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The Olympics, 1885
The next professional franchise in Erie was the Olympic Base Ball Club, organized by a group called the Olympic Athletic Association in 1885. They felt that "the proper thing for Erie to have was a regular salaried nine represented in some association." It was the first team to be a part of a league, the newly formed Inter-state League, a six-team circuit with teams in Dayton, Lexington, Springfield, and Youngstown, Ohio and Frankfort, Kentucky.
Managed by A. C. "Archie" Miller, the roster featured Erie native Louis Bierbauer, who later became famous for inspiring the Pittsburgh Pirates' team nickname. Other stars included catcher Dell Darling, pitchers Ed Seward and Mike Morrison, and team captain Count Campau, all of whom later played in the major leagues.
Home games were played on the field at 10th and Peach, now called Olympic Park. The players wore grey uniforms with maroon caps, belts and stockings. On opening day, May 5, they defeated Youngstown 5-3, with Darling hitting a walk off home run into 11th Street in the tenth inning.
The Inter-state had planned a 90-game schedule, but collapsed after a little over a month. The Olympics completed more games than any other team, ending with a record of 15 wins and only 8 losses. When the league disbanded, on June 6, the team was stranded in Dayton. The Erie owners arranged some exhibition games with teams from other leagues, and tried unsuccessfully to get the team into the New York State League.
Around this time the major leagues began to bar Black players from their teams. The minor leagues soon followed suit. There is no evidence that any professional team in Erie included any Black players in the 19th century. However, in 1893 the Black waiters, porters and other employees from the Reed House Hotel on North Park Row in downtown Erie formed the Reed House Base Ball Club. The Erie Daily Times reported that the team would challenge the police and YMCA clubs for games. Austin Mount, a porter at the hotel, was captain of the team.
While workers from several shops and businesses formed teams who competed against each other, there was no professional league play in Erie for the next four years. However, in 1889, John Depinet picked men from these teams, including Bierbauer, to form the Erie "Drummers." He arranged games with semi-pro teams and league teams on their off days. Depinet was invited to enter the team in both the Ohio and the reconstituted Interstate League, but declined both offers because he didn't believe there was enough local support. A raffle was held to raise money for the team.
The roster at the start of the season included:
Jack Morrison, P/C
George Rindernecht, SS
Lou Bierbauer, 2B/P
John Shays, 3B
For the last game of the season, against Buffalo of the International League, the only one of these players left in the lineup was Shays.
The players were outfitted in custom fitted tan jerseys with red trim and a large "D" on the right breast, red belts and red stockings. They played their home games at "Drummers Field" at West 9th and Poplar Streets. An innovation at the ballpark was a large blackboard, donated by shoe dealer M. A. Krug, to display the score to fans. A twelve-foot fence was erected along the streets "to prevent the deadheads who see the games from wagons, from looking over," according to the Erie Morning Dispatch.
That fall, Depinet led a delegation to work with backers from other towns on forming a New York and Pennsylvania League. He continued to struggle to find sufficient financial backing to allow him to compete for better players.