Author: Theme Boy

2021 Charlie Hesseltine Meriden GHTBL Record Journal Expos

Hesseltine’s 4-Hitter, Hendrickson’s Homer Carry R-J Expos to Latest Twilight Win

By Ron Buck, Special to the Record-Journal

MERIDEN — Where were you in 2002?

Charlie Hesseltine was 18, fresh out of Maloney High School and throwing his first pitches for the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League team that would become the Record-Journal Expos.

Fast forward to Tuesday night.

Now 38, Hesseltine was on the mound for the Expos — better than ever — in making quick work of the South Windsor Phillies.

The veteran southpaw twirled a four-hit complete game in beating the Phillies 3-1 in a GHTBL affair that lasted just over 90 minutes at Ceppa Field.

Hesseltine’s battery mate, A.J. Hendrickson, provided the offensive fireworks. The catcher not only launched a towering two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, he also drove in the tying run with a solid single in the fourth inning.

Hendrickson finished the game 2-for-3, while Jack Rich was 1-for-2 with a double to the right-field fence ahead of Hendrickson’s blast.

Phillies starter Luke Mathewson matched Hesseltine through five innings before allowing Rich’s double and then Hendrickson’s home run. Mathewson had allowed just three hits — all in the fourth inning when the Expos tied the game 1-1.

Hesseltine, toeing the rubber in his 17th season for a Meriden-based squad, finished strong after allowing all four Phillies’ hits over the first three innings. Overall, Hesseltine struck out seven 20-somethings en route to lifting the Expos to 8-5. 

The Phillies fell to 3-9.

“At my age, location is the key,” dead-panned Hesseltine, who until this season had played the role of player-coach of the Expos.

“All my pitches were working; and as long as I locate my pitches, they can’t put the barrel on the ball,” Hesseltine added. “If I’m middle-middle, they are hitting it a long way.

“My goal is to miss their barrels and let my defense do the work,” Hesseltine continued. “And, tonight, they did a great job behind me.”

Hesseltine was drafted by the Texas Rangers as a teenager out of high school. He would spend three seasons in the minor leagues before returning to Meriden. 

A staple with the Expos, Hesseltine allowed his only run Tuesday in the third inning.

Down 1-0, Hesseltine proceeded to retire the Phillies in order in three of the next four innings. Hesseltine’s shutdown performance allowed the Expos to tie the game in the fourth and then for Henrickson to win things in the sixth inning.

The Phillies’ only threat after scoring came in their own half of the sixth, when they put runners at first and third with two outs. 

Hesseltine, however, got some defensive help by fellow Maloney grad Max Giacco, who made a diving catch at second base to end the top of the sixth inning and keep the game tied.

The Expos then proceeded to score the winning runs in the bottom half when Hendrickson turned around a hanging curveball and launched a no-doubter well over the left field fence.

“I was sitting on a curveball up,” said Hendrickson, who took over the coaching duties from Hesseltine this season. “He’d thrown it to me both times I was up, so I was sitting on that and put a good swing on it.”

Back to Hesseltine. Before pitching in the minor leagues, the lefty threw for the Meriden Merchants after his days at Maloney. A mainstay of the Expos since the team’s inception, Hesseltine remains a part of this season’s 1-2 pitching punch with J.D. Tyler.

Sporting a few grey hairs in his beard these days, Hesseltine has combined with Tyler for six of the Expos’ eight wins so far this season.

“It makes it so easy when he’s on,” Hendrickson said of Hesseltine. “When all his pitches are working, he makes things so easy on everybody.

“Today everything was working for him and he was hitting spots,” Hendrickson added. “He was on his game today.”

2023 GHTBL Tribute to Gary Zavatkay

Gary Zavatkay, A Baseball Life

An excerpt published in the Hartford Courant on Apr. 16, 2023:

Gary was raised in Torrington and graduated from Torrington High School, class of 1979, where he was recognized as an all-star baseball and basketball player. Following high school, Gary received a “full ride” baseball scholarship to the University of New Haven where he started at third base all four years for the UNH Chargers and compiled such strong statistics that he was inducted into the UNH Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. To date, he ranks eighth in career RBIs (126) and recently fell out of the top-10 for all-time home runs.

In 1981, Gary played for the Harwich Mariners of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League and was named to the All-Region and All-New England Collegiate Conference in 1983. After graduation, his love for baseball continued and he played numerous seasons (1983-1988) on the Society for Savings team in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League all while continuing his education earning his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hartford Campus.

Professionally, Gary leveraged the leadership skills he learned on the field and built a successful career as a National Account Manager for several industrial organizations such as J.M. NEY Company, Curtis Industries, and Barnes Distribution. In addition to his full-time job, he went on to have a prolific career as a women’s basketball official at the Division I, II, and III collegiate level, ultimately getting to spend time on the court refereeing teams of the Atlantic 10, Ivy League, American East and MAAC conferences.

In his personal life, Gary was an avid runner having completed the Boston Marathon and too many road races to count, namely the Litchfield Road Race, an annual occurrence with a large group of his friends and family in attendance. Over time, golf became his passion and something he enjoyed regularly with friends and family. He was a member of Indian Hill Country Club as well as Suffield Country Club where you would find him weekly trying to improve his game. We will always remember the many years filled with laughter on and off the course annually sponsoring what became known as the ZAV OPEN. Although Gary’s time with us was cut short, his memory will live on in the hearts of all who knew him for years to come.

For Gary’s full obituary go to: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/hartfordcourant/name/gary-zavatkay-obituary?id=51601640

Leo Bravakis Umpire GHTBL

The Passing of Hall of Famer Leo Bravakis Jr.

Leo James Bravakis, Jr., 79, of Windsor Locks, passed away peacefully on Saturday, March 4, 2023. He was born on July 26, 1943, in Middletown, CT, to Doris (Ahern) and Leo J. Bravakis, Sr.

Leo attended Middletown High School (1961), completed undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut (1965), and received his Master of Education from the University of Hartford (1970). Leo earned varsity letters in football, basketball, and baseball in high school. In 1960, he was awarded the Thom McAn football MVP Trophy and as quarterback, led his team to a 7-2-1 record. Leo was also a two-year starter in hoops. Baseball was where Leo excelled.

He was co-captain of the 1961 Middletown High Tigers who were the Connecticut Valley Conference Co-Champions and ranked #1 in the Class M CIAC Tournament with a 19-1 record. Leo recorded 121 strikeouts in 76 innings of work. He received the prestigious Sal Mazzotta Award given annually to the best all-around senior athlete who has demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and citizenship. Leo was inducted into the Middletown Hall of Fame in 2002.

1961 Central Valley Conference All Star Team Connecticut
Central Valley Conference All Star Team, Connecticut, 1961.

Leo pitched four years for the UConn Huskies, tossed a no-hitter as a freshman and was a key pitcher on the 1965 College World Series squad that only gave up 66 hits in 254 innings. During the deciding series versus Holy Cross at Fenway Park, Leo hit a double off the famous Green Monster. At the CWS, Leo pitched in relief and got a hit in UConn’s victory over Lafayette. His senior year, Leo received the “C’ Ring, an award for excellence in athletics, scholarship, citizenship, and leadership. As a proud Husky alum, Leo was a member of the UConn Dugout Club.

1962 UConns Leo Bravakis Pitches No Hitter
UConn’s Leo Bravakis Pitches No-Hitter, 1962.

After college, Leo pitched in the Middlesex County and Hartford Twilight Leagues before an arm injury ended his career. Leo finished with a 27-9 record in the Hartford Twilight League and was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1997 as pitcher.

After his athletic playing career ended, Leo turned to officiating soccer and umpiring baseball. Leo was considered to be one of the state’s best in both sports. Leo worked 15 state soccer tournament title games – 8 girls and 7 boys finals-and worked 18 state baseball tournament title games. He served on the soccer officials and baseball umpires committee boards. He was President of the soccer association from 1983-1985 and was President of the Connecticut Board of Approved Umpires twice. He served as the Commissioner for the Hartford Chapter of the Connecticut Board of Approved Umpires. Leo received the 1981 Central Connecticut Soccer Officials Association Bernard O’Rourke Distinguished Service Award and also was conferred lifetime membership for his years of dedicated service. Leo was inducted as a charter member into the Connecticut Girls Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003 for officiating.

1964 Leo Bravakis Jr. UConn Baseball
Leo Bravakis Jr. UConn, 1964.

Leo was a math teacher for East Windsor Public Schools from 1965-2001. He coached girls’ basketball and baseball at East Windsor High School. His baseball teams had a record of 89-69 winning league titles twice. He coached his son Sean’s Windsor Locks American Legion baseball team for three summers.

When he retired from coaching, Leo served as the athletic director at East Windsor High School for ten years. During his tenure, Leo was instrumental in bringing about changes that have made girls’ basketball one of the most respected and valued sports in Connecticut.

He served as the President of the East Windsor Education Association and was on the East Windsor Athletic Club Hall of Fame nominating committee. He was a member of the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors Executive Board and a member of the CIAC Girls’ Basketball Committee for five years. In 2000, Leo received Central Connecticut Board No. 6 of Approved Basketball Officials Commissioner’s Award. Leo was inducted into the East Windsor Athletic Club Hall of Fame in 2006.

1965 Carolyn M. MacCarthy Bravakis Wedding Photo
Carolyn (MacCarthy) Bravakis, 1965.

Leo and his wife Carolyn enjoyed visiting various North American cities plus venturing abroad to Prague, Paris, Rome, London (2012 Olympics), Barcelona and taking the Rhine Cruise and Baltic Tour.

Leo, a devoted fan of UConn’s basketball programs, held season tickets for games both in Storrs and Hartford. He enjoyed watching sports on TV. An avid golfer, Leo was a member of Tallwood Country Club in Hebron, CT, for decades and won numerous club championships. He loved his visits with his three grandchildren and enjoyed following their pursuits.

Leo enjoyed raising many a glass of adult beverages with his numerous friends. With Leo you always knew where you stood; he loved a spirited debate about anything. He once proudly stated “I am not politically correct, I am Leo correct.” Leo was a one-of-a-kind character who made an impression on everyone he met.

1975 Bristol American Legion vs. Middletown Legion Leo Bravakis Sr. Umpire
Bristol American Legion vs. Middletown Legion with Umpire Leo Bravakis Jr, 1975.

He leaves behind his high school sweetheart and beloved wife of 57 years, Carolyn McCarthy Bravakis; his son Sean Emmett Bravakis and his wife Rebecca; grandchildren Emmett, Isabelle, and Timothy Bravakis. He is survived by his sister, Alice Hodge and her husband Richard; niece Leigh Hodge Fischer and her husband Sean; nephew James Hodge and his wife Dawn; and Christopher Hodge and his wife Heather; his brother-in-law Dr. Robert E. McCarthy; nieces Katharine, Christine, and Coreen McCarthy. Leo was predeceased by his parents and sister-in-law Sandra McCarthy. Leo’s family would like to extend heartfelt appreciation to the ICU Team at St. Francis Hospital for making his last days comfortable. Special recognition to Doctors Sudhanshu Mulay, Paul B. Murray and Alan Soroka for their extraordinary care, compassion, and kindness to Leo over the year

Leo Bravakis Jr.

A time of visitation for family and friends will be held on Monday, March 13, 2023, from 4-7 p.m. at the Carmon Windsor Funeral Home, 807 Bloomfield Ave., Windsor. His funeral service will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Leo’s name to the East Windsor Athletic Club, c/o Ted Szymanski, 166 Rockville Road, Windsorville, CT 06016 and the UConn Baseball Stadium Enhancement Fund, c/o Jim Penders, Head Baseball Coach, 2095 Hillside Road, Unit 1173, Storrs, CT 06269. To leave an online message of condolence for his family, please visit www.carmonfuneralhome.com.

Published by Hartford Courant on Mar. 9, 2023.

Vernon Orioles Going To Bat For Community

The Vernon Orioles have continued their community involvement this year.

Chris Dehnel, Patch Staff

VERNON, CT — At a recent game, the Vernon Oriole family had Carol Hartmann throw out the ceremonial first pitch to remember and honor her son Brenden Mailloux, an outstanding Rockville baseball player.

In 2010, the Hartmann family lost a beloved family member, Brenden. He was was the son of Carol Hartmann and Len Mailloux, and grandson of Russell Hartmann of the beloved Hartmann’s Supermarket in town. Brenden died unexpectedly in 2010.

The family wanted to do something in Brenden’s memory and felt that contributing to improvements to McCoy Field, known as the Home of the Vernon Orioles, was a fitting choice to honor Brenden and benefit current and future ball players.

Carol Hartmann throws out ceremonial first pitch, McCoy Field, 2022.

Brenden grew up playing baseball from Little League to All-Stars, to JC Courant League, Rockville High School Varsity, and American Legion. He was a skilled player and loved the game. His special talent was his glove at first base. He played many games on McCoy field.

The Family is thrilled that the Vernon Orioles and other teams are benefitting from the improvements made. The outfield was named as the Brenden Mailloux Alley, which is located on the scoreboard.

“The Vernon Orioles Family would like to thank the Hartmann Family for their generous donation. McCoy Field is one of the premier fields in the league,” Orioles officials said [led by Manager Jack Ceppetelli, Kevin Powell and Steve Krajewski].

Brendan Mailloux Alley at McCoy Field, Vernon, CT.

The Vernon Orioles Family remembered and honored a fellow Oriole, Steve Czyz by having his daughter Kat throw the Ceremonial first pitch against Rainbow Graphics. Steve played shortstop for the Orioles from 1993 to 2000. In that time, he played on two championship teams, 1996 and 1999. He was also named to numerous All-Star teams throughout his career.

Steve grew up in Ellington and played for Ellington High School’s baseball team. He then went on to play college ball at Western New England. Steve died in 2015 at age 44. The Orioles donate each year to the Steve Czyz Scholarship Fund that goes to an Ellington High School student.

In April of this year, the Orioles made Kat Czyz, an honorary Vernon Oriole. Kat is a sophomore at Ellington High School, plays softball and has led the Knights to the NCCC Championship. She plays for the CT Bomber Travel Team, coaches an Ellington Little League team and plays Volleyball for Ellington High School.

Honorary Vernon Oriole, Kat Czyz throws out first pitch.

Original article: https://patch.com/connecticut/vernon/vernon-orioles-going-bat-community

Jets Soar, Earn 3rd Straight Pennant

Schult leads East Hartford Jets to third straight Twilight League playoff title
By Adam Betz, Journal Inquirer

MIDDLETOWN — Jim Schult is no stranger to success on the baseball diamond.

He had a standout career at Eastern Connecticut State University, including being named the 2011 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division III National Player of the Year.

Since joining the East Hartford Jets of the Greater Hartford Twilight League in 2019 “after being on the couch for a few years,” that success has remained.

And it gained another example Tuesday.

Schult finished with two hits, two RBIs, a run scored, and was the winning pitcher as No. 2 East Hartford rallied to beat the third-seeded Vernon Orioles 5-4 to win their third straight GHTBL playoff championship at Palmer Field.

“It was hard to win the first one. It was really hard to repeat,” the 32-year-old Fishkill, New York native said. “We had a special group of guys that were able to battle through the adversity. … I’m not sure I have the best words to describe how I’m feeling right now, but it means a lot.”

Schult pitched 4 1/3 innings of relief. He allowed two runs on four hits, struck out seven, and walked one. At the plate, he was the only Jet with multiple hits.

Jim Schult, Pitcher/Outfielder, East Hartford Jets

“He leads us by example and he makes everyone around him better,” East Hartford player/manager Taylor Kosakowski said of Schult. “He’s the guy you want on the mound or at the plate in a big spot. He’s the guy you want to see up there.”

The Jets, who were co-regular season champions, finish 24-7. They lost their first game of the double-elimination tournament [to the Hartford Colts] before rattling off six straight wins, including a 5-1 win over the Orioles on Monday to force Tuesday’s winner-take-all game.

“It says a lot about who we are,” designated hitter Andy Pelc said. “I feel like that first game, even though it didn’t go our way, put a chip back on our shoulder. I think that’s the reason we’re here today.”

The Orioles were making their seventh straight championship game appearance Tuesday night. They finish 20-9.

“I’m really proud of how we played a much better game tonight,” manager Jack Ceppetelli said. “We swung the bats well against a couple of the premier pitchers in the league. We just ran into one bad inning.”

Jack Ceppetelli, Manager, Vernon Orioles

Vernon held a 2-0 lead and threatened to break the game open with the bases loaded and two down in the top of the third.

But Schult came in from right field and needed only one pitch to end the inning.

Manny Alejandro led off the bottom of the frame with a single, the first Jets’ baserunner.

East Hartford would load the bases, with the help of a two-out error, to set the stage for Schult. He sent the first pitch from starter Bill Riggieri to center for a two-run single to tie the game.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Schult said. “I worked the count in my prior at-bat, so I got to see some pitches from him. It just so happened that I got a mistake with the first one.”

Janiel Ramirez drew a bases-loaded walk to break the tie and Pelc added a two-run single as East Hartford brought 10 batters to the plate in the inning to make it 5-2.

Janiel Ramirez, Outfielder, East Hartford Jets

The Orioles trimmed the deficit to one in the top of the sixth when Ian Halpin sent a two-run double to the right-field fence.

He finished with three hits Tuesday.

“That’s a huge hit to get us close in the sixth,” Ceppetelli said. “We just couldn’t quite get there.”

Schult regrouped and struck out the next batter looking to end the inning.

“I’ve got a whole bunch of guys in the dugout that are counting on me to get out of the inning,” Schult said. “We’re all hurting, we’re all tired at this point in the year. You just want to push through it. Like Bryan (Albee) threw 20-something innings for us during the playoffs, I wasn’t going to let him down. I wasn’t going to let anyone down. Just concentrating and finishing the job.”

Vernon jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Nick Roy scored on an error and Tyler Pogmore brought home Halpin with an RBI single.

Peter Kelley finished with two hits for Vernon. Riggieri took the loss. He allowed five unearned runs on five hits while striking out two and walking two over four innings.

East Hartford starter Albee, a member of Eastern’s National Championship team this year, allowed two runs — one of them earned — and struck out two in 2 2/3 innings.

2022 Playoff Championship winners, East Hartford Jets with Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President (right) and Andy Baylock, GHTBL Vice President (left).

Tuesday’s win was a bittersweet one for Kosakowski, who has managed the team since it re-formed in 2019 after folding a year prior. The Berlin native said he’s stepping down to devote more time to his family.

“Obviously, it’s very emotional,” he said. “Sixteen years playing in this league, it’s hard to come by a championship, let alone be a part of something this special. So, I hope I can continue to help out and contribute to the team as much as I can. I’m a school psychologist, and they always teach you to leave them better than you found them. For me, that’s what I’ve aimed to do with this team and I hope that I did that.”

Taylor Kosakowski, Player-manager, East Hartford Jets

Orioles Outdueled 6-2 by Hesseltine

By Joshua Macala
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After meeting each other this past Sunday in Vernon, the Record-Journal Expos and Vernon Orioles were ready to do battle once again. Only this time on the Expos’ home turf. The Orioles won the game on Sunday but the Expos were coming off of a win over Rainbow Graphics, who are having a good season start. The Expos went into this game with a 4-2 record while the O’s were 6-1.  

This game had a lot of implications, such as if the Orioles lost they would have two losses – same as the Expos – and the Jets would become the only team with only one loss. As the O’s did lose, this put them at 6-2 and the Expos at 5-2 which seems to put them closer together in the rankings. Had this game gone differently the Expos would’ve seemed to dropped down.

This game started off with both teams getting runners on in scoring position but nothing coming of it. The first two innings saw nothing happen on offense and only behind the pitching of Charlie Hesseltine did the Orioles seem to not be able to even get a hit off. The first two innings alone saw four strikeouts for Hesseltine who was on his game in the best possible way this evening.  

In the bottom of the third the Expos got the bases loaded and then on a wild pitch a run would score- the first run of the game. It would take all the way until the top of the fifth inning for a single to score a run for the O’s and it was all tied at 1-1. This would not last very long as the Expos needed some insurance runs going into the last two innings for the Orioles and they were going to get them in grand fashion.

AJ Hendrickson brought in the go ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning. This would keep the bases loaded and another run would walk in. Jonathan Walter would hit a huge single to drive in a runs. Justin Marks would also RBI in another run, the fifth and final run of the inning. This would put the Expos up 6-1, and it appeared the O’s were all but through. The burst of offense really broke the game wide open and it was so great to see.

With this win, the Expos continue their battle for second place as they face the first place East Hartford Jets on Monday in East Hartford. The Orioles are off to face the Bristol Greeners in a doubleheader on Tuesday and even though the odds seem to be in favor of the O’s, with doubleheaders you never know who might prevail. Next week seems like it could reshape the standings depending upon who wins and who loses. 

Cardinals Fly by People’s, 11-6

By Joshua Macala
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One of the things I knew going into this game was that both teams were winless on the year up to this point. Wallingford Cardinals and M&T People’s are off to rough starts. What I hadn’t considered going into this game was that this would be my third time seeing the Wallingford Cardinals play and that’s as many times as I’ve seen the Record-Journal Expos play. Perhaps this season will brew a rivalry between cross town teams, as Ceppa Field and Pat Wall Field aren’t too far apart.

The Cardinals came out hot and started this game like they were going to make a statement about it. There have been certain last place teams in the league over the years who ended up disbanding like Malloves Jewelers – so in many ways it felt like the Cardinals wanted to get on a winning track. A double and two singles put together two runs for the Cardinals in the first inning. Then a walk and another double brought home two more runs after yet another double and a run scored to give the Cardinals a 5-0 lead right away. This would be the theme of the game, though it would only happen over two innings when the Cardinals offense exploded. 

People’s pushed a run across in the bottom of the third, making it a 5-1 game. They found life in their offense with a single and a stolen base, but they couldn’t figure out the pitching of Wallingford’s Alex Koletar. Meanwhile, People’s had some pitching problems. The staff would give up a hit, walk someone, then a passed ball would move the runners over, then another walk or single and ultimately the runs would home. It was small ball in that way – advancing the runners – but the pitching helped Wallingford by missing the mark. People’s changed their pitcher and would go on a good defensive stretch. They kept the Cardinals from scoring up until the fifth inning.  

The top of the fifth started with a home run deep to left field by Evan Wilkinson. That started a big inning for the Cardinals. A walk and a single brought about another pitching change, but then a walk loaded the bases. A strikeout got the first out of the inning but then a run scored on a wild pitch. Another walk loaded up the bases and a single scored two runs as People’s catcher went down looking hurt. A quick strikeout for two outs in the inning but then a run scored on a wild pitch. And after that, a run scored on another wild pitch. 

A final pitching change led to back-to-back walks but a third strikeout finally ended the fifth inning. People’s got out of it with the Cardinals putting up six runs. It was now 11-1 and People’s would have a long path to stage a comeback. People’s had a runner on second base in the bottom of the fifth but a strikeout and double play put that inning to an end. They would keep the Cardinals from scoring for the rest of the game but they weren’t done on offense yet. People’s had some catching up to do and they almost did it.

In the bottom of the sixth inning a double brought in a run and then a three run homer by Isaiah Rivera gave People’s some hope, as they were now down 11-5. Just like that, things can change and even when you’re up five runs or even ten runs you never quite know what will happen. People’s had that chance to walk it off. In the bottom of the seventh a run scored for People’s on a wild pitch with two outs but then a strikeout ended the game at 11-6.

This game took M&T People’s to 0-3 as they struggle to find a win this season. But it took the Cardinals to 1-4, which might not seem great but it’s a win that could push them to keep winning. Though they started their season 0-4, the Cardinals also took those losses to the Expos, Orioles, Colts and Graphics. While the Cardinals are meeting the Expos again on Wednesday night at Pat Wall Field, perhaps a true test for the Cardinals will come next Tuesday when they meet the Phillies.

Expos Clip Jets, 4-3

By Joshua Macala
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Baseball is such a wild game. After watching a GHTBL game on Wednesday in the rain, then being rained out on Thursdaynwith the sun shining, I thought for sure this would be the game without rain. A big, dark cloud came over Ceppa Field but it didn’t threaten any rain at first. Part way through the game, that same cloud opened up and the rain went from a drizzle to near downpour. Yes, for the second time in week I was caught in the rain watching a baseball game.

The Record-Journal Expos and East Hartford Jets both came into this game undefeated. The Jets had played one more game than the Expos, so the Jets were 3-0 while the Expos were 2-0. What’s notable about their records? Well, had the game not been postponed due to weather the night before, the Expos may have beaten the Bristol Greeners, so both teams could have gone into this game at 3-0. But this rain really has been something else this week and it amazes me that the baseball continues during the deluge.

In the top of the first inning, Jets shortstop Jeff Criscuolo made it to third base but after two strikeouts from Expos ace pitcher Justin Marks the inning would come to an end without any runs. The bottom of the first inning was a different story entirely for the Expos. Kyle Hartenstein was walked onto first base. Jason Sullivan hit a huge double to put the runners onto second and third. And then AJ Hendrickson came up to the plate and smashed a three run homerun.

Knowing where that ball went over the fence near left field, I was looking for it near the road but couldn’t find it. Someone was sitting on the road in their car and there was another random person just walking by. I assumed at that point perhaps someone had just been like “Oh! A baseball!” and picked it up. But I followed what I felt like was the flight path and sure enough I found the home run ball that Hendrickson smashed. It was across the street and in the yard of the house there.

The rest of this game was a stalemate. Jets pitcher Cole Lalli seemed to have two modes: either throwing all strikes and thus a strikeout occurred or throwing all balls and thus, a walk. It was either hard down the middle or it was bouncing in front of the plate. Both teams played a tight defense leading up until the final portion of the game. The top of the third saw two great catches by Will Kszywanos and Justin Marks, while runners got on base for both teams but were unable to score. Marks stuck out the side in the fourth inning – and into the fifth, two more strikeouts probably made him the player of this game.

The Expos scored another run in the bottom of the fifth making it 4-0 (they ended up needing that insurance run). The Jets then plated a runner in the top of the sixth as Charlie Hesseltine would come in to pitch. As the game headed into the bottom of the sixth, the rain picked up. The rain started off where you just felt some droplets and it wasn’t too big of a deal, but it quickly grew consistent. If you were in it for a minute or so you’d be soaked. Nearly everyone in the stands took cover where they could and somehow the game persisted. I’m always worried about the ball being able to be gripped in the rain, but the Expos and Jets played on.

At one point, one of the Jets lost control and their bat went flying because it was wet. This felt like one of those signs that playing in the rain was a tad dangerous but no one was stopping the game. The umpires were getting as soaked as the players! In the bottom of the sixth it felt as if the inning was cut short and I felt like the game was either going into a rain delay or being called early but apparently there were three outs. The Jets put up a run in the top of the sixth and had the momentum they to have a chance at winning.

In the last inning, with the score at 4-1 in favor of the Expos, Charlie Hesseltine had a hard time controlling his fastball. At one point, the ball even got away from catcher AJ Hendrickson. It was a bit of a mess and back-to-back doubles scored two more runs, putting the game at 4-3 and the Expos still leading. The last out came as a strikeout and it sealed the fate for the Jets, who were quite amused in the dugout with the way this game was going. While the rain was also making it darker and hard to see, it was making it just so difficult to control the ball and I think that was really the story of the end of the game here.

Now let’s be realistic. The Expos were at home. If the Jets managed to either tie this game or go ahead, then the Expos would still have their final at bats and the Jets would have been the one’s pitching in the rain. It seemed like it was a lot easier to hit the ball while the rain was coming down than it was to control a fastball. The rain actually started to let up a little bit before the game ended, but it certainly did feel like a factor in the end of this game. A 3-0 game turned into a 4-3 final after the rain and it made for an exciting ending.

With the Orioles taking a 1-0 loss to the Jets, this game was actually a battle between the last two undefeated teams in the GHTBL. By winning this game, the Expos now are solely in first place and the only team yet to face defeat. 

In the week ahead they’re looking at two opponents they’ve already beaten, the Wallingford Cardinals, in Wallingford on Wednesday night and the South Windsor Phillies will come back to Ceppa Field on Friday, June 10th. However, before all of that the Rainbow Graphics come to Ceppa Field for the next Expos game on June 7th, which could be interesting because the Graphics have a history of being a tough opponent for the Expos. Rainbow Graphics are also 3-1 on the year so it should be a good game to watch.

Colts Shuffle Cards, 7-3

By Joshua Macala
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What makes the Hartford Colts vs. Wallingford Cardinals such an intriguing matchup is that both of these teams are fairly new to the league and both feature former Ulbrich Steel players. The Wallingford Cardinals (brand new for this season) went into this game 0-2 with losses to the Expos on their Opening Day and then the Orioles after that in the Cardinals’ home opener. The Expos and Orioles are generally considered to be amongst the top teams though, so having those losses isn’t really a cause for alarm.

The Hartford Colts are a somewhat new team, and they went into this game 1-1, with a huge victory over the Greeners and a loss to the Champion Jets.  While the Cardinals, led by Manager Jeff DeMaio, were looking for that first win, the Colts were looking to stay above .500. And rightfully so, both teams toughed it out, neither wanting to be the losing side. Sometimes you go into a game where one team is favored over another, but this felt like a game either team could win, and it stayed that way until the last inning.

Both the top and bottom half of the first inning went 1-2-3. The second inning came and the Colts got on top. And it would stay that way. A series of singles drove in two runs, the second run not even being contested at the plate when there was a chance that the Cardinals could’ve had a play. That very well might have been the key moment of the game, where the Colts went up 2-0 and stayed ahead of the Cardinals until the very end. The Cardinals scored a run of their own to answer back in the bottom of the second and make it 2-1, but then a runner was caught stealing with only one out, which makes you wonder why they’re taking such chances in a close game.  

In the top of the third inning with runners on first and third, a run scored for the Colts on a balk. A gapped double in the bottom of the third scored another run for the Cardinals, keeping the game close at 3-2. By the third inning, the rain had come in. It started off just a little bit where I could see some droplets, but eventually, it opened up for an inning or two where it was coming down steadily. It wasn’t that heavy, as other fans went under umbrellas or took cover somewhere, but I stayed in it, and so did the players and umpires. It’s not quite warm enough yet into summer where the rain felt refreshing, but it also isn’t cold enough to where I had to hide from it. I was most concerned about the handling of the ball.

The fourth inning went by without any runs scored but then in the top of the 5th the Colts went up 4-2 as a runner was able to score on a wild pitch. This game was a lot about putting the ball into play, getting those hits and moving the runners to score.  A few errors also helped, but this game remained close throughout, and up until the end, it was either team’s game to win. In the bottom of the fifth, the Colts escaped trouble with a double play followed by a pop-up to first. In the bottom of the sixth, the Cards would double then a single would bring in a run, leaving it 4-3 with one inning left to play. There was a solid chance here that if the Colts didn’t add some insurance runs the Cardinals could be motivated to walk it off.  

This game started in somewhat overcast weather and even though it rained a bit and then the rain stopped, this was one of those games where you had to watch until the end to see who won. In the top of the seventh inning, the Colts got runners on first and second, but they eventually did a double steal to advance. This wouldn’t really matter as the Cardinals changed pitchers and then a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases. 

A huge single past first base scored two runs for the Colts. It was what they needed to win this game. A pitch got by Cardinals’ catcher Adam Leone for a third and final run to score, making this game 7-3. The fact that the Cardinals put up three runs all game seemed to infer that they wouldn’t be able to put up three or more in one inning and that was all they had left. A huge double play and then a slow-rolling groundout to first ended the game and secured the Colts’ win.

There are several factors to consider why this game went the way that it did. First off, if the Colts did not put up those three runs in the top of the seventh and this was a different team, the Cardinals could have easily tied it or even walked it off and got the win. It really felt like the pitching by Alex Koletar for the Cardinals kept this game within reach for them the entire time. And yet the complete game pitched by Matt Goldman was what also helped the Colts get the win here. A pitching effor like that is often needed to win games. Both teams had it going on this night, but the Colts took advantage of more breaks. Perhaps if Goldman wasn’t pitching, the Cardinals would’ve had a win, but that’s hypothetical

Coming out of this game, the Hartford Colts improve to 2-1 and have People’s and the Orioles on deck to face. This will be an interesting next few games for the Colts because if they can defeat the Orioles and hand them their first loss, they’ll be right up there in the top of the league. At the same time, the Cardinals are up against People’s, the Graphics and the Expos again. It might be a tough week coming for them, as they have their work cut out for them, but one of these games might be their chance to get their first win. People’s are the interesting team coming out of this game because thus far they have only played once and it was a loss so what fate awaits them against both Colts and Cardinals will be fun to see.  

Expos Expose Phillies, 7-0

By Joshua Macala
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Exactly one week after their season opener, the Record-Journal Expos returned to Ceppa Field to take on the South Windsor Phillies and scored 7 runs once again. The Phillies and Expos have quite the rivalry going, and so this was promising to be a stellar matchup. Both teams have, in recent seasons, finished in first place even though the then champions would go on to become either the Orioles or Jets. Some teams are at the top of the league, the middle of the league and the bottom of the league. The Expos and Phillies are both top-of-the-league teams, so playing each other should be exciting baseball.

The Expos scored five runs during the bottom of the second inning. It was a deficit from which the Phillies were unable to overcome. A hit-by-pitch, two walks and then a run was walked in as well before AJ Hendrickson hit a deep shot to center field to clear the bases. That double drove in three runs. It would’ve been a grand slam if it went over the fence (I thought it did at first). In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hendrickson would do the same as he hit a long shot out to left field to score two more runs. Five of the seven runs in the game would be AJ Hendrickson’s runs batted in.

While this might not seem like a big deal because players can have big offensive nights, the fact is that AJ Hendrickson was also pitching the entire game and he managed to shut out the Phillies, barely giving up any hits. There were only one or two occasions where it really felt like the Phillies might have a chance to score and then those opportunities quickly got shut down. In many ways, it felt like Hendrickson was doing everything in this game and that just feels even more surreal considering how he played last game, but this was definitely a team effort when you don’t just consider the statistics of it all.

For one thing, the Expos have a new player in Javon Malone and he not only drove in a run but also had a few well-made defensive plays. Everyone seemed to step up offensively for Record-Journal; taking the walk when they needed to, and going that extra mile defensively to make it so that the Phillies couldn’t score. To start off this season with these first few games, everything is clicking for the Expos and their offense and defense are both delivering the way they should.

But with this game it should also be noted that the Phillies played well. The second inning was their biggest downfall and aside from that the combined pitching efforts of Noah Shaw and Connor Egan left the Expos scoreless for five innings. Offensively, the Phillies were missing Brody Labbe and Mike Lisinicchia, as well as Trevor Moulton as a pitcher, but these are just things which happen at the beginning of the season. Jack Rich has yet to play for the Expos as he is off doing great things with the ECSU Baseball team.  

With only two games into the season for the Expos (and the most games being played is three) it might be a bit early to see this as being a runaway season for the Expos. What the standings look like now- with the Expos, Jets and Orioles on top. But it is interesting to see that the new team of the Cardinals is 0-2 while the somewhat new team of the Greeners is 0-3. Whether they can turn their seasons around or not remains to be seen but there is a lot of baseball to be played still so it’s anybody’s game.

While the Expos only had one game last week, they play three this week. They go to Muzzy Field on Thursday night to take on the Greeners, who will be looking for their first win. Then on Friday night they welcome the Jets to Ceppa Field – a matchup to anticipate because the Jets are the reigning and defending Twi Champions. Baseball is one of those unpredictable sports though where it seems like the Greeners should be an easy win but they might not be. I’ve seen it before where first place teams fall to last place teams (mostly the Mets in previous years) and it doesn’t make sense but it happens.  

So even though it feels like Thursday should be an easy win and Friday will be more of a competitive game, anything can happen and you never really know until that game happens. The historic Muzzy Field is a great place to watch baseball and these two games just feel like they’re going to set an important tone for the rest of the season. Either way, win or lose, it’s a nice time of year to be outside watching baseball again. 

CT Patch Features Schweighoffer, Former GHTBL Star

Meet a Local Ex-Pro Ballplayer: Mike Schweighoffer, Farmington

By Tim Jensen, Patch Staff

FARMINGTON, CT — If Mike Schweighoffer was playing baseball today, no scout would even give him a look. The way the game has changed, no one would be interested in a pitcher who throws 83 MPH sinker balls, who never tossed a varsity inning until his senior year of high school, who attended a Division III college in Connecticut best known for its outstanding academic standards.

Fortunately for Schweighoffer, times were different in the early 1980s. Not only did a scout sign him to a professional contract, he spent four solid seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization before embarking on an even more successful career, which continues today, as a banking executive.

Mike Schweighoffer, 2021

Now 59, Schweighoffer grew up in Hartford’s South End, and moved to Wethersfield just in time to start high school. He played football and baseball at now-defunct South Catholic High School, but even he never harbored dreams of someday becoming a professional athlete.

“I was a very late bloomer for my position,” he said in an exclusive interview with Patch. “I was an All-State shortstop, but had no expectations of playing pro ball.”

He chose to stay near home and attend Trinity College, where he majored in economics. He also went out for the baseball team, and made the squad as a pitcher. In his freshman campaign, “I was just a thrower,” but Schweighoffer learned the finer points about pitching from Bill Severni, who had played at Amherst College and overseas.

“Bill taught me more about pitching than any coach I ever had,” he said. “He taught me about mechanics, thinking about pitching and setting up hitters.”

As a junior with the Bantams, Schweighoffer played third base on days when he wasn’t pitching, and Trinity won the ECAC New England Regional championship. He also kept active during the summer by pitching for the Newington Capitols of the Greater Hartford Twilight League.

“By my senior year, my arm was hurting a bit,” he recalled. “I was still playing with Newington, but I graduated and accepted a position at Connecticut National Bank (CNB).”

Mike Schweighoffer, Vero Beach Dodgers, 1985.

That is, until fate intervened, in the form of longtime baseball scout Dick Teed of Windsor. Much to Schweighoffer’s shock, Teed offered him a contract with the Dodgers organization as an undrafted free agent. He signed the contract in late 1984, and resigned from the bank training program.

His first pro stop was Vero Beach in the Class-A Florida State League. Starting all 25 games in which he appeared, he posted a 10-11 record with an excellent 3.11 earned-run average. He was selected to the league all-star game, though he did not appear in the contest.

Hartford Courant article on Mike Schweighoffer by Tom Yantz, May 30, 1986.

The next season, Schweighoffer expected to play at Double-A San Antonio, and worked out with that club during most of spring training, but again fate intervened, this time in the form of Mother Nature.

“We had a few days of rain, and they needed someone to go to Melbourne for a game against the Twins,” he said. “I threw eight or nine pitches, all resulting in ground balls, and [San Antonio manager and former University of Hartford standout] Gary LaRocque said they wanted me in Triple-A. I didn’t believe it until the plane actually touched down in Albuquerque.”

Mike Schweighoffer, Albuquerque Dukes, 1986.

After skipping an entire level, Schweighoffer was used as a relief pitcher for most of the 1986 season, making 43 appearances. In the final month, the Dukes moved him back into the starting rotation, and he wound up with a 7-3 record.

His manager in Albuquerque was Terry Collins, who later piloted the New York Mets to the 2015 World Series. He also benefitted from a Connecticut connection.

“Terry was fiery and demanded a lot from the players, and Dave Wallace [of Waterbury] was a tremendous pitching coach,” he said.

1986 Albuquerque Dukes

Schweighoffer was asked to work on some new things during spring training in 1987, which he described as “mediocre.” He learned something during that training camp, however, which has stuck with him for more than three decades.

“Every day is a tryout, because no matter what you’re told, you still have to perform,” he said. “I use that to this day.”

Back under LaRocque in San Antonio, and converted again into a full-time starter, Schweighoffer posted a 4-4 record before being promoted back to Triple-A. Returning to Albuquerque meant returning to high elevations, and a switch back to the bullpen resulted in a 2-3 record and 5.33 ERA. The Dukes captured the Pacific Coast League title, which Schweighoffer dubbed one of the highlights of his professional playing career.


Mike Schweighoffer, Albuquerque Dukes, 1987.

The next spring, he was told he would be sent back to Double-A San Antonio, now guided by future Boston Red Sox skipper Kevin Kennedy. The Dodgers did not grant his request for a release, and he appeared in 43 games, including eight starts, with a 7-8 record and 3.96 ERA. At season’s end, he made the difficult decision to leave the game.

“I was 26 years old, had worked two winters at CNB and decided to give up playing,” he said. “I was also tired of dragging [his wife] Liz around the country.”


Mike Schweighoffer, San Antonio Missions, 1988.

With a number of former teammates making significant contributions, Los Angeles won the 1988 World Series in a shocking 4-game sweep of the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics. Despite never making it to the big dance, Schweighoffer said he had “absolutely zero bitterness and no regrets” about giving up the game.

“I got to pitch to Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Sandy and Roberto Alomar,” he recalled. “Gary Sheffield took me deep one day; that ball is still rolling down I-10 in El Paso. I remember that at-bat like it was yesterday.”

He began working full-time at CNB in 1989, and is still active in the banking industry today. He is currently regional manager for commercial lending at People’s United Bank. He and Liz reside in Farmington, and they have three adult children – a daughter and twin boys.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 2008.

Despite having played professional baseball and being associated with some of the top stars in the game, Schweighoffer said his biggest baseball thrills came far away from any stadiums filled with paying customers.

“My best baseball memories are from Trinity, the Newington Capitols, coaching travel ball and Unionville American Legion, and being an assistant coach when my kids won Little League state titles in 2004 and 2005,” he said. “I just wanted to give back to the game.”

Original news article: https://patch.com/connecticut/farmington/meet-local-ex-pro-ballplayer-mike-schweighoffer-farmington

Other stories in this series:

Lou Gehrig Used Fake Name as a Rookie on the Hartford Senators

This article was written by Norton Chellgren and published in the 1975 Baseball Research Journal

On April 5, 1921, the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League in their first exhibition game of the season beat Columbia University 4-3. The big story was a Columbia player, Lefty Gehrig, who hit Hartford pitcher Alton Durgin for two long home runs in his only two trips to the plate. A. B. McGinley of the Hartford Times described the second home run like this: “When he came up again in the 3rd inning, Durgin the lofty Maine boy who was pitching for Hartford was all set for revenge. He got a strike on Gehrig but the next one he threw Gehrig leaned on and it went sailing out of the enclosure past a big sundial and almost into the School of Mines. It was a mighty clout and worthy of Babe Ruth’s best handiwork.”

Lou Gehrig, First Baseman, Columbia University, 1922.

The young player greatly impressed Hartford Manager, Arthur Irwin, a former major league player and manager. The two home runs would have cleared the center field fence at Clarkin Stadium, Hartford’s home park, and Irwin saw a promising future for the young baseball player. The big first baseman, it was later reported, had promised Irwin that he would play under him if he decided to enter professional baseball.

Clarkin Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1921.

Several big league teams had been trying to sign him but all indications were he would stay at Columbia University. Subsequently, on June 2, announcement was made by Manager Irwin in the local newspapers that the hard hitting semi-pro from Brooklyn, Lefty Gehrig, had been signed to play first base for the Senators. It was assumed by some that he had decided to quit school.

Arthur Irwin, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1921.

The next day the newspapers were apparently requested or advised not to call further attention to the Columbia athlete’s real name and from that day on they referred only to that young player from New York, “Lewis” or “Lou Lewis.” On June 3 (1921) the Hartford Senators beat the Pittsfield Hillies 2-1. Lou Lewis played the full game at first base. In his O. B. debut, he was 0 for 3 with one sacrifice hit against Pittsfield hurler Al Pierotti, who later went up to the Braves.

Lou Gehrig batting for Columbia University, 1921.

After that initial game the Hartford Courant wrote “Lou Lewis, Arthur Irwin’s latest discovery was planted on the initial sack. The youngster who is only 18 years old (actually he was still 17) appeared to be a bit nervous. After he gets used to surroundings he may develop. They seldom fail to make the grade with Irwin teaching the ways of baseball.”

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 8, 1921.

Lewis’ first hit and first run scored came in his second game as Hartford beat the Waterbury Brasscos 5-3 at Hartford before 5,000 fans on June 4. In the second inning the youthful first sacker hit the first ball pitched by Fred Rawley to right field for three bases. He scored shortly after when the next batter Phil Neher singled to center. On the following day, June 5, Lewis went two for five as Hartford beat Albany 10-2 at Albany; the first baseman was beginning to impress and was being touted as a “Babe Ruth.”

Lou Gehrig, Punter, Columbia University, 1922.

Hartford beat Pittsfield 10-6 on June 8, and the Times wrote: “Lewis caught hold of a fast one in the third inning and sent it against the “B” in the Buick sign on the right field fence for a double. Lewis probably won’t get a Buick for his clout but he may get a ride in one before the season runs its course.” Lou went two for five that day. One of the times he made an out he slammed a terrific drive that traveled at the proverbial mile-a-minute clip into right fielder Bill McCorry’s gloved hand. It was described as the hardest hit of the game.

Hartford Courant excerpt, September 26, 1922.

While Lewis at the young age of 17 was demonstrating his ability to knock the cover off the ball there were some indications that he lacked experience. On June 10 the Senators were trailing the Bridgeport “Brown Derbies” in the last of the ninth when with one out Heinie Scheer singled. Lewis then hit one to the box carrying a lot of smoke and it bounded off pitcher Ed Lepard’s glove for a single. Lewis a moment later was trapped off first by catcher Joe Smith on a pitchout. The rally was effectively stopped and the game was lost by Hartford, 4 to 2.

Heine Scheer, Hartford Senators

The Times wrote on June 11, “Lewis the youngster just breaking into organized ball with the local club is doing as well as one can expect and his present work gives fans here hopes that he will add to the Hartford hitting average which at present is the weakest link in the pennant-winning chain. The young first sacker is a slugger.” Lefty Lewis unexplainedly did not play in the Bridgeport game on June 13 but the next day against the Springfield Ponies he hit the second triple of his early professional experience.

Lou Gehrig “Lewis” plays his last game of 1921.

In his last Eastern League game that year, on June 15, 1921, against Springfield, he showed his power even though his only hit was an infield one. In the first inning he crashed one against third baseman Jack Flynn’s shins and the ball caromed off with such force that it bounced across the diamond and the runner on third base, Harry Hesse, scored without any trouble.

Harry Hesse, Hartford Senators, 1922.

No game was played on June 16 and at that point the young first baseman’s name, without explanation, ceased to appear in the Hartford papers for the remainder of the season. During his stay Hartford, winning 8 games and losing 5, had climbed into first place with a 28-17 record. Before the season was to end the Hartford Senators would drop to fifth place and its Manager, Art Irwin who had been successful in luring the young first baseman into professional baseball, if only for a short 12 games, would meet an untimely death. On July 16, 1921, he fell or jumped from the steamer Calvin Austin during a voyage from New York to Boston.

Lou Gehrig, Hartford Senators, 1923.

Even with a mediocre batting average of .261, Lewis had given Hartford fans an indication of things to come. The name “Lou Lewis” would not again appear in a Hartford or other professional baseball game box score! “Lou,” however, would return to the Eastern League in 1923 (as of August 2) and hit home runs at a pace which still has not been surpassed in the Eastern League, 24 home runs in only 59 games.

1923 Hartford Senators

What the Hartford newspapers did not report was that Columbia athletic officials had learned that Gehrig was playing pro ball under an assumed name. After being advised of the possible implications of playing for money, an unhappy Lou Gehrig returned promptly to New York City. As a result of this escapade Lou had to wait an extra year, until the fall of 1922, before he could participate in Columbia inter-collegiate sports. The experience might have hurt the New York Giants as well because had it never taken place, who knows, McGraw might have been able to sign up Lou Gehrig in 1923 instead.

Lou Gehrig and Mayor Norman Stevens of Hartford, 1924.

Source: Chellgren, Norton. “The Short Career of Lou Lewis.” Society for American Baseball Research, 1975 Baseball Research Journal, 1975, sabr.org/journal/article/the-short-career-of-lou-lewis.

Herb Sheintop, Twilight League Legend

This article was written by Bohdan Kolinsky, Hartford Courant Assistant Sports Editor on November 23, 1997.

Hartford lost an institution on November 10, 1997, with the passing of Herb Sheintop, who owned Herb’s Sport Shop in Hartford for nearly 40 years. When you walked into Herb’s – on Asylum, Trumbull, Allyn or the present location on 250 Main Street – you could only stand there in amazement, and look at the cramped quarters that were full of sports merchandising, always piled to the ceiling.

Of course, Herb would greet you with one of his patented, at-times corny jokes. Without fail, Herb’s jokes always drew a laugh or a chuckle, regardless of how many times he had told the joke. A visit to Herb’s could last for hours because he was always in tune with what was happening because of his dealings with hundreds of high school athletic directors and coaches from around the state.

“Hey, you wanna a scoop?” Herb would usually ask when I walked in. “Vanilla or chocolate?”

Baseball was Herb’s favorite sport. Herb pitched in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, once even had a no-hitter. A Herb’s-sponsored team has been a fixture in the GHTBL for parts of five decades and for that, he was inducted into the Twilight League Hall of Fame in the sponsor’s division.

“Herb was the oldest active sponsor and one of the best we had,” league president Jim Gallagher said Saturday.

“Herb was a great friend, a very unselfish man. Very often players would come into his store looking for a team to play on. He would direct them to me to make sure they had a place to play. He was great to everybody in the league, helped keep a lot of teams going.”

Gallagher said the league will dedicate its awards banquet in January to Sheintop. Herb also sponsored teams in the Jaycee-Courant League, and Babe Ruth and Little League teams in West Hartford, where he lived with his wife, Ruth.

Sheintop presents trophy to Hartford VFW Post #254 Softball Champions, 1960.

“He was a very generous, kind man and very supportive of youth sports,” said Herb Lawton, who has worked at the store 18 years with Bill Stewart, Norm Kershaw, Herb’s son, Andrew, and Herb’s nephew, Al Sogolow.

“We couldn’t begin to count how many times he bailed out teams so they could wear their new uniforms. He often would say, `Pay me when you raise the money.’ ” That’s how we got our American Legion program in Wethersfield started.”

“That was my father,” said Andrew, who now runs the business. “The main thing with my father was that he always wanted to make sure kids had an opportunity to play ball. Be part of a team.”

Herb knew every inch of the store, knew where everything was: whether it was that high school team’s uniform order, special baseball bat, or the maroon or royal blue laces for those Chuck Taylor Converse All- Star sneakers the kids bought for $7.95 a pair in the 1960s and ’70s.

In 1988, the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance honored Herb with the Good Sport Award, given to those who volunteer their time and support to local athletics.

A true good sport, Herb will be missed.

This article was written by Bohdan Kolinsky, Hartford Courant Assistant Sports Editor on November 23, 1997.

Herb’s Sport Shop advertisement, 1966.
Herb’ Sports Shop players receive trophy, 1968.
Bill Guida, RHP, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1969.
Sheintop & Bud Fidgeon, Rawlings salesman, 1971.
Herb’s son, Dave Sheintop, Shortstop, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1981.

Note: Herb Sheintop is a GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee – Sponsors Division.

Launching New Angle with “Games of the Week”

2019 season will feature live broadcasts on YouTube.

This summer, our historic twilight league will be advancing deeper into the digital age with live video broadcasts. The 2019 season will usher in “Games of the Week” featuring Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League action on our YouTube channel.

Wherever they might be, baseball fans will be able to watch two GHTBL games per week for free. These streams will be complete with commentary from Middletown native and amateur broadcaster, Dan Saccu who will break down all of the live baseball action on a twice-a-week basis.  Other commentators will likely chime as well. To watch and get notified when streams begin, subscribe to our YouTube channel:

Click here to visit the GHTBL YouTube channel.

Stay tuned. This summer is going to be great one.

– Macon Jefferys, GHTBL Video Coordinator

Bob Ferguson & the Saga of the Hartford Dark Blues


Robert Ferguson (1845-1894) was tough, as Hartford would come to find out. In the summer of 1873, Nat Hicks, catcher for the New York Mutuals, foolishly argued with Ferguson during a game in which Old Fergy was acting as umpire. After a few moments of name-calling and insults, Ferguson, whose no-nonsense umpiring philosophy was, “make ‘em play ball and keep their mouths shut,” grabbed a bat and ended the dispute with one swing, fracturing Hicks’s arm in the process.

Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson, 17-year professional player-manager signed as a new member of the Chicago White Stockings, 1878.

Hartford came to know Bob Ferguson in 1875 when he signed a contract to manage and play third base for the city’s entry in the National Association (1871-1875), America’s first professional baseball league. The Hartford Dark Blues* had entered the league the previous year under the auspices of Ben Douglas Jr. This was the 24-year-old Middletown native’s second attempt at running a professional team in Connecticut. His first had failed miserably in 1872 when the Middletown Mansfields couldn’t survive a full season in the National Association. Finding it impossible to draw sufficient support in a city of only 11,000 residents, Douglas was forced to disband the team in mid-August with empty coffers and a dismal 5-19 record.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1874.

Aware that the National Association still desired a club between New York and Boston so visiting teams could layover midway, Douglas was convinced that Hartford was the answer. Early in 1874, he gathered many of Hartford’s most prominent businessmen, including Morgan Bulkeley, to sell them on the benefits of professional baseball in Hartford. They responded enthusiastically, pledging $5,000 toward the new ballclub. Douglas was named corresponding secretary for the club, an important and time-consuming job in the days before formalized league schedules and telephones. Gershom B. Hubbell was elected president. Hubbell’s baseball experience included running the amateur Charter Oaks, Hartford’s first organized club, which he founded in 1862. The Charter Oaks were state champions from 1865-1867, before ceasing operations in 1870.

Morgan G. Bulkeley named first President of the National League in 1876 and later became Mayor of Hartford then Governor and United States Senator of Connecticut, 1915 (c.)

The Dark Blues, whose uniform stockings were just that, finished next to last in their first professional season. Worse than their failure on the diamond, the players mortified Hartford’s more genteel residents with their lack of decorum off the field. Much of the blame for the team’s embarrassing conduct fell on captain and center fielder, Lipman Pike. In these early days of baseball, the team captain’s responsibilities were similar to that of today’s manager. Pike took a laissez-faire approach to managing, convening few practices and, as the Hartford Post reported in July 1874, allowing his men to “cling to their love for strong drink, for a round of pleasure at the hours when they should be abed.”

Prominent figures in the Greater Hartford area invested in the new professional ballclub who would compete in the National Association (1874-1875).

Intent on remedying the shameful situation, the Dark Blues turned to Ferguson, the most authoritarian captain in the game. In addition to being an excellent fielder and solid hitter, Ferguson was an upstanding citizen. At a time when not many ballplayers could say the same, he was a teetotaler and scrupulously honest. However, he was also a domineering, dictatorial captain with a violent streak. Al Spalding, the premier pitcher of the era, who went on to found the sporting goods empire that continues to bear his name, described Ferguson’s leadership in his memoirs, America’s National Game: “He was no master of the arts of finesse. He had no tact. He knew nothing of the subtle science of handling men by strategy rather than by force.”

Hartford batting averages (per game), 1874.

Ferguson surely improved discipline on the Dark Blues ballclub in his first season in Hartford, but his overbearing ways proved divisive and the team quickly gained a reputation for bickering, or “growling” in the 19th-century vernacular. When the team was losing, or even winning, he found it difficult to keep his temper in check. As the Chicago Tribune reported, if anyone on the Hartford nine committed an error, “Ferguson [would] swear until everything looks blue.” He was particularly rough on second baseman Jack Burdock, who on more than one occasion heard his captain publicly threaten “to ram his fist down Burdock’s throat.”

Chicago vs. Hartfords at Hartford Base Ball Grounds, 1875.

Some players tolerated their captain’s tyrannical leadership. Others, however, refused to comply. Whenever they found themselves the subject of Ferguson’s bullying, shortstop Tom Carey and center fielder Jack Remsen did not hesitate to yell back. Burdock and pitcher Arthur Cummings, on the other hand, often sulked; they sometimes feigned sickness and played half-heartedly, or not at all. Despite a talented squad and a record of 54 wins and 28 losses, the Dark Blues’ lack of unity confined them to second place behind Spalding’s Boston Red Stockings. (These particular Red Stockings were the forerunners of the Braves who played in Boston through the 1952 season before moving to Milwaukee and then Atlanta.)

1875 Hartford Dark Blues
L to R, Standing: Jack Remsen, Tom York, Candy Cummings, Tommy Bond and Bill Harbridge. Seated: Doug Allison, Everett Mills, Bob Ferguson, Tom Carey and Jack Burdock.

In 1876, Hartford became the smallest of eight cities invited to join a new, more financially stable professional baseball league. The National League (the same National League in which today’s New York Mets play) was organized to address the myriad economic and gambling problems that led to the demise of the National Association after the 1875 season. Morgan Bulkeley, who had become president of the Dark Blues in 1875 after Hubbell retired from the post, was named the league’s first president. Hartford harbored high hopes of taking the reform league’s inaugural pennant. Al Spalding, now a member of the Chicago White Stockings, later to become the Chicago Cubs, told the Chicago Tribune that Hartford would “no doubt share some of the laurels, and it would really astonish some Chicagoans could they hear the manner in which this club is extolled in Hartford…The support given the club by the people of Hartford is of the most liberal character considering the size of the city, and is from the very best class of people.”

1876 Hartford Dark Blues
L to R: Back Row: Tommy Bond and Candy Cummings. Middle Row: John Burdock, Ed Mills, Bob Ferguson, Bill Harbridge and Tom York. Front Row: Dick Hingham, Doug Allison, Tom Carey, and Jack Remsen.

The Dark Blues debuted in the National League on April 27 in Brooklyn against the New York Mutuals. Through four innings, they played like the championship contender they were supposed to be, as star pitcher Tommy Bond limited the Mutuals to one hit and Hartford built a 3-0 lead. Things went awry in the fifth, however, as the Dark Blues committed four successive errors and the Mutuals waltzed to an 8-3 victory. The club righted itself with nine consecutive victories before the powerful White Stockings arrived in town to play a three-game series at the Hartford Base Ball Grounds, the Dark Blues’ state-of-the-art ballpark located at the corner of Hendricxsen Avenue and Wyllys Street, adjacent to the still-standing Church of the Good Shepherd.

Hartford Base Ball Grounds, former home field of the Dark Blues, 1877.

An 800-seat pavilion behind home plate provided a covered seating area for stockholders and season ticket holders. On top of the pavilion was a tower with a domed roof and seating for the scorers, a telegraph operator, and one reporter from each city paper. Underneath were spacious clubrooms for each team. Tiered general admission bleachers stretched down the foul lines, and there was plenty of room for patrons’ carriages to be parked deep in the outfield, as was the custom. An eight-foot fence surrounded the entire grounds, which held approximately 9,000 fans. Gambling and the sale of liquor were strictly prohibited.

Against the favored White Stockings, whom the Hartford Times labeled “dignified, pompous, [and] conceited,” Hartford took two of the three games. These wins moved the Dark Blues into sole possession of second place, just two victories behind Chicago. Until 1882, wins, not winning percentage, determined the league standings. This was an important distinction since in these sometimes disorganized early days of baseball, teams often played an uneven number of games. Despite their success on the diamond, the Dark Blues struggled financially as a depressed economy shrank attendance.

Hartford Base Ball Headquarters, Main Street Hartford, Connecticut, 1876.

Searching for ways to increase revenue, Morgan Bulkeley engaged in a fierce battle with Hartford’s telegraph operators, who during home games posted inning-by-inning scores on bulletin boards outside their offices. Believing this practice was keeping paying customers away from the actual games, Bulkeley banned Western Union operators from the grounds. The telegraph company refused to comply, however, and sent in an employee whose job was to record the result of each inning on a piece of paper and toss it over the fence to the operator stationed outside. When Bulkeley saw this, he commanded the young boy who was acting as a runner between the telegraph company’s “inside man” and the telegraph operator outside the park to disregard the note. Ignoring the command, not the note, the boy took off on a dead run. Bulkeley ordered the police to seize him, but the young lad eluded the slow-footed officers, frustrating the team president.

Morgan G. Bulkeley, also nicknamed the Crowbar Governor, was the first President of the National League.

Back on the field, Hartford hosted three games against the hapless Cincinnati Red Stockings, losers of twelve straight. Ferguson took this opportunity to rest Tommy Bond and give his diminutive backup, Arthur “Candy” Cummings, some work. In his National League debut, Cummings stifled Cincinnati on a three-hitter as Hartford won 6-0. This masterful performance prompted Ferguson to proclaim, “God never gave him any size, but he is the Candy.”2 The nickname “Candy,” which meant “best” in 19th-century slang, stuck for the rest of Cummings’s life. Candy Cummings was later enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, mostly to honor his claim as the inventor of the curveball.

Arthur “Candy” Cummings  is credited as the inventor of the curveball, 1872.
Arthur “Candy” Cummings is credited as the inventor of the curveball, 1872.

Even when his team was playing well, Ferguson’s temper continued to get the better of his judgment, leading him to holler at his players frequently during games. These public rebukes fueled a simmering dissension that was just waiting for something to ignite it. The trigger came in the form of an 8-2 loss in the second game of the Cincinnati series. This humiliating defeat at the hands of a club that would finish the season with just 9 wins outraged the Hartford Times:

The Hartford Base Ball Club pose outside the United States Hotel, Hartford, Connecticut, 1876.

There is something rotten in the Hartford club… These players are paid big salaries and they have no business to let petty jealousies and bickerings interfere with their play. If one of them gets his ‘nose out of joint’ over some real or imaginary grievance, he shows his spite by mugging on the ball field. One complains because Captain Ferguson talks too much and refuses to play his game; another declares he won’t back up Cummings; and somebody else, likely enough, is miffed because the hands of the South Church clock are not clapped every time he makes a passable catch. The men are hired to play ball—not to play baby… [Emphasis in the original.]

Bob Ferguson, Captain and First Baseman of Hartford Dark Blues in a Troy Trojans uniform, 1879.

Although Boston Red Stockings’ manager Harry Wright had heard that “hardly two men in the Hartford nine are on speaking terms with all the others,” the club momentarily got past its growling to take the final game from Cincinnati. Over the next two weeks they reeled off six victories in a row thanks mainly to the spectacular pitching of Tommy Bond, who threw three shutouts and two one-hitters during this stretch. Realizing the immense value of Bond, Hartford quickly dropped the idea of signing a new pitcher and contracted him for the 1877 season. When word of Bond’s new contract hit the streets, the joy in Hartford was palpable.

Harry Wright, Player-Manager of the Boston Red Stockings, 1874.

As Hartford departed on a long western tour, the Cincinnati debacle was a distant memory. After stops in Louisville and Cincinnati, the club arrived in Chicago (Chicago and St. Louis were the furthermost western cities in the National League until 1958 when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively) having won 12 of its last 13 games. The first game between the two pennant contenders was on Independence Day, which in 1876 was celebrated with extra fervor since it marked the nation’s centennial.

A raucous crowd of 12,000 was on hand, some having purchased grandstand seats at triple the standard 50-cent charge. The rowdy throng loudly cheered the White Stockings’ arrival, but some fans went overboard, igniting firecrackers and even firing pistols. The game itself featured no offensive fireworks as Tommy Bond and Al Spalding both tossed shutouts through six innings. In the seventh, Hartford pushed across the game’s only runs, scoring three times off Spalding with the help of two critical Chicago errors.

f, Pitcher, Hartford Dark Blues, 1876.

Back in Hartford, 1,000 people had gathered at the Dark Blues’ headquarters awaiting word from Chicago. The scores were received three innings at a time. The first two bulletins, covering six innings, showed all zeros. The final dispatch ignited a grand celebration. After sending a congratulatory note to Ferguson, a giddy Morgan Bulkeley provided a sumptuous spread in the clubrooms and ordered a load of fireworks. Later in the evening, Hartford celebrated the Dark Blues’ victory and the nation’s hundredth birthday with a grand display of pyrotechnics launched from the club’s headquarters and the Hartford Times office.

1876 Chicago White Stockings

Two days later, with 2,000 supporters assembled outside the Dark Blues’ headquarters, weak hitting Jack Remsen led off the second game in Chicago with a rare home run, giving Hartford a lead they would never relinquish. Tommy Bond’s curveballs were especially effective on this day, even fooling the umpire, who often called them strikes even when they broke well out of the strike zone. The final score was 6-2. The Dark Blues were now just a single victory from sweeping the mighty White Stockings and taking a share of first place. To prevent this, Chicago’s captain Al Spalding sent versatile first baseman Cal McVey to the pitcher’s box to stop the surging Hartford nine. McVey came through against Hartford just as he had earlier in the year, holding them scoreless for the first seven innings as Chicago cruised to an easy 9-3 victory.

Al Spalding, Pitcher, Boston Red Stockings, 1875.

Despite the loss, the Dark Blues remained upbeat as they traveled to St. Louis, poised to continue their winning ways. Rumors, backed by the flow of gambling money, were rampant that the Browns, hoping to keep the pennant away from Chicago, would lie down for Hartford. This hardly proved to be true, however, as St. Louis swept the series behind the fabulous pitching of George Washington Bradley who hurled three shutouts, one of which was the National League’s first no-hitter. The three losses to St. Louis quickly erased the benefit of the hard-earned victories in Chicago. When they returned home, the Dark Blues weren’t in first place as the Hartford Courant had predicted during the road trip. In fact, they weren’t even alone in second place, as St. Louis had drawn even. The excitement that had enveloped the city three weeks earlier had completely evaporated. In a startling display of apathy, only 200 people bothered to attend the Dark Blues’ first home game in nearly five weeks.

1876 St. Louis Brown Stockings with George Washington Bradley (standing, center).

As Hartford continued to fall off Chicago’s pace, more trouble arose. In a 13-4 loss to the Boston Red Stockings on August 19, Tommy Bond struggled while Bob Ferguson committed several errors at third base. After the game, the Hartford Courant reported that the star pitcher had accused his manager of “crooked work.” Bond’s allegation was shocking. A charge of throwing games was serious business, especially when leveled against Ferguson, who had a spotless reputation when it came to gambling. In America’s National Game Spalding said of him, “Robert Ferguson was… a man of sterling integrity and splendid courage. He knew all about the iniquitous practices which had become attached to the game as barnacles to a ship, and he was sincerely desirous of eradicating them… Could it have been possible to eliminate gambling by physical demonstrations, Robert Ferguson would have cleared the Base Ball atmosphere of one of its most unsanitary conditions at that time.”

Ferguson wrote to the Hartford Times, denying all charges, pronouncing “each and every one false in every particular” and saying they were made with “a malicious purpose.” A day later, in the same newspaper, Bond recanted his statement, saying his charges “were entirely unfounded, and made in a moment of excitement, and I cheerfully acknowledge the wrong I have done both to the club and its manager, and make this the only reparation in my power.” Despite the casual retraction, the ill will between the two men lingered until finally Bond informed Bulkeley that he wouldn’t play with Hartford so long as Ferguson was captain. Forced to choose between the two adversaries, Bulkeley annulled the remaining portion of Bond’s 1876 contract and released him from his 1877 commitment. Incredibly, less than three weeks after the initial charge, all connections between the Hartfords and their brilliant pitcher were severed.

On the field, Ferguson quickly deployed Candy Cummings in the pitcher’s box. Despite pitching well enough to keep Hartford on the margin of the race for the pennant, he couldn’t prevent the White Stockings from taking the championship with a 7-6 victory over Hartford on September 26. Hartford closed the season with a nine-game winning streak that gave them second place over St. Louis. Several Hartford players produced excellent individual statistics. In his abbreviated season, Bond amassed 45 complete games, 31 wins, and a 1.68 earned run average (ERA). Cummings posted 16 victories, a 1.67 ERA, and 5 shutouts. Right fielder Richard Higham put together a 24-game hitting streak while batting .327 and tying for the league lead with 21 doubles.

These personal accomplishments notwithstanding, lack of team harmony was the root cause of the Dark Blues’ failure to capture the pennant. With Ferguson’s constant badgering and the resulting backlash from his men, Hartford’s record suffered. Still, if the Dark Blues could have just managed to beat part-time pitcher Cal McVey, the National League pennant would have landed in Hartford. The strong Iowan, who started only six games for Chicago, won all four of his starts against Hartford. These victories provided the winning margin for the White Stockings who finished just five victories ahead of the Hartfords.

An excerpt in the Hartford Courant on March 8, 1877 about the team relocating to Brooklyn.

The 1876 season was the Dark Blues’ last in Hartford. In hopes of better gate receipts, Morgan Bulkeley moved his club to Brooklyn for the 1877 season, forever removing Hartford’s status as a major league baseball city. The club’s finances were no better in its new location and the club was dropped from the National League at the end of the season. Bulkeley himself soon severed his ties with baseball. In 1879 he became head of Aetna (which his father had founded); a political career followed. He was elected mayor of Hartford, served four years as a controversial governor of Connecticut, and was a U.S. senator from 1905 to 1911. He died at age 84 in 1922. Robert Ferguson also managed the team in 1877. After the Dark Blues were disbanded he played for Chicago, Troy (New York), and Philadelphia, ending his career in 1883. He died in 1894 at age 49.

Since the Dark Blues’ departure after the 1876 season, only minor league clubs have called Hartford home, none since 1952. Only an active imagination, aided by a tour of the site of the old Hartford Base Ball Grounds, can rekindle the city’s brief major league days. The ballpark no longer exists, of course. In fact, even the corner of Wyllys Street and Hendricxsen Avenue has disappeared as both streets have been reconfigured. But nestled against the grounds of the Church of the Good Shepherd and its grand companion building, the Caldwell Colt Memorial Parish House, is a beautiful expanse of green lawn that was once the Dark Blues’ home.

The Church of the Good Shepherd overlooked the Hartford Base Ball Grounds.
A plaque commemorating the site of the old Hartford Base Ball Grounds, Hartford, 2013.
Hartford Base Ball Grounds home plate marker.
Hartford Base Ball Grounds second base marker.
Hartford Base Ball Grounds first base marker.
Hartford Base Ball Grounds third base marker.

Standing in the shadow of these two grand monuments to Hartford’s past evokes memories of an era when baseball was young and Hartford was a major player in its development. One can picture opposing batters vainly flailing at the curveballs tossed by Bond and Cummings, the “hurrahing” of Hartford resident Mark Twain who often attended games, and captain Bob Ferguson booming out his usual admonition, “Have a care, boys!” and threatening to exact physical punishment if they did not. Despite the interceding decades, one can almost see the players’ dark blue stockings and hear the growling that once filled those hallowed grounds.

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) would regularly attend Hartford Dark Blues games and took notes of the action on his personal stationary.

David Arcidiacono, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) lives in East Hampton, Connecticut. This article is adapted from his new book, Grace, Grit, and Growling: The Hartford Dark Blues Base Ball Club, 1874-1877, which can be obtained from the author at Darcidiacono@snet.net or online at the Vintage Base Ball Factory Website:  www.vbbf.com.

*The Hartford Base Ball Club was the official name of the team during their era while “Hartford Dark Blues” was their nickname popularized by newspaper reports in the Hartford Times.

R-J Expos Down Ulbrich Clippers in Pitchers’ Duel

GHTBL Playoff Tournament Game #1: Expos 1, Clippers 0.

By Joe Boyle, Special to the Record-Journal

HARTFORD — It was a battle of the aces Thursday night at the Trinity Baseball Complex as Charlie Hesseltine and the Record-Journal Expos nipped Matt DiNello and the Ulbrich Clippers 1-0 in the opening game of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League playoffs.

This was an all-local duel. Hesseltine is from Meriden, DiNello from Southington.

Another Meriden product, A.J. Hendrickson, scored the game’s lone run when he tripled in the sixth inning and scored on Hector Gonzalez’s ground-rule double.

The fifth-seeded Expos advance to play the top-seeded Vernon Orioles on Friday night at 8 p.m. The fourth-seeded Clippers drop to the loser’s bracket and will play again Monday night at 6 p.m.

On Thursday, Hesseltine went the full sevening innings. He struck out six, walked three and allowed five hits.

“I started to get tired there around the fourth,” said Hesseltine. “It’s the playoffs; you push through it. This team has relied on its starters this season. I just stayed out there as long as I could and hit my spots.

“My command felt good,” the left-hander added. “My velocity isn’t there, so spotting is the only way I can succeed now.”

Charlie Hesseltine, Pitcher, Record-Journal Expos.

DiNello also went the full seven innings. He struck out four and allowed just three hits.

“He pitched phenomenal too,” said Hesseltine. “It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to be part of. When you’re part of a pitching duel, it brings up the intensity and puts the pressure on each other.”

From the get-go, DiNello and Hesseltine were dealing. Each guy struck out a pair in the first inning to take command of the strike zone and show each team that this one would come down to which ever pitcher made the first mistake.

Ulbrich’s Chris Anselmo did lead off the bottom of the first with a second, but ended up being stranded at second.

DiNello looked to be the commanding pitcher in the battle. His fastball was working well and he owned the strike zone. The Expos didn’t get their first hit until the third inning: a lead-off single from Matt Fusco. Fusco was erased on a fielder’s choice and a runner never left first base in the inning for the Expos.

DiNello also threw just three pitches in the fifth inning. Each R-J hitter grounded out.

“It was unexpected to see zeros on the board until the sixth,” said Hessltine. “Our team has been hitting very well this season and has consistently in past years, which is good for our starting pitchers. Maybe it was playoff jitters for some of the guys.”

Nick Landell, Shortstop, Ulbrich Clippers.

For a while, it really didn’t look like either team was going to score a run. Fortunately for the Expos, whose lack of pitching depth would have probably been their downfall in an extended game, they figured out DiNello in the top of the sixth.

With one out, Hendrickson cranked a sure double out to right-center, where an Ulbrich outfielder struggled to play it off a good hop. Hendrickson slid head-first safely into third.

At third base with just one out, there was a good chance Hendrickson would score if the next batter, Gonzalez, put the ball in play. Gonzalez did one better. He lined a deep drive to left-center that one hopped the wall, bounced off the flag pole and sent Gonzalez to second for a ground-rule double and the only RBI of the game.

From there, some pressure was taken off of Hesseltine’s shoulders. The sixth and seventh innings were no issue for Hesseltine, who allowed just one baserunner the rest of the way.

The Expos were saved thanks to Hesseltine and just two key hits.

“It was a big weight off my shoulder,” said Hesseltine. “Seven is good enough for me.”

President Holowaty Featured by Hartford Courant

Jeff Jacobs: Hall of Fame Coach Holowaty fights illness and gives back.

By Jeff Jacobs – Contact Reporter

The calls had been coming for a few years, and Bill Holowaty couldn’t say yes. His baseball spirit was willing. His body wasn’t.

Holowaty won four national championships and 1,404 games before he stepped down in 2013 after 45 years as coach at Eastern Connecticut. Becoming president of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League seemed perfect for a septuagenarian with baseball in his DNA, baseball in his blood.

The problem was this: Holowaty’s DNA isn’t the same. His blood type isn’t the same.

That’s what happens with Myelodysplastic Syndrome. That’s what happens when your body that had carried you through the third most victories in Division III history no longer could make enough healthy blood cells. In short, Holowaty had bone marrow failure and needed a stem cell transplant last June 23 that changed his DNA and blood type from O to A. Otherwise, he wasn’t going to be around for long.

“I’m celebrating my first birthday,” Holowaty said recently. “June 23, my new birthday.”

Fortunately, Type A loves baseball, too.

So Holowaty said yes this past winter to becoming president of the GHTBL, the amateur wood-bat league now in its 88th year. Over the decades, it is a league that has produced a large number of major leaguers, including 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Bagwell. It also is a league that has had to fight softball, other baseball leagues and the evolution of modern sports interest to keep its place on the map.

Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President talks about his coaching career and leading the GHTBL, 2017.

The first thing Holowaty did was bring together the managers for a couple of meetings at his house.

“I was extremely impressed with their enthusiasm and their desire to make the league better,” Holowaty said. “I needed that. They motivated me. Look, I’m not going to change the world and make it the best league in the United States, etc. I told them I’ll try to help. I just love to watch baseball and see it played the right way.”

Holowaty, who played basketball at UConn, played for Wally Widholm on the playoff champion Hamilton Standard team in the summer of 1966. His sons played in the GHTBL, too.

“Wally taught me how to win, how to play the game of baseball,” Holowaty said. “Later on, my son came to me and he said, ‘Dad, I played in wood-bat leagues and played all over the place. I had my best experience playing for Gene Johnson this past summer.’ Winning was important, not showing off. I loved that.”

There was no way Holowaty could do this by himself. He surrounded himself with a strong executive committee that includes vice presidents Bill DePascale, Ed Slegeski and former UConn coach Andy Baylock.

“I’ve known Billy forever, since the ’60s,” said Baylock, who played two summers in the GHTBL. “He has had a lot health problems, but this is something he can put his heart into. He called and asked me to be a vice president. I said, ‘Billy, will this make you happy if I join?’ He said yes. I told him, ‘I’ll be with you.’ Gene Johnson, who was such a mainstay in the league, died [in November 2014] and I felt this would be a good way to give back to the league and Gene.”

The two state baseball legends obviously add recognition to the league. Yet it had to be more than that.

There is nothing worse, Holowaty said, than playing on a lousy field. Trinity College has a beautiful new facility. The league secured it for the playoffs. The teams are going to play throughout July 9 at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Holowaty, convinced the job of running a team is too big for one guy, wants each team to have a general manager. There were a couple of new teams added this year. There were sponsorships found. Holowaty also wants each team to have a mentor or two. On opening day, Holowaty and Baylock talked to the players about playing the game smart, aggressively, hustling, showing up on time. Little things that can become big things, like coaches wearing protective helmets at first and third base.

They’ve gone to games at various sites.

“Not to be a cop,” Baylock said, “but to try to make sure things look good.”

“We’re not out there second-guessing managers,” Holowaty said. “But a lot of great players have played in the league over nearly 90 years. I don’t want a beer league. Baseball is one of the hardest games to teach and play. We’ve got a good league and want to make it better, a nice, competitive league where the guys enjoy themselves and learn the right way to play.”

Those words came over the phone from Omaha a couple of weekends ago. He was out there for the College World Series. Holowaty is on the board of the American Baseball Coaches Association, its past president. This was a big trip for Holowaty.

Andy Baylock, GHTBL Vice President.

“I couldn’t go on an airplane for a year, or go out to eat,” he said. “I had to wear a mask and gloves on the plane. The doctor told me I could go but have to be careful. My daughter [Jennifer] came with me to give my wife [Jan] four days’ vacation.

“My wife has been taking care of me. Thank God for her.”

In 2015, he was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. It was in August of that year that Holowaty, after undergoing knee surgery, was told his blood cell counts had been dropping. He consulted a hematologist. He would have a bone marrow test late in 2015. Holowaty would need a stem cell transplant or else — to use his words — “I wasn’t going to be around long, maybe a year.” With plans to spend the winter in Florida, he would go to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. There he began his treatment before returning to Connecticut.

A match in Germany, a young man, was found for Holowaty. On June 17, 2016, he went to the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in Boston. For nearly a week he underwent chemotherapy for six hours a day to kill his old blood cells. The stem cells were flown overnight from Germany and the next day, June 23, Holowaty was receiving a transplant.

There would be more chemo. The fight has been hard. His immune system had to start from scratch. He must be ultra-careful to avoid germs, mold, etc., thus the gloves and the mask.

Holowaty went through his problems like he was reading a lineup card. He had pneumonia. A blood vessel broke when he had a lung biopsy. He had some blood clots in his legs and lung that took months to be rid of. His heart went out of rhythm. He had an aneurysm in his stomach. The man always was a tough coach and now, physically, mentally, spiritually, he has been called on to be even tougher.

Andy Baylock and Bill Holowaty

Jan drives Bill up to Boston once or twice a week.

“They take my blood and see where I am with red and white blood cells,” Holowaty said. “You get new blood. The remaining old blood tries to fight off the new blood.

“You feel good. You want to feel good. You just can’t feel good. You go to bed, get a night’s sleep and wake up tired. I’ll feel great and then last week I had a hard time walking across the room. It’s exhausting. It’s not painful. I’m fighting it. I could never do this alone.”

He has found a source of inspiration in his former ECSU assistant coach Ron Jones.

“Ron has had the same thing,” Holowaty said. “He started calling me up and telling me how to prepare myself, helping me get through this. Here’s the thing — he has called me every day since last June. We just talked today. He has had a tough time. Last October, he had pacemaker put in, and he’s doing well now.

“Think about that. He calls me every single day.”

That’s what great baseball guys do. They take care of each other.

Holwaty paused for a second on the phone.

“The Twilight League,” he said softly, “this is my way of giving back to the game I love.”

Bill Holowaty, ECSU baseball coach for 45 years, is now heading up the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League.