John Grindrod: North Street’s Connection to Yesteryear Sports, Leo Mangum
The smaller the city, the bigger the deal when an athlete is good enough to play professional sport. And, here in Lima, we’ve had our share of those who have played in the big three professional sports: Major League Baseball, National Football League, and National Basketball Association.
The list of those who took a piece of Lima with them to diamond, football and basketball fields includes baseball players Bill Sharp, Jim Mertz, Steve Arlin and Brad Komminsk; footballers Bill Lange, Jim Lynch, Tom Barrington, Mike Current, William Howard and William White and basketball players John McCullough and Dakota Mathias.
However, once upon a time, Lima also had a few citizens who played professionally in the early days of their sport, and while they didn’t grow up here, they most certainly spent several years in Lima after their playing days. .
This week and next, I will feature these two pioneering athletes who ironically worked on the same downtown block, 100 Block of North Street. Since it’s baseball season, we’ll start with the former owner of L and L Bowling Alley and Bar and Grill, Leo Mangum.
According to an article written by Mike Lackey, a former columnist for The Lima News, Mangum married Winifred Scheid of Lima in 1925 and lived here from that time on, that is, when he was not standing on the mound watching for the catcher’s sign. Mangum and a partner bought the L and L in 1938 and oversaw its operation until the business closed in 1969. He remained in Lima until a stroke took him in 1974, according to Lackey, just two days away from the 50th anniversary of his Major League Debut.
And, as far as those debuts go, in 1924, well, just 23 years after the American League’s inaugural season, Mangum, a native of Durham, NC, made his debut on the league’s biggest stage. , Yankee Stadium, as a pitcher for visitors. Chicago White Sox. The start was rather bad as Mangum gave up six runs in three innings. Of the six hits he gave up, two were home runs, one to Wally Pipp, who suffered what would become the sport’s most famous headache the following year, opening the door for Lou Gehrig to supplant him at first base. Gehrig wouldn’t miss a game for the next 15 years.
The other circuit, Mangum will be remembered all his life, as he was struck by the sport’s most famous player, George Herman “Babe” Ruth.
Mangum pitched for two other Major League teams besides the White Sox during his seven-year career, the New York Giants, under the great John McGraw, and the Boston Braves. He and Ruth were teammates with the Braves in Ruth’s final season in 1935.
While most would view Mangum’s Major League career as rather pedestrian – an 11-10 loss record and an earned run average of 5.37 over 258 innings – Mangum’s career was far more than those seven years. .
To say that Mangum perhaps loved baseball more than anyone who has ever played the game might be correct because before and between his Major League moments, Mangum played 16 more seasons for minor league teams in America and Canada in 15 different cities.
In those 15 minor league seasons, Mangum won 192 more games and pitched over 3,000 innings. From his first professional year in 1920 when he threw a hit in his very first game in which he appeared until his final season of 1938, Mangum pitched in the following cities: Albany (NY), Portsmouth ( Va), Minneapolis (Mn), St. Joseph (Mo), Wichita Falls (Tx), Reading (Pa), Portland (Ore), Buffalo (NJ), Newark (NJ), Montreal (Que), Syracuse (NY) , Jersey City (NJ), Wilkes-Barre, (Pa), Williamsport (Pa) and Clinton (IA).
Mix in the three Major League cities of Chicago, New York, and Boston, and that’s 19 different cities and 19 different uniforms. If you remember Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere,” it might just be Mangum’s baseball-era musical composition.
Recalls Harry Johnson, a native of Lima and a lifelong sports enthusiast, “I played L and L a lot and got to know Leo and I loved that Caroline accent he never did. lost. His son Al ran the day-to-day operations, but Leo was there often and was always ready to tell stories of his baseball life. Behind the counter was a large autographed black and white photo of Babe Ruth. I guess he must have been two by three feet.
The experiences and memories that the gregarious Leo Mangum brought back to Lima from a real atlas full of baseball memories were so impressive. However, it turns out that right across the L and L aisles of the Ohio Theater, there was another story. The man who worked as a theater manager in the late 1950s and early 1960s was also there to see the early years of a different sport, and that’s the subject of next week’s column.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor, and the author of two books. Contact him at [email protected]