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Hardball at its finest

Pieces of the Past column by Jim Reis

The traditionof baseball runs strong in Northern Kentucky with the old professional Covington Blue Sox, the Newport Brewers and many semi-pro teams.

Often overlooked are the teams from Ludlow.

Over the years Ludlow's baseball teams - such as the Ludlow White Sox, the Ludlow Giants and the Ludlow American Legion - would compete annually for local and regional league championships.

In fact, in 1875 one Ludlow team played a two-game series against the Cincinnati Reds and a game against the Boston Red Sox.

By most accounts, the first baseball team organized in Ludlow was in 1874. The baseball club awarded a contract to Cuthbert and Co. to grade a ball field. The old ball field occupied the site where Caple Park is now located. The ball field, with its ''fine view of the Ohio River,'' was to be ready for use in May 1875.

The Ludlow team took on all challengers and traveled, playing in Louisville in May 1875 and throughout Cincinnati.

The Ticket newspaper in Covington reported on May 27, 1875, that the Ludlow team would be playing the Red Stockings of Boston the next day. The Ludlow Reporter newspaper later wrote that Boston won easily by a score of 17-5. Some people were astonished that Ludlow scored any runs at all against the more established team.

That same summer the Ludlow team beat the Cincinnati Amateurs 11-8 and played the famous Star team of Covington even.

Exactly when the Ludlow team picked its nickname is not clear, but by September 1875 newspaper accounts referred to the team as the Ludlow White Sox. That came as the Ludlow team was playing a two-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.

On Sept. 4, 1875, Ludlow beat the Reds 10-5 on the Ludlow field. The Reds won the second game, played in Cincinnati, 5-3. An account said that game was mired by arguments between the teams and involved an umpire, whom the Ludlow players accused of siding with the Reds.

A city directory in 1890 listed the ball park of the Ludlow Baseball Club on Kenner Street near the railroad tracks, but by 1903 plans were under way for a new ball park in Ludlow.

A Kentucky Post account on Dec. 21, 1903, said operators of the Ludlow Lagoon Amusement Park were discussing building a ball park next to its grounds along Pleasant Run Creek. Whether that happened is not clear, but by about 1910 a new ball park was built along the Ohio River by R. B. Carran near where the Ludlow High School football stadium is now located.

By this point the Ludlow baseball team was playing in the Spinney League, which included some of the best amateur and semi-professional teams in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. Some of the players for Ludlow during the era were Charles Klinger, Mike Glenn, Luke Snyder, Bob Gill, ''Tumble'' Warner, Dick Dillon and Larry Ratterman.

Ludlow made it to the league finals in 1910, but lost to the Y.M.I. No. 76 of Cincinnati.

One of the best Ludlow White Sox teams was in 1915, when the team won the local championship under manager John Ed Kennedy.

The high quality of Ludlow baseball also was assured by a crop of excellent young players who played for the Ludlow Giants and who won the Northern Kentucky championship for players ages 15 to 17 in 1916.

Beefed up by the return of several players from military service during World War I, the Ludlow White Sox again challenged for the local baseball title in 1919.

That year the team faced the additional obstacle of some ministers who came out against Sunday baseball games, especially for teams like the White Sox, who charged admission and paid their players small salaries. Teams at the time were often a mixture of locals and players with some minor league experience.

At the end of a season the teams often played in exhibition games and tournaments made up of teams from various local leagues, such as the Kentucky State League tournament in 1921 which included such teams as the Holy Cross Standards, Newport I.O.F., Wiedemanns, Falmouth, Big Bone, Dayton Manhattans, Williamstown, Taylorsport, Bromley, Cynthiana, Covington, Covington Avalons, Flick's Specials, Covington Emeralds, Covington Dixies and two teams from Ludlow - the White Sox and Knights of Columbus.

By 1926 the best baseball in Ludlow was being played in the Central League, which announced a schedule of 22 games per team. In addition to Ludlow, teams came from Cincinnati suburbs, plus such Ohio cities as Dayton, Hamilton and Springfield, and Richmond, Ind. Felix Cicona managed the Ludlow team. Neal Brady and Harry Reno were Ludlow's star pitchers.

Games attracted large crowds and newspaper coverage with stories before and after contests. The hiring of Reno attracted special attention because he was a former pitcher for the St. Louis Browns of the American League and apparently came to Ludlow after a stint with a minor league team in Houston.

In addition to Ludlow games, the ball field in Ludlow also was used as a neutral site for many local amateur championships during that era.

By the early 1930s the Ludlow banner in local baseball was being carried by the Ludlow American Legion. The popularity of the team was such that a parade through the streets of Ludlow was held prior to the opening game in 1931 with Mayor James J. Minogue throwing out the first ball.

World War II brought changes to adult baseball. As young men returned home from military service, they were more interested in marriage, raising children, homes and jobs.

The heyday of local adult baseball was over and the rise of adult softball had begun.

Neal Brady pitched for Yanks, Reds

Among the great baseball players to come from Ludlow in the early 1900s, Neal J. Brady was one of the best.

Born Cornelius Joseph Brady on March 4, 1897, Brady began his baseball career as a pitcher for St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati and then Xavier College. In 1915, he signed a professional contract with the Dallas team of the Texas League. The next month he signed a contract with the New York Yankees.

In his first year in the majors in 1915, he appeared in two Yankee games, pitching about nine innings, but not getting a win or loss.

He spent the next year pitching in the minor leagues, playing in 1916 for the Columbus, Ohio, team in the American Association. In 1917, Brady divided his time between the Yankees and the minor leagues, and gained his first major league victory.

Like many professional players, Brady earned extra money after the professional season barnstorming for local teams. As an example, Brady played a couple of games for the Wiedemann team in Newport at the end of the 1916 season.

He also made money that fall coaching the St. Mary School foot-

ball team in Covington.

During this time he also played for American Association teams in Toledo, Ohio, and Toronto, Canada.

By 1924 he was back locally pitching for the Ludlow team. A Kentucky Post account in 1924 called Brady the ''Semipro King.'' Brady not only pitched, but also was a good hitter, winning a playoff game that year with a home run. A delegation of some 500 students from his old high school of St. Xavier attended one of his Ludlow team games at Redland Field in Cincinnati to cheer him on.

His best stint in the major leagues would be for the Cincinnati Reds in 1925, when he appeared in 20 games. His total major league career would include two wins and three losses.

His tenure with the Reds was his last time in the major leagues. Brady joined the Ludlow Police Department in 1926 and then got a job with the Coca-Cola Co. in Cincinnati, where he worked for 25 years and became a personnel manager.

After an extended illness, Brady died in June 1947 at the age of 50. At the time he was living on Oxford Avenue in Fort Mitchell.

The study of Northern Kentucky history is an avocation of staff writer Jim Reis, who covers suburban Kenton County for The Kentucky Post.

Publication date: 04-02-01
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