Ironton’s First Baseball Team Formed in 1867
IRONTON SUNDAY NEWS, OCTOBER 9, 1949
Submitted by: Sharon M. Kouns
The first baseball team in the history of Ironton was organized in the summer of 1867. The players were recruited from members of the Excelsior Fire Company and the team was known as the Excelsior Club. The first baseball game in Ironton’s history was played on August 31, 1867, with the competition being two chosen teams from the Excelsior Club. The game ended with the Second Nine scoring 39 to 0 victory over the First Nine.
The following year the Excelsior Club played their first game away from home with Portsmouth. The Scioto county team won that sluggers contest by a score of 61 to 57.
By 1881 the baseball craze had caught on in Ironton and that was one of the greatest years for the Ironton team. Ironton and Columbus both claimed the amateur title for the state and it was decided that they would play a series to determine the true champs. Ironton went to Columbus for the first day and lost a close to the Columbus team 1-0. The following day, the Ironton team came through with a 4 to 2 victory to take the title. The Ironton team had beaten the Columbus team two times during the regular season.
Baseball was still popular in Ironton until the mid-thirties when softball became the favorite summer sport. Night softball is now the most popular summer sport, but the Ironton Recreation Department has a long-range plan which will bring night baseball to Ironton in the next few years.
The first football team in Ironton’s history was organized in 1893, and was sponsored by the Morning Irontonian. The team was started by McClure Butcher and was known as the Irontonians.
The first time the Ironton team met Portsmouth, they won 19 to 0, but in a return game the victory went to the Portsmouth team by a score of 6 to 0.
There were about 12 players on a team at that time and the victory usually went to the brawny club. The players used no pads whatsoever and it was seldom that a player left the field because of an injury. Players often played on through games with broken arms, battered faces and cracked heads.
By 1920, local football fans were pretty enthusiastic about their gridiron pastime, and it was in that year that the Ironton Tanks were recognized. The team lasted for 19 years and compiled an overall record of 85 victories, 15 ties and 17 losses in 177 games they played. In one game played at Redland Field, Cincinnati, the Tanks defeated the Chicago Bears, whose players included Bronko Nagurski and Red Grange.
Basketball was started in Ironton in 1907 when an independent team was formed here. The sport was also started at Ironton high that same year, a few weeks after the independent team was formed. Louis Martin was the first coach of the Ironton high team.
In the first game played by the local high school team, Ironton scored a 10 to 1 victory over Huntington C. S. at Princess Skating Rink on south Third street where the present Sportsman is located. The second game between the two teams was closer with Ironton walking off the floor winners by a score of 20 to 13. The third game was an upset with the Portsmouth team scoring a 24 to 4 triumph.
During the early history of basketball in Ironton, the players had to furnish their own uniforms and bought the basketball they used. One ball was used throughout the season, both for practice and for games.