Steve Brady, From Frog Hollow to the First World Series

Born: July 14, 1851, Worcester, MA

Died: November 1, 1917, Hartford, CT

Buried: Mount St. Benedict Cemetery, Bloomfield, CT

Of all the native sons of Hartford, Stephen A. Brady the city’s greatest 19th century ballplayer. His professional baseball career spanned 16 seasons during America’s Gilded Age. Described as a heavy hitter who delivered in the clutch, he was also a sure-handed utility man. His primary position was right field, but he played center field, first, second and third base as well. As a member of Hartford’s first Major League club in 1874, Brady was a hometown hero. He would go on on to captain the New York Metropolitans to multiple championships, including the first world championship in 1884.

Steve Brady

Initially, Brady was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, to Christopher and Mary McDonald Brady. Soon after his birth, the Brady’s relocated to Hartford. The Irish-American family lived at 72 Ward Street in the city’s Frog Hollow neighborhood. Steve was one of seven children: four brothers and two sisters named Jackson, Thomas, Edward, Christopher, Bridget and Margaret. Brady and his brothers were gifted athletes who excelled at the budding National Game.

Independent Base Ball Club, 1862.

Steve Brady came of age when baseball was spreading like wildfire across America. The first ball club organized in Hartford in 1860 under the name Independent Base Ball Club, followed by Charter Oak Base Ball Club in 1862. The game grew more popular in parks and pastures amongst local fans and amateur players. Brady began his robust playing career as an amateur with the Hylas Base Ball Club of Hartford in the late 1860’s. Then he graduated to the Jefferson Base Ball Club along with his brother Jackson, who played catcher. In the summer of 1871, Brady was appointed Vice President of the Jefferson club. The club convened for games at Frog Hollow’s Ward Street Grounds.

1865 Charter Oak Base Ball Club

A few years later in 1874, Brady captained the Hartford Amateurs, a city-wide team formerly known as the Stars. The Amateurs represented the city in local contests. At 20 years of age, Brady led the Hartford Amateurs against clubs from Yale College, Trinity College, Waterbury, New Britain, Middletown and others. Alongside Brady on the Hartford Amateurs were future Major Leaguers, John “Hartford Jack” Farrell at second base, Bill Tobin at first base and Charlie Daniels on the mound. That same year, the first (and last) major league franchise was formed in Hartford.

Jeffersons vs. Manfields, 1871.

Around the same time that Brady led the amateur scene, the Hartford Base Ball Association incorporated on March 21, 1874. The city boasted a population of about 40,000 when the professional club organized at $25 per share and raised $5,000 in capital. Also known as the Hartford Dark Blues, the team entered the National Association. Among investors, referred to as “subscribers” were: Ben Douglas Jr. the club’s organizer and top shareholder, Morgan G. Bulkeley, famed Connecticut politician, Civil War veteran, Aetna executive and first President of the National League and Gershom B. Hubbell, President of the Hartford Base Ball Club and former captain of Charter Oak Base Ball Club.

The Hartford Dark Blues, 1875 (Steve Brady not pictured).

Meanwhile Steve Brady and the Hartford Amateurs competed for local prestige and distinction. Eventually the Amateurs squared off against the Dark Blues at the Hartford Grounds on July 14, 1874. The Dark Blues trounced the Hartford Amateurs by a score of 15 to 1. A week later, Lip Pike of the Hartford Dark Blues, known as a “championship runner” challenged Steve Brady to a footrace. Though Brady was a gifted runner, Pike outpaced him in the contest. Yet the Hartford professionals were impressed with Brady’s baseball skills and notable athleticism.

Hartford Courant excerpt, July 16, 1874.

When Hartford Dark Blues shortstop Tommy Barlow fell ill due to an apparent morphine addiction, the club secured the services of Steve Brady. On July 22, 1874, Hartford’s hometown hero played his first game with the Dark Blues versus an amateur club, the Clippers of Bristol, Connecticut. Brady was positioned at third base while the team’s President, Gerhsom Hubbell played right field. Hartford walloped Bristol 36 to 0 and Brady secured a roster spot. He ended the 1874 season with 27 games played, 37 hits and a .316 batting average. The following year Brady appeared in only one game with the Hartford Dark Blues before signing with the original Washington Nationals club of 1875.

Tommy Barlow, Hartford Dark Blues, 1874.
Hartford Dark Blues batting averages, 1874.

Unfortunately, Brady would not perform well with Washington. In 21 games played he hit for a dismal .143 batting average. After the season, the Nationals disbanded and Brady was demoted to the minor leagues. In 1876, he starred for Billy Arnold’s Providence club, champions of the New England League. Then Brady was picked up by an International Association nine in Rochester, New York. He was the club’s best player, hitting for a .373 average during the 1877 season. Brady continued to bounce around the professional ranks with Springfield in 1878, the mighty Worcester Grays in 1879 and then the Rochester Hop Bitters in 1880.

1879 Worcester Grays

When the Rochester club forfeited their remaining schedule in September of 1880, Brady and many of his teammates were recruited to play for the newly formed Metropolitan Base Ball Club of New York. At 29 years old Brady was a well-respected, veteran ballplayer who was recognized as captain of the Metropolitans. The club was owned by another Connecticut man living in New York named John B. Day who originally hailed from Colchester. Their manager was Hall of Fame inductee Jim Mutrie, the winningest of 19th century managers. Brady’s Metropolitan teammates included two other Connecticut men in Jerry Dorgan of Meriden and Jack Leary of New Haven.

Stephen A. Brady, 1881.

The Metropolitans operated as an independent club from 1880 to 1882. They were the first professional team to play home games in the borough of Manhattan. The “Mets” as they came to be known, hosted opponents at the original Polo Grounds located on the Upper West Side, north of Central Park. On September 29, 1880 at the Polo Grounds inaugural game, Hartford native Steve Brady was the first player to step into the batters box as leadoff man for the Mets. Over 20,000 fans witnessed the opener in which the Mets defeated the Nationals by a score of 4 to 2.

1882 New York Metropolitans with their Captain Steve Brady (far right).

The Metropolitans became one of the nation’s best teams and joined the American Association in 1883. Brady most often played right field for the Mets who finished fourth place in the standings with 54 wins, 42 losses and 1 tie against the Louisville Eclipse. In 1884, Brady and the New York Metropolitans claimed victory over the American Association with 75 wins, 32 losses and 5 ties. At the end of the season, the first World Series of baseball materialized.  The 3-game series resulted from a challenge issued by Metropolitans manager, Jim Mutrie to Frank Bancroft, manager of the Providence Grays, pennant winners of the National League. The Grays boasted one of baseball’s top pitchers in Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, who won a major league record 60 games in 1884.

1884 Providence Grays

The first World Series games were played on October 22, 24 and 25 at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Radbourn took the mound every contest for the Grays while Tim Keefe was on the slab for the Metropolitans. Steve Brady manned right field.  Radbourn and the Grays were too much for the Mets, taking three straight games: 6 to 0, 3 to 1 and 11 to 2. In the presence of capacity crowds, the first game went the full nine innings, but the second game was called after seven innings due to darkness. The third game was inconsequential since the series winner was determined, but the Mets hoped to earn more revenue. Only about 300 spectators attended the third game in part because of frigid weather.

Charles Radbourn, Providence Grays, 1884.
Charles Radbourn, Providence Grays, 1884.

Even though the Metropolitans were on the losing end of the first World Series, Brady’s stardom reached an all-time high during the 1884 season. He was a celebrated public figure in Hartford where he spent winters with his family. His brothers, Jackson and Thomas were mainstays for the Jefferson Base Ball Club who remained the class amateur squad in the city. When Steve Brady went back to New York for the 1885 season, he was again named captain of the New York Metropolitans. The Mets finished seventh place in the American Association and Brady hit for a .290 batting average.

Jackson Brady and Thomas Brady, Jeffersons club of Hartford, 1885.

The 1886 season would be Brady’s last in the major leagues. He reported to training camp out of shape and the Mets placed seventh out of eight clubs in the standings. Brady returned home to Hartford and accepted a role as first baseman and captain of the 1887 Hartford club of the Eastern League. Hartford’s minor league team reunited Brady with Charlie Daniels who served as manager, Jerry Dorgan im center field, and John “Hartford Jack” Farrell at second base. However, the Hartfords disbanded in August of 1887 and Brady was acquired by a professional club in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Hartford vs. Waterbury, 1887.

In a turn of events, Brady became a part owner of an ice skating rink in Brooklyn and head of the Brooklyn Ice Polo Club. He joined former Mets manager Jim Mutrie in an enterprise seeking to form a national ice polo league during the fall of 1887. At that time, ice polo was a form of ice hockey rapidly growing in popularity throughout the northeastern United States. Brady and Mutrie traveled the country in search of ice polo players and supporters, but the venture never panned out. Brady, the entrepreneur and sportsman, resumed baseball activities in 1888 for the Jersey City Skeeters of the Central League.

Stephen A. Brady, Hartfords, 1887.
Stephen A. Brady, Hartfords, 1887.

He captained the Jersey City minor league club and guarded first base at 36 years old. In 1889, Brady finally stepped away from the field as a player and applied to become an umpire in the Atlantic Association. His application was granted and was hired as a regular umpire in June. Less than a month later he was replaced and for a short time Brady worked as a saloon keeper in New York City. In February of 1890, Brady made a comeback to baseball when he was hired as player-manager of the Jersey City club.

Brady applies to become an umpire, Jun 10, 1889.

By 1892, Brady had moved back to Hartford and married a woman from New Britain named Mary A. Begley. He was a member of the Hartford baseball club who competed in the Connecticut State League. The team was comprised of several ex-major league players such as Mickey Welch, Ed Beecher and John M. Henry. After his official retirement from baseball, Brady and his brothers established a successful bottling company in Hartford called Brady Bros. The concern manufactured stone and glass bottles and filled them with mineral water and soda.

Hartford Courant excerpt, March 16, 1894.

Steve Brady made his last recorded appearance on a baseball diamond in the summer of 1898 when his team of wine clerks took on a Hartford Police nine. His fingers were reported to be “twisted and knotted” from a lifetime of playing baseball in an era without proper protection. Brady became an active member of the Hartford Elks Lodge and the Ancient Order of Hibernians with whom he conducted various charitable deeds. On November 17, 1917 Stephen A. Brady passed away at the age of 66 in the home where he was born at 72 Ward Street, Hartford. His brother John “Jackson” Brady carried on the family business as President of Brady Brothers.

Hartford Courant excerpt, October 14, 1923.
John “Jackson” Brady, 1937.
Brady Bros. Hartford, Connecticut, 2018.
Brady Bros. bottle, Hartford, Connecticut, 2019.
Ward Street, Hartford, Connecticut, 2019.
Brady family gravestone at Mount St. Benedict Cemetery, Bloomfield, Connecticut, 2019.


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