LIMA — On a spring Sunday afternoon at the turn of the century the Crescents and the Alliance team took the field for a highly anticipated game between two of Lima’s top amateur baseball teams. The game, apparently, was not as impressive as the sentence a reporter wrote to describe it in the May 21, 1900, edition of the Lima Times-Democrat.
“The base ball game at Faurot’s park yesterday afternoon was an interesting contest if prolonged and vicious slugging of the pig skin sphere accompanied by poor fielding, scrub pitching and wild throwing could make it so,” wrote the reporter, at that point just getting warmed up, “but the spectators who were in attendance evidently did not consider that kind of a contest an interesting one, for after three home runs and two three-base hits had been ‘smashed’ out by the Crescents in the second half of the second inning, the seats in the grand stand and bleachers were awfully lonesome.”
Despite all that, the reporter concluded: “Well, the game was the source of a lot of fun but no one knows what the score was because nobody stayed.”
Baseball had been the source of a lot of fun since its infancy. In August 1875, the year before the first professional league, the National League, was formed, the Allen County Democrat provided its readers with a tutorial on a few “base ball technicalities.” The field, the newspaper explained, was “the pasture where the leather-hunting” was performed while bases were “salt bags scattered around the field for the players to jump on” and nine was “the number of roosters in knee breeches that constitute a base ball deck.”
Teams popped up everywhere. In the late 1870s there were the Quicksteps of Honey Run and the Rattlers of Gomer, the Red Hots of Elida and Clippers of Vaughnsville, the Osceolas of Lafayette and the Antelopes of Van Wert.
By 1896, the year the Crescents were formed, Lima was home to a minor league team. On July 27, 1894, the Times-Democrat reveled in the team’s victory over a squad from Cincinnati. “The Limas played their usual good game,” the newspaper wrote, adding that a Lima player named Cox was injured late in the game when “a fly was knocked over the fence into the woods, and Cox ran after and tried to dive under the fence, not seeing the barbed wire stretched across it.” Lee Faurot, the nephew of Lima industrialist Benjamin Faurot, was the winning pitcher that day. Faurot played in the minor leagues for several years as well as for the Crescents. In 1932 he was elected mayor of Lima.
Barbed wire fences weren’t the only peril faced by the Lima minor league team. Local ministers intent on seeing Sunday “blue laws” enforced occasionally would bring games to a halt. On Sept. 7, 1894, the Times-Democrat reported, “W.G. Smith, pastor of Main Street Presbyterian church, who caused the arrest of manager Enoch Somers of the ball team … appeared before Mayor (James) Smiley again Sunday and swore out affidavits charging catcher Paul Hines and center fielder James Feral, of the ball team, with violating state law by playing base ball on Sunday.”
Adding to the team’s woes was a fire at the end of August that destroyed much of the seating at Faurot’s ball park, the team’s home field. The fire was believed to have been started by a group of boys, “a crowd of whom have inhabited the grand stand almost every day this summer, playing cards and smoking,” the Times-Democrat wrote Aug. 28, 1894.
Although the stands were rebuilt for the 1895 season, the fans didn’t come. The team, which included a teen-aged Roger Bresnahan from Toledo who would play nearly two decades in the Major leagues, struggled. Particularly galling to local fans was the team’s struggles against the Findlay team.
As the 1896 season dawned, prospects for a team in Lima appeared dim. “The lovers of base ball in Lima are asking whether or not the game of base ball will be played in Lima this year,” the Times-Democrat wrote April 21, 1896.
Lima would have a minor league team in 1896, and a league of its own as well. “A movement has been started by Sleuth Huffman, the local base ball enthusiast and others, toward organizing a city league, consisting of four local base ball clubs, to play a series of games during the season. The four teams will probably be Sleuth Huffman’s team (the Crescents), the Marquettes, the Shamrocks and the High School team,” the Times-Democrat wrote on May 19, 1896.
The new league debuted on Decoration Day and “and surpassed the expectations of everyone who went to see the game,” the Times-Democrat reported June 2, 1896, adding that “the game was superior in many respects to the games that Somers’ aggregation (the Lima minor league team) used to attempt to place before the base ball enthusiasts.” On July 14, 1896, with Faurot on the mound and Frank Sealts catching, the Crescents defeated the Shamrocks before “a good sized crowd of base ball enthusiasts.”
Despite the promising start the city league soon faltered only to be revived in 1900, with both the Shamrocks and Crescents reorganizing. “This season may be a lively one for the local base ball fans in spite of the fact that no semi-professional (minor league) has yet been or seem probable of organizing,” the Times-Democrat wrote April 6, 1900. “There are already three strong local amateur teams in the field and the old city league may be reorganized before the pig skin bounces across the diamond.”
The Crescents were reorganized by Sturge Sealts and had a heavy Sealts’ flavor. E. Sealts and M. Sealts were infielders, Roy Sealts patrolled the outfield and Frank Sealts, who had a brief professional career, handled catching duties. Frank Sealts, who was praised by the Times-Democrat for eschewing tobacco and alcohol, became a prominent local businessman. He dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 41 on the first day of rabbit hunting season in November 1930.
The league again disbanded after several years before again reforming in the early 1920s. In 1928, the Crescents claimed the amateur championship of Ohio.
“Lima Crescents will take the field for the eighth straight year when they meet the strong McGuffey nine at that place Sunday afternoon,” the Lima News reported May 17, 1931. “The club has always ranked high in baseball circles in this district and the team this season will be out to better all previous records.”
The Crescents took the field for the final time in July 1933. After failing to field nine players for a game on July 12, 1933, the News announced on July 20, 1933, that the “Crescents baseball club of the Lima Twilight League has dropped from the circuit.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.