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Letter: Dine-to-Donate for Ray Brown Fund

Dine-to-Donate Event for the Ray Brown Historical Marker
El Campo Mexican Restaurant, 204 North Main Street, Ada
Monday, June 24 from 4:00-9:00 p.m.

A letter to the editor from David Strittmatter

Perhaps you have heard about the ongoing local history project in nearby Alger. For the past couple years, the ONU History Program, Hardin County Historical Museums and the Village of Alger have been strategizing a multi-stage effort to memorialize Alger’s most famous son: Baseball Hall of Famer Ray Brown.

A 1926 graduate of Alger High School, Brown pitched in the Negro Leagues in the years before Jackie Robinson broke the color line. Brown’s on-field achievements go on and on. 

He got the start in the 1935 Negro League East-West All-Star Game. He led the Negro National League in wins, ERA, and strikeouts in 1938. His Homestead Grays team played in the Negro World Series four consecutive years (1942-45), winning twice (’43-44). He hurled a one-hitter in Game 3 of the 1944 Negro World Series. He threw a 7-inning perfect game in 1945.

Like many professionals of his era, he barnstormed and played in other leagues in the winter. His “offseasons” and final years of baseball saw Brown play in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, and Canada.

Despite all of this, his death in Dayton in 1965 passed with relative obscurity. Obituaries did not mention his baseball career. 

Four decades after he died, a special committee on African-American baseball was tasked with scouring the records of the Negro Leagues to see if the National Baseball Hall of Fame had bypassed any worthy candidates. Instead, Brown got inducted into Cooperstown in 2006.

The current project in Alger entails improving a local ball field and creating a multi-use space for the community. The proposal to rename the field “Ray Brown Memorial Park” will go before the Alger Village Council at its July 1 meeting.

The Alger ball field will feature an Ohio Historical Marker for Brown, a large mural of Brown painted by ONU student Aubrey Davis, and eventually, entrance arches among other improvements.

As one might imagine, there is a cost to this community initiative. Some grant dollars have been secured, and donations remain welcome.

This coming Monday, June 24, people can also help the Ray Brown Fund by going out to dinner at El Campo Mexican Restaurant, 204 North Main Street, Ada. For this dine-to-donate event, the restaurant will donate 10% of restaurant proceeds from the night.

Fundraising for Alger’s Ray Brown Memorial Park will continue until the project is completed. Or, perhaps Yogi Berra would have said it best: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

David Strittmatter, Assistant Professor of History, Ohio Northern University