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Posted on March 11, 2021 at 4:47 PM by Melissa Dalton
Baseball season is upon us! With opening day just a few weeks away, we thought it might be fun to tell the tale of a former baseball player, which involves murder and his eventual redemption. Are you as intrigued as we were when we heard about the story? If so, keep reading!
Clifford Wesley Latimer was born on November 30, 1875 (although there are some sources that say he was born in 1877) in Loveland, Ohio to John Wesley and Nora McAdams Latimer. Little is known of his early life, but Latimer broke into the professional league in 1895, playing outfield for Montgomery, which was part of the Southern Association. In 1897, he made his way to Minneapolis and that is when he took on the challenge of learning the position of catcher, a position he exceled and played for the rest of his career.
In 1898, while playing in the Texas League, Latimer was assigned the nickname “Tacks” by a fellow player. According to an interview with Latimer, he claimed that this fellow ballplayer had a propensity to give out nicknames without rhyme or reason (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Clifford “Tacks” Latimer while playing for Dayton (Wikimedia Commons)
The same year, Latimer was drafted into the National League, playing for New York for the season. That same year, he married Lottie Mae Dawson, also of Loveland, on March 22, 1899 (Fig 2). Together, the couple had three children – Leola (b. 1900), Grace (b. 1901), and Dawson (b. 1915).
Fig 2. Marriage Record for Clifford Latimer and Lottie Mae Dawson (Ancestry.com)
Latimer continued playing as a catcher, bouncing around and playing for various minor and major league teams. When his career as a baseball player was coming to an end, Latimer moved his family to Xenia. Latimer had an interest in politics, and ran for Greene County Sheriff in 1918, but was unsuccessful in that bid (Fig 3). Soon thereafter, Latimer joined the police force for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Fig 3. Two Old Ball Tossers Talk, Xenia Daily Gazette, 18 June 1918 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Latimer worked as a policeman for the railroad for many years, but one day, his life took a turn. The story goes that the lieutenant of the police, Charles Mackrodt, was demoted. He blamed Latimer for it, and threatened him several times. Then on November 26, 1924, Mackrodt and Latimer had an altercation. Mackrodt confronted Latimer regarding the allegations that he talked about him behind his back, causing him to lose his job. Latimer denied it, and Mackrodt continued with the assault and threats, all while wielding a knife. He attempted to get Latimer to follow him into an alley, and Latimer, fearing for his life, shot Mackrodt four times (three of the shots were to the back), killing him. Throughout the trial, Latimer maintained he killed Mackrodt in self-defense, and had many character witnesses claim he was a good and decent man (Fig 4).
Fig 4. Latimer Tells Story of Fatal Shooting Case, Xenia Evening Gazette, 31 December 1924 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
When the case was left in the hands of the jury, they deliberated for three hours before finding Latimer guilty of murder in the second degree, a conviction that carried a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole (Fig 5). Latimer appealed for a new trial, but it was overruled. He was subsequently taken to the Ohio Penitentiary, but vowed to be a “model prisoner” in the hopes of receiving a pardon (Fig 6).
Fig 5. State Record Vol 12, p 384-388 (Greene County Archives)
Fig 6. Latimer Sentenced to Ohio Pen for Life When New Trial Denied, Xenia Evening Gazette, 5 January 1925 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Lottie Latimer filed a petition for divorce in Greene County on April 21, 1926, just over a year after Latimer was sentenced to life in prison. He was not to receive parole for at least ten years, and the reason given for the divorce was his imprisonment. The Court granted the divorce on July 12, 1926.
Latimer kept his vow and was a model prisoner. While at the Ohio Penitentiary, he was an assistant for the baseball team, provided fare money for a mother to visit her son at the London Farm, and even aided in the protection of guards and the warden’s daughter during a prison break, and in the subsequent recapture of the prisoners. Latimer was trusted with a gun on more than one occasion at the prison, and was used in the capacity of a guard (Fig 7).
Fig 7. Won’t Reward ‘Tacks’ Heroism with Pardon, Xenia Evening Gazette, 9 November 1926 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
It seems his good behavior didn’t go unnoticed, and in 1930, an investigation for the pardon of Latimer’s case began. On December 24, 1930, Governor Myers Cooper granted Latimer a full pardon, releasing him immediately from prison (Fig 8).
Fig 8. Xenia Slayer Given Governor’s Pardon as Christmas Gift, Xenia Evening Gazette, 24 December 1930 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Latimer returned to Loveland, Ohio after his release, and found work at the Container Corp. of America in Cincinnati. In 1932, he married Mildred Shawhan and in 1933, the couple had a daughter, Juanita. Latimer was living a quiet life, but that life ended abruptly. On April 24, 1936, Latimer had a heart attack and died at his home (Fig 9). He was 60 years old. Latimer was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Milford, Ohio.
Fig 9. ‘Tack’ Is Dead, Xenia Evening Gazette, 25 April 1936 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Until Next Time.
Greene County Archives
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