Mansfield City Basketball and Their First Road Trip

A photo of seven men posing in their basketball uniforms is located in the Sherman Room.  The only indications of their identity are the words Mansfield, Ohio across their chests, “’15-‘16” written on the Basketball in the middle of the group and the name of the studio, Oscar Grossheim, Muscatine, IA on the mat around the photo.  Six of the seven men show the somber expression typical in images from this time, one has a slight smile.  I wanted to know the identity of the individuals and what brought them to Muscatine, IA.

1916

1915-16 Mansfield City Basketball Team (Photo by Oscar Grossheim)

I first searched through the newspaper and, rather quickly, found an article of the Mansfield City Basketball team taking a “big western trip” in February of 1916.  This was the first trip of its kind for a local semi-pro team.  The team was “composed almost entirely of former college stars” who were located in Mansfield.  The article goes on to list six players who would be making the trip: Laurence Hughes, Merz Pecht, Robert Wilcox, Dean Leuthner, Glenn Davis and Douglas Miller.[i]

The Mansfield City basketball team had a successful record the previous year, though, according to newspaper reports, they didn’t get the support from the city they deserved.  They played mainly neighboring city teams, including Ashland, Bucyrus, Galion, Wooster, Polk, and Mt. Vernon.  Also on the schedule were some collegiate teams such as Kenyon College, Ohio Wesleyan, Marietta, and Baldwin-Wallace.  Some nationally known teams, like the New York Nationals and Buffalo Germans, even traveled to Mansfield to showcase their skills.  They even competed against the Mansfield High School team near the end of the season.  The high school team was one of the best to date and could “lay claim to the state championship”[ii] and included future football Hall-of-Famer Wilbur “Pete” Henry.  The high school team won all three games.  The city team finished with a record of 15-13, but despite the poor record won the Semi-Professional Championship of Central Ohio.[iii]

mhs_1915BB

Wilbur “Pete” Henry in 1915

The 1915-16 season started strong for the Mansfield City team.  In the first two games, they defeated the Ashland Y.M.C.A. 34-22 and 36-25.[iv]  On February 5, 1916, The Mansfield News announced the team would take a western trip, starting in Ft. Wayne, IN, then hitting Iowa and finishing in Minnesota.  They would play a total of 8 games on the trip.  They were given new uniforms by the Globe Clothing company and headed out on their first-ever road trip.[v]

The first game was on Tuesday, February 8, 1916, against the St. Paul’s Club of Ft. Wayne, IN.  The team “did not play true to form” and “there was evidence of a lack of practice,” and Mansfield lost the game 48-16.[vi]  The team next arrived in Muscatine, IA and played two games against the local team.  The mystery of the seventh person in the photo was solved as Floyd Dent, who was going to college in the area, also joined the Mansfield City team and would play the remainder of the games.  The Mansfield Globes, as they were now called, lost both games 43-21[vii] and 34-24[viii] respectively.  This is where the photograph located in the Sherman Room was taken, in the studio of Oscar Grossheim.  Grossheim was a well-known photographer in the area, his archive, containing 55,000 glass plate negatives is located at the Musser Public Library in Muscatine, IA.  They include the image of the Mansfield team and give evidence of who at least one individual is, the description in the archives lists D. H. Miller as manager.[ix]  Douglas Miller stands in the middle in a suit and bow tie.

Self-portrait_of_Oscar_Grossheim_(1910)

Oscar Grossheim Self Portrait (1910)

The team next made the short trip to Columbus Junction, IA losing again 18-12.[x]  Mansfield then traveled to Emmetsburg, IA and played a local side who had not lost at home in 3 years.  The run continued with Mansfield losing 48-21.[xi]  The team was next set to play in Osage, IA, but missed the train.  They had to travel by bobsled in near-zero temperatures to make the game.  Despite this, the Mansfield side nearly earned their first victory losing 26-22.  According to The Mansfield News, poor officiating cost Mansfield the game.[xii]  They next traveled to Ft. Dodge, IA losing 56-22[xiii] before making their way to Red Wing, MN for the final game.  Many of the players were sick, most likely from traveling by bobsled in near-zero temperatures and lost the final game 68-10.[xiv]  Despite the record, the team made a positive impression on their opponents and were invited back the following season.[xv]

 

map

Google Map of the teams neatly 2000 mile trip

These men would stay in the city most of their lives.  Glenn Davis and Floyd Dent would both be physical directors of the YMCA and Dent would go on to be instrumental in building up the Boy Scouts in Mansfield.  Merz Pecht would spend 32 years at the Post Office retiring in 1959 and Laurence, or Lawrence, Hughes worked at Westinghouse and farmed.  Dean Leuthner attended dental school at The Ohio State University and became a dentist in the city.  Douglas Miller was a car salesman and later ran the Mansfield Terrace Motel.  It is unknown what happened to Robert Wilcox.

Sources:

[i] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 05 FEB 1916.
[ii] Manhigan Yearbook (Mansfield, Ohio), 1915, p 93.
[iii] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 03 MAR 1915, p. 14.
[iv] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 24 DEC 1915, p14 and 27 DEC 1915, p9.
[v] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 05 FEB 1916.
[vi] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 09 FEB 1916,  p9.
[vii] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 12 FEB 1916, p7.
[viii] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 14 FEB 1916, p10.
[ix] http://www.umvphotoarchive.org/digital/collection/muspl/id/3996/rec/1
[x] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 15 FEB 1916, p11.
[xi] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 17 FEB 1916, p12.
[xii] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 17 FEB 1916, p12.
[xiii] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 19 FEB 1916, p13.
[xiv] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 19 FEB 1916, p4.
[xv] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio), 21 FEB 1916, p10.

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