September 28, 2022

Delphos Reds, 1893 Champions of Northwest Ohio

Zane Grey is known world-wide for his great Western novels but one of his earliest novels, The Shortstop, dealt with his passion for the game of baseball. 

Zane Grey was born Pearl Zane Grey on January 31, 1873 in Zanesville, Ohio.  He and his brother Romer, who was three years younger, spent their early years watching their local baseball heroes perform at Zanesville’s Pastime Park.  Not long after this the Zanesville boys organized their own league with the Third Ward Blues, Eight Ward Sluggers, Seventh Ward Stars and the High School Gentlemen and Zane and Romer were right in the middle of the action.

In 1880 Zane’s father moved the family to nearby Columbus and Zane and his brother quickly became part of the Columbus baseball scene. Zane pitched for the Town Street Club and later the Capitol Team of the City League. 

The next spring a group of Columbus businessmen organized an amateur team with Zane, Romer and their friends George “Mute” Kihm and Crumb as their stars.  After beating several crack local teams their manager was able to secure an exhibition game with the Ohio State Buckeye team.  Zane was the pitching star and brother Romer took batting honors as the amateurs beat the shocked Buckeyes. 

After that the team had no trouble securing games with other college teams.  It was during a game with Denison University, at that time the best team in the state, that a scout from the University of Pennsylvania saw Zane and offered him a scholarship.  Zane later accepted the offer because of Penn’s fine dental college.  It was during the summer of his years at Penn that Zane Grey lived and played baseball in Delphos. 

This brings us to Grey’s baseball career in Delphos.  In the 1890’s baseball was a passion in many northwest Ohio towns and Delphos was no different.  Many towns were part of a loosely organized league of semi-pro teams although there was not a set schedule of games.  The teams were semi-pro as each player was paid for each game played.

Before we proceed it must be noted that baseball in the 1890’s was quite different from the game we know today.  Fields were rough and baseball mitts were small, more like overstuffed gloves.  These conditions led to high scoring games which were the rule rather than the exception.  The crowds were loud, partisan and heavily opinionated when it came to umpiring.  (It must be said, however, that the Delphos fans were known for their knowledge of the game and their appreciation of fine play by both home team and visitor alike.)  Hooting and hollering and general carrying on were commonplace in the stands and fights on the field after the final out were as commonplace then as the seventh inning stretch is today.

According to the Delphos Herald the 1893 Delphos Reds were organized in early May with the following players:

George “Mute” Kihm               catcher

Pearl Grey                               pitcher

Clarence Eysenbach                first base

Charles Smith                          second base

George Sigler                           third base

Herman Jettinger                     shortstop

Chris Kleinhans                       right field

Xavier Imber                           left field

George Fisher                          center field

Frank Wulfhorst                      manager

The Reds opened their season at perennial power Celina and a 5-run first inning spelled defeat for the visitors at Celina took an 11-5 win.

Fort Wayne came to town and “…our boys didn’t do a thing to them only wipe up the ground with them and send them home with the worst defeat ever met.  Manager Wulfhorst has been deferring to the teams backers in the matter of placing his men but Tuesday he arranged it to suit himself and the result is highly satisfactory to say the least.”  The battery of Ziegler and “Mute” Kihm held the Fort Waynes to two hits while the Reds cracked seventeen hits off the Fort Wayne left hander.  Final score: Delphos 15 Fort Wayne 2.

Game three was “won” by the Reds amid great controversy.  The Cincinnati Manhattans led 13-7 in the bottom of the ninth but the Delphos boys got to work and cut the lead to 13-10.  Kirby, of Delphos, missed third base as he came around to score.  Unseen by the umpire, who was watching the fly ball, he was not called out.  “The Manhattans threw up the game on this technicality apparently, but in fact because they knew if the inning were played out they would be beaten.”  Pearl Grey was the winning pitcher.

Lovers of baseball in Delphos met to form an Association to secure and retain a first class team and put the club on a business basis.  H.W. Beckman and Frank Wulfhorst were accepted to manage the team and its affairs.  “A splendid team has been secured, salaries guaranteed to them and we may expect the best baseball season Delphos has ever known.  The baseball association will comprise 100 members, 70 of which have already been secured, each subscribing five dollars to the guarantee fund.

An immense crowd went out to the ball ground last Sunday to witness the game between the Toledo Rodgers and the Delphos Reds…” the ‘Herald reported.  The Rodgers scored seven runs in the first three innings and held on for a 7-6 win.  Pearl Grey only gave up three hits on the mound but the bases on balls and six Delphos errors cost the Reds hurler.  Grey also did well at the plate, banging out a triple on which he scored after a wild throw.  Toledo left-hanger Ragan scattered nine hits and struck out a like number to get the win.  For Delphos “Reddy Grey’s work in the outfield was nothing short of phenomenal…” while “the “Mute” (Kihm) stole second base by a mighty slide that brought him rousing applause.”  It was also mentioned that “The Toledo umpire was manifestly unfair that the crowd would not rest until Will Bickford of Van Wert consented to assist.  After this there was a decided improvement in the game.” 

Their record stood at 1-3 but the next game versus Findlay was to be the start of a remarkable streak for the Reds that would gain them the reputation as “Champions of Northwest Ohio”.  The Reds would reel off 21 victories in their next 23 games, their only losses being a controversial 13-11, 10-inning lost to Toledo and a stunning 11-9 loss to an improved Columbus Grove team. 

The home team started the streak by hammering out ten straight wins beginning with a 35-8 pounding of Findlay.  “Our boys were unmercifully roasted by the denizens of that ancient town of gas but when they got to playing ball the tune was changed.  And when the Reds scored seven home runs and batted the ball into the adjoining field the spectators turned on the home team and roasted them.’  Pearl Grey was the winning pitcher, striking out eleven and giving up only eight hits. 

Columbus Grove provided the next two wins.  ‘Grove threw Immerman, a Cincinnati pitcher, at the Reds in Thursday’s game but he was rocked for nine hits and the loss.   Pearl Grey scattered four hits and struck out seven while his brother Reddy and “Mute” Kihm paced the offense.  The Reds took the opener 7-4.

It was noted in the paper that “Bert Jones, the new pitcher for the Reds, arrived yesterday from Bellaire.” 

The second game versus Columbus Grove was much like the first as the Reds rolled to an easy win.  Pearl Grey was the winning pitcher giving up only seven hits and striking out ten.  “Mute” Kihm had three hits as the Delphos nine raced to a 13-1 lead and went on to post a 13-6 victory.

“Wilson, the fine shortstop who formerly played with the Celinas, has signed with the Reds and will play second base.”

“Lima came over last Sunday loaded for bear and went home loaded down with skunk.”  Newly acquired Bert Jones pitched and batted the Reds to victory going four for five at the plate and striking out eight on the mount.  The Reds led 24-0 before the Limas picked up two meaningless runs in the sixth for a 24-2 final.

A rematch at powerful Celina was to test the Reds next.  “The Celinas have always been considered the champion amateur team of northwest Ohio but they will now have to turn over their hard earned laurels to the Delphos Reds.”  Delphos took a quick 5-0 lead after two innings but Celina fought back to knot the score at five in the home half of the eighth.  Reddy Grey grounded out to start the ninth inning before Pearl Grey and Wilson singled.  Sommers cracked a clutch two-out double scoring Grey and Wilson.  Jones then singled and Eysenbach grounded out to end the inning.  Delphos led 7-5.  Celina failed to score in the bottom of the ninth and the Reds had a thrilling two-run victory.  Pearl Grey’s three hits paced the offense while Jones struck out seven on the mound. 

The Reds beat Columbus Grove for the third straight time, 8-6.  Pearl Grey was touched up for four runs in the first inning before settling down to finish the game.  Delphos scored six runs in their first half of the first and cruised to the win.

Delphos traveled to Findlay and took a well-played 10-4 win.  “Findlay had Blue, a professional, in the box and they were very confident of winning but the Reds touched him up for fifteen hits.”  Reddy Grey’s two triples led the attack while brother Pearl hurled a four hitter.

Bert Jones six hit, fourteen strike out effort led the Reds to a 13-5 win over Toledo.  The win spoiled a fifteen strike out performance by Toledo’s Kelb.  Hitting highlights were Pearl Grey’s two-run homer and Kihm’s triple.  Delphos also stole seven bases against the Toledo battery.

“Sunday’s game with the Toledo Auburndales was a sad disappointment to one of the largest crowds that ever assembled at the grounds.  Two of Toledo’s best players were somehow left at the depot in Toledo and their places were taken by Mahoney and King of this place.”  Pearl Grey had a home run and three doubles while pitching a four hit, ten strikeout game on the mound in the 23-0 whitewash. “Mute” Kihm had one of Delphos’ six doubles and two of their four triples while stealing two bases.

Columbus Grove fell to the Reds in a hard fought game, 9-6.  The ‘Groves led, surprisingly, 6-4 at the end of the sixth inning.  The Delphos boys got to work and scored three runs in the seventh to take the lead and pushed across two insurance runs in the ninth to secure the win.

The winning streak came to a controversial halt as the Reds faced Toledo in the first game of a double-headed on the Fourth of July in Toledo.  Delphos had defeated Toledo 13-5 not long before and “It was a bitter dose and the Toledos could not take their defeat kindly.  As one team after another goes down, some of them register a silent vow to defeat the successful team by fair means or foul.”  Delphos built up an 11-7 lead heading to the ninth when Wenning came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.  Wenning fanned and retired to the bench only to have the umpire call the last strike a foul ball and bring Wenning back to the plate.  Wenning cracked a grand slam tieing the game at eleven.  The Reds were disgusted and lost all interest in the game and the Toledos scored two runs in the tenth to “win’ 13-11.  The second game started but as soon as the Reds received their share of the receipts they threw up the game and headed home.  “The umpire’s decisions were so rank that even the Toledo audience became disgusted and called him down.”

Sidney then showed up to give the disgusted Reds a chance to vent their frustrations.  Delphos hammered Sidney 20-0.  Pearl Grey tossed a six hit shutout while homering, doubling and stealing two bases.  Reddy Grey doubled, tripled and stole two bases while “Mute” Kihm doubled, homered and swiped three bags.  Sommers, Jettinger, Wilson and Eysenbach were lauded for their outstanding fielding, turning three double plays.  Sidney’s only chance to score was snuffed out when Reddy Grey, after a remarkable run to field a hit by Downing to deep center, threw Fielding out at the plate.  It was also noted that “Mr. Bush is the best umpire we have had visit us this season.  If they were all like him, baseball would certainly be a pleasure.” 

Celina, with a new crack Mansfield hurler, came to Delphos “dead sure of winning the game.”  The Delphos boys, however, buckled down to work and “…the crack Mansfield pitcher was found with ease and batted all over the field to the great chagrin of the Celina people.”  A seven run eighth inning did in the Celinas and Delphos won 13-2. 

“….the Delphos Reds lost the first game in five Tuesday to Columbus Grove after having the game won easily up to the ninth.”  Pearl Grey had pitched three hit, three run ball up to the ninth when ‘Grove rallied for eight runs on two triples, four singles, a walk and three errors.  “The ‘Grove has reinforced its team with players from Mansfield, Columbus and Marysville and they now have a good, stiff team.”  Pearly Grey, despite his late inning pitching woes, shone at the plate bagging three doubles and a triple.  Final: Columbus Grove 11 Delphos Reds 9. 

The Reds began to look out of state for worthy competition and Frankfort, Indiana was the first comer.  The Reds scored early and often and when “…the clouds started to empty their contents on the crowd…” in the seventh the Reds had rolled to an impressive 16-4 win.  “Mute” Kihm continued his fine play as he homered and stole three bases. 

The next game was reported to be “…by far the finest game of ball ever played in Delphos.”  as the Reds met the Fort Wayne Pilseners.  The game was scoreless until the fifth when Fort Wayne’s Boseker scored on an error by Eysenbach to make the score 1-0.  Delphos finally broke through in the eighth.  With Eysenbach on third base Kid Fear strode to the plate and blasted a shot deep to right for a two-run homer and a 2-1 Delphos lead.  “…the crowd went wild.  Everything loose was sent flying into the air and the people yelled themselves hoarse.”  Pearl Grey pitched a scoreless ninth and Delphos had a hard fought victory.  Pearly Grey was masterful on the mount, giving up only two hits to the hard hitting Hoosiers. 

While the Fort Wayne game was to be remembered, the next game with Kokomo was a game soon to be forgotten.  The quality of ball was about a poor as any seen, but “…the Kokomos turned up with a still ranker game.”  Delphos won handily, 18-6.

Yet another Indiana team came to test the Reds.  Decatur, however, was no match for the locals and went home stinging from a 35-1 defeat.  Pearl Grey pitched a five hitter and chipped in with a triple and two of the Reds six home runs.  The Decaturs greatly added to the Delphos cause by committing 25 errors. 

The Reds next looked to settle an old score as Toledo invaded Delphos.  The foul umpiring and shabby treatment by the Toledo club in their last meeting still stuck in the Reds memories.  Delphos tallied five first inning runs and “…it took the nerves completely out of the visitors and left them dazed and disconcerted.  The crowd… gave their team an unmerciful and unceasing roasting…  outside the work of the pitcher, their playing was decidedly yellow.”  Ten runs in the fourth settled the matter and the Reds had their revenge 18-4. 

Findlay arrived in Delphos as self-proclaimed “Champions of Northwest Ohio if not the state.”  Delphos quickly silenced their crowing and sent them home with “…the worst humiliation that can befall a team, that of being shut out.  One fellow remarked that the nine, big goose-eggs on the bulletin board reminded him of nine exhausted oil wells.”  Kid Fear and Pearl Grey paced the Delphos onslaught with three hits apiece, two of Fear’s a double and home run.

Despite their misgiving about Indiana teams, the Reds had beaten Frankfort, Kokomo and Decatur by a combined score of 69-11, Delphos agreed to a game against Marion, Indiana.  It was another case of “Hoosier Hospitality” as the Marions “…knew little about the game…” and Delphos won easily 12-3.  “The Reds.. (with) three hard dates ahead of them did not attempt to put up much of a game.”

Celina returned to Delphos next “…with a team of genuine sluggers and did some of the heaviest hitting ever seen on this field.  But it was all for naught and they were mowed down by the Reds as every other team has been.”  Final score, 13-8.  Sommers’ four hits and Kid Fear and Reddy Grey’s home runs spelled the demise of the Celinas.  Pearl Grey scattered eleven hits to claim the victory on the mound.

The Delphos Reds record now was 21-5 and the Delphos Herald listed some of the team stats (home games only).

Player                   Home games         At bat/Hits           Runs           HR              Avg.          

Fear            5                           21/11                    11               2                 .524

Kihm          17                         81/36                    40               4                 .444

Grey, P.      15                         74/31                    28               6                 .419

Sommers    15                         66/22                    25               0                 .333

Owens        12                         53/16                    13               1                 .302

Eysenbach  17                         69/20                    21               0                 .290

Grey, R.      14                         67/19                    19               3                 .284

Jettinger      17                         68/18                    21               0                 .265

Wilson        12                         54/11                    21               0                 .204

Jones          12                         54/11                    18               0                 .204

Pitching

Player                   Games                  BB              K                HBP

Jones          6                           9                 35               2

Grey, P.      8                           11               50               3

Kihm          2                           7                 9                 0

Zigler          2                           4                 10               1

The return of the Fort Wayne Pilseners to Delphos brought out one of the greatest crowds ever assembled, an estimated 1,200 people.  However, the close, exciting game expected never materialized as the Reds jumped on the visitors for a 14-0 lead after six innings.  Fort Wayne tallied three runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings to make the 15-6 final somewhat respectable.  “Mute” Kihm singled twice, tripled and homered for Delphos while Bert Jones scattered eight hits, only allowing one in the first six innings to get the win. 

At that point Delphos experienced the inevitable slump.  They dropped six of their next nine games, threatening their status as “Champions of Northwest Ohio.”

Sidney bested the Reds 16-11 in a game which “…if reports are true, our boys played horse instead of ball.”

The next two games were against Columbus Grove.  Delphos won the first game easily 11-3 in front of a large, Sunday crowd.  The following Tuesday the ‘Groves took advantage of four unearned runs on a passed ball to take an 11-7 upset win.  “In the second inning Kihm threw low to the plate and Fear missed the ball letting in four runs.”

The Delphos Herald reported that the Reds signed three new players before traveling to Battle Creek, Michigan for a pair of games.  Joe Ardne, a second baseman from the Cleveland League and W.T. Lloyd, formerly a pitcher for Birmingham, Alabama of the Southern League, were signed by the Reds.  Delphos also signed Jason P. Bridges, a pitcher for one of the best teams in the state, the Cincinnati Shamrocks.  However, “…he could not go to Battle Creek as he had agreed to play with Sidney yesterday.” 

The Reds journeyed to Michigan for their two game set with Battle Creek.  Jones pitched Delphos to a 9-5 win in Monday’s game but “…the Battle Creek people, bound for a win, sent for an Indians pitcher for Tuesday’s game.  He was a little too sweet for our boys, none of whom could hit him with any regularity…”  Battle Creek took the series finale 10-3.

Findlays’ challenge to the Red’s superiority in the northwest was strengthened as the “Gaslight Gang” took two straight from the Delphos nine.  The Findlays battered Delphos pitching for sixteen runs each game.  The Reds also hit well but could not keep pace with their hard-hitting foes and lost twice, 16-10 and 16-7.  Pearl Grey pitched the first game and also hammered two home runs for the Reds.

The Findlay Courier noted “…if Delphos keeps on playing the bum ball she did in the last two games she will have to drop her claim to the northwest Ohio championship.”  Delphos was 30-8 for a .789 winning percentage while hard charging Findlay was 19-7 for a .730 percentage. 

A visit to Fort Wayne was just the right medicine to get the Reds back on the winning track.  A large crowd at Lakeside Park saw the two teams deadlocked at four after the first inning.  From then on, until the ninth, the game was in the sure hands of the Reds.  In the ninth, Fort Wayne scored twice and had “…the three best baserunners on the bases and the heavy batters to follow…” but the Delphos boys stiffened and won 8-6.  The Fort Wayne Times laid much praise on the Delphos team, especially shortstop Wilson and catcher Fear.  “Every man of them is a ball player, their catcher Fear and shortstop Wilson being of the superfine order.”

Manager Mike Riehl brought his Columbus team north for a Thursday doubleheader and a Sunday game.   “The morning game was an exceedingly close one.”  Columbus tallied a run in the bottom of the eighth to take a 5-4 win.  A large crowd gathered for the afternoon game, ready for another close contest.  However, “…the game was too one-sided to be amusing.”  Delphos scored in each of the first five innings for a 13-0 lead while Bert Jones pitched six innings of shutout ball.  “Lloyd, who had played but one game with the Reds,” gave up two tallies in the last two innings but it was not enough as Delphos won 15-2.

The “rubber game” of the series was witnessed by another large crowd.  Bridges pitched for the hometowners and, after a three run first, shut down the visitors.  The Reds, meanwhile, got to work and scored a single tally in the eighth to close the gap.  They rallied again in the ninth and pushed across three runs with no one out whereupon Columbus “threw up the game.”  A Reds win 4-2.

The Reds next opponent was Alexandria, Indiana.  “F.H. Arnold manages the Alexandrias and the Muncies and our boys will no doubt play against a team made up of the best men from the Hoosier teams.”  The first game was a “…genuine slugging match…”  Delphos rebounded from a 7-1 first inning deficit to win 22-16.  The second game was an improvement as far as the score was concerned but the play was “…anything but creditable”.  Alexandria event the series, winning 12-7.

It was reported that the “Toledo Rodgers, the only team that has the temerity to question the Reds’ right to the championship of northwest Ohio will play the home team here next Saturday and Sunday. 

The first game was Saturday.  “To say that the Rodgers were mildly surprised at the results would be putting it mildly.”  “Mute” Kihm had four hits including a triple and a homer while Pearl Grey had three hits to bat the Reds to a 19-1 blowout.  Lloyd pitched the victory, striking out ten.

The second game, on Sunday, was quite different from Saturday’s game.  Shortstop Wilson  of the Reds was ill and unable to play.  Ragan pitched brilliantly for the Toledos.  “He is the best pitcher any visiting team has placed in the box here.  He is left-handed his curves fooled our boys nicely.”  Ragan gave up only five hits and struck out nine but was still bested by the Delphos team.  Jones outpitched his Toledo counterpart, scattering four hits, fanning four and throwing a shutout.  Delphos tallied single runs in the second, sixth and eighth, one on a round-tripper by Reddy Grey, to capture a hard-fought 3-0 win.  “The game was umpired by Bennet of Springfield and it was conceded by all to have seen the best job of umpiring ever seen on the grounds.”  Delphos solidified its claim to the northwest Ohio crown with this two game sweep.

A greatly strengthened Columbus Grove team came over to Delphos “…more than sure of success.”  Delphos rolled to a 16-5 win in a game featuring heavy hitting on both sides.  “…the feature of the game was a hit by the “Mute” (Kihm) which sent the ball clear over the center field fence making the longest hit ever seen on the grounds.”  Pearl Grey also homered and had two of the Reds’ thirteen stolen bases.  Kihm, Fear and Sommers had three hits apiece. 

The paper also noted at this time that Pearl Grey left the team for Columbus to resume his schooling.  Grey, whose family lived in Columbus, was attending the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship.  Grey was studying to be a dentist like his father had been.

The Reds ended their fine season with two games against Springfield.  The visitors reputedly had a fine team and two close, well-played games were expected.  Monday’s game showed, however, that “…the visitors were mere childs play for the Reds…”  By the time the rains came pouring down in the fourth inning Delphos had rolled to a 12-0 win.

“Tuesday the Reds concluded to have some sport on their own hook.  Capt. Sommers, Tanner, Fear, Jones, Arner and Wilson appeared in costumes made up of all sorts of suits, stockings, shoes and caps.  Marvelous deformities appeared on various parts of their anatomies and altogether it as a strange looking crew.  Their return to town was a sort of triumphal march with Capt. Sommers seated on a mule and the rest of the boys loaded into a cart.”  Delphos won nevertheless, 9-3.

On August 31 the Baseball Association met and declared that any games thereafter would depend on the team staying together.  A few more Sunday games and a trip through Indiana was to be sought.  The Association also noted that “The team has done excellent work this season and put up a game which few amateur teams could touch.” 

On September 7, 1893, the Delphos Herald noted that “The Delphos baseball team, after beating every team in this part of the country and winning the title of champions of northwest Ohio has disbanded… (and)… it is undoubtedly the strongest team of amateurs in the state…”  The Reds’ season record was reported in the game article as 36-10 for a.738 winning percentage, however, in reading through daily accounts the actual team record was 33-12 for a still very impressive .733 winning average.    

1893 Delphos Reds

Front, left to right: Zane Grey, Kid Fear, Bert Jones

Second row: Cap Turner, Enoch Sommers, Herman Jettinger

Back row: Ben Wilson, Roman “Red” Grey (Zane Grey’s brother), Manager Frank Wulfhorst, Oscar Eisenbach, George “Dummy” Kihm

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