August 8, 2012
LIMA ‚?? When Bernie Halloran died, Lou Gehrig sent his condolences.
How did a Lima resident gain so much attention on the world stage? He followed through on his convictions.
Bernard ‚??Bernie‚?Ě Halloran was born June 10, 1892, and he had Irish roots. His grandfather, Patrick J. Halloran, was born about 1820 in Ireland and had moved to Lima in the mid 1800s. He is listed in the city directory for 1876/77 as a tailor. He later worked for Father Henry of St. Rose Church.
His grandfather produced seven children. His father, William J., produced eight children ‚?? and Bernie Halloran was a middle child. He went to St. Rose school and later worked in sales at a local cigar store.
But Halloran‚??s love was baseball. Perhaps that stemmed from being a lifelong North Ender and being nearby a little ballpark on Murphy Street. The San Felice grounds was where he made his debut.
One of the many stories published about his death reports, ‚??His love for the game prompted him to leave it as a player and provide a beautiful park on Murphy Street when the old San Felice park was dismantled.‚?Ě ¬†
The Murphy Street park was on the site of the old Catholic cemetery off Murphy Street just east of North Main Street. (Today, it‚??s Lane‚??s Moving and Storage.)
In 1896, the Toledo Diocese bought what was described as the Dobbins farm west of Woodlawn Cemetery to be used as a new cemetery. The original sale was for 64 acres, with 24 of lowest acres to be offered for sale right away. The church bought it at $100 an acre.
‚??The present Catholic cemetery is becoming very much crowded, and more room is needed,‚?Ě a story reported June 1, 1896. The remains off Murphy Street were transferred yet that year and into the next.
In the 1900s, Halloran and his father bought the property off Murphy Street to turn into a proper baseball diamond. In addition to playing the sport, he loved watching it. He and some buddies went to New York‚??s Polo Grounds to watch the World Series in 1912.
In 1914, the papers started carrying news on the new park that was coming to Murphy Street.
First baseman Frank Callahan agreed to a player-manager role in the Lima baseball club for the season beginning in 1914.
‚??Business Manager Bryson and his chief aid, Bernie Halloran, are deserving much credit for the manner in which they have been working to place a fast club in the field and for the ability they have shown thus far in handling the affairs of the club and in shaping up the deal that will give Lima fans a good park located close to the business center, and a park that will truly be a Lima park, since Lima capital and good old Lima fans are behind the movement. The best asset of the club backers is their claim to being dyed in the wool fans, for such they are in the true sense of the word,‚?Ě an April 29, 1914, story reported.
The first game was played Memorial Day, 1914, against the Springfield Athletics. There would be a large automobile parade leaving the Town Square at 1:30 p.m. and arriving at the park in plenty of time for the 3 p.m. game.
The team was defeated, holding its own only for a few innings before Springfield ran away with the scoring. But fans didn‚??t seem to care much ‚?? after all, it was all so new and fun. The outfield fence one sign from G.E. Bleum offering $1 to any player to hit it, and another offered a free hat.
Some 1,600 fans were in attendance, with many of them standing for the game as there weren‚??t enough bleachers. And Halloran and the leaders decided to have a naming contest, inviting residents to submit club names with the winner promised two season passes. A committee of newspapermen were to decide on what name was best.
Another early game was part of the July 4 festivities, with a team of doctors playing a team of lawyers.
Halloran didn‚??t stop. He helped land the Buckeye Baseball League, a minor league circuit with teams from Akron, Lima, Canton, Springfield, Newark and Marion. The park was redone to comply with the higher level of ball. And recognizing the Buckeye league left 13 Sundays vacant in Lima, he worked out a deal where the local semi-pro club would play games there.
¬†‚??The team organized and backed last year by Managers Carl Bryson and Bernie Halloran put Lima on the semi-pro map to stay, and the promoters of independent ball this summer promise even a better club than the one which put up classy ball last season. Players are already lined up and from the outlook at this stage, the independent team will be one which will surpass the record of last year‚??s games will be played with Delphos, St. Marys, Celina, Ottawa, Wapakoneta and other nearby towns which have long been rivals of Lima in the baseball line,‚?Ě a May 2, 1915, story reported.
Halloran continued his Lima baseball boosterism while working as clerk of the county commission, starting in 1917, and in the Halloran & O‚??Brien contracting firm. He was instrumental in the beginnings of youth ball programs as well as bringing big stars to play games in Lima after the close of the regular season.
In 1927, a surprising story hit the papers. Halloran was bowing out of the local baseball season. It was announced just a couple weeks before the home opener.
The bachelor was ill, and seriously. He died July 8, 1931, at the home of his parents at 535 N. West St. He died of an unspecified throat problem that at one point caused him to lose his voice entirely.
‚??Halloran had a colorful and picturesque career as a baseball director in Lima,‚?Ě one story reported July 8, 1931. ‚??He assumed the role of baseball manager 17 years ago when he and his father acquired the Murphy Street site upon which now is located the Murphy Street baseball park. Always giving Lima a better brand of baseball than the support demanded, Halloran casually treated the fans to a series of battles which brought many major and minor league stars here. Amongthe notables of the baseball profession who have appeared here thru Halloran‚??s influence were George Herman Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Slim Harriss ... Steve O‚??Neill, George Uhle and numerous others.‚?Ě
Baseball in Lima stopped to mourn.
‚??Thousands of baseball fans and players in Lima and the surrounding district Wednesday mourned the death of Bernard ‚??Bernie‚?? Halloran, head of the diamond game and one of the most prominent figures in semi-professional baseball circles in Ohio. The scrappy little baseball director lost his fight against death Wednesday at 6:05 a.m. after one of the gamest struggles of his colorful career. Out of respect to Halloran, who was one of the most beloved of sportsmen of this city, baseball activities for the week came abruptly to a halt with all scheduled games for the remainder of the week and Sunday having been called off,‚?Ě the same story continued.
Baseball at Murphy Street Park continued until 1933, when the grandstand burned. In 1939, Halloran‚??s father and other backers went in to have the place totally redone, with a new grandstand, fences, even team offices under the stands. Ground was broken March 17, 1939, with work done by the Herbert Tuttle Co.
‚??The Lima baseball lot known for many years as Murphy Street park will be called Halloran Park this season and continue to have that name as long as the present company operates the club. Decision to change the name was prompted by a desire to honor the late Bernie Halloran, whose baseball promotion kept the game alive here for several years until his death nearly a decade ago. Halloran brought many major leagues to Lima and his ability to show such stars here as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in exhibitions is still the topic of conversation among baseball men who have occasion to refer to this city‚??s athletic past,‚?Ě reported Bill Snypp, The Lima News sports editor, in his Snypp‚??s Sports Snacks column published April 28, 1939.
See next week‚??s Reminisce for a look at another branch of the same family.