built on Fourth Street specifically for the factory ball teams. In 1919, with Prohibition about to be enforced, the chief Industrialists of Mansfield realized that their workers’ primary form of entertainment was about to be taken out of play: the saloons were going to stop selling alcohol. Hoping to provide an alternative focus for all that after-hours energy, the Davey Brothers, owners of Mansfield Sheet & Tin Plate Co., built a sports complex next to the B&O tracks known for a generation as Davey Field.
Sunny Days and Brilliant Nights
For the first decade of Industrial League play, games were scheduled on Saturday afternoons. As the competition grew and shop teams multiplied, the schedule expanded to include “second shift games.” In the 1920s, the first shift at factories came to be known as ‘Ace Shift,’ not because they employed the most adroit workers, but because every team had to have their ace pitchers and sluggers off work by 4 PM.
All of that changed in 1933 when Blue Goose Field on Route 430 became the first venue in the city to put up light poles and start hosting night games.
In the Thirties it was called ‘electric ball.’
It didn’t take many years before the term ‘Industrial League’ came to encompass far more than baseball. The factory shops started putting together basketball teams before WWI, playing at the YMCA.
By far the most popular and populous of all the factory sports organizations were the bowling leagues that went on for more than 60 years.
In the 1950s and ‘60s there was the Industrial Golf League. In the 1970s it was slow-pitch softball.