The greatest thing about a public venue is its history is ongoing: there is always another day for greatness to emerge.
Take for example Mansfield’s stadium: Arlin Field. Every time the gates open and the stands fill there is fresh opportunity to make notes in the record books.
It is a history that is continually being written at this end of the timeline.
It is the other end of the timeline however, that this story tackles: the opening kickoff, so to speak, of Arlin Field.
There are actually two stories to be told in order to understand the origin of the stadium; each of these stories has its own trajectory and momentum: one is a man, the other is a team.
These two separate storylines made a fortunate convergence in 1947.
The man: Harold Arlin
Arlin’s path began far from Mansfield in Illinois where he grew up, and his road took him to Pittsburgh as a young engineer working for Westinghouse. An unusual opportunity opened up for him at the Westinghouse plant, and he stepped into it casually without any preparation. But by opening that door he suddenly became one of the most recognizable personalities in the country.
He was the first announcer of the first commercial broadcasting station in America.
The Westinghouse plant in Pittsburgh had a little wooden shack perched atop a nine story factory building where it set up crude broadcasting equipment to play music over the air. In 1920, Arlin asked if he could be the voice on the radio and no one else particularly wanted the job because at that time it seemed like an inconsequential scientist’s plaything.
One of his first assignments however, was to broadcast election results the night Warren Harding became President. So his voice was picked up and resounded clear across the nation. In one evening Arlin's name became instantly known when he was only 24 years old.
Because he was instrumental in starting the radio industry on its way, he has a long list of “firsts” in the field of broadcasting. He announced the first football play-by-play broadcast in 1921. In 1923 he made the first shortwave broadcast to Great Britain, South Africa and Australia.
After that the London Times called him the ‘world’s most popular radio announcer.’
He was often referred to as the ‘Voice of America.’
One time he was introducing Babe Ruth, who was going to read a statement over the radio, but when the microphone pointed at him, the baseball star froze. So Harold Arlin grabbed the speech and delivered it as the Babe; and from that time on in the radio business he was jokingly known as the ‘Voice of Everyone.’
Arlin never dreamed his efforts would be remembered, or that the radio business could possibly evolve into the 20th century’s first blockbuster media. It all began too simply.
“The microphone we used looked like a tomato can with a felt lining—we called it a mushophone,” he said.
His role in the birth of the radio industry didn’t strike him as particularly significant, and in 1925 he asked Westinghouse to transfer him to a new job. He wanted to do public relations and promotions work; to get newfangled Westinghouse appliances into every hometown in order to upgrade the quality of American life.
So, in 1925, he was assigned a position at the center of the Westinghouse appliance empire: Mansfield, Ohio.
The team: Tyger vs. Tiger
When Harold Arlin came to Mansfield, one of his greatest passions in his new hometown was promoting the students and activities of Mansfield High School. He rapidly took on the roll of Mansfield’s chief booster, and enthusiastically rose to become president of the School Board for 16 years.
His enthusiasm became an important aspect of student life at the high school, particularly in regards to the football team which was having a difficult time inspiring any kind of earnest devotion. He believed in them loudly and with tremendous encouragement.
To understand how vitally this encouraging energy plays into the story of Arlin Field, it is important to focus on one particular rivalry of the Mansfield football team—the annual game between Mansfield and Massillon: Tygers versus Tigers.
Mansfield always lost. It was a tradition for decades.
In 1939, the score was 73-0 but, not to be discouraged, the boosters were quick to point out that it could have been worse: in 1912 the score was 85-0. In 1913 Massillon swamped Mansfield 88-0.
In 1942 the optimistic headlines read, “Fighting Tygers hold Massillon to 32-0 victory.”
The Mansfield boosters were relentless in their promotion however, and in 1944, when the Tygers lost by only a 6-0 score, the crowds caught fire.
In 1946 the Tygers and Tigers tied at 12-12 and every seat was taken in town; the hillsides nearby were jammed; kids climbed utility poles to get a view of the game.
The annual showdown between Mansfield and Massillon took turns being played between the two cities. In even years it was here, and on the odd-numbered years all the folks in Mansfield took special trains to Massillon.
The home games were held at Stadium Field, which was located behind the high school.
There were stands for spectators, and bleacher seats and a hillside with a good view, but of all the years since the school opened in 1926 it hardly seemed likely that a day might come when those accommodations wouldn’t be enough.
The day did arrive though. In 1944 there were 10,000 people at the game: crammed into a place built for 6,000.
It was apparent to the boosters that all those additional screaming voices made a big difference in lifting the team, because that year the Tygers lost by only one touchdown.
So that’s why they built a stadium with 12,500 seats.
It opened in 1947, which was an odd-numbered year so the Tygers were in Massillon losing 27-0.
In 1948 there were 13,800 people crammed into the stadium; and the Tygers lost 33-7, but it was a blast.
The Mansfield Tygers finally beat the Massillon Tigers in 1949. It was only the second time in the history of Mansfield newspapers that the headline was printed in red.
In 1950, on the heels of Mansfield’s big victory, tickets went on sale for the home game against Massillon nine days before the game, and the line went two blocks down Park Avenue.
The Tygers lost that game 56-6, but there were 13,500 people having the time of their life at Arlin Field.
Harold Arlin was still president of the School Board when the stadium was completed in 1947, and when the motion was raised to name it after him he argued against it for over an hour. Years later he said it made him angry.
“it was the only time in my life when no one would listen to me,” he said.
It is a meaningful statement from a man whose meaningful career began with everybody in the nation listening to him.
Harold Arlin (1895-1986)