Category: Player Spotlight

Featuring players and alumni of the GHTBL.

Where Are They Now? GHTBL Players Leading Impressive Careers

Recently, Rainbow Graphics player-manager Jason Valliere accepted a role as Assistant Sports Information Director at the United Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Congratulations to Jason on his latest career move! Jason is on a path to a promising career in sports. He joins the countless number of twilight players who have worked for high profile institutions – men who have led inspiring careers in athletics, business, and public service.

Jason Valliere, Player-manager, Rainbow Graphics

Hundreds of twilight leaguers have made their mark in a wide array of professions and careers. From coaching to teaching to sales and management, you might say that GHTBL alumni help keep the economy going. And you might be wondering, “where are they now?” Well, here’s a list of former twilight players and their current occupation followed by their company or organization:

  • Ryan Aiken, Operations Manager & Treasurer, High Grade Gas Service, Inc.
  • Greg Annino, Senior Field Technician, Greenskies Clean Energy
  • Chris Anselmo, Realtor, Marino Realty
  • Brian Archibald, Special Education Teacher, Bristol Central High School
  • Jeff Bagwell, Special Advisor, Houston Astros
  • Steve Bartunek, Insurance Agent, RDDK
  • Andy Baylock, Director, UConn Football Alumni/Community Affairs
  • Ken Bratina, Program Director, Connecticut Junior Republic
  • Conor Bremer, Supplier Program Manager, Dynetics, Inc.
  • *Brett Burnham, Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual
  • *Steve Cannata, Head Coach, Kingswood-Oxford School Baseball
  • Clarke Caudill, Area Sales Manager, Intuitive
  • Tony Cekovsky, Regional Account Manager, Monster Energy
  • *Jack Champagne, Teacher, Longmeadow School District
  • *Paul Ciotto, Engineering Director, Aetna
  • Rob Cipolla, MSSP Sales, IBM
  • Chris Corkum, Founder, Chris Corkum’s Baseball, Inc.
  • *Scott Cormier, Vice President of Purchasing, Katsiroubas Produce
  • *Tony Dedominicis, Musician
  • Tyler Dew, Attorney and Claim Director, Chubb Insurance
  • Ryan DiPietro, Senior Environmental Inspector, BL Companies
  • Mark DiTommaso, Kitchen Designer, EHL Kitchens
  • Doug Elliot Jr., Financial Advisor, Marcum LLP
  • Doug Elliot Sr., President, The Hartford (retired)
  • Jake Fournier, Financial Manager, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
  • Paul Gallo, Lead Instructor, Los Angeles Dodgers Training Academy
  • *Ralph Giansanti Jr., Financial Advisor, Infinex Investments, Inc.
  • *Roberto Giansiracusa, Owner, GimaSport
  • John Gieras, Teacher, Somers Public Schools
  • *Kevin Gieras, Detective, New York Police Department
  • TJ Grande, Senior IT Business Management Specialist, Burns and McDonnell
  • Matt Grosso, EVP of Business Development, Wentworth DeAngelis & Kaufman Insurance
  • Jerry Hasler, Vice President, Forestville Manufacturing
  • Mike Hepple, Insurance Broker, Wentworth, DeAngelis & Kaufman Insurance
  • Rick Hewey, Contract Administrator, Hartford HealthCare
  • Charlie Hickey, Head Coach, Central Connecticut State University Baseball
  • Dan Hickey, Client Manager II, Lockton Companies
  • Nick Hock, Batting Practice Specialist, Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles)
  • Matt Hodges, Off Campus Operations Manager, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jack Hurley, Pension Consultant, PASI
  • *Scott Jeamel, VP Financial Consultant, Charles Schwab
  • Dave Katz, Owner, Katz Sport Shop
  • Chris Kehoe, Technical Architect, TriZetto Group
  • *Tom Kirby, Chief Financial Officer, JE Shepard Company
  • *Steve Krajewski, Assistant Director, Vernon Parks and Recreation Department (Retired)
  • John Kubachka, Operations Manager, Town of Newington
  • James Kukucka, Financial Analyst, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
  • Ryan Lamarche, Owner, RDL Painting
  • **Gary LaRocque, Director of Player Development, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Matt Lavatori, Vice President of Client Services, Fred C. Church Insurance
  • Marc Levin, Owner, Malloves Jewelers
  • Derek Litke, Business Develop Manager, Triumph Group
  • *Jason Maule, Physical Education Teacher, Meriden Public Schools
  • *Brian Marshall, Field Reimbursement Manager, Novartis
  • Steve Matyczyk, Principal, Tariffville Elementary School
  • Frank McCoy Jr., Personal Injury Attorney, McCoy & McCoy
  • Adam McLaughlin, Senior Vice President, Webster Bank
  • *Todd Mercier, Manager, Murray Kaizer Inc.
  • Daryl Morhardt, Head Coach, Housatonic High School Baseball 
  • Greg Morhardt, Professional Scout, Boston Red Sox
  • Mike Mowel, Chief Accounting Officer, Safepoint Holdings
  • *Walter Nakonechny, Science Department Chair, Rockville High School
  • Tyler Olander, Assistant Coach, University of Saint Joseph Men’s Basketball
  • Basilio Ortiz, Youth Services Officer, CT Department of Children and Families
  • Cory Parker, Sales Manager, AnnieMac Home Mortgage
  • Joe Parlante, Sales Account Manager at New England Industrial Supply
  • Jim Penders, Head Coach, UConn Baseball
  • *Adam Peters, Corporate Safety Director, KBE Building
  • Kevin Powell, Second Vice President, Travelers (retired)
  • *Bunty Ray, Teacher and Coach, Bristol Eastern High School
  • Cory Riordan, Pitching Coach, Dunedin Blue Jays (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Kevin Rival, Founder, CT Rivals AAU Program
  • Jake Ruder, Manager, Fastenal
  • Peter Rynkowski, Senior Executive Recruiter, Ed-Exec, Inc.
  • *Dave Sacco, Operating Manager, Rhino Insurance Services
  • *Harvey Shapiro, Manager, Wareham Gatemen (retired)
  • *Michael Schweighoffer, Chief Lending Officer, Farmington Bank
  • Jim Shannon, Owner, Metro Communications
  • Charlie Shover, Plant Manager, Corsicana Mattress Company
  • *Jim Snediker, Commercial Insurance Leader, Travelers
  • Chris Strahowski, Teacher, Windham Technical H.S. & Adjunct Professor, SCSU
  • David Swanson, KZone Producer, ESPN and Founder of Swanson Baseball
  • Rob Tenzca, Project Manager, Arcadis
  • Tom Thibodeau, Head Coach, New York Knicks
  • **Leo Veleas, Head Coach, Berlin High School
  • Pete Walker, Pitching Coach, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Justin Waz, Director of Revenue Operations, RecDesk Software
  • Josue Zamora, Police Officer, State of Connecticut
  • *James Ziogas Jr. Attorney at Law, Ziogas Law

*GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductee
**GHTBL Hall of Fame Gold Glove Honoree

Comment below with your addition to this list.

Celebrating the Life of Ray Gliha, National Champion

Recently on August 14, 2023, a former player of the GHTBL, Raymond E. Gliha passed away peacefully at his home in Manchester, Connecticut. Gliha was born December 23, 1959, and was a lifelong Manchester resident. He was known to have a witty sense of humor. He would often write a poem or limerick for friends and family on their birthday and anniversary celebrations. People close to Ray knew him as the life of the party, a very loyal friend and an avid Boston Red Sox fan.

1980 Eastern Connecticut State College Baseball Team

Ray Gliha was passionate about baseball and he excelled on the diamond for many teams. He played for Manchester High School and Manchester American Legion Post 102 before going on to Eastern Connecticut State College. He had a batting average of .375 as a walk-on Freshman in 1979 under the guidance of Head Coach Bill Holowaty. Throughout his college career, Gliha batted .345 with 212 hits, 20 home runs and 161 RBI in 175 games. He tied a national record with six hits in one game. He started at all three outfield positions on four straight NCAA Division III postseason teams.

Ray Gliha (left) dives back to second base, Eastern Connecticut, 1982.
Ray Gliha (left) homers for Eastern Connecticut, 1982.

During his senior season, Gliha played center field and batted .395 with 7 home runs and 47 RBI. He was tri-captain that year, the team MVP and a 3rd Team All-American. Eastern went on to play in the 1982 Division III World Series in Marietta, Ohio. Gliha scored the go-ahead run in two of the games. Then in a 12-inning thriller, Eastern beat California State Stanislaus, 9-8, thanks to Gliha’s bases loaded single. It was Eastern Connecticut Baseball’s first of five national titles.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 10, 1982.

Ray Gliha also competed in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for 17 consecutive seasons. His twi-loop career began in 1979 for Gene Johnson’s Moriarty Brothers and ended in 1995 with the same franchise (changed names to Newman Lincoln-Mercury in 1990). Gliha was named to the GHTBL All-Star team at least three times, and he won the league’s Gold Glove Award in 1989. In total, Gliha earned 4 Season Titles and 6 Playoff Championships as a top outfielder in the Twilight League.

Newspaper advertisement for Moriarty Brothers, 1982.

In 2002, Gliha was inducted into the ECSU Athletic Hall of Fame. His game-winning hit in the National Title game was fondly remembered at the induction. His level of play raised the bar for Eastern Connecticut Baseball for years to come. Gliha was said to have enjoyed his years playing baseball, especially because that’s where he accumulated many of his life-long friends.

Moriarty Brothers Wins Twilight Title, 1984.

Towards the end of his baseball career, Ray Gliha was interviewed by local sportswriter, Ed Yost of the Hartford Courant. When asked about his long association with the game, Gliha said, “Baseball is in my blood.” Then he recalled his favorite season:

“The best (Twi) team I played on was in 1980. We had a well-balanced team but when we picked up Bill Masse and Chris Peterson (both out of high school) we were even better. We won both the regular season and playoffs and by big margins. We had a lot of guys who could hit the ball out of here. We just blew the other teams away. We’ve been successful because we have been able to get guys who know how to play. All of our guys have college or pro experience. Gene has been fun to play for. He wants to win and if you give 100% he’s satisfied. His motto has been to play hard and have fun.”

Ray Gliha, 1994.

Jets Soar to Four Straight Playoff Championships

The East Hartford Jets are GHTBL’s 2023 Playoff Champion and have now won their fourth consecutive postseason. Jim Schult was once again the ace on the mound for East Hartford. His pitching performances were unmatched. In two complete games against M&T Bank, he gave up just 7 hits over 14 innings while striking out 24 opposing batters. Schult has been a key two-way player (also an outfielder and DH) for this Jets dynasty.

As for other major contributors, East Hartford’s shortstop, Jeff Criscuolo, earned his sixth career playoff title and his first as player-manager. Additional leadership was provided by General Manager Chris Kehoe who served as Third Base Coach. Kehoe is the longest contributing member of the Jets (since 1991). Corey Plasky had an amazing postseason to match his torrid hitting pace during the Regular Season. At one point Plasky made a diving play at second base to save two runs in their semi-final game against M&T Bank.

Manny Alejandro, the player with the most seasons as a Jet, was a very reliable starting pitcher. First year player Darrion Williams was just as impressive with several complete game appearances on the mound. Relief pitcher and Twi-loop veteran, Taylor Kosakowski has now won seven GHTBL Playoff Championships, a league-high among active players. A balanced mix of older and younger members of the team has been a winning formula.

Congratulations to this year‘s championship team as well as the other clubs who competed deep into the playoffs. Until next year, GHTBL extends sincere gratitude to all of our fans, players, managers and umpires for their commitment and dedication to amateur baseball.

(Featured image photograph by Phil Ledwith.)

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.”

IMGP0021Costanza (2)

With Smoke Set to Subside, Graphics Lead League Undefeated

The Rainbow Graphics franchise of Manchester have begun the 2023 Regular Season in near perfect form. They’ve been scorching opposing pitching so far and now sit atop the GHTBL standings at 6-0. The Graphics will seek to continue their hot play as the Canadian wildfire smoke subsides. Air quality standards have been determined to be playable and Rainbow Graphics will host the East Hartford Jets tonight at 7:00 PM at Northwest Park, Manchester.

The Graphics have managed to strike a balance between veteran players in their prime and rookie players contributing from the get-go. Some of their more experienced names have taken league leaderboards by storm: Travis Salois, Edison Galan, Tyler Repoli and Eric Anderson. First-timers like Dan Orzech and Matt Costanza have proven to be solid additions as regulars in the lineup and especially on defense.

Meanwhile, around the league, there are two other undefeated teams: Record-Journal Expos and M&T Bank. At least one of the three remaining no-loss teams will end their winning streak because the Expos and Bankers will face off at Wethersfield High School tonight at 6:00 PM. Even though four teams (Mets, Greeners, Orioles and Phillies) are mired at the bottom of the standings, plenty of their losses have been by two runs or less.

It should be another exciting season. As always, the GHTBL is proud to feature and promote some of the best amateur ballplayers in the State of Connecticut. With longtime veterans, former professionals, high school prospects and with so many new talents added to the league this year, the future is bright for twilight baseball in Greater Hartford.

To players: please do your best to keep your cool when you take issue with taunting by opposing players or when you disagree with an umpire’s call. The league needs to maintain a working relationship with umpires and we must show them respect. Like it or not, GHTBL players reflect the character of the league. It’s in our best interest to keep our good reputation in tact. Everyone should act appropriately, even when it’s the hard thing to do – out of respect for each other, opponents and fans of all ages. Sportsmanship still matters.

The league extends a sincere thank you to players and contributors who are representing the league well day in and day out. The season is going very well thanks to so many of you. Be well and have a great summer! -Weston Ulbrich, League Secretary

NEXT GHTBL EVENT: JULY 12 & 13, 2023 – STADIUM SERIES 4 HARTFORD PAL

Jeff Criscuolo Appointed Jets Manager

With three consecutive Playoff Championships under their belts, the East Hartford Jets have selected Jeff “Crisco” Criscuolo as their first-time Manager.

When he began his GHTBL career in 2012 as an infielder from Saint Anselm College, Criscuolo found immediate success. He played second base for Ferguson Waterworks managed by Greg Annino. Criscuolo’s quick bat, dependable glove and top-end speed helped Ferguson win the Regular Season Title and a second straight Playoff Championship in his rookie year. He moved over to shortstop the following year and Ferguson captured a third consecutive Playoff Championship.

2012 Ferguson Waterworks (Criscuolo kneeling second from left).

Flash forward to 2020 and Criscuolo had joined the East Hartford Jets. Led by Manager Taylor Kosakowski and General Manager Chris Kehoe, Criscuolo and other key players propelled the Jets to three straight Playoff Championships. In part due to Criscuolo, history was repeated and another Twi-loop dynasty cemented itself at the top of the league.

2019 Jeff Criscuolo GHTBL East Hartford Jets
Jeff Criscuolo, SS, East Hartford Jets, 2019.

Criscuolo, originally a native of Durham, CT, will now take over in-game managerial duties in 2023. Many returners and several first year players are rumoured to be on board with the Jets this summer. Fans and onlookers can expect steady competition against East Hartford – they are presumed to be the team to beat. Therefore, when opposing teams pick their starting pitcher and fill out lineup cards the Jets will likely see their best.

Cooper Johnson Adelphi Baseball GHTBL M&T Bank

Cooper Johnson, Third Generation Twilight Player

For the last five years, Cooper Johnson of Newington, Connecticut, has played at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. The center fielder has recently committed to M&T Bank for the upcoming 2023 GHTBL season as a third generation player. He will be joining the same franchise as his father, Mike Johnson, who played with Tom Abbruzzese’s Bank Boston team in the 1990’s. Cooper’s grandfather Rollie Johnson was a GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee and a significant figure in professional scouting. Here are some of Cooper’s individual accolades coming into the GHTBL as a first-year player:

  • NE10 Academic Honor Roll – Academic Distinction
  • NE10 Academic Honor Roll – Academic Honors
  • Walked-off a win on his birthday (11th inning) w/ RBI single vs. Saint Rose in NE10 Tournament
Cooper Johnson Adelphi Baseball GHTBL M&T Bank 2
Cooper Johnson (left), Adelphi Baseball, 2023.

Cooper’s grandfather, Roland “Rollie” Johnson was a scout for more than 40 years, including 30 year with the New York Mets. He initially scouted for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973 to 1982. Rollie served as director of scouting for the Mets from 1986 to 1992. Rollie also co-authored influential baseball books – The Baseball Encyclopedia (1969) and The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball (1974).

During Johnson’s tenure as Director of Scouting with the Mets, there were several notable draft picks including Todd Hundley in 1987. Johnson also remembers drafting Curtis Pride on the recommendation of an area scout. Pride was 95% deaf, but a great athlete, and a greater individual.”

SABR Bio Project, Rollie Johnson by Alan Cohen
1964 Rollie Johnson Paces Twilight Loop
Rollie Johnson Paces Twilight Loop, 1964

Rollie had the rare opportunity to draft his son, Mike Johnson, in the 42nd round of the 1993 MLB Draft. Mike suited up for the New York Mets organization at Rookie ball in Kingsport. He was promoted to low and high Single-A the following year, but Mike’s professional career came to end shortly thereafter.

In 1990, Rollie earned an induction into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in the Players Division. He was a Trinity College graduate who began twi-loop ball in 1961 as a catcher for the East Hartford Merchants. Then he played for a team known as Landerman Orchestras – sponsored by Hartford’s most well known musicians of their era, Paul and Maurice Landerman. Rollie joined the Hartford Orioles in the summer of 1963. Rollie he finished his twilight career with Moriarty Brothers in 1973.

(Aside: the Rollie Johnson family is unrelated to Gene Johnson’s family.)

1975 Head for Baseball Camp Rollie Johnson St. Thomas Seminary
Rollie Johnson heads baseball camp at St. Thomas Seminary, 1975.

Rollie was a veritable baseball junkie. After publishing two books, he was hired away from the Twilight League by the St. Louis Cardinals. From there Rollie enjoyed a marvelous scouting career. He was bestowed with the A.B. “Turk” Karam Award in 1998 and was later elected to the Professional Scouts Hall of Fame in 2009.

1990 Twilight Inductions GHTBL Hall of Fame
GHTBL Hall of Fame inductions, 1990.
Rollie Johnson GHTBL Baseball Scout
Rollie Johnson (1940-2022)
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

2020 Pat Barnett Vernon Orioles Pitcher GHTBL

Preview: Opening Day & GHTBL’s 2023 Season

On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the GHTBL will open its 94th season for local amateurs, student-athletes, ex-professionals and prospects. Wood bats will start cracking on Opening Day with a 6 PM matchup at Frank J. McCoy Field in Vernon between the veteran Vernon Orioles and the Manchester-based Rainbow Graphics. Jason Valliere, a longtime contributor to the Tri-County Legion program will assume in-game duties as Head Coach for Rainbow Graphics this season.

It will be anyone’s guess as to which players, new or old, will make an impact on Opening Day. One might think it would be the players fresh off their college season, but it would be a mistake to overlook experience. Dan Trubia and Tony Trubia of the O’s and Evan Chamberlain of Graphics have nearly 60 years of combined experience of twilight ball. At the same time, it will be interesting to see how rookie players will fare for both teams and throughout the league.

The second game of Opening Day will begin at 7 PM at Rotary Field in South Windsor. The Meriden-based Record-Journal Expos will play the South Windsor Phillies under the lights at one of Greater Hartford’s most unsung baseball diamonds. You’d be hard-pressed to find any player who doesn’t enjoy playing at Rotary Field.

A core group for Manager Ron Pizzanello and the South Windsor Phillies since forming in 2018 has included Aedin Wadja, Jake Petrozza, Patrick McMahon and a few others returning in 2023. AJ Hendrickson, 2022 GHTBL MVP, has stepped into the Expos manager role in place of Charlie Hesseltine, who had served as manager since 2017. Hesseltine has been a dominant pitcher for Meriden since 2004 and will continue to pitch for the team this year.

Over in East Hartford, the 3X Playoff Champion Jets will take flight on Thursday, May 25 at home against their main foe, the Vernon Orioles. O’s Manager Jack Ceppetelli will square off against the Jets and their newly re-appointed Manager Chris Kehoe. Both Ceppetelli and Kehoe are the most tenured GHTBL contributors behind Tom Abbruzzese – who is going into his 48th year as manager of the “Bankers” franchise – now named M&T Bank.

There is however, a newcomer in charge of the recently consolidated Middletown Mets. A sixteen year old named Ryan Ruggiero of Xavier High School will become the youngest manager to lead a GHTBL team. As an Assistant Coach for the Hartford Colts in 2022, Ruggiero welcomed the opportunity and the idea of moving the franchise to Middletown – a closer location for its players and an upgraded home field with Palmer Field and Buzzy Levin Field. Fixtures for the Mets are expected to be Albertus Magnus standout Sean Jefferson and former Keene State right-hander Alex Koletar on the mound.

The Bristol Greeners are entering their third GHTBL season and have managed to book one of Connecticut’s best ballparks, Muzzy Field, for a majority of their home games. They return under the direction of another young manager, Trevor Mays, in his second year at the helm. New additions to the Greeners will include Gabe Zamorano Jr., a freshman at University of St. Joseph and Robert Bibisi, a graduate of Utica University.

Last but not least, M&T Bank are once again expected to have the league’s best left side of the infield: former professional Willy Yahn at shortstop and Eastern Connecticut’s Brendan Lynch at third base. Along with a contingency of players from Elms College, Tom Abbruzzese seeks to regain his title-winning ways in a new sublimated, double-sided, M&T Bank uniform.

Note: a new uniform rule will take effect this season as voted on by GHTBL managers. Any player out of uniform (wrong jersey, wrong hat, different color pants, etc.) will earn their team a $50 league fine.

On behalf of President Holowaty, thank you to all of our league sponsors, fans, families, spouses and friends who support the twilight league!

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.

Eleven Big Names Inducted to Hall of Fame

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, the GHTBL Hall of Fame Committee organized a night to remember at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington, Connecticut. Eleven new inductees were officially honored and inducted as the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. Here’s the list of players (and one manager) who earned the league’s highest honor:

Scott Cormier
Mike Schweighoffer
Jim Snediker
Brian Marshall
Roberto Giansiracusa
Jason Maule
Jeff Johnson
Brett Burnham
Todd Mercier
Kevin Gieras
Thomas Abbruzzese

Congratulations to all inductees! Special thank you GHTBL Hall of Fame Committee, its President Steve Krajewski and Jack Hurley for your diligent efforts.

Nov. 5: Hall of Fame Dinner

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, the GHTBL Hall of Fame will officially honor ten new inductees. Tickets can be purchased in advance.

VENUE: Indian Hill Country Club, 111 Golf Street, Newington, Connecticut

TIME: 5:30 PM Check-in, Dinner at 6:30 PM, Ceremony at 7:00 PM

COST: $50 per person

PURCHASE TICKETS: Make checks payable to “ORIOLE BASEBALL ASSOCIATION” and send to:

Steve Krajewski
61 Thrall Road
Vernon, CT 06066

DEADLINE: Friday, November 1, 2022

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact GHTBL Hall of Fame President, Steve Krajewski at (860) 815-7121 or email krashtrip7@gmail.com.

Here’s the list of GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductees for the Class of 2022:

  1. Scott Cormier
  2. Mike Schweighoffer
  3. Jim Snediker
  4. Brian Marshall
  5. Roberto Giansiracusa
  6. Jason Maule
  7. Jeff Johnson
  8. Brett Burnham
  9. Todd Mercier
  10. Kevin Gieras

See you on November 5th!

Jack Hurley (left) announces 2022 GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductees Brian Marshall, Jim Snediker, Mike Schweighoffer and Scott Cormier at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

Learn more about the GHTBL Hall of Fame by clicking here.

Johnny Taylor: Hartford’s First Professional Black Athlete

John “Johnny” “Jackson” “Schoolboy” Arthur Taylor

Born: 2/4/1916 – Hartford, Connecticut
Died: 6/15/1987 – Hartford, Connecticut

Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor was a pitching phenom from Hartford, Connecticut. He began his career at Bulkeley High School where he set a national record for strikeouts in a high school game. Taylor was nearly signed by the New York Yankees about fifteen years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, but instead he went on to throw a dozen no-hitters as an all-star in the Negro National League, the Mexican League and the Cuban League. When the Hartford Chiefs signed him in 1949, Taylor became the city’s first professional black athlete.

Johnny Taylor, 1933.

Born on February 4, 1916, to John and Etta Taylor, Johnny grew up in the South End of Hartford on Douglas Street and then Roosevelt Street. He learned baseball in city parks and sandlots. Taylor and his sandlot teammates earned a small wage by chasing down foul balls and home runs at Bulkeley Stadium by the likes of Lou Gehrig and Leo Durocher of the Hartford Senators. Not until Taylor’s senior year at Bulkeley High School did the right-hander pitch competitively.

Bulkeley High School, 1933.

Johnny Taylor had been snubbed by the Bulkeley baseball team as an underclassman. Alternatively, he pole-vaulted and high-jumped in track and field. When he made the Maroons baseball club as an upperclassman, Taylor joined a team comprised of an eventual major leaguer, Bob Repass and a future scout, Whitey Piurek. Bulkeley’s longtime head coach, Babe Allen, is credited with discovering the tall (6’0″) and slim (170 lbs.) Taylor who had a high leg-kick, a whip-arm, a lively fastball and a sharp “12-to-6” curveball.

1933 Bulkeley High School Baseball with Johnny Taylor (front row, second from left)

On April 28, 1933, Taylor won his first game against Hartford Public High School. Three days later he punched out 17 batters to defeat West Hartford High School. Then he tossed 19 strikeouts by the Hartford Hilltoppers, surpassing a record set by another Hartford native, Pete “Lefty” Naktenis. Taylor was also a proficient hitter, batting nearly .500 in his senior season. When the Maroons walloped an undefeated Weaver High School, he homered over the left field fence (claimed to be the longest high school home run at Bulkeley Stadium).

Johnny Taylor, Pitcher, Bulkeley High School, 1933.

In Taylor’s final high school game, he shattered his own single-game strikeout record with 25 strikeouts against New Britain High school, which remains a State of Connecticut record to this day. He won 8 games, finished with a .428 batting average and was named to the Greater Hartford Scholastic Team. The New York Yankees were interested in Hartford’s “Schoolboy.” However, when Yankees scout Gene McCann learned that Taylor was black, McCann suggested that he claim Cuban heritage since white baseball barred black players. The light-skinned Taylor refused to falsify his family lineage.

Johnny Taylor sets a Connecticut scholastic record with 25 strikeouts against New Britain High School, June 3, 1933.

After the Yankees passed on him, Taylor competed with Home Circle of the Hartford Twilight League. He twirled on the many diamonds of Colt Park on Wethersfield Avenue and at Bulkeley Stadium on Hanmer Street. At the stadium on September 10, 1933, about 5,000 fans witnessed a wild-throwing Taylor. He lost the game to his crosstown rival, Pete Naktenis. Later, Taylor joined forces with Naktenis, winning a New England amateur championship organized by the United States Amateur Baseball Association. 

Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1933.

The following year, Johnny Taylor continued to pitch on Connecticut’s semi-pro circuit. He hurled for Check Bread of the Hartford Twilight League, the Savitt Gems (Bill Savitt’s baseball club) and Yantic of the Norwich City League. On August 21, 1934, he fired his first no-hitter for the Northwest Athletic Club of Winsted. That winter, he turned down offers from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh of the Negro National League. Wanting to be closer to home, Taylor signed with the New York Cubans.

Johnny Taylor’s Negro League contracts, 1935.

Taylor and the Cubans played home games at Dyckman Oval on the northern edge of Manhattan. They were owned by Alex Pompez and business manager Frank Forbes, who signed Taylor for $175 per month and $2 per diem. New York’s player-manager was a versatile five-tool talent named Martín Dihigo, who directed several Cuban players including Alejandro Oms, Cocaina Garcia and Lazaro Salazar. Midway through the season, the Cubans scheduled an exhibition in Hartford with the Savitt Gems. Taylor shut out his hometown team while fanning fifteen.

Johnny Taylor (left) & business manager, Bernie Ellovich, Savitt Gems, Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1935.

According to existing records, Taylor had 55 strikeouts for the New York Cubans in 1935, a few behind his teammate Luis Tiant, Sr. New York went 28-24 on the year, finishing third place in the Negro National League. Yet they managed to win the second half of the season to qualify for the championship series. The Cubans faced a formidable opponent, the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Hall of Fame catcher, Josh Gibson. Taylor dropped the third game of the series, then New York blew Taylor’s lead in the sixth game, and they ultimately lost to Pittsburgh.

1935 New York Cubans (Johnny Taylor identified under “15”).

After the season, Johnny Taylor was elected to the Negro League All-Star team. On October 13, 1935, he faced Dizzy Dean‘s All-Stars at Yankee Stadium. An estimated crowd of 20,000 watched Taylor whiff seven batters in seven innings. This time, Josh Gibson was his battery mate. After Dizzy Dean pitched a 3-0 complete game shutout, he complimented Taylor for his breaking ball, saying it was one of the best “drop balls” he had ever seen.

Johnny Taylor, Pitcher, New York Cubans, 1935.

In 1936, Taylor received a $10 per month raise from the New York Cubans. He was their undisputed ace, with a 5-2 record and 58 strikeouts, second in the Negro National League to Satchel Paige of the Pittsburgh Crawfords. That June, the Cubans scheduled a rematch in Hartford to face the Savitt Gems. Taylor, the local star, struck out 18 to blank the Gems once again.

Johnny Taylor and the New York Cubans, 1935.

Encouraged by Dolf Luque, a pitcher for the New York Giants, Taylor tried his hand at winter ball in Cuba. He traveled from Hartford to Miami and boarded a steamship for Havana in November of 1936. Taylor joined Martín Dihigo’s Marianao club at Havana’s Tropical Stadium. He struggled that season due to a serious back injury caused by a street trolley accident. Nevertheless, Taylor was popular with fans and was nicknamed “El Rey de Hartford” (translated to King of Hartford).

Johnny Taylor in Havana, Cuba, 1936.

When the New York Cubans dropped out of the Negro National League in 1937, Taylor threw for the Savitt Gems. Hartford-based jeweler Bill Savitt paid him to pitch from April to October. Taylor and the Gems defeated Will Jackman and the Philadelphia Colored Giants on three separate occasions in Hartford. One game was a 20-inning marathon in which Taylor set down 22 batters via the strikeout.

Johnny Taylor, Pitcher, Savitt Gems, 1937.

Then on September 19, 1937, Taylor stunned the baseball world. As moundsman for the Negro National League All-Stars at the Polo Grounds, he tossed a no-hitter against Satchel Paige and the Trujillo All-Stars. After holding his opponents hitless through eight innings, Taylor retired George Scales, Spoony Palm and Cool Papa Bell in the bottom of the ninth. Taylor and his catcher Biz Mackey did not allow a runner to reach third base.

“Good ballplayer. Yes, I hit against him. Didn’t get much on it.”

Buck O’Neil on Johnny Taylor
Johnny Taylor (right) after tossing no-hitter for the Negro National League All-Stars against Satchel Paige’s Trujillo All-Stars, Polo Grounds, New York, September 19, 1937.

Taylor’s no-hitter made him a desirable free agent. He planned on returning to New York but wound up signing with Pittsburgh for $400 per month. Crawfords owner Gus Greenlee preferred Taylor instead of re-signing Satchel Paige. Taylor turned in an excellent season with 11 wins, while batting .368 as a utility man. He was one of league’s top players and participated in the 1938 East-West Negro League All-Star Game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.

Negro League All-Star Game at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, (Taylor, standing second from left) 1938.

During the winters of 1938 and 1939, Johnny Taylor appeared for the Santa Clara Leopards of the Cuban League. The Leopards nabbed the pennant with Taylor on the mound and Josh Gibson behind the plate. Around this time, the Mexican League lured Negro Leaguers like Taylor with higher salaries. For $600 a month he became the ace of the Cordoba Cafeteros. He tossed for an 11-1 record, a 1.19 earned run average and was a local folk hero in Cordoba.

“Man, did he have good stuff! Taylor would have been a major leaguer for sure if he hadn’t come along before they allowed colored boys to play in organized baseball.”

Roy Campanella on Johnny Taylor
L to R: Indian Torres, Cocaina Garcia, Lazaro Salazar, Johnny Taylor, and Ray Brown, pitchers of the Santa Clara Leopards, Cuban Winter League, 1938.

In the summer of 1939, an eight team semi-pro loop formed known as the Connecticut State Baseball League. Taylor pitched for the New Britain entry against New London on Memorial Day weekend. Because he was a man of color, the New London club protested the game. Subsequently, the league banned black players. Without comment on the matter, Taylor returned to the Negro Leagues and pitched sporadically for the New York Cubans in 1940. He also appeared for the Homestead Grays and the Newark Eagles with his regular catcher, Josh Gibson.

1939 Cordoba Cafeteros of Mexican League (Johnny Taylor identified as number “3”).

By winter, Taylor was back in Mexico. This time he joined the Veracruz Azules. The club owner, Jorge Pasquel, was a teetotaling liquor magnate who paid more Negro League teams. Pasquel bought Taylor a new suit each time he pitched a shutout. In 1941 with Veracruz, Taylor won 13 games while striking out 115. The club would be remembered as one of the finest Mexican League outfits of all-time.

“A tall good-looking right-hander with the damnedest overhand curveball you ever did see.”

Monte Irvin on Johnny Taylor
Johnny Taylor, 1940.

Taylor once told Bill Lee, sports editor of the Hartford Courant, of his difficulties in the high altitude of Mexico City. His fastball didn’t have the same zip and his curve seemed to forget to bend. In September of 1941, he made a visit to Hartford with a team of Mexican League All-Stars led by Josh Gibson, Sam Bankhead, Ray Dandridge and Willie Wells. They squared off against the Savitt Gems, who started Pete Naktenis. Taylor and his All-Stars won in ten innings, as Taylor rung up 15 batsmen.

Johnny Taylor, Veracruz Azules, Mexican League, 1946.

When America entered World War II, Taylor returned to Connecticut to work for United Aircraft in East Hartford. He continued to pitch for the New York Cubans on weekends. During the war years, he also tossed for the Savitt Gems, Fred Davey’s Waterbury team and Highland Lake Athletic Club of Winsted. Taylor went back to Mexico to suit up for Monterey after the war. This time he brought his wife, Estelle and son, John Jr. Estelle Singleton Taylor was a respected maternity nurse and the first black nurse at New Britain General Hospital.

1946 Veracruz Azules – Johnny Taylor (4th from right) and Josh Gibson (4th from left).

Taylor hurled for Veracruz of the Mexican League until 1946, when he suffered an arm injury. At the time, the Mexican League sought to compete with Major League Badeball. White players like Danny Gardella, Sal Maglie and Mickey Owen signed with teams south of the border. Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler blacklisted them for five years. The Negro National League handed five-year bans to eight players, including Johnny Taylor and Ray Dandridge. The suspensions were later shortened, though Taylor’s professional career was coming to a close.

Johnny Taylor, Hartford Chiefs, 1949

That was until 1949, when Taylor signed with the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League. In doing so he became Hartford’s first black player in organized baseball. He went 6-7 with the Chiefs, mainly in relief. The minor league club released Taylor in November. He later made his final pitching appearances in Hartford Twilight League old-timer games, alongside Pete Naktenis and Walter “Monk” Dubiel.

“Schoolboy” Johnny Taylor (left) and Satchel Paige, 1950.

After baseball, Taylor raised four children with his wife and worked for his father’s construction business. Taylor also became a trailblazer in the game of golf. He had learned to play golf as a teenager at Hartford’s Goodwin Park. Taylor frequented Edgewood in Cromwell (no known as TPC Cromwell), and he studied Ben Hogan’s book The Fundamentals of Modern Golf. Taylor was one of the first black men in Connecticut to hold a handicap card. He was made an Edgewood member in 1959, a year after Jackie Robinson had been denied membership at High Ridge Country Club in Stamford, Connecticut.

L to R: Johnny Taylor, Walter Elliot and Pete Naktenis, 1958.
L to R: Monk Dubiel, George Balf, Frank Strong and Johnny Taylor, 1969.

In 1975, the Boston Red Sox were World Series bound, and Taylor planned a trip to meet an old teammate, Luis Tiant Sr. The dictatorship of Cuba allowed Tiant to travel to watch his son, Luis Tiant Jr. pitch at Fenway Park. Taylor and Tiant Sr. had a tearful reunion. A dozen years later, Johnny Taylor passed away after a battle with cancer. His memory lives on as a character in Mark Winegardner’s novel, The Veracruz Blues and as the namesake of Johnny Taylor Field in Hartford’s Colt Park (dedicated 2020).

John “Johnny” “Jackson” “Schoolboy” Arthur Taylor (1916-1987)

Sources

SABR article by Jon Daly, February of 2011.

Hartford Courant

Hartford Times

Alexander, Charles C. Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Hogan, Lawrence D. Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006.

Holway, John. The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues—The Other Half of Baseball History. Fern Park, Florida: Hastings House Publishers, 2001.

Lanctot, Neil. Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

Ribowsky, Mark. A Complete History of the Negro Leagues, 1884 to 1955. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995.

Bonus Photo Gallery

Remembering Allan Garray, an All-Time Great

Last year, GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee Allan Garray passed away. His involvement in the Twi-loop spanned three decades. Garray’s baseball career first began as a promising catcher at Nonnewaug High School in Andover, Connecticut. He matriculated to UConn Avery Point and set the school record for batting average (.536 in 1976). Then he transferred up to the University of Connecticut for three seasons (1977-79).

1977 University of Connecticut Baseball Team

Garray excelled at UConn under Head Coach, Larry Panciera and became a formidable catcher with help from Assistant Coach, Andy Baylock. He was a starter for the Huskies’ first College World Series run in 1979. Garray posted a .291 career batting average at Storrs. In the summer months, he played in the Cape Cod Baseball League. After a spectacular college campaign, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 34th round of the 1979 MLB Draft.

Allan Garray, University of Connecticut, 1979.

Garray caught in the Gulf Coast League and in the South Atlantic League, however, a fastball to the eye was said to have ended his professional career. In 1982, he appeared in an all-star game against the GHTBL with the Waterbury Twi-Met league and was recruited by GHTBL’s Tom Abbruzzese. With Garray behind the plate in 1983, Abbruzzese’s Society for Savings club claimed the pennant. In five summers with the “Bankers” Garray batted .338 with 23 home runs and 98 RBI. He won two Season Titles, two Playoff Championships and the 1985 Bud Mahon Award for Most Valuable Player.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 29, 1986.

In 1994, Garray founded the New England SportsPlex in Vernon, Connecticut. It was a 14-acre complex made up of softball fields, volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. That same year, he was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame by its director, Jack Repass. The recognition may have convinced Garray to make a comeback to the diamond. At 38 years old Garray joined up with Gene Johnson’s Newman Lincoln-Mercury franchise (previously known as Moriarty Brothers).

Hartford Courant excerpt, April 23, 1994.

As Newman’s Designated Hitter, Garray captured a GHTBL Playoff Championship in 1997 and back-to-back Season Titles in 1999 and 2000. Then he was honored as an inductee of the UConn Avery Point Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. He continued to play locally while operating a pension consulting firm in Rocky Hill. Garray was an avid “Sunday leaguer” who competed in the Over 30 World Series and Over 40 World Series. He also served as an umpire for amateur loops throughout the state.

Allan Garray, Umpire, Palmer Field, Middletown, CT, 1998.

Allan Garay returned to the GHTBL yet again in 2004, establishing Monaco Ford, an expansion team out of Glastonbury, Connecticut. The club briefly fielded Major League slugger AJ Pollock during the summer of 2008. Baseball talent seemed to flock to Allan Garray, a lifelong contributor to the GHTBL and one the league’s all-time catchers. The league sends our best to Allan’s family and friends.

Allan Garray

We play because we love the game.

Allan Garray

Managers Pick 2022 GHTBL All-Star Team

GHTBL is pleased to announce the top Twi-loop players from our 2022 campaign. League managers from every franchise have recently convened to vote on the GHTBL All-Star team. This season, 25 players have been selected. These All-Stars have been invited to participate in an interleague matchup against the Connecticut Twilight League All-Stars on Friday, August 19, 2022, at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut. At 6:00 PM there will be a Home Run Derby featuring GHTBL and CTL players. Then, around 7:30 PM, the All-Star Game will commence.

Congratulations to the following players on being named 2022 GHTBL All-Stars:

Cardinals
Evan Wilkinson, OF (9)
Colts
Dan Livingston, P (9)
Nick Landell, SS (5)
Nick Flammia, OF (7)
Expos
Justin Marks, P/OF (7)
AJ Hendrickson, P/C/OF (9)
Will Kszywanos, 1B (7)
Graphics
Ryan Callanan, P (5)
Evan Chamberlain, P/3B (9)
Dan Steiner, C (5)
Greeners
AJ Lorenzetti, C/OF (5)
Jets
Bryan Albee, P (9)
Jim Schult, P/OF (9)
Corey Plasky, 2B (7)
Nate Viera, 3B (5)
Jeff Criscuolo, SS (8)
Orioles
Matt Curtis, P (7)
Matt Cleveland, P (9)
Tony Trubia, SS (6)
Jimmy Titus, 1B (9)
Nick Roy, OF (7)
People’s
Willy Yahn, SS (9)
Brendan Lynch, 3B (9)
Phillies
Trevor Moulton, P (6)
Aedin Wadja, 2B (7)
(Number of manager votes in parentheses)

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

Expos & Jets, Regular Season Co-champions

Now that the 2022 Regular Season has come to a close, the Record-Journal Expos (18-6) and the East Hartford Jets (18-6) have agreed to split the Season Title. Both managers elected to share a co-championship this year. According to GHTBL By-laws this scenario takes place when two teams tie for first place in the standings:

VIII. Postseason Playoff 

C. In the result of a tie for Regular Season champion, a one game playoff will be scheduled to determine the champion. This game may be eliminated if both managers agree to a co-championship. If a co-Championship is elected, then seeding for the playoff will defer to:

  • 1) The Co-Champions head-to-head regular season record.
  • 2) If the head-to-head record also result in a tie seeding will then default to a coin flip conducted by the Executive Committee.

D. Season records determine the remaining seedings. If there is a tie for any seeding, regular season head-to-head record will prevail; if head-to-head record results in a tie a coin flip will then be implemented conducted by the Executive Committee. If there is more than two teams for any seeding position the process then be selected by lot. 

The Expos swept all three games from the Jets this summer, therefore Record-Journal will be the top seed in the upcoming Playoff Tournament. The playoff bracket is published on the homepage of www.GHTBL.org (scroll towards bottom).

As a recap of the Record-Journal Expos at M&T People’s game last night here’s an original article by Ron Buck, Special to the Record-Journal:

R-J Expos drop regular season finale, but still lay claim to Greater Hartford Twilight pennant.

HARTFORD — Even in defeat, the Record-Journal Expos won Thursday night.

Already secure in the knowledge they had wrapped up the No. 1 seed in next week’s Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League playoffs, the Expos dropped their regular-season finale 1-0 to People’s Bank at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

The loss prevented the Expos from winning the regular season outright and ended a six-game winning streak by the Meriden squad. The Expos finished the regular season 18-6.

People’s Bank, which scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the sixth inning, finished the season 14-9.

The Expos’ regular-season record is good enough to be, at the least, co-champions with the East Hartford Jets. The Jets (17-6) were on their way to tying the Expos for the regular-season title. At press time, they were leading the Hartford Colts 7-0 in the fourth inning of Thursday night’s nightcap of the Twilight Stadium Series 4 Sandy Hook Promise

The Expos, however, will earn the playoff’s top seed via a sweep of the Jets during the regular season. Looking to win Meriden’s first GHTBL tournament title since the Meriden Merchants went all the way in 2014, the Expos begin their quest Tuesday night at Palmer Field.

This is the second regular-season championship for player/manager Charlie Hesseltine, who saw his club win the 2019 pennant.

“The 1 seed was more important to us,” said Hesseltine. “I would have been nice to win. Justin (Marks) pitched great. Our bats were (just) hit and miss.” 

“But playing at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, everyone is trying to square one up and hit it a mile. It was a fun game,” added Hesseltine.

The Expos had one regular-season contest remaining — a game with People’s Bank on Tuesday at Ceppa Field was suspended by rain tied 2-2 in the top of the third — but they voted after Thursday’s game to forfeit the makeup. The decision was based on both teams’ desire to save their pitching for the playoffs.

“Our goal from the beginning of the year was to win the (postseason) championship,” said Hesseltine. “Regular-season standings never really matter because you have to beat everyone in the playoffs, but we played well all season.”

“We have four solid arms,” he added. “So as long as we hit, we have four pitchers for four games (in the playoffs).”

Marks, a tall lefty from Woodland High School, has shown why the Expos have the arms to win it all this season. He entered the game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park at a perfect 4-0 on the season with a 1.54 ERA, and he threw four more scoreless innings Thursday.

Marks hit the mid-to-high 80s in striking out seven.

“Our mindset is we got our loss out of the way (tonight) and we are ready for the playoffs” said Marks, who was making his seventh start of the season. “Tonight gives us confidence that we can beat anyone.”

Hesseltine picked up where Marks left off and struck out the side in the fifth inning.

People’s Bank scored, however, in the sixth after Hesseltine pitch brushed the jersey of Willy Yahm, who stole second and scored on a single by Brandon Lynch.

The Expos had their chances to score and, even in their final at-bat in the seventh, put a runner at second base with two outs via a ground-rule double by A.J. Hendrickson.

But Jason Sullivan struck out to end the game.

The Expos managed just four hits against four People’s Bank pitchers. And when they did come up with a few early hits, aggressiveness on the base paths were costly. A pair of Expos were thrown out at the plate in the third inning. 

Johnny Walter was out attempting to score from first base on Nhasean Murphy’s double into the left-field corner. Murphy was later called out at the plate on a close play trying to score after Sebby Grignano grounded out to shortstop.

The Expos also threatened in the second. Hendrickson singled sharply to left to start the inning. Sullivan then lined out to left field ahead of Shawn Remillard, who was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. 

Hendrickson moved to third base on Remillard’s ball into the right-center gap, but Will Kszywanos grounded out to third base to end the inning.

People’s Bank had its own struggles at the plate, managing just three hits off Marks and Hesseltine. The Expos’ hurlers allowed just two runners to reach second base before People’s broke through in the sixth inning.

This is the second regular-season title for the Expos in four years. The Expos, however, lost in the 2019 playoffs as the top seed. The Vernon Orioles won it all that year, while the Jets have won the past two championships.

“This year is a different group of guys,” said Kszywanos, who played for the 2019 Expos. “We are younger, more resilient and have a lot more chemistry.

“We have been together for so long, since Legion days,” added the first baseman. “And some of the younger guys are really stepping up at the plate. But pitching is going to win it, and Justin has been lights out. If we can string five or six hits together, we’ll be fine.”

The Jets and Vernon Orioles had been chasing the Expos all season. The O’s lost Wednesday night to the Wallingford Cardinals and finished 17-7. With a win later Thursday night, the Jets (17-6) were poised to earned the No. 2 seed.

Visit Record-Journal.com for more stories on the Expos from this season.

Massicotte No-hits Cardinals

On Friday night, Jeff Massicotte steered the Record-Journal Expos to the franchise’s first no-hitter in nearly a decade. Massicotte’s gem came against the Wallingford Cardinals in an 8-0 victory. Massicotte is going to be a senior next year at St. Peter’s University where he plays Division-I ball. He’s from Meriden, Connecticut, and graduated from Maloney High School. He has been a part-time member of the Record-Journal Expos since 2016.

The last time a no-hitter was thrown by the Expos, it Kevin Jefferis in 2013, when the club was called the Connecticut Expos. Today, the team is currently a game back from the first place East Hartford Jets.

Eastern’s World Series Winners

Recently, five GHTBL alumni were victorious on the national stage for Eastern Connecticut State University. Bryan Albee, Jack Rich, Zach Donahue, Aidan Dunn and Andres Jose earned a D-III College World Series Championship ring over LaGrange University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Congratulations to Head Coach Brian Hamm, who has captured Eastern’s fifth national title. Guided by Hamm, Albee, Rich, Donahue, Jose and Dunn have become proven winners, on and off the field. GHTBL is grateful to have these men as representatives of our league.

Graduating senior Bryan Albee plans to pitch for the East Hartford Jets, who are currently in first place in the GHTBL standings. Albee nabbed the Mike Abbruzzese Award for Outstanding Playoff Pitcher last season with the Jets. Jack Rich is also aboard the Record-Journal Expos as their perennial all-star outfielder. Last year, Jack was the Frank McCoy Award winner for Most Valuable Player in the league.

Want to rewatch the clinching World Series game? CLICK HERE

Nick Hock Hired to Minor League Post

Recently, Hartford Colts ace, Nick Hock accepted a job with the Baltimore Orioles organization. This spring Hock will ship out to Salisbury, Maryland, to work for the Delmarva Shorebirds of the Single-A Carolina League. He’ll be a member of the Player Development Department serving as an assistant to the coaching staff. Hock also expects to throw batting practice and simulated games. Shorebird home games are played at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Hailing from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Hock has played twilight ball for the last five years. He’s thrown 252.2 innings, tallying 215 strikeouts, 9 complete games and 3 shutouts. Hock was named a GHTBL All-Star three times and won the Mike Liappes Award for Most Valuable Pitcher in 2020. Please join us in congratulating Nick Hock on his next baseball chapter!

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:

Hall of Fame Inductee, Doc Bidwell, Ace of the Twilight League

David “Doc” Bidwell is the career wins leader of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. As a tall and imposing right-handed pitcher, he struck out countless twi-loop batters for more than forty years. Bidwell was a longtime pupil of GHTBL legend, Gene Johnson. Doc and Gene won several championships at the helm of Moriarty Brothers, Newman Lincoln-Mercury and the Foss Insurance franchise. Altogether, Bidwell achieved ten season titles, eleven playoff championships and a reputation as an all-time twilight pitcher.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave Bidwell (left) with Gene Johnson, 2014.

Bidwell was born in Manchester, Connecticut, on July 5, 1956, to Ted and Betty Bidwell. He once described his parents as, “My biggest fans, who probably saw ninety percent of our games, only missing some when they went to New Hampshire for vacation.” As a youngster, Bidwell was a standout player for Manchester High School and Manchester Legion. In a Legion game on July 8, 1974, he threw a perfect game with nine strikeouts against Ellington.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
1974 Manchester High School Varsity Baseball

The following year, Bidwell became a freshman pitcher at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Then he joined player-manager Gene Johnson and the Manchester-based Moriarty Brothers. Bidwell, a rookie, and Pete Sala, a former professional, overpowered the competition. Moriarty Brothers of 1975 proved to be one of the greatest teams in league history. They lost just four games on the year, winning the season title and sweeping the playoffs.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Moriarty Comets Win Playoff Championship, Hartford Courant, August 29, 1975.

In 1978, Bidwell took his Assumption College team to the NCAA Division-II Regional Tournament. The Greyhounds lost to Porky Viera‘s University of New Haven in Bidwell’s final game at Assumption. He posted a 19-11 win-loss record in four college seasons, ranking among Assumption’s best pitchers across multiple statistical categories. Bidwell became a proud member of the Assumption College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave “Doc” Bidwell, Pitcher, Assumption College, 1978.

Throughout college, Bidwell played summer ball in the GHTBL. He had perfect 10-0 record in 1985 and in 1988. When Moriarty Brothers changed their named to Newman Lincoln-Mercury in 1990, Bidwell toed the rubber as their ace. He steered the Newman club to seven championships. Bidwell was a baseball junkie, who also pitched on Sundays for the Connecticut Men’s Senior Baseball League. In 1994, his talents were recognized by the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame. At the induction ceremony, Bidwell credited his brother Mel for being his spring training catcher.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Bidwell shuts out Malloves Jewelers, June 14, 1990.
Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave “Doc” Bidwell, Pitcher, Newman Lincoln-Mercury, 1994.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound hurler threw in the high-80 mile per hour range for the first leg of his career. Later, Bidwell developed into a pitcher who confused hitters with various speeds and the occasional knuckleball. He tossed for dozens of winning ball clubs under manager Gene Johnson. Some of Bidwell’s teammates included Steve Chotiner, Corky Coughlin and Mike Susi. Veteran players like Bidwell were the backbone of the Newman Lincoln-Mercury franchise, which became Foss Insurance in 2004 when Mark and Jane Foss signed on as sponsors.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Corky Coughlin & Bidwell (right), Newman Lincoln-Mercury, 2001.
Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave Bidwell, Pitcher, Foss Insurance, 2009.

In late 2014, Gene Johnson passed away, leaving a giant baseball legacy. Bidwell and the Foss Insurance team were determined to win a championship in Johnson’s memory. He promptly stepped into the role of manager and guided Foss Insurance to the 2015 playoff championship. Bidwell finally retired in 2017 after a 43-year twilight league career. He handed the team over to player-manager, Mark DiTommaso who gave way to Tyler Repoli, the current player-manager of the same franchise – the Manchester-based, Rainbow Graphics.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Bidwell (top, left) with Foss Insurance, Playoff Champions, 2015.

Bidwell, a 12-time All-Star, was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in 2018. Bidwell’s journeyman career was one of the best amateur feats in Greater Hartford baseball history. According to Bidwell, he won, “More than 250 games and lost about 80…a few no-decisions, but not many.” In recent years, Dave has been spotted attending GHTBL playoff games as a fan.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave Bidwell, Pitcher, Marlborough Braves, 2017.

Outside of baseball, Bidwell obtained a political science degree from Assumption College in 1979. Since 1981, he’s an employee at Kaman Aerospace in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Bidwell has been an avid music fan and concert goer for most of his adult life. He now resides in Manchester, Connecticut, and is a father of two daughters. Join us in congratulating “Doc” on an incredible baseball career.

In the Day of Louis Sockalexis

Major League debut: April 22, 1897
Position: Right Fielder
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Born: October 24, 1871 in Indian Island, Maine
Died: December 24, 1913 in Burlington, Maine
Education: University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana) & College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Massachusetts)

Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Holy Cross, 1894
Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Holy Cross, 1894.

In 1899, the Hartford Base Ball Club of the Class-A Eastern League signed outfielder, Louis Francis Sockalexis. He was the first Native American to play professional baseball and the first person of color to play for Hartford. When he arrived in Hartford, Sockalexis was noticeably overweight and battling an alcohol addiction. Also called “Sock” or “Sox,” he was once a five-tool outfielder who experienced a meteoric rise and fall during the Deadball Era.

Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Holy Cross, 1899
Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Holy Cross, 1899.

Sockalexis hailed from Indian Island, Maine and was a member of the Penobscot tribe. His athletic gifts earned him acceptance to College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he excelled in baseball, football and track. He then followed his Holy Cross baseball coach and transferred to University of Norte Dame. He played both outfield and pitcher while at Holy Cross and Notre Dame. In a sign of things to come, Sockalexis was expelled from Notre Dame in his first semester for consuming alcohol.

L to R: Louis Sockalexis, Dr. M.R. Powers and Walter Curley, Holy Cross, 1895.
L to R: Louis Sockalexis, Dr. M.R. Powers and Walter Curley, Holy Cross, 1895.

Fortunately for Sockalexis, Cy Young‘s Cleveland Spiders signed him to a major league contract on March 9, 1897. Sockalexis was so popular in Cleveland that fans and reporters later claimed him to be the source of the controversial “Indians” nickname. In his first big league season, Sockalexis appeared in 66 games, had a .338 batting average with three home runs, 42 RBI and 16 stolen bases. On July 1, 1897, he had five base hits in a game against St. Louis. Yet, a few days later, he got drunk, jumped from the second-story of a brothel and severely injured his ankle, which would affect his play and reputation.

Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Cleveland, 1897.
Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Cleveland, 1897.

Sockalexis struggled to regain his old form amid two more seasons in Cleveland. After being arrested for public drunkenness at a theatre, Cleveland released him in late May of 1899. A week later, Sockalexis landed with Hartford. Burdened by alcoholism, he slumped in the Charter Oak City. He hit for a .198 batting average in 91 at bats. His brief time in Hartford lasted about a month before manager Billy Barnie traded him to Bristol of the Connecticut State League.

Hartford signs Sockalexis, 1899.
Hartford signs Sockalexis, 1899.

Bristol eventually unloaded Sockalexis to Waterbury that same year. He ended the season with a .320 batting average. The Waterbury club wanted him back for the following season, but Sockalexis returned to Maine. A series of news reports detailed his arrests for public drunkenness, and the former baseball star was reduced to homelessness and vagrancy. He served intermittent time in jail but made a comeback in 1902 with Lowell of the New England League. At 30 years old, Sockalexis hit for a .288 average in his lone season with Lowell.

Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Lowell, 1902.
Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Lowell, 1902.

In 1907, Sockalexis signed his last baseball contract. He appeared with the Bangor club of the Maine State League. Sockalexis then found work as a lumberjack and lived at Penobscot Indian Island Reservation. He also piloted a ferryboat on which he enjoyed reading The Sporting News and newspapers left behind by passengers. Sockalexis continued to show interest in baseball, playing on amateur teams, coaching and umpiring.

Louis Sockalexis (bottom, left) on the Bangor Baseball Club, Maine League, 1907.
Louis Sockalexis (bottom, left) on the Bangor Baseball Club, Maine League, 1907.

He eventually stopped drinking to excess, but was not in the best of health. Sockalexis suffered from attacks of rheumatism and looked older than his age. In the fall of 1913, he joined a logging crew harvesting the northern woods of Maine. While felling a pine tree on Christmas Eve, he suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 42. Louis Sockalexis was buried in St. Anne Church Cemetery on Indian Island, Maine.

Burial Site of Louis Sockalexis, Indian Island, Maine.
Burial Site of Louis Sockalexis, Indian Island, Maine.

Today, Sockalexis is remembered as a pioneering figure. As the first Native American in the major leagues, he blazed a trail amidst widespread prejudice. Fans in various cities hollered racist epithets and made ignorant gestures towards Sockalexis throughout his career. Like Charles Bender, Jim Thorpe and Jackie Robinson, Sockalexis endured cruel discrimination while playing the game he loved. Though alcoholism did him in, Louis Sockalexis prevailed over racial attitudes of the time and momentarily achieved, baseball greatness.

Sources:

  1. Statistics: https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/sockach01.shtml
  2. SABR Bio: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/2b1aea0a
  3. Louis Sockalexis – Remembering Now and Forever: http://sockalexis.net/

Jack Rich, Most Valuable Player of 2021

Back in September of this year, outfielder/relief pitcher, Jack Rich of the Record-Journal Expos was unanimously voted Most Valuable Player of the Regular Season by league managers. The Expos were 10-8 on the season and 3-2 in the playoff tournament. Jack batted an impressive .475 while appearing in all 18 games with the Meriden-based franchise. In 59 at bats, he had 28 hits, 9 runs, a home run, 22 RBI and a league-leading 9 doubles. He also pitched 9 innings in relief. Jack has been a mainstay for the Expos since 2019.

Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2020.
Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2019.
Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2020.
Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2019.
Jack Rich featured in Record-Journal, 2021.

Jack Rich grew up in South Meriden, Connecticut, playing baseball and basketball. He’s a graduate of Wilcox Technical High School and now attends Eastern Connecticut State University. As a key part of the Warriors baseball team, Jack has compiled a .315 batting average with 4 home runs, 49 RBI and a .399 on base percentage thus far during his college career. He will begin his senior year this coming spring, seeking a Little East Conference title and a Division-III College World Series.

Jack Rich makes the All-Star team, 1997.

Bill Masse, A Baseball Life

Manchester, Connecticut’s Bill Masse was a baseball careerist, an Olympic gold medalist and a minor league insider. He spent 9 seasons in the minors as an outfielder, 13 years as a coach, another 13 years as a scout and one year in a Hollywood movie. Masse’s story began at East Catholic High School in Manchester, CT, where he won a State Championship in 1983. The following year, he led the Eagles to a conference title and was selected to the Class-L All-Star Team.

Connecticut’s Class-L All-Star Team, 1984.

After an impressive tenure with Manchester’s American Legion Post 102, Masse joined the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. In the summer of 1984, he was a rookie in the Moriarty Brothers lineup and won the Season Title and Playoff Championship. Masse went 10 for 13 at the plate with 12 runs to secure the Playoff MVP. He matriculated to Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, and made instant waves in his freshman year as a leadoff center fielder.

Masse secures Playoff MVP and GHTBL Playoff Championship for Moriarty Brothers, 1984.

In 1985, Masse snatched the Southern Conference batting title with a .430 batting average. He tied Davidson’s single-season home run record (10) and set the school record for stolen bases (28). The 19 year old Masse earned All-Conference laurels and the SoCon Freshman Player of the Year Award. Masse achieved another All-Conference season in 1987 at Davidson and was honored as an American Baseball Coaches Association All-American.

Masse hits grand slam to defeat UConn, 1987.

Throughout his college years Masse spent summers aboard the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. He performed exceptionally, earning two Cape League All-Star nods (1985 and 1987). Masse was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 12th round of the 1987 MLB Draft, but he pursued a dream to compete in the Olympics. Team USA Baseball recruited Masse for the Intercontinental Cup of 1987 and he mashed a .317 batting average with 3 long balls. Along with teammates, Robin Ventura, Tino Martinez and Charles Nagy, Masse won the silver medal.

Bill Masse, Outfielder, Team USA, 1987.

Soon thereafter, Masse transferred to Wake Forest University to play for his Cape League coach, George Greer. Masse batted .422 for the Demon Deacons in his senior year. He wrapped 24 homers with 77 RBI, 83 runs and 35 steals in 58 games. Masse was sixth in NCAA Division-I in total bases (197) and named a 1st Team All-American. At the 1988 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees picked him in the 7th round, however Masse decided to forgo professional baseball once again, in favor of international competition.

BIll Masse, Outfielder, Wake Forest University, 1988.

Though he was offered a roster spot in Double-A, Masse choose to reappear on Team USA. As the regular right fielder, he hit .200 and scored 11 runs in 11 games at the 1988 Baseball World Cup in which Team USA finished runner-up to Cuba. A few weeks later, Team USA seized first place at 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, wherein Masse had a .314 batting average. To this day, he remains the only person from Manchester, Connecticut, to win an Olympic gold medal.

Bill Masse makes public appearance after winning Olympic Gold Medal, Manchester, Connecticut, 1988.

In 1989, Masse finally reported to the minor leagues with the New Yankees organization. He was assigned to the Prince William Cannons along with his high school teammate, Larry Stanford. Masse batted .239 for the Cannons with a league-high 89 walks. After splitting the 1990 season between Fort Lauderdale and Albany, he served a full season with Albany in 1991. That year, he deposited a .295 batting average and led the Eastern League in on base percentage.

Bill Masse, Outfielder, Prince William Cannons, 1989.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Albany Yankees, 1990.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Albany Yankees, 1991.

Masse eventually earned a promotion to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in 1992. He swatted new career-highs in 1993: a .316 batting average, 81 runs scored, 91 RBI, 19 home runs, 17 stolen bases and a league-high, 82 walks. He finished fourth in the International League in batting average and second to Jim Thome in on base percentage. Masse was named an All-Star and bestowed with Player of the Year among Yankees farmhands.

“I feel like I deserve to go up because I’ve proved myself all year. I feel like I could go up there and perform if I could just get my chance.”

Bill Masse, Hartford Courant, 1993.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Columbus Clippers, 1993.

Though he would never reach the majors, Masse competed alongside several legendary Yankees including Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. After a taste of the big leagues during Spring Training, Buck Showalter cut Masse from New York’s 40-man roster. In 1995, the Yankees released him after 47 games with Columbus. The following year, the Boston Red Sox signed Masse to a minor league contract, though back problems prevented him from continuing.

Bill Masse, Outfielder, Columbus Clippers, 1993.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Columbus Clippers, 1994.

In 1998, Masse was cast as the character of Mike Robinson in Kevin Costner’s “For the Love of the Game.” Then he pivoted to coaching and became an assistant coach at his alma mater, Wake Forest. Masse spent four years in the Montreal Expos system working his way up from hitting coach to manager. The New York Yankees organization welcomed him back as hitting coach of the Tampa Yankees in 2001. He managed the Greensboro Bats in 2002 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Bill Masse, Manager, Vermont Expos, 1997.
Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Vermont Expos, 1997.

In 2003, Masse went back to manage the Tampa Yankees and stayed in that position until the end of 2004. Then he was promoted to manager of the Trenton Thunder in 2005. Next, he managed the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2007 and then the San Antonio Missions in 2008. MLB All-Stars such as Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera developed in the minors under Masse’s watch.

Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Tampa Yankees, 2001.
Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Tampa Yankees, 2003.
Bill Masse, Manager, Tampa Yankees, 2004.

“I turned over a TV, a microwave, a coffee pot. It cost me a little bit of money. It was not a pretty sight. It was ugly. But it worked.”

Bill Masse recalls a successful clubhouse tactic in 2007.
Bill Masse, Manager, Trenton Thunder, 2006.
Bill Masse, Manager, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 2007.

In 2009, Masse concluded his on-field career as hitting coach for the Double-A Binghamton Mets and the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He pursued a new role as a scout for the Seattle Mariners. From 2011 to 2013, he was Seattle’s Eastern Supervisor of Pro Scouting. Around this time, Masse owned a training facility in Hartford, Connecticut, once known as Baseball City. When Derek Jeter became President of the Miami Marlins in 2017, Masse sold his business and accepted a new scouting role from his former teammate, Jeter.

Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Binghamton Mets, 2009.

Former Hartford Courant sports editor, Ed Yost, once ranked Bill Masse among the ten best male athletes from Manchester. Masse’s spectacular baseball career garnered him an induction into the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame. His family resides in Manchester. His sons, Easton and Rowan Masse, play baseball and hockey at Westminster School in Simsbury, CT. Bill Masse continues to work as a scout for the Miami Marlins.

Bill Masse (right), East Catholic High School Class of 1983 with his coach, Jim Penders Sr., 2021.

Sources

  1. Bill Masse player profile on Baseball-Reference.com
  2. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com

Bernie Williams Began his Career in the Twilight League

Before achieving stardom with the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams spent a summer in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. The story started when Williams was 16 years old. He was discovered by Yankees scout Roberto Rivera in Puerto Rico, however the right-handed outfielder was too young to sign a contract. The Yankees decided to stash Williams in Connecticut at Big League Baseball Camp on the campus of Cheshire Academy. His camp instructor, Frank Mohr, recruited Williams to play for GHTBL’s Katz Sports Shop team in the summer of 1985.

Bernie Williams’ signed Katz Sports Shop jersey, 1985.

As a teenaged prospect, Williams saw limited playing time in the twilight league among college-level competition. In 20 at bats for Katz Sports Shop, he had 4 hits. The team’s player-manager, Dave Katz once reminisced of Williams: “He was a really nice kid. He was shy, like he is now. He was so quiet, you didn’t even know he had a Spanish accent. Everybody on the team took to him. One thing does stick out in my mind. I hate to mention this; he dropped a routine fly ball in one game. But I remember my first baseman telling me that people at the camp said Bernie had all the tools.”

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1993.

The Yankees signed Williams as an undrafted free agent by September of 1985. It was the start of a 20-year professional career, solely with the Yankees. Williams played rookie ball in Florida’s Gulf Coast League and spent six years in the minors developing into a switch-hitter. He broke into the majors in 1991 and became a fixture in center field at Yankee Stadium until 2006.

Bernie Williams featured in Record-Journal, 1996.

Williams was a 4-time World Series champion with the second most postseason home runs (22) in major league history behind Manny Ramirez (29). Williams compiled a career .297 batting average, 287 home runs, 1,257 RBI, 1,366 runs scored, 449 doubles and a .990 fielding percentage. He earned five All-Star selections and four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger Award, the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award and the American League (AL) batting title in 1998.

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1998.
Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 2005.

Known for consistency and postseason heroics, Bernie Williams is considered one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. He is also an all-time New York Yankees great. The team honored Williams by retiring his uniform number (#51) and dedicating a plaque to him in Monument Park in 2015. Nowadays, he is an accomplished jazz guitarist. Following his retirement from baseball, Williams released two jazz albums and was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Record-Journal newspaper excerpt, 2015.

Author’s aside: The baseball world took Bernie Williams for granted. We did not realize the magnitude and depth of his career while he was an active player. What a story and what an interesting character. Much love Bernie!

Sources

  1. Bernie Williams page on Baseball-Reference.com

2. Record-Journal newspaper database on Newspapers.com.

Baseball Bloodlines: The Burnham Brothers

The Burnham brothers are two of the best baseball players ever to hail from South Windsor, Connecticut. Gary Burnham Jr. and Brett Burnham, sons of Deborah and Gary Burnham Sr. each had excellent playing careers. The Burnham’s became minor leaguers and traveled to world doing what they loved. Separated by six and a half years, the brother duo were heavily influenced by their grandfather, Ralph Giansanti Sr. and their uncle, Ralph Giansanti Jr. both of whom also played minor league baseball.

L to R: Gary Burnham Jr., Ralph Giasanti Sr. and Ralph Giansanti Jr. – painted by Gary Burnham Jr.

Gary Burnham Jr.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, on October 13, 1974, Gary Burnham displayed athletic promise from an early age. At 15, he was a left-handed prospect who corked a .500 batting average for American Legion Post 133 of South Windsor. To develop his skills against more experienced players, Gary also competed in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League in between his legion schedule. As a teenager, he manned the outfield and filled in at first base for the Moriarty Brothers franchise, managed by twilight legend Gene Johnson.

Gary Burnham (kneeling, 2nd from left), American Legion Post 133, South Windsor, 1989.
Gary Burnham, South Windsor American Legion, 1990.

Gary graduated from South Windsor High School where he earned four varsity letters in baseball and football. He captained South Windsor baseball to the Class-L State Championship in his senior year and was named All-Conference, All-State and All-American along with Gatorade’s CT High School Player of the Year. Gary also captured the Hugh Greer Award as Outstanding Athlete of South Windsor’s Class of 1993. He was then drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 22nd round of the 1993 Major League Baseball Draft but instead, Gary chose to accept an athletic scholarship to Clemson University in South Carolina. 

Gary Burnham projected as high draft pick, Hartford Courant excerpt, June 3, 1993.
Gary Burnham named state’s best, 1993.

As a freshman at Clemson, Gary started in left field and batted fifth and Clemson was ranked first in the nation during most of the 1994 season. In 1995, he spearheaded a College World Series run and achieved All-ACC and All-American honors. He walloped a .344 batting average and ranked second in NCAA Division-I with 27 doubles. That summer, the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod Baseball League tapped Gary to play in Massachusetts. After a formidable performance, he was selected to the 1995 Cape Cod League All-Star Game at Boston’s Fenway Park and secured MVP of the game.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Clemson University, 1994.

In 1996, Baseball America ranked Gary Burnham as the 56th “Best College Prospect” and 3rd Team Preseason All-American. He took Clemson to their second College World Series appearance and was voted to the All-ACC team. The Oakland A’s selected Gary in the 40th round of the 1996 MLB draft though again, he did not sign. Gary returned to the Cape Cod League with the Falmouth Commodores in the summertime. During his senior year, Gary led the Tigers in almost every offensive statistic and earned the team’s Most Valuable Player award. He hit .391 with 15 home runs, 82 RBI, 106 hits and concluded his college career by setting the program’s doubles record (77).

Gary Burnham trots home after walk-off homer against University of Alabama, 1996.

For a third time Gary was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies organization in the 22nd round of the 1997 MLB Draft. It was the start of a fourteen year professional career highlighted by eleven years in the minors and four years in Asia. Gary got his start in rookie ball on the Batavia Clippers of the New York-Pennsylvania League and led his club in base hits, batting average and total bases. In 1998, he was promoted to High-A ball with the Clearwater Phillies alongside Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell. Gary crashed a .296 batting average with 33 doubles, 10 triples and 93 runs, while leading Florida State League first basemen with a .994 fielding percentage.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Clearwater Phillies, 1998.

Gary won another promotion to the Double-A Reading Phillies in 1999, where he split time between first base and outfield. He compiled 12 home runs and 49 RBI over 116 games, though his batting average slumped to .249. The next season, Gary bounced back, hitting .268 with 28 doubles for Reading. In 2001, he suited up for a third season with Reading and hit .318 with 25 doubles and 15 homers. He had the best average in the Phillies farm system, which was third-best in the Eastern League.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Reading Phillies, 2001.

After five seasons with the Phillies organization, Gary ended up being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays during Spring Training of 2002. The Blue Jays gave the 27-year-old his first shot at the Triple-A level with the 2002 Syracuse SkyChiefs. Gary had a career year, hitting .281 with 151 base knocks, 34 doubles, 17 home runs and 88 RBI. He paced Syracuse in RBI and was chosen as the team’s MVP. He also led the Blue Jays organization with 238 total bases, was third in the International League in RBI and had the most assists among all first basemen.

Gary Burnham (right) and teammate, Kevin Cash, Syracuse SkyChiefs, 2002.

In 2003, Gary served as Toronto’s Triple-A backup plan for their star first baseman, Carlos Delgado. Gary carved out a .269 batting average for Syracuse with 9 home runs in an off-year. He then split the 2004 season between the St. Louis Cardinals’ Memphis Redbirds affiliate (.292 in 35 games) and the Cincinnati Reds’ Louisville Bats club (.261 in 69 games). In 2005, the 30-year-old southpaw played for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish. He led his team in runs (75), doubles (32), home runs (18) and RBI (84). Gary finished second in the Atlantic League with a .320 batting average. He was saluted with All-Star honors and awarded team MVP of the Bluefish.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Syracuse SkyChiefs, 2003.

Gary started the following season with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. He began the year batting .319 over 19 games and played well. The Philadelphia Phillies took notice and signed Gary to another minor league contract on May 23, 2006. He went on to clobber a .341 batting average in 80 games for the Double-A Reading Phillies with 16 homers and 60 RBI. He was recognized as a Topps National Player of the Month for hitting 10 dingers in August. Despite missing about a month of the season, Gary achieved the Triple Crown in the Phillies farm system and set the Reading Phillies career home run record (56).

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Reading Phillies, 2006.
Paul Galloway and Gary Burnham (right) at Clemson Alumni Game, 2006.

At the end of 2006, the Phillies called him up to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. Gary had a torrid hot stretch hitting .391 average, 9 runs and 8 RBI in 10 games. It was clear that he was a major league caliber player, but the Phillies had 2006 MVP Ryan Howard at first base. Gary remained in Triple-A in 2007, starting at designated hitter, first base and outfield for the Ottawa Lynx of the International League. After batting .292 with 12 home runs, 35 doubles, 84 RBI and a league-best on base percentage, Ottawa dubbed him team MVP.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Ottawa Lynx, 2007.
Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Ottawa Lynx, 2007.

After concluding his minor league career in the United States, Gary welcomed new opportunities from abroad. In the off-season, he made appearances in the Mexican Pacific Winter League and the Dominican Winter League. Then in 2008, Gary signed a contract with the La New Bears of Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League. Over a total of 70 games for the Bears, he batted .323 with 10 home runs and 56 RBI. At 33 years old, he set a league record among foreign-born players by hitting in 23 consecutive games.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, La New Bears, 2008.

Gary parlayed his Taiwan season’ into a role in Japan. He joined the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball, managed by Bobby Valentine. In a game against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Gary hit a game-winning homer off of future New York Yankees pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka. Gary was also selected to team Italy’s preliminary roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but he did not compete in the tournament. However in 2010, he inked his last professional deal with the Godo Knights of the Italian Baseball League, ranking top ten in most offensive categories.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.
Gary with his wife, Rachel Burnham in 2009.
Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.
Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.
Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.

Gary retired from professional baseball at 35 years old. In total, he amassed 155 home runs, 856 RBI, a .293 career batting average and a .375 on base percentage. He was also an underrated defender; in 662 minor league games, he maintained a .992 fielding percentage with only 51 errors. Gary was named an all-star at every minor league level and received three team MVP awards. In 2010, the Reading Phillies named him to the All-Decade team. Then in 2016, the Reading Phillies inducted Gary Burnham into the Reading Phillies Hall of Fame in the same class as Nick Punto, Eric Valent, Jason Michaels and Pat Burrell.

Gary Burnham accepting his induction into Reading Phillies Hall of Fame, 2016.
L to R: Nick Punto, Eric Valent, Gary Burnham, Jason Michaels and Pat Burrell – Reading Phillies Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

During his professional career, Gary spent several off-seasons as a substitute teacher and a baseball instructor in the Greater Hartford area. In 2018, he helped to establish the South Windsor Phillies franchise in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. Nowadays, he gives private and group lessons as owner of Gary Burnham Baseball Instruction in South Windsor. He works in surgical device sales as National Accounts Manager of Vanguard Medical while operating a real estate investment business, GRB Properties LLC. Gary lives in South Windsor with his wife Rachel and their three children.

Gary Burnham reunites with Bobby Valentine at a World Series Club event, West Hartford, Connecticut, 2017.

Gary Burnham sets Reading Phillies career home run record, 2006.

Brett Burnham

Born January 1, 1981, Brett Burnham was a tough kid and natural athlete who began his teenage years by overcoming cancer. At the age of 13, Brett made his first appearance on the national stage with the Connecticut Mariners at the 1994 AAU National Tournament in West Des Moines, Iowa. Brett was named Most Valuable Player after hitting a grand slam and pitching four hitless innings in relief to win the championship. His head coach was longtime AAU contributor, Bob Hetu. The following year, Brett smashed a three-run homer and was the driving force to another AAU national title run in Cocoa, Florida.

Brett Burnham (3rd from right) and the Connecticut Mariners win AAU National Title, 1994.
Brett Burnham earns MVP award and AAU National Title, West Des Moines, Iowa, 1994.

Brett attended South Windsor High School where he started all four years on the baseball and football teams, like his brother Gary. He was named to the Class-LL All-State team, compiling a .474 batting average with 6 home runs and 20 stolen bases as a sophomore. During the summers, Brett was key to the South Windsor American Legion baseball team (1995-1998) and was twice named to the Connecticut all-star team. In July of 1997, Brett was scouted by the Boston Red Sox at Yale Field to compete in the Area Code Baseball Games in San Diego, California.

Brett Burnham, Infielder, South Windsor High School, 1996.
Brett Burnham (standing, center with striped uniform), Class-LL All-State Team, 1997.

In the summer of 1998, Brett Burnham joined the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. He was a rookie on Newman Lincoln-Mercury, the franchise formerly known as Moriarty Brothers. As a 17 year old, Brett improved his game in the GHTBL while leading the South Windsor American Legion team to their second straight Zone 8 title. In 1999, he batted a whopping .649 average during his senior year at South Windsor High School. He earned All-Region honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association for his high school season. After winning GHTBL’s 1999 Season Title with Newman Lincoln-Mercury, Brett traveled south to attend Auburn University.

Brett Burnham featured in Hartford Courant, June 30, 1999.

As a freshman, Brett guarded third base for the Tigers, slashed .268, scored 28 runs and drove in 33 RBI with 9 doubles and 2 home runs. In early 2000, Brett was selected by the newly established Manchester Silkworms of the New England Collegiate Baseball League that summer. The following year at Auburn, he batted .275, scored 31 runs, stole 28 bases with 11 doubles and 22 RBI. Brett wanted a bigger role and an opportunity to get drafted going into his Junior season. Wanting greater responsibility and to be closer to home, Brett transferred to University of Connecticut in the fall of 2001.

Brett Burnham, Infielder, Auburn University, 2001.
Brett Burnham plays for the Manchester Silkworms, 2000.

Under the tutelage of Head Coach Andy Baylock, Brett played shortstop for the Connecticut Huskies. In 2002, he raked .335 with 14 doubles, 6 home runs, 49 RBI and led NCAA Division-I with 32 hit by pitches. For his terrific season, Brett was honored with a 2nd Team All-Big East Conference nod. He played in the GHTBL that summer as shortstop for Mr. G’s franchise – named for Brett’s grandfather, Ralph Giansanti Sr. The club was sponsored by his uncle, Ralph Giansanti Jr. and former big leaguer, Ricky Bottalico. Brett helped Mr. G’s win the 2002 GHTBL Season Title, while collecting the 2002 Herb Sheintop Player of the Year Award.

Brett Burnham drafted by San Diego Padres, 2003.

After serving as captain during 2003 season at UConn, Brett as was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 21st round of the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft. He went west for rookie ball in the Pioneer League. As a second baseman on the Idaho Falls Padres, Brett performed well over 50 games, leading the team in on base percentage and doubles while batting for a .290 average. At 23 years old, he was promoted to Single-A with the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League. During that 2004 season Unfortunately, Brett broke his hand in a Spring Training game. He returned six weeks later and in the first game back, broke his hand again. Brett was released and retired from professional baseball in 2004.

Brett Burnham, Infielder, Eugene Emeralds, 2004.
Eugene Emeralds logo, 2004.

Eventually, Brett rejoined the GTHBL aboard Mr. G’s franchise once again. He led the league in stolen bases during the summer of 2005. When Mr. G’s disbanded, he reunited with his former manager, Gene Johnson, who headed the Foss Insurance team (previously called Newman Lincoln-Mercury). By the end of his twilight career, Brett was a 3-time batting champion with three home run titles, seven RBI titles, four stolen base titles and a Triple Crown season in 2010. Brett was a 4-time MVP, a 5-time Player of the Year and a GHTBL All-Star nearly every year. His final baseball season was in 2011, when Brett received a special honor as GHTBL Player of the Decade.

Brett Burnham, Shortstop, Foss Insurance, 2009.

In 2015, Brett and his wife, Cristi Burnham were both inducted into the South Windsor High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Together they founded Happy’s Nutrition in South Windsor, offering shakes, smoothies and teas using Herbalife products. Brett has pivoted from corporate America to full-time Herbalife entrepreneur with Cristi, and they have reached the top one percentile of sales. Brett and Cristi were high school sweethearts where it all began, in South Windsor. They now have four children and reside in Ellington, Connecticut.

Brett and and his wife, Cristi Burnham, Happy’s Nutrition, South Windsor, Connecticut, 2018.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
  2. BR Bullpen – https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Gary_Burnham
  3. BR Bullpen – https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Brett_Burnham

Hartford Twilight Manager Spotlight: Tom Abbruzzese

Since 1976, Tom Abbruzzese has managed the same Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League franchise. Abbruzzese initially managed Society for Savings Bank with his father, Mike Abbruzzese. They fielded strong teams rostered by the likes of Mark Riemer, David Gale and Kevin Gieras. Society for Savings eventually became Bank of Boston and then People’s Bank in the summer of 2000. The franchise has amassed fifteen Regular Season and Playoff Championships. The “Bankers” have recruited and advanced numerous professional players to and from the GHTBL year after year. With Abbruzzese at the helm, People’s remains a perennial contender.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 21, 1981.
2009 People’s Bank

Born on August 11, 1943, in Hartford, Connecticut. Abbruzzese is the longest serving GHTBL manager in history. He is a graduate of Wethersfield High School and Fairfield University (1965). Then he worked for the Hartford Parks Department for a brief period. In 1971, Abbruzzese organized and coached a team in the Junior and Senior Division of the Jaycee Courant League who played home games at Hartford’s Colt Park. His team was sponsored by team sponsored by Society for Savings, a regional bank with staying power in Hartford. Abbruzzese then entered Society for Savings into the GHTBL during the summer of 1976.

Tom Abbruzzese holds mound meeting, 2019.
Manager Tom Abbruzzese at Dunkin Donuts Park, Hartford, Connecticut, 2019.

Abbruzzese earned a Doctorate of Education from the University of Connecticut (1996). His current profession is as Director of Adult Education, in Newington, Connecticut.  Previously he was a Vice Principal of Ledyard High School Ledyard High School (1974-1995) and before that, Recreation Leader for the City of Hartford (1963-1976), According to Abbruzzese, he’s, “thankful not only for the outstanding players I have had the privilege of coaching and continue to have, but most importantly for their exceptional character as well. These two qualities are the ingredients for success.” Abbruzzese resides in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

Manager Tom Abbruzzese, People’s United Bank, 2020
Tom Abbruzzese (right) accepts GTHBL service award, 2020.
Manager Tom Abbruzzese at Dunkin Donuts Park, Hartford, Connecticut, 2021.

2021 GHTBL Award Winners

The following 2021 Regular Season and Playoff Tournament awards were either achieved and/or voted on by league managers:

Frank McCoy Award, Most Valuable Player – Jack Rich, OF, Record-Journal Expos

Mike Liappes Award, Most Valuable Pitcher – Matt Curtis, P, Vernon Orioles

Hal Lewis Award, Most Versatile Player – Evan Chamberlain, P/3B, Rainbow Graphics &

AJ Hendrickson, P/C, Record-Journal Expos

Gene Johnson Award, Regular Season Batting Champion – Jack Rich, OF, Record-Journal Expos

James Gallagher Award, Rookie of the Year – Matt Curtis, P, Vernon Orioles

Jack Repass Award, Golden Glove – Corey Plasky, IF, East Hartford Jets

Bill Chapulis Award, Home Run Title – Mike Munson, OF, Malloves Jewelers

Mark and Jane Foss Award, RBI Leader – Jack Rich, OF, Record-Journal Expos

Ralph Giansanti Sr. Award, Stolen Base Title – Christian Boudreau, IF, Hartford Colts

Rev. Thomas Campion Award, Outstanding Playoff Hitter – Chris Bogan, 1B, East Hartford Jets

Mike Abbruzzese Award, Outstanding Playoff Pitcher – Bryan Albee, P, East Hartford Jets

Jake Banks Trophy, Regular Season Champion – Jack Ceppetelli, Manager, Vernon Orioles

Jack Rose Trophy, Playoff Champion – Taylor Kosakowski, Manager, East Hartford Jets

DiPietro to Enter Berlin High School Hall of Fame

Soon-to-be Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Ryan DiPietro attended Eastern Connecticut State University, was drafted by both the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals. He later played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for five seasons with the Meriden Merchants franchise, now known as the Record-Journal Expos.

Published August 17, 2021 in the Record-Journal

The Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Aqua Turf. Leading up to the event, The Citizen is highlighting the accomplishments of the Hall of Fame Class of 2021. This week: Ryan DiPietro.

A member of the Class of 2002, DiPietro made an immediate impact on the baseball field. As a freshman in 1999, he stepped to the plate in the second round of the CIAC Class L state tournament and homered on the first pitch he saw. That also happened to be his very first varsity at-bat.

The Redcoats went on to claim the Class L crown, and DiPietro was on his way to legend status.

“My baseball roots are right here in Berlin,” DiPietro said. “We took pride in the success in town, Little League on up. And that 1999 state title team continued that tradition.”

Ryan DiPietro, 2001.

While DiPietro was a fine hitter and centerfielder, he is best known for his work on the mound. The lefty set BHS’s seven-inning  strikeout record (17), was 7-0 with a .085 ERA with two one-hitters as a junior and went 6-2 with a .050 ERA and 94 strikeouts as a senior.

DiPietro was an All-State and all-conference performer, and was selected MVP of the 2002 Senior All-Star game held at Fenway Park. Also in 2002, he led Berlin to the American Legion state championship, and was named tournament MVP.

DiPietro was selected by the the New York Mets in the 42nd round of the 2002 MLB draft, but he opted for college.

DiPietro would attend Eastern Connecticut State University, where he compiled a career record of 29-3 and, in 2004, helped propel ECSU to the national title game.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Eastern Connecticut, 2004.

A NCAA Division III All-American and Pitcher of the Year selection, DiPietro set ECSU records for strikeouts in a game (19), strikeouts in a season (162) and consecutive victories (19). He ranks second in career strikeouts (336) and starts in a season (15).

DiPietro was the sixth-round selection of the Kansas City Royals in 2005 and would play minor and independent league ball for seven years.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Burlington Bees, 2006.

DiPietro now works as an environmental inspector. He lives in Wallingford with his wife Rachel, sons Chase and Cal and daughter Hailey.

Also entering the Hall of Fame this year are Katelyn Zarotney (Class of 2010, basketball and volleyball), Max DeLorenzo (Class of 2010, football and basketball) and Cliff Landry (football and basketball coach 1954-61.)

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Merchants, 2016.

The ceremony for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was called off due to the coronavirus, so it will be inducted along with the Class of 2021. The Class of 2020 includes Steve Baccaro (Class of 1947), Phil Perretta (Class of 1961), John Steurer (Class of 1980), Cynthia Gozzo Dastoli (Class of 1990), Robert Manzo (Class of 1990), Allison Murphy Semenuk (Class of 2002), Matt Carasiti (Class of 2009), and the 1999 and 2000 state championship wrestling teams.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Expos, 2016.

Alex Cornell is Lighting Up the Pecos League

Alex Cornell is currently wrecking Pecos League pitching with a .500 batting average. He’s mashed 27 base hits in 54 at bats with two home runs and 14 RBI for the Bakersfield Train Robbers.

Cornell, who hails from Columbia, Connecticut, is in his rookie Pecos League season. He finished up his college career this past spring at Limestone University in Gaffney, South Carolina. As a utility player for the Saints, he hit .386 with 8 home runs and 36 RBI and was 2021 All-South Atlantic Conference Honorable Mention. In the summer of 2018, he played under player-manager, Charlie Hesseltine of the Record-Journal Expos.

Cornell played all four years at E.O. Smith High School where he became the first player in program history to be named All-State as a junior. He posted a .410 batting average with five home runs, led the state in doubles and guided the Panthers to a conference championship. He was named team captain as a senior and batted .400 with seven home runs while earning All-Conference honors.

The GHTBL wishes Alex all the best on his bright future in professional baseball.

Alex Cornell, Bakersfield Train Robbers, Pecos League, 2021.

“The Pecos League is an independent baseball league which operates in cities in desert mountain regions throughout California, New Mexico, Southern Arizona, Kansas, West Texas and Colorado. Pecos Teams play in cities that do not have Major or Minor League Baseball teams and is not affiliated with either. The Pecos League has two divisions which stretch from the plains of Kansas to the Oceans of California to the Mexican Border of Texas. The two divisions with the Mountain Division and the Pacific Division.”

From the Pecos League website, www.pecosleague.com.

Baseball Bloodlines: The Morhardt’s

The Morhardt’s have been a staple of Connecticut baseball for more than sixty years. Professional baseball has become a genetic trend for the Morhardt’s. Three generations have ascended from the amateur ranks to the professional level. The patriarch of the Winsted-based family, Moe, is the father of Darryl, Greg, and Kyle and grandfather of current GHTBL player, Justin Morhardt. From the Twilight League to the big leagues, men of the Morhardt family have carved out significant baseball credentials.

L to R: Moe, Justin, Greg and Darryl Morhardt, 2012.
L to R: Moe, Justin, Greg and Darryl Morhardt, 2012.

Meredith Moe” Morhardt

Meredith “Moe” Goodwin Morhardt was born on January 16, 1937 in Manchester, Connecticut. He excelled in three sports; baseball, basketball and soccer at Manchester High School. On the diamond, he threw and hit lefty with all five tools. Morhardt first attracted the attention of major league scouts in high school where he was a teammate of GHTBL legend, Gene Johnson. As a center fielder, Morhardt batted a combined .452 in his junior and senior seasons.

1954 Manchester High School Varsity Baseball Team.

Morhardt was a 6’1″ multi-sport athlete who attended the University of Connecticut and excelled as an All-American in baseball and soccer. While at UConn, Morhardt helped the Huskies win two NCAA District titles. He was appointed UConn co-captain, batted .365 and was considered the finest collegiate prospect in New England. During the summer months, Morhardt played for St. Cyril’s baseball club in the Hartford Twilight League. After 4 seasons in GHTBL and 3 seasons at UConn, Moe Morhardt signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1959 as a free agent.

1957 University of Connecticut Baseball
Moe Morhardt, First Baseman, University of Connecticut, 1959.

Twelve major league clubs scouted Moe Morhardt but Cubs chief scout, Lennie Merullo was first in line. Morhardt agreed to a contract with a $50,000 bonus. The newest Cubs prospect was assigned to Fort Worth, Texas, and would find himself at three different minor league levels that year including the Class D Paris Lakers in Paris, Illinois. In 1960, he was first baseman for the Class A Lancaster Red Roses of the Eastern League and was assigned to the Class B Wenatchee Chiefs in 1961.

Moe Morhardt, First Baseman, Chicago Cubs, 1961.

Moe Morhardt was called up to Chicago and made his major league debut on September 7, 1961. He appeared in 7 games for Cubs, hit for a .278 batting average and was the first Manchester native in 40 years to reach the major leagues. The following year he played 18 games as a pinch-hitter. His last major league at bat ended in a swinging strike out against Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Morhardt was sent down to the minors and split the season between Wenatchee, Washington and Class AA San Antonio, Texas. He spent 1963 and 1964 in the Cubs farm system and retired from professional baseball thereafter.

Moe Morhardt, First Baseman, Chicago Cubs, 1962.
Moe Morhardt (right) slides, Chicago Cubs, 1952.

In the summer of 1965, Moe Morhardt rejoined the Hartford Twilight League with the Moriarty Brothers franchise and won the league title. After his playing career, Morhardt became head baseball coach at The Gilbert School in Winsted, Connecticut, from 1967 to 1987, and also served as athletic director. At Gilbert, he recorded 299 wins, 134 losses, 8 league titles and 4 Class M state championships. Morhardt was elected to the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.

Moe Morhardt and his three sons – Hartford Courant excerpt, 1979.

In 1988, Moe Morhardt took a job coaching University of Hartford where he would teach baseball for seven seasons; serving as an assistant from 1988 to 1992 and as head coach from 1993 to 1994. From 1997 to 1999, he was head coach of the Western Connecticut State University baseball team. Morhardt was also head coach of the Danbury Westerners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, coaching the team from 1998 to 2004.

Moe Morhardt, Head Coach, University of Hartford Baseball, 1989.

Moe Morhardt had three sons, Darry, Greg and Kyle who were raised in Winsted. Most recently, a semi-retired Morhardt and his son Darryl established a summer youth team, the Torrington Copperheads who compete in the Pete Kokinis Baseball League (formerly Jaycee-Courant League). Morhardt also continues to support his grandson, Justin Morhardt of the People’s United Bank franchise by attending at twilight league games.

Moe Morhardt, Manager, Torrington Copperheads, Pete Kokinis Baseball League, 2019.

“You should value every at bat. The biggest regret a hitter should have is that he gave away an at bat.”

Moe Morhardt

“Moe Morhardt was a wonderful as a hitting coach. He kept it very simple. He’s just a great baseball mind in so many different ways. Every time I hear ‘Moe Morhardt,’ I smile.”

Jeff Bagwell, former University of Hartford player and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.

Darryl H. Morhardt

Darryl Morhardt was born on October 23, 1962, as the oldest of his siblings. As a 1980 graduate of The Gilbert School in Winsted, Connecticut, Morhardt was a standout catcher and utility man. He was also a top basketball player for Manchester Community College in 1982. Morhardt went on to play college baseball at Coastal Carolina University for three years. Upon graduation he signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves and enjoyed an undistinguished professional career.

Darryl Morhardt, Catcher, The Gilbert School, 1983.

After suffering a shattered wrist on a fastball from reliever John Wetteland, Morhardt returned home to coach. He was an assistant coach at the University of Hartford (1991-1995), Gateway Junior College, Western Connecticut State College, Marietta College and George Washington University. In his time at Marietta, Morhardt aided legendary coach Don Schaly in achieving five Ohio Athletic Conference titles and three Division III World Series appearances. Morhardt eventually went on to work for the Baltimore Orioles organization as scout.

Darryl Morhardt featured in the Baltimore Sun for collecting baseball equipment for U.S. Troops in Iraq, 2007.

During the summer months Daryrl Morhardt was also a pitching coach in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the Torrington Twisters for eight seasons, winning two division titles during his tenure. He then served as head coach of the Holyoke Blue Sox in the NECBL (2008-2012). Then in 2016, he was tapped as pitching coach for the Newport Gulls. When he found time, Morhardt also played on teams in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, Tri-State League and the Waterbury Twi-Met League.

Darryl Morhardt (left), Head Coach, Holyoke Blue Sox, NECBL, 2009.

Darryl Morhardt is an unsung hero of amateur baseball. For a span of nearly 40 years, Morhardt has competed in summer leagues throughout Connecticut and nationally. He played his first Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League season for Middletown’s Bordiere Travel team in 1982. He returned to the league in 1991 to join the Society for Savings team led by Manager Tom Abbruzzese. At catcher, pitcher and first base, Morhardt suited up for Abbruzzese’s bankers franchise until 2007 and captured five leagues titles with People’s United Bank.

Darryl Morhardt, Catcher, Bank of Boston, GHTBL, 1995.
2000 People’s United Bank

In 2013, Darryl Morhardt became head baseball coach at Housatonic High School. He has also coached several AAU teams, including his current club, the Torrington Copperheads. Recently, he won a Men’s Senior Baseball League 50-over national championship as a member of the Salty Dogs, a Rhode Island-based team. In a 55-over MSBL national championship against a team form Florida, Morhardt played against Dante Bichette and Mark Whiten. Darryl continues to play amateur ball on a 38-over team in the Northeast Baseball Association; a league Morhardt has won four straight years.

Darryl Morhardt, Head Coach, Housatonic HIgh School, 2018.
Darryl Morhardt (left), Head Coach, Housatonic HIgh School, with former player, Willy Yahn, 2019.
Darryl Morhardt (right), Head Coach, Torrington Copperheads, 2019.
2019 Salty Dogs, 50+ MSBL Champions

Gregory R. Morhardt

Greg Morhardt was born on October 25, 1963. He learned to play baseball from his father Moe and alongside his two brothers, Darryl and Kyle. Greg was a star athlete at The Gilbert School in multiple sports. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 14th round of the 1981 MLB June Amateur Draft but instead decided to attend college at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. In his junior season he batted .346 with 17 homers and 57 RBIs and was picked by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round of the 1984 MLB June Amateur Draft. 

Greg Morhardt, Center Fielder, The Gilbert School, 1981.
Greg Morhardt, First Baseman, Orlando Twins, 1985
Greg Morhardt, First Baseman, Portland Beavers, 1987.
Greg Morhardt, First Baseman, Glens Falls Tigers, 1988.

Greg Mohardt’s professional career began in Orlando, Florida, as first baseman for the 1984 Orlando Twins of the Class AA Southern League. By 1986, he was called up to the Toledo Mud Hens, the Twins AAA affiliate. He ended the season with a career best .263 batting average, 13 home runs and 70 RBI. Morhardt was well-traveled during the 1987 season as a member of the Portland Beavers in Oregon and the Orlando Twins. After a tough year at the plate, the Twins released Morhardt but the Detroit Tigers picked him up. His brief stint as a Tiger ended in 1989, and Greg returned home to Connecticut.

Greg Morhardt, MLB Scout, 2014.

In twilight of his playing career, Greg Morhardt was a star in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. He played for Tom Abbruzzese’s Society for Savings franchise from 1992 to 1996. Then he continued his career in baseball as an area scout for the Los Angeles Angels. Most notably, Morhardt scouted Mike Trout at 16 years old and insisted the Angels take Trout in the 2009 MLB Draft. Greg had been a minor league teammate of Mike Trout’s father Jeff Trout. In 2010, Morhardt earned a lifetime achievement in athletics award from The Gilbert School. Greg now works for the Boston Red Sox as a professional scout and resides in Winsted, Connecticut.

Mike Trout, Outfielder, Los Angeles Angels, 2012.

“He had speed and strength. It was a perfect storm of athleticism.”

Greg Morhardt, on scouting Mike Trout.

Justin J. Morhardt

Justin Morhardt was born on March 3, 1994. Like his father, uncle and grandfather, Justin attended The Gilbert School and was a highly scouted baseball player. Then he became a veritable slugger at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee. During college, Morhardt overcame a serious health concern called Graves Disease causing thyroid problems. In his return to Bryan as a junior he was selected as a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American. That year, Morhardt helped the Lions to a 35-16 overall record and 17-10 record in Appalachian Athletic Conference play, earning Bryan their first-ever at-large NAIA National Tournament bid.

Justin Morhardt drafted by the Atlanta Braves, 2017.

A week after being named an NAIA All-American, Morhardt was drafted by Braves in the 22nd round in the 2017 MLB Draft. At rookie ball with the Braves in the Gulf Coast League, Morhardt appeared in 26 games at catcher. A series of concussions led Morhardt to call it quits on his professional career. Nowadays, Justin continues to play baseball as an amatuer in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. Morhardt is a key two-way player for People’s United Bank. In his day job, Justin works as Staff Accountant at King, King & Associates CPA in Winsted, Connecticut.

Justin Morhardt, Catcher, Gulf Coast League Braves, 2017.
Justin Morhardt, Pitcher, People’s United Bank, GHTBL, 2019.

Mike Morhardt
Mike Morhardt is the uncle of Justin and first cousin to Darryl and Greg. He was a gifted baseball and basketball player from Stafford, Connecticut, and contributed to the Morhardt sports legacy. Mike attended the University of Hartford and pitched under his uncle, Moe Morhardt. In 1994, Mike pitched for the East Hartford Jets in the GHTBL. After finishing his playing career in 1994, he became varsity pitching coach for the Hawks at the University of Hartford. He later became coach at Windsor Locks High School for baseball and girl’s basketball. Then, Mike coached Stafford High School basketball in 2009 but has since returned to Windsor Locks as baseball coach and a physical education teacher.

Mike Morhardt, Pitcher, Stafford High School, 1990.

Ron Pizzanello, A Baseball Life

In 1977, former star catcher at Bulkeley High School and Eastern Connecticut State University, Ron Pizzanello, signed a professional baseball contract. He did so with the Colombo Nettuno team of the Italian Baseball League (now known as Serie A1). At the time of his signing, Pizzanello played for the Vernon Orioles of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League managed by Frank McCoy. After playing in Italy, he returned to the Vernon Orioles franchise as the team’s backstop.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1977.
Ron Pizzanello (#12) and Colombo Nettuno teammates, 1977.
Ron Pizzanello, Catcher, Vernon Orioles, 1985.
Hartford Courant excerpt, June 12, 1987.

After a battle with diabetes that claimed both of his lower legs, Pizzanello has persevered. He was a successful American Legion baseball for South Windsor in the 1990’s and 2000’s. In 2018, Pizzanello came back to the GHTBL as manager of the South Windsor Phillies franchise. Also supporting the team with Pizzanello is Reading Phillies Hall of Fame inductee, Gary Burnham Jr who serves as the team’s General Manager. The team’s sponsor is Tony Desmond of Allstate Insurance – South Windsor.

Diabetes forces Pizzanello to end his playing career, 1990.
2018 South Windsor Phillies

GHTBL Career

  • West Hartford Merchants, 1974
  • Vernon Orioles, 1975
  • East Hartford Merchants, 1976
  • Vernon Orioles, 1978 – 1989
  • South Windsor Phillies (Manager), 2018 – present
Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies, 2019.
Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies, 2019.

Awards & Accomplishments

  • Little League Connecticut State Champions, Hartford All Stars
  • All City Baseball Catcher, Bulkeley High School, 1971-72
  • All Conference, Bulkeley High School, 1971-72
  • Captain Bulkeley Varsity Baseball
  • All-Conference Wrestler, Second Team
  • Received a degree from Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Starting varsity catcher, ECSU Baseball, 1974-76
  • Elected Captain, ECSU Baseball, 1976
  • All-New England Second Team Catcher, ECSU Baseball, 1976
  • Inducted into the Bulkeley High School Hall of Fame, 2017
  • 2020 GHTBL Regular Season Title
GHTBL meeting with Ron Pizzanello (standing, right), 2018.

The Bristol Merchants, a Twilight League Dynasty

Over 11 seasons (2001-2011), the Bristol Merchants were 9-time GHTBL Champions, winning 4 Playoff Championships and 5 Season Titles. Their home site was the venerable Muzzy Field. The franchise was led by their player-manager, Bunty Ray and Joe Parlante who have since founded a wood bat company, Rally Bats in Bristol, Connecticut. Other major contributors to the Merchants were GHTBL veterans including: Joe Parlante, Brian Archibald, Eric Butkiewicz, Rick Barrett, Rick Hewey and Adam Peters. The following Bristol Merchants players also advanced to play professional baseball:

Bristol Merchants win 1st GHTBL championship, 2004.
Kevin Rival, Pitcher, Bristol Merchants, 2006.
Bristol Merchants win 2nd GHTBL championship, 2004.
Bristol Merchants win 4th GHTBL championship, 2009.
Bunty Ray, Player-Manager, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Jason Maule, Outfielder, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Nick Macellaro, Shortstop, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Nick Macellaro, Shortstop, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Adam Peters, Designated Hitter, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Adam Peters, Designated Hitter, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Joe Parlante, First Baseman, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Scott Martin, Pitcher, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
Ryan Pacyna, Pitcher, Bristol Merchants, 2009.
2009 Bristol Merchants
Jarrett Stawarz, Pitcher, Bristol Merchants, 2011.
Baserunner, Bristol Merchants, 2011.
Muzzy Field, Bristol, Connecticut.

Bill Holowaty, Local Sports Legend

May 26, 2020

Bill Holowaty is the current President of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League and former head baseball coach at Eastern Connecticut State University. Holowaty coached for 45 years (1967-2012) at ECSU and became one of the most successful coaches in the history of New England intercollegiate athletics. He led the Warriors to the postseason 39 out of 45 times, appearing 14 times in the Division-III College World Series and winning 4 championships (1982, 1990, 1998 and 2002). He was named Division-III National Coach of the Year 4 times. Coach Holowaty ended his career record with 1,412 wins, 528 losses and 7 ties – a winning percentage of .725, and has the third most all-time wins by a Division-III coach.

Coach Bill Holowaty, 2010.

William P. Holowaty was born on March 6, 1945 in Little Falls, New York. He was a gifted athlete with good size. Holowaty starred in football, basketball and baseball at Mohawk High School in Mohawk, New York. He became a top basketball recruit and visited Dean Smith’s University of North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest before deciding on the University of Connecticut. Coach Fred Shabel’s Huskies included UConn greats like Toby Kimball, Wes Bialosuknia and Tom Penders. Holowaty played basketball at UConn from 1964 to 1967, winning 3 season titles in the Yankee Conference. He was later recognized as a member of the UConn Basketball All-Century Ballot.

Bill Holowaty (center), UConn Basketball, 1965.
1965 UConn Basketball Team
1967 UConn Basketball Team
Bill Holowaty (left), UConn Basketball, 1967.

During college, Holowaty played baseball in the Hartford Twilight League with the Hamilton Standard team. Great local players like Wally Widholm and Hal Lewis were Bill’s teammates and mentors. Immediately after his basketball career, Holowaty became head baseball coach at Eastern Connecticut State College (renamed Eastern Connecticut State University in 1983) and quickly turned the program around. In 1973, he was the assistant coach for the Chatham A’s of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Holowaty was a guiding force for instituting the NCAA Division-III baseball championship in the mid-1970s. While coaching, he also served as ECSU Athletic Director for 15 years.

Bill Holowaty, ECSU Baseball Coach, 1969.
1970 Eastern Connecticut Baseball Team
Bill Holowaty (right), ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 1970.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Basketball Assistant, 1971.
Holowaty earns 300 wins, 1979.
New England All-Star Game at Fenway Park, 1979.

1980 ECSU Baseball Team
Coach Holowaty celebrating the holidays at home plate, 1980.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 1982.
Holowaty featured in Hartford Courant, 1983.
Bill Holowaty and Jason Holowaty, 1984.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 1985.
Bill Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1986.
Coach Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1987.
Coach Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1987.
Holowaty receives Gold Key, 1988.
Coach Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1989.
Coach Holowaty, 1990.
1993 Eastern Baseball Team
1993 Eastern Baseball Team

Bill Holowaty built his coaching legacy upon competitiveness, consistency and fundraising. His vision for success included a Varsity and Junior Varsity team, Spring Training trips to Florida and a state-of-the-art ballpark in Willimantic, Connecticut. The ECSU Warriors posted at least 30 wins in 28 seasons under Holowaty leading to four national championships. In 2003, the Warriors lost the Division-III College World Series championship game in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded. Afterwards Holowaty was quoted saying,

Coach Bill Holowaty, 1998.
Nick Tempesta and Bill Holowaty, 2000.
Coach Holowaty wins 1000th game, 2002.
Eastern Connecticut wins D-III College World Series, 2002.
The Holowaty Family at National College Baseball Hall of Fame Induction, 2002.
Coach Bill Holowaty, 2003.
Coach Bill Holowaty, 2008.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 2012.

“We’ll be back again. It’s like putting on a Red Sox uniform; you are hoping to win a World Series. You put on a Yankee uniform and you are expected to win. You put on an Eastern uniform and you’re expected to win.”

– Bill Holowaty
Holowaty Baseball Camp, Pomfret, Connecticut, 2014.
Holowaty speaks to Connecticut Mustangs AAU program, 2016.

In the final stage of his career, Holowaty continued to win. His Warriors had a streak of 11 consecutive 30-win seasons into 2012. The team fell one win shy of extending that streak in 2013. As a result of his success, Coach Holowaty earned several accolades and was inducted into the following Hall of Fame organizations: ABCA, Greater Utica Sports, National College Baseball, NEIBA and the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a co-founder of the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA). He served as ABCA President, was a long-time member of the ABCA All-America committee and is currently a member of the ABCA Board of Directors.

Coach Holowaty playing golf, 2016.
The Holowaty Family, 2017.
Evan Chamberlain and Bill Holowaty at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, Hartford, 2017.
Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President, 2017.
Andy Baylock and Bill Holowaty, 2017.

Bill Holowaty remains a fierce competitor to this day. He enjoys playing golf regularly with friends and family. He spends much of his time with his wife Jan Holowaty, his children Jason, Jennifer, Jared and his grandchildren. Jason and Jared Holowaty played professional baseball in Australia after college and carved out their own careers in baseball. Bill attributes much of his family’s success to his wife Jan and often mentions their shared love of sports.

Bill and Jan Holowaty, 2018.
GHTBL donates to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, 2018.
Jan, Bill and Jennifer Holowaty at the 2018 NEIBA Hall of Fame induction, 2018.
Coach Holowaty (right) with other college coaches at the annual American Baseball Coaches Association conference, 2019.
Bill DePascale and Bill Holowaty, 2019.

Coach Holowaty inducted into the National Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame

Willy Yahn’s Baseball Blog

Yahn, a professional infielder in the Baltimore Orioles organization has written a great blog on recent baseball experiences in amateur and professional leagues. Here’s what he wrote about his time on People’s United Bank:

“Back on June 25th, the day of our first game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, a man approached me after the contest and asked if I wanted to play for his team in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League (GHTBL). The GHTBL was established in 1929 and is one of the oldest baseball leagues in the U.S. That man turned out to be Tom Abbruzzese, the manager of the People’s United Bank team out of Wethersfield. Tom and I stayed in contact and I was also in touch with Justin Morhardt, former Atlanta Braves minor leaguer and two-way player for People’s United Bank. I hashed out dates that I could work around Gator games and sent them to Tom. On July 21, Lindsey made the trek over with me to Riverfront Park in Glastonbury as I made my Banker debut.”

“I did not make a glowing first impression with the bat, as I went 0 for 4. But Justin started that game on the mound and I remember converting on about a dozen plays at shortstop en route to a close victory over Rainbow Graphics out of Manchester. I quickly began to enjoy playing for People’s Bank for a few reasons. For starters, I always find it fun getting to know a new group of teammates and showing proving that no matter who I played for I wanted to win badly and that I had my eye on two league rings that summer. 

Between the People’s United Bank team and his Great Falls Gators, Yahn was just shy of playing 30 games last summer.

Second, I was a touch more anonymous in the GHTBL, or at least I felt like that was the case (correct me if I’m wrong people). But with the Gators everyone generally knew ‘that’s Willy’s team that he made’, I would do the coaches meetings a lot of games, I stuck out like a sore thumb. But with People’s Bank I could sneak into our dugout with a plain t-shirt and the team hat that resembled that of the Philadelphia Phillies, and I could surprise the opponent at least for my first at-bat from the leadoff spot. I say that because after my first game as a Banker, many of my first at-bats I received fastballs that caught a lot of plate early in the count, as pitchers were trying to establish their fastball early in the game to the leadoff hitter. AB number one would go: knock, swipe second base, then third, another Banker drives me in for an early lead. It was at this point I felt like teams thought “oooooh it’s that long hair schmuck from UConn who belly flops everywhere” and they remember for the next at-bat. 

It was about to be playoff time for the GHTBL as well, as I needed to get into one more regular season game to qualify myself for the playoffs with People United Bank. We were playing the East Hartford Jets at Wethersfield High School after I had finally received my custom Dove Tail Bat in the mail earlier in the day. It had a natural finish with the DTB and Willy Yahn in Gator green. She was beautiful. I wanted to use her that day because she was fresh out of the box in which it was shipped. I was the lead off hitter and the first pitch of the bottom of the first with the new weapon, I smashed a line drive into center for a single. A good sign for the new bat headed into the playoffs. Then a new pitcher came in for the Jets in the 3rd innings, throwing pretty hard from a funky angle. I learned after the game that it was Lief Bigelow, former UConn sidearmer who transferred to University of Maine. I faced off against him my second at bat, first pitch was a hard runner fastball on the corner inside. I took a hack at it and the barrel of my brand new bat explodes off the handle. I watched the beautiful green label saucer away in disgust. My running so fast in anger and the infielders being distracted by a flying wooden knife allowed me to reach on an infield single. But at what cost, folks? I jokingly called out to Lief (at this point was still trying to remember who he was) saying he owed me a new Dove Tail.”

“I finished the game with three knocks and three swiped bags, the Bankers came out on top 4-2. We were able to win all five regular season games for which I made the trip, as we had a pretty solid team. About the same average age as the Gators, with a lot of solid hitters throughout the line up and a few college pitchers who knew what they were doing. Justin Morhardt contributed highly on both sides of the ball. On top of hitting some bombs out of the clean-up spot, he is a competitive pitcher who induces a lot of ground balls, which as a shortstop makes him a guy that is fun to play behind. People’s United Bank finished 6-6 as we would face off against the GHTBL powerhouse the Vernon Orioles.”

Stay tuned to Willy Yahn’s baseball blog – Chapter 6: The Gator was also a Banker

Yahn is expected to play for the Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League in 2021.

Jim Schult Named to D3 Team of the Decade

Schult, an Eastern Connecticut Baseball Alum and GHTBL Champion.

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – The No. 5 stitched to Jim Schult’s uniform as a four-year member of the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball program may very well have stood for ‘5-tool’, as in ‘complete’ player.

This past week, Schult — voted the Division III National Player-of-the-Year in 2011 — represents Eastern on D3baseball.com‘s second all-decade team this century, the 2010s All-Decade Team.

An honorable mention selection at the utility position, the Wappingers Falls, NY native was one of 82 players named to the team, which also includes first, second and third teams which were voted upon by D3baseball.com staff and their colleagues at The Podcast About Division III Baseball. Players had to have played at least two seasons to be eligible for consideration in the decade.

“It’s definitely a big honor to be on this (all-decade) team… it’s nice to be thought of,” admitted Schult, when reached by telephone Friday afternoon.

Eastern, a four-time NCAA Division III national champion, was represented on the first all-decade team of the century (released in 2010) by three players: first-teamers Ryan DiPietro, a left-handed pitcher, and utility player Shawn Gilblair and second-teamer Dwight Wildman, an outfielder.

During their careers, all four of Eastern’s all-decade selections were named Player or Pitcher-of-the-Year by either the American Baseball Coaches’ Association (ABCA) or National College Association (NCBWA), or both. Schult was the only one of the four named to both.

Schult (right) in an elimination game of the 2009 NCAA New England Regionals at the Eastern Baseball Stadium, with battery mate Steve Cammuso stifled Husson University to 7 hits and the Warriors advanced to the championship. The pair also combined for 5 hits, 4 runs scored and 3 runs. Schult’s  2-out HR set the tempo for the 18-3 win.

In his four-year career (2008-11) as a right-handed pitcher, outfielder and DH, the six-foot, 200-pound Schult led the Warriors to four straight NCAA tournaments, at least a share of two Little East Conference regular-season championships and one LEC tournament title, and a 72.7 winning percentage. He batted third in the order in each of his final three years — playing primarily right field — until moving to DH as a senior tri-captain.

As a first-team ABCA All-America and National Player-of-the-Year in 2011, Schult set personal career-highs and led his team in most every statistical category. At the plate, he batted .392 with 76 hits (currently tied for tenth all-time in a season) while starting all 47 games for the 34-13 Warriors. He stole 20 of 21 bases that year with 138 total bases (tied for fifth all-time in a season) and 64 RBI (sixth) and his combined total of 120 RBI and runs scored currently equals the sixth-most in a season in program history. On the mound, he was 10-1 with 92 strikeouts in 87 innings with a 3.31 ERA., his only loss coming in one of his two relief appearances.

During that final season, Schult was credited with four of the staff’s five complete games, his final one coming in a five-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 2-0 win – the only shutout of his career — over the College of Brockport in the NCAA regional tournament opener in the final pitching appearance of his career. It was that game, where he walked five batters and hit one and stranded ten runners – seven in scoring position —  that Schult feels defined his career. “I think if you had to sum me up in a single game, I think that game would probably tell you what you needed to know about me. I didn’t have great stuff that day — I think I threw about 165 pitches — but I was able to get out of (jams nearly every inning).”

A third baseman at John Jay High School in Hopewell Junction, New York, Jim Schult worked hard to make himself a solid right fielder at Eastern, 2017.

In his career, Schult threw complete games in both of his regional tournament starts, also going the distance in an elimination-game win against Husson University in the 2009 regional that moved the Warriors to within a win of advancing into the championship round.

In a 20-13 win over the University of Chicago in Chandler, AZ as a sophomore in 2009, he became the sixth player in program history to hit for the cycle (tripling in the ninth inning to complete the feat), tying program game records in the process with six hits and six runs scored.

A pitcher and third baseman (shortstop was taken by future major league Gold Glover Joe Panik) in high school, Schult was sent to right field on the first day of his first fall season at Eastern to replace a teammate who failed to appear. In that game, hit a home run in his first fall at-bat, and he spent the majority of his career – when not pitching — at that position. After struggling defensively as a freshman, he spent the summer playing center field in a local league at home, honing his craft under the tutelage of Negro League legend Willie Mack. He committed only one outfield error as a sophomore and subsequently led the team in outfield assists each season thereafter.

Schult says that he is most proud of his teams’ three LEC titles and the Warriors’ prodigious power-hitting teams of 2009 and 2010. The 2009 team batted an astounding .355, won its first 13 games, was ranked No. 1 nationally for three consecutive weeks, carried a 14-game hitting streak into the NCAA tournament, and finished as the national leader in doubles and was second in runs and hits. Those two teams set season records in six offensive categories that remain today.

“We stepped on the field with so much confidence, knowing that we were going to do whatever we needed to do to win that game from an offensive standpoint,” Schult recalls of his sophomore and junior seasons.  

A .371 career hitter, Schult today ranks among the program’s all-time career Top Ten in 12 offensive categories, including second in doubles (63), third in total bases (417) and fourth in runs (199) and RBI (189). As a pitcher, he fell one win shy of being one of 13 hurlers in program history with 20 career wins. He finished 19-2 with two saves and a 3.24 ERA in 203.0 innings. Among pitchers with a minimum of ten career decisions, his career winning percentage of 90.5 ranks sixth all-time.

Schult says that he turned down several Division I offers out of high school because Eastern afforded him the opportunity to play every day, as well as pitch.

While freshmen rarely cracked the starting lineup on veteran teams stocked with All-America players under Hall of Fame coach Bill Holowaty, Schult was an exception. Appearing in 40 of 49 games in 2008, he batted .301 with 23 RBI and 30 runs scored, then blossomed as a sophomore by batting .388 with 122 total bases and 58 runs score. “I always thought of  myself as a competitor and  somebody who would rise to that level of competition,” says Schult of his fast start.

Schult believes that a series of adjustments throughout his career were the keys to his success, from learning the nuances of the outfield and being able to hit a curveball after his freshman year, to mastering the art of opposite-field hitting and to learning to ‘pull the trigger’ early in the count as his career progressed. “Every time something got exposed with me, I spent the summer and the winter working on that weakness,” he recalls. “I think, really what it was, was just being willing to learn.”

Over his final three seasons, Jim Schult stole 35 of 37 bases, 20 coming in 21 tries in 2011.

In addition to his baseball accomplishments, Schult was a two-time CoSIDA Academic District I selection and Eastern Outstanding Scholar-Athlete qualifier in both years of eligibility and LEC All-Academic qualifier in all three seasons of eligibility.

Schult grew up in a baseball family, with his grandfather, Art (Dutch) Schult, enjoying a five-year MLB playing career with four organizations in the 1950s and 60s as a 1949 New York Yankees signee, and his father, Jim, being a 33rd-round MLB draft pick of the Texas Rangers as a power-hitting outfielder in 1981. Schult’s younger brother, Jeff, played four seasons at Western New England University as a centerfielder and DH, earning all-region and all-conference honors before graduating in 2014. Like Jim, he was also a CoSIDA academic all-district selection.

After earning his B.S. Degree in Business Administration from Eastern in 2011, Schult spent three summers playing in independent leagues and a winter season as one of the top pitchers in the Australian Baseball League with the Brisbane Bandits before retiring after tearing his UCL and undergoing Tommy John surgery.  In the summer of 2019, he came out of retirement at the request of Holowaty – the current president of the Greater Hartford Twilight League–  to resuscitate a struggling East Hartford franchise. As a player-coach, he helped lead the Jets to the GHTL championship this past summer.

In 2018, Schult earned a B.S. Degree in Accounting from Marist College and is employed at Blum Shapiro as a senior consultant, and resides in Simsbury.

Jim Schult (center) and his teammates had plenty to celebrate after he scored the winning run when the East Hartford Jets won the GHTBL title this past summer.

ARTICLE FROM GOWARRIORSATHLETICS.COM

Herb Sheintop, Twilight League Legend

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.

Sheintop has 5 RBI in Keene Baseball League at Colt Park, 1941.
Herb Sheintop, Hartford VFW Baseball Club, GHTBL, 1953.
Herb Sheintop. President, Keene’s Senior League, Hartford, Connecticut, 1950.
Hartford Maccabees Basketball Team, 1943.
Sheintop tosses a no-hitter, GHTBL, 1950.

“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.

Lefty Gomez and Herb Sheintop at Hartford VFW #254, 1956.
Sheintop presents trophy to Hartford VFW Post #254 Softball Champions, 1960.
Sheintop presents trophy to the Hartford Softball League Division D Champions, 1962.
Herb’s Sport Shop announces opening, Hartford, 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.”

GHTBL Opening Day, 1963.

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 Hartford Twilight League trophy, 1968.
Bill Guida, Pitcher, Herb’s Sport Shop, GHTBL, 1969.
Herb Sheintop Honored by GHTBL at Dillon Stadium, 1970.
Herb’s Sport Shop defeats Vernon on Jim Martello’s no-hitter, 1971.
T.J. Calabrese, Second Baseman, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1981.
John Capodice, Second Baseman, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1990.
Bill Wishinsky, Manager, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1990.
Jeff Brennan, Third Baseman, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1991.
Sheintop with Bud Fidgeon, Rawlings salesman, 1971.
Herb’s son, Dave Sheintop, Shortstop, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1981.
Alan Mason, Pitcher, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1988.
Todd Mercier, Shortstop, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1990.
Jim Kitsock, Pitcher, Herb’s Sport Shop, 1992.

Herb Sheintop is a GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductee – Sponsors Division.

Hal Lewis, Baseball Star from Hartford’s North End

June 4, 2020

Harold “Hal” James Lewis was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 4, 1927, to James Lewis and Lula Randolph Deloach. He grew up in the city’s North End and attended Weaver High School. After school, Lewis joined the Army for eighteen months. He returned to Hartford in 1949 and gained employment as a sheet metal worker at Hamilton Standard. As an avid sportsman, Lewis became a star player for the Hamilton Standard company baseball team.

Hamilton Standard Propellers win the amateur state championship, 1950.

Lewis also suited up for an all-black team called the Nutmeg Dukes as an infielder and outfielder. The Dukes were initially formed in 1942 as an independent club who barnstormed throughout Connecticut. Of the Dukes, Lewis said, “We wanted to play competitive baseball. We wanted to be in a league,” and they were admitted to Hartford Twilight League in 1950. As the first African-American club in league history, the Dukes dominated the competition and won regular season and playoff championships.

Nutmeg Dukes vs. Courant All Stars, 1950.
Nutmeg Dukes, Twilight League Champions, 1950.

In January of 1951, Lewis became the second African-American from Hartford to sign a professional baseball contract. His childhood friend, Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, became the first a year earlier. Lewis appeared in 29 minor league games for the Quebec Braves, an affiliate of the Boston Braves. As the only black player on an all-white team in Canada, he was subjected to racial slurs and taunts. Two months into his first season, he packed his bags and returned to Connecticut. Lewis was rehired at Hamilton Standard and continued to play baseball for the Windsor Locks based company.

Hartford Courant excerpt, January 21, 1951.
Hamilton Standard Propellers, 1952.
Hamilton Standard Propellers, 1953.
Hamilton Standard travels to Texas, 1953.

For about fifteen years, Lewis excelled at the amateur level and was one of the best ballplayers in the Greater Hartford area. In his time with the Hamilton Standard Propellers, Lewis won seven championships and set stolen base records in the Hartford Twilight League. The “Props” were crowned in state champions in 1953. With Lewis at shortstop, the team then flew to Dallas, Texas, to play in a national tournament. In 1956, Lewis temporarily switched teams and won another twi-loop title with the Bloomfield Townies.

Bloomfield A.C. win Hartford Twilight League season title, 1956.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1958.
Hamilton Standard, 1961.

Lewis retired from competitive baseball after eighteen seasons. The final game of his career came in 1968. A veritable “who’s who” of Hartford Twilight League alumni played in an Old Timers Game at Dillon Stadium. Thirty-six former Hartford Twilight leaguers took part in the game. Lewis appeared alongside local greats like Johnny Taylor, Monk Dubiel, Duffy Lewis and Bob Repass. Famed broadcaster, Bob Steele served as announcer.

Hamilton Standard, 1963.
Hamilton Standard wins Hartford Twilight League playoff title, 1966.
GHTBL Old-Timers Game, 1968.

In 1969, Hal Lewis ventured into the restaurant business. After twenty years at Hamilton Standard, Lewis changed careers and established “Hal’s Aquarius,” a popular diner at 2978 Main Street, Hartford. Visiting celebrities, politicians, police officers, clergy and regulars congregated at Hal’s. Lewis worked sixteen hours per day, seven days a week. He ran the restaurant and catering business while raising three children with his wife Mary. Hal’s Aquarius operated until Lewis retired in 1989, due to failing health.

Hal Lewis and his wife, Mary, 1982.
Hal Lewis’ son, Hal Lewis Jr., 1987.
Hal’s Aquarius restaurant review in Hartford Courant, 1986.
Hartford Courant features Hal’s Aquarius, 1989.

He was also a talented vocalist and musician. Lewis sang at local clubs and performed with the Sam Kimble Band, Jasper Jenkins Trio, Paul Brown and others. After a comeback from heart problems, Lewis performed at a jazz concert in Bushnell Park in 2000. His performance with singer Kitti Kathryn and his solo renditions of “Fools Rush In” and “It’s Wonderful,” dazzled the crowd once more.

“I’m a happy guy, just a real happy guy. I’m having fun and I’m appreciative of everyone around me.”

– Hal Lewis, 2002

Hal Lewis singing at Bushnell Park, 2000.

Former Hartford Fire Chief John B. Stewart Jr. described Hal Lewis as being ahead of his time for having been a successful businessman, a singer and a revered ballplayer. Stewart said, “He could do it all. He was one of the most talented men I know. He’s the last of old Hartford.” As a member of Union Baptist Church, Lewis had a fun-loving personality with quick wits and a compassionate soul. Hal Lewis departed this life on June 15, 2004, at his home in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

Ed Skehan, WWII Vet & GHTBL Hall of Famer, Passes at 102

The family of Edward J. Skehan (1918-2020) announced his peaceful passing at his home and surrounded by his children on March 30, 2020. He lived to be 102. Ed Skehan was a retired Hartford firefighter, a World War II veteran, father of eight children and grandfather to more than 30 grandchildren. He was born and raised in Hartford, as son to Edward J. and Beatrice (Lewis) Skehan and lived in the city for over 60 years. He graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1937 and Hartford State Technical College in 1939.

Ed Skehan graduate of Hartford Public High School, 1937.

Skehan was an outfielder at Hartford Public High School and won multiple conference titles. In a game against LaSalette, Skehan led off with a home run and contributed two hits in an 8 to 4 win over the crosstown team.  He developed into a utility man who could play any position for HPHS Hall of Fame Coach Jimmy Woodworth. Skehan also suited up to play amateur baseball in multiple leagues for over 15 years. Most notable were the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League and the East Hartford Twilight League where he became an outstanding defensive first baseman, a perennial all-star and a .300 hitter.

Ed Skehan, Pope Park Drug, Keene Senior Twilight League, Hartford, 1938.

Ed Skehan’s Amateur Baseball Career

– 1935 to 1937, Hartford Public High School.
– 1936, Lincoln Dairy, Hartford Twilight League.
– 1936, Prospect Tavern, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1937 to 1941, St. Lawrence O’Toole, Catholic League.
– 1937, East Hartford Red Sox, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1938, Pope Park Drug, Keene Senior Twilight League.
– 1941, Conrose All-Stars, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1942, Finasts, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1943, Owen’s All-Stars, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1944, Joe Laing’s Spartans, a Hartford Twilight team turned semi-pro club based in Colt Park.
– 1948 to 1950, Hartford Fire Department.
– 1985, Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame (Gold Glove Division).

St. Lawrence O’Toole baseball team, 1937.
Hartford Fire Department baseball team, 1948.

Ed Skehan met his wife of 74 years, Margaret “Peg” Skehan at G. Fox, at their first job out of high school. They were married in 1942, shortly before Ed was drafted into the Army. He served with the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion as a radio operator, or as he put it, a “the dot and dash man.” In 1946, Skehan returned home. Peg and Ed Skehan settled in Hartford’s southwest end. After working as a part-time firefighter in previous years, Ed Skehan became a full-time employee at the City of Hartford Fire Department. 

Peg and Ed Skehan, 1950 (c.)

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the fire department was not only an emergency rescue service, but also a distributor of basic necessities. He would serve as a Hartford firefighter for 25 years. He fought the infamous fires at St. Patrick’s Church and St. Joseph’s Cathedral and later the 1961 fire at Hartford Hospital, where 16 people perished. He retired in 1968 as father to four boys and four girls. While in the department he played on their highly competitive baseball and bowling teams.

Ed Skehan with HPHS classmate, William H. Flanagan, 1960.
Ed Skehan, World War II Veteran, 2010.

Later in life, Skehan continued his passion for baseball, he took particular interest in politics and he was a fan of the television show “Antiques Roadshow.” He was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2017, at the age of 99, Ed Skehan was the guest of honor at the GHTBL’s Camp Courant Kids Day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.  The entire Skehan family celebrated their patriarch that day as Ed threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The following year, he turned 100 years old and was honored as an inductee into the Hartford Public High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Ed Skehan tosses ceremonial first pitch at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017.
Ed Skehan and family with GHTBL President Bill Holowaty (right), 2017.
The Skehan Family at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017.
Ed Skehan inducted into the HPHS Athletic Hall of Fame, 2018.
Ed Skehan celebrates his 100th birthday, 2018.

The GHTBL is proud to have had Ed Skehan as long time contributor and we relay our deepest sympathies to the entire Skehan family.

Chris Denorfia Coming Home to Manage Yard Goats

Former GHTBL outfielder signs on as Hartford Yard Goats Manager.

At 39 years old, Chris Denorfia has been named Manager of the Hartford Yard Goats. In his new role Denorfia will be greeted back to his home state of Connecticut following a 10-year Major League career.  He was a journeyman outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and for other minor league clubs. In 2018 he joined the Cubs as Special Assistant to the President/General Manager, Theo Epstein.  During the 2019 MLB season Denorfia was the Cubs’ Quality Assurance Coach as part of Manager Joe Maddon’s staff.

Chris Denorfia carried by Cubs teammates after game-winning homer, 2015.
Chris Denorfia doused by Cubs teammates for a walk-off homer, 2015.

Denorfia was born in Bristol and was raised in Southington, Connecticut.  He played prep school baseball at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, under Head Coach Tom Yankus and was inducted into the Choate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.  During the summer of his high school years Denorfia was a standout player for the Wallingford Legion program. 

Chris Denorfia inducted into Choate Athletics Hall of Fame, 2012.
Chris Denorfia inducted into Wheaton College Athletic Hall of Fame, 2013.

He went on to play college ball at Wheaton College where he was a Division III All-American and would later be inducted in the Wheaton College Athletic Hall of Fame. In the summer of 1999 Denorfia played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for a full season with a Simsbury-based franchise operated by Tim Vincent and Tom Vincent of Simsbury, Connecticut.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1999.
Chris Denorfia, Outfielder, Wheaton College, 2000.

Denorfia officially became a professional prospect when he led the Manchester Silk Worms of the New England Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2000 and 2001, making the NECBL All-Star Game both years.  Winsted native, former Major Leaguer and GHTBL alumnus, Moe Morhardt was Denorfia’s manager with the Silkworms in 2000. 

Hartford Courant excerpt, 2001.

Denorfia was said to be a highly coachable ballplayer, a plus defender, fleet of foot and capable of hitting for power.  He was later picked out of Wheaton College in the 19th round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds and later made his Major League debut for the Reds in 2005.

Chris Denorfia, Cincinatti Reds organization, 2002.
Dayton Daily News excerpt, 2007.

Perhaps the top highlights of Denorfia’s baseball career came from starring in the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013 for Team Italy.  After hitting 41 home runs, driving in 196 runs and batting for a .272 average in the big leagues, Denorfia played his last MLB game on October 4, 2015 with the Cubs. 

Chris Denorfia celebrates home run at World Baseball Classic, 2013.

He signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants the following season.  Listed at 6 feet tall and 195 pounds, he ended his playing career after the 2017 season in the Colorado Rockies organization with the Triple-A affiliate, Albuquerque Isotopes. Denorfia’s invaluable baseball experience and ties to the Greater Hartford community is expected to serve the Hartford Yard Goats very well as Manager in their 2020 Eastern League campaign.

Chris Denorfia (left) doused during interview after walk-off homer, 2013.

Honoring Johnny Taylor at Colt Park in Hartford

Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League works to officially rename new ball field after Johnny Taylor.

By REBECCA LURYE | HARTFORD COURANT | NOV 21, 2019 | 6:00 AM

Negro Leagues star Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor may be Hartford’s greatest baseball player; and with enough signatures, a city ballfield may be named for him.

The name Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor may soon grace a ballfield in Colt Park, where the Hartford native honed the high kick and fastball that made him a pitching legend in the Negro Leagues.

Johnny "Schoolboy" Taylor, left, was one of the greatest players from Connecticut, a standout pitcher and hitter as a senior at Bulkeley High before becoming one of the best pitchers in the Negro Leagues from 1935 to 1945. He beat Satchel Paige, right, 2-0 in an All-Star game at the Polo Grounds, pitched eight career no-hitters and was a star in Cuba and Mexico before returning to Connecticut.
Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, left, was one of the greatest players from Connecticut, a standout pitcher and hitter as a senior at Bulkeley High before becoming one of the best pitchers in the Negro Leagues from 1935 to 1945. He beat Satchel Paige, right, 2-0 in an All-Star game at the Polo Grounds, pitched eight career no-hitters and was a star in Cuba and Mexico before returning to Connecticut (Photo courtesy Of Estelle Taylor).

“He’s probably the most worthy figure in Hartford’s baseball history,” said Weston Ulbrich, secretary of the 91-year-old Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, where Taylor got his start in the 1930s. Ulbrich is leading the effort to recognize Taylor. Also helping with the effort is Leslie Hammond, a longtime Hartford real estate agent and close friend of Taylor’s late niece, Pat Anderson.

Taylor, who died in 1987, is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players to come out of Connecticut, despite the racial discrimination that kept him out of the major leagues.

He was retired from the game when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, though Taylor integrated professional baseball in Hartford two years later when he signed with the Hartford Chiefs for one final season in 1949.

Two-hundred-fifty signatures from Hartford residents are needed to move forward the process of permanently renaming the public Field #9 in Colt Park, where renovations are underway. They’re being gathered this month by Ulbrich, Hammond and others active in the city’s parks.

The measure was welcomed by the city council when Councilman Thomas “TJ” Clarke II introduced it in May, and it drew strong support at a public hearing the next month. However, the resolution stalled from July to November due to a miscommunication over the requirements to permanently rename public property—specifically, signatures were not gathered and the city’s Building Dedication Committee, which is led by the mayor, did not explain why it was not meeting to review the resolution.

Hartford's Johnny Taylor, among the best baseball players ever to come out of Hartford, is pictured at his home in July 1976. "When I pitched in the Mexican League during the war, the owner would buy me a new suit for every shutout I hurled. When the season was over, I came home to Hartford with 15 new suits. Yes, those were the days," Taylor, then 60, told The Courant.
Hartford’s Johnny Taylor, among the best baseball players ever to come out of Hartford, is pictured at his home in July 1976. “When I pitched in the Mexican League during the war, the owner would buy me a new suit for every shutout I hurled. When the season was over, I came home to Hartford with 15 new suits. Yes, those were the days,” Taylor, then 60, told The Courant (Hartford Courant file photo).

The dedication committee has not met since December 2018, according to David Grant, an assistant in Mayor Luke Bronin’s office. This week, Clarke said the process is now on track.

“Lessons learned all the way around,” Clarke said. “Communication is key.”

Taylor’s daughter, Lynette Taylor Grande of Bloomfield, said the delay isn’t important and probably wouldn’t have bothered her father, who never sought recognition.

“I think he would have been a little overwhelmed by such honoraria during his lifetime,” said Grande, who was born the year before her father left baseball for good. “I think he kind of said, ‘No’ to some things people wanted to do back when he was alive.”

However, the family was pleasantly surprised when they learned about the Twilight League’s effort in the spring. Grande sees it as part of a deeper commitment by the city to recognize the historical figures who made a difference to their communities.

“It’s fun to think that someone still remembered his story and wanted it to be indelibly imprinted in the Hartford community,” she said.

Johnny Taylor was born in Hartford in 1916 and raised in the South End, where Colt Park drew youth to its fields for pickup games and organized sandlot ball. He was a track star for the Bulkeley High School Maroons, then joined the baseball team his senior year.

On June 2, 1933, Taylor, pitching in his final high school game, set the Connecticut record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game at Colt Park. A scout for the New York Yankees came to see the ace pitcher in Hartford that year, not realizing that the light-skinned Taylor was black, The Courant reported in 1976.

Hartford’s Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor circa 1936 or ’37, when he played for the New York Cubans, a team in the Negro Leagues. (Handout)

The scout tried to convince Taylor to pretend he was Cuban and take a Hispanic last name in order to join the major leagues, but he refused. Taylor kept a newspaper clipping with that story in his wallet for the rest of his life, his late widow once told The Courant.

“He just was a person of principal who would have done the right thing and stood up for the right thing,” Grande, a retired teacher, said. “He really cared about the underdog and saw the potential for the world to be a better place for everybody.”

Taylor played two seasons with the Hartford Twilight League, which was informally integrated, though Taylor was one of the few black players.

In 1935, Taylor joined the New York Cubans, a Negro League team, and later played for a number of teams, including the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Toledo Crawfords.

Over the years, he also pitched for and against the Savitt Gems, an independent, semipro team sponsored by jewelry store proprietor Bill Savitt, who also owned a South End ballpark called Bulkeley Stadium. The stadium was named for Morgan Bulkeley, a Hartford politician and businessman who was the first president of the National League. An opponent of racial discrimination, Savitt signed several black and Latino players and organized regular games with teams from the Negro Leagues.

Taylor once helped the Gems to an exhausting 7-6 victory over the Boston Royal Giants, pitching 22 innings at Bulkeley Stadium.

Later, playing for the New York Cubans in 1937, Taylor pitched a no-hitter to beat the Negro Leagues All-Stars team — and its ace pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige — 2-0 before a crowd of 22,500 at the Polo Grounds in New York.

Satchel Paige, left, and Hartford’s Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor meet at a Negro League All-Star game in 1937 at New York’s Ebbets Field, the day Taylor no-hit Paige’s team. (Photo courtesy of Estelle Taylor)

“I gave up only eight hits that day,” Paige said at the time, “but it wasn’t nearly enough with what that kid [Taylor] did.”

Taylor later replaced Paige on the Pittsburgh Crawfords when Paige and 19 other team members left the Negro Leagues for the Dominican Republic, to play for dictator Gen. Rafael Trujillo. That year, it was Taylor who made the All-Star team.

But after one more season in the U.S., Taylor, too, left for a foreign team and a higher salary than the Negro Leagues could offer him. The millionaire Jorge Pasquel paid Taylor $600 a month to play for his Mexico City team, Azules de Veracruz, and later sweetened the deal with a new bespoke suit for every shutout he pitched.

Taylor collected 15 custom suits by the end of the 1941 season, when he returned to the U.S. for a break from baseball until he would return for two more seasons in New York.

His early retirement was hastened by a back injury he sustained nine years earlier in Cuba, where he was playing for a winter league and earning the nickname “El Rey de Hartford” — the king of Hartford.

Still, it was players like Taylor flocking to foreign leagues that helped pressure Major League Baseball and the American League to integrate in 1947.

Taylor had long thought the day would come. He told a Bridgeport Sunday Herald reporter in the 1930s, “It may not come in my career as a pitcher, but I’m sure it will come. Baseball shows signs of needing tonic, and it’s my frank opinion that the Negro will be just the tonic needed.”

Four years into his retirement, Taylor returned to become the first black athlete to sign with the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League.

Outside of baseball, Taylor worked at Pratt & Whitney and in construction with his father as he raised his four children with his wife, Estelle, who carried the distinction of the first black nurse at New Britain General Hospital. After Johnny Taylor helped build Hartford Hospital, Estelle Taylor became one of the first black nurses there, too.

It was a rich, uneventful life, Grande recalls. In the 1950s and ’60s, the Estelle Taylor would walk the kids downtown every weekend and Johnny Taylor would walk them to the library every Wednesday.

At the Wadsworth Atheneum and the department stores, to the Mr. Peanut store and a movie — and to Savitt Jewelers, where Johnny Taylor was prominently featured in the photos on the walls.

At the library, Taylor loved to read about space: “He was very much in tune with the futuristic, with what’s to come,” Grande says.

Just five years before he died at age 71, Taylor was inducted into the Twilight League Hall of Fame in 1982. He accepted it humbly, as with all recognition throughout his life, said his daughter, Maureen Taylor Hicks, who lives near Philadelphia.

“I, too, am humbled by the research into my father’s career revealing the deep respect for his talent shown by the Hartford community of classmates, teammates, sportswriters and sports fans during a time of racial segregation and discrimination,” she said.

“After so many years, it is indeed an honor for my father to be remembered.”

Rebecca Lurye can be reached at rlurye@courant.com.

Jeff Bagwell, From Hartford to the Hall

  • Born: 5/27/1968 in Boston, Massachussetts
  • High School: Xavier High School (Middletown, Connecticut)
  • College: University of Hartford
  • GHTBL: Malloves Jewelers
  • Cape Cod League: Chatham A’s
  • Drafted: 1989, Boston Red Sox, 4th Round, 109th Overall.
  • Traded: Boston Red Sox send Bagwell to Houston Astros for pitcher Larry Andersen in 1990.
  • Major League Debut: 4/8/1991
  • Awards: Rookie of the Year (1991), National League MVP (1994) and 4-time All-Star.
  • National Baseball Hall of Fame: 2017
Jeff Bagwell (left) with teammates from University of Hartford, 1987.
Jeff Bagwell (right), Malloves Jewelers, GHTBL, 1987.
Jeff Bagwell, Malloves Jewelers, GHTBL 1987.

Jeff Bagwell, University of Hartford, 1988.
Jeff Bagwell, University of Hartford, 1988.
Jeff Bagwell, Chatham A’s, Cape Cod League, 1988.
Jeff Bagwell, New Britain Red Sox, 1990.
Jeff Bagwell, New Britain Red Sox, 1990.
Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros, 1991.
Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros, 1991.
Jeff Bagwell, Houston Astros, 2004.
Jeff Bagwell inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 2017.

View Jeff Bagwell’s MLB career batting statistics on Baseball-Reference.com

2019 Annual Awards – Complete List

People’s United Bank Rakes in the Accolades

Here are the 2019 GHTBL Award Winners:

Frank McCoy Award – Most Valuable Player – Jason Sullivan, 3B, Record-Journal Expos

Ray McKenna Award – Player of the Year – Ian Halpin, INF, Vernon Orioles

Mike Liappes Award – Most Valuable Pitcher – Charlie Hesseltine, P, Record-Journal Expos

Rev. Thomas Campion Award – Outstanding Playoff Hitter – Daren Grabowski, OF, People’s United Bank

Mike Abbruzzese Award – Outstanding Playoff Pitcher – Jimmy Schult, P/OF, East Hartford Jets

Hal Lewis Award – Most Versatile Player – A.J. Hendrickson, P/C, Record-Journal Expos

Jack Repass Award – Gold Glove – Jack Risley, SS, People’s United Bank

James Gallagher Award – Rookie of the Year – Pete Barrows, Ulbrich Steel and Mac Finnegan, OF, People’s United Bank

Gene Johnson Award – Regular Season Batting Title – Daren Grabowski, OF, People’s United Bank

Ralph Giansanti Sr. Award – Stolen Base Leader – Hector Gonzalez, SS, Record-Journal Expos

Mark and Jane Foss Award – RBI Leader – Mac Finnegan, OF, People’s United Bank

Jack Rose Trophy – Playoff Champion – Vernon Orioles, Jack Ceppetelli, Manager

Jake Banks Trophy – Regular Season Champion – Record-Journal Expos, Charlie Hesseltine, Manager

A Farewell to Wethersfield Ballplayer, Joe Hallisey

Inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1986.

Joseph McMahon Hallisey passed away on September 13, 2019. Born November 20, 1925, at his home on Hillcrest Avenue in Wethersfield, Joe was the son of the late Joseph A. and Katherine (McMahon) Hallisey; he resided in Wethersfield his entire life.

A retired structural engineer, Joe owned and operated Hallisey Engineering Associates, Inc. in Wethersfield and Hartford for more than sixty years. Hallisey was married to his wife Maureen for 63 years.

Joe Halisey was a gifted third baseman and batter who played for the following GHTBL teams: Wethersfield Shadows, Yellow Cab and Wethersfield A.C.

He graduated from Wethersfield High School in 1943. Joe proudly served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946. He earned a Bachelor of Architectural Engineering degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1951.

A certified private pilot, Joe earned his instrument rating and was the proud owner of a Piper PA-22 Tri-Pacer N7838D. Joe was inducted into the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Wethersfield Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.

Pizzanello’s Return, a Life-changing Experience

Ron Pizzanello is manager of the South Windsor Phillies.

Magical things sometimes happen on and around the baseball field, and one need look no further than the South Windsor Phillies dugout to be reminded of this.

Ron Pizzanello, in his second year as coach after a reluctant return to a sport he left years ago, calls the shots there. He makes the lineup with players he recruited to this Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League team. He argues with the umpires. This is where he comes and this is what he does to feel whole again.

“I don’t know what I’d do without baseball,” Pizzanello said.

About four years ago, with Type-1 diabetes wreaking havoc on his circulatory system, Pizzanello started having body parts removed. His left leg was amputated below the knee in 2015, and above the knee in 2016. Doctors took his right leg below the knee in 2017.

Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies, 2018.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

Pizzanello, a Hartford native who was a feisty catcher under Bill Holowaty at Eastern Connecticut before graduating in 1976, lost equally meaningful parts of himself through years of debilitating health, too — some pride, some purpose, a whole lot of confidence. He became depressed.

But what Pizzanello has gotten out of a return to baseball, with a nudge from Holowaty, speaks to the power of feeling included, the power of sport, the power of having someone believe in you, the power of human connection and common goals.

Pizzanello, prosthetic legs and wheelchair and all, is just another guy spending a few evenings a week on the dusty diamonds of central Connecticut, again just one of the boys.

“When you wake up in the morning and you know you have something to do, it’s good,” said Holowaty, who won 1,404 games and four national championships in 45 years at Eastern and is now the GHTBL president. “It makes your life a lot better. True or false? That’s what it’s doing for him, and I just feel delighted.”

South Windsor Phillies at Rotary Field, South Windsor, Connecticut.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

Holowaty hadn’t spoken much to Pizzanello, now of Eastford, over the years but kept up with his story, which included Pizzanello’s year as a professional baseball player in Italy just after graduating from college. He arrived at 195 pounds and left at 128 pounds.

He couldn’t figure out what was happening to his body. His father came for a visit and said it must be diabetes. People in Italy suggested the same. Pizzanello didn’t want to hear it.

“I was playing like crap, and that’s what really ticked me off,” Pizzanello said. “I was 22, and you don’t get diabetes at 22, but I had all the symptoms. I was eating like a horse and losing weight. My dad said he wanted me to return home. I said, ‘Dad, we’re one game out of first place and there’s a $15,000 bonus if we win the championship.’”

Pizzanello, now 64, stuck it out as long as he could.

Pizzanello fills out his scorebook, South Windsor, 2018.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

“We’d go to the best restaurant in town and I’d have a big dish of pasta,” he said. “They called it rigatoni abbondante. That means a lot. I’d eat the whole thing by myself. I’d have a steak or a fish. I’d have some kind of dessert. On the way home, I’d stop and get a big bottle of Coke. I’d have an ice cream.”

When Pizzanello returned to Connecticut he said his blood sugar was over 800 and doctors wondered how he was still alive. He began to properly manage his health and went about a relatively normal life. His first marriage lasted 28 years, and he is a father of three. He was a good player for years in the Twilight league for the Vernon Orioles, the team he coached against last week, until a case of frozen shoulder — people with diabetes are particularly susceptible — made it impossible for him to keep catching.

“I couldn’t hit, anyway, so if I couldn’t catch, I was done,” he said.

Pizzanello, who remarried last year, laughed. He has a lot to laugh about these days. There’s a joy in his voice, even when retracing the obstacles diabetes has produced since he stopped playing in 1990. He spent much of the next 10 years coaching American Legion ball while working as a mainframe system programmer for The Hartford and later IBM. He had a heart attack nearly 15 years ago and has a defibrillator. He had a kidney removed.

Eventually, Pizzanello’s legs were so damaged that blood wasn’t reaching his feet unless he stood, and it was impossible to sleep through agonizing pain. His prosthetic legs — one of which he goes without, occasionally, for fear of a skin infection — are emblazoned with Red Sox logos.

Baseball was always on his mind and in his heart. He didn’t think it was in his future. But Holowaty called last summer, urging him to coach the South Windsor team with the help of Gary Burnham.

“I said ‘Coach, I don’t know,’” Pizzanello said. “I could barely walk. I couldn’t hit a fungo, couldn’t do any of that stuff. And I was in the stages of depression.”

Manager Ron Pizzanello and the South Windsor Phillies, 2018.
(Photographer: Johnathon Henninger / Special to the Courant)

Holowaty kept on his former player, wouldn’t let Pizzanello accept limitations. Pizzanello’s return would be good for Pizzanello and good for a league that is always looking for tough, serious, knowledgeable baseball people.

That’s Pizzanello — tough guy, always, and a baseball guy again.

“It was probably the best decision I’ve made,” Pizzanello said. “I just got so into it. It changed my whole demeanor, everything. I had a lot of fun. Just being part of this has done wonders for me. You wouldn’t believe how much this means to me.”


Story printed in the Hartford Courant: https://www.courant.com/sports/hc-sp-greater-hartford-twilight-baseball-ron-pizzanello-column-20190612-ysxrs5ynhraspcvdnprdwmspju-story.html
 

Article written by Mike Anthony
Mike Anthony

Mike Anthony was named The Courant’s sports columnist in May 2018. He has written about the state’s most prominent athletic programs, including the UConn men’s basketball beat from ’05-11. After a five-year period focused on feature writing, Mike spent two years on the UConn football beat. He also covered the ’17-18 UConn women’s basketball season.

Baseball Bloodlines: The Repass Brothers

One of the most influential families in Hartford’s storied baseball history went by the name of Repass. A trio of brothers: Charlie, Spike and Jack Repass significantly impacted the local baseball scene. Raised in the South End of Hartford by Lena and Charles Repass Sr. each Repass brother graduated from Bulkeley High School and starred on the Maroons baseball team. In the summer months, the Repass brothers competed in the Hartford Twilight League.

Charles “Charlie” Repass Jr. (1914 – 1933) was the eldest and the tallest of the Repass brothers. As a right-handed pitcher and outfielder, Charlie had the best throwing arm in his family. During the summers of his teenage years, he played for the Hartford Cardinals, an American Legion team. In 1931, Charlie pitched and occupied the outfield for the Home Circle nine of the Hartford Twilight League. That year, he led Home Circle to a second place finish for the league title in a final match up at Bulkeley Stadium. Sadly, a few weeks later, Charlie Repass was hospitalized with a form of cancer and passed away on December 12, 1933.

Home Circle baseball club of the Hartford Twilight League, 1930.
Charlie Repass, Bulkeley High School, Hartford, Connecticut, 1929.
Charlie Repass, 1933.

Bob Spike Repass (1917 – 2006) was three years younger than his brother Charlie, and became one of the best middle infielders to ever hail from Hartford. Bob graduated from Bulkeley High School in 1935 where he was a standout second basemen and three-sport star athlete. He then played for the Tuckel Rhymers team in the Hartford Twilight League during the summer. As a top local prospect, he signed to play for the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1937.

Bob Repass, St. Louis Cardinals, 1939.

Bob Repass was called up to the Major Leagues for 3 appearances with the Cardinals in 1939. He later guarded second base, third base and shortstop for 81 games as a member of the 1942 Washington Senators. Like many of his counterparts, Repass was drafted into military service during World War II as part of the U.S. Army in Europe. He returned to professional baseball in 1946 when he re-signed with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League and mashed 19 home runs on the season.

Bob Repass, Columbus Red Birds, 1940.
Bob Repass, Columbus Red Birds, 1940.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1941.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1941.
Bob Repass, Baltimore Orioles, 1942.
Bob Repass, Washington Senators, 1942.
Bob Repass, Washington Senators, 1942.
Bob Repass, Washington Senators, 1942.
Bob Repass, Washington Senators, 1942.
Bob Repass, Baltimore Orioles, 1943.
Bob Repass, Baltimore Orioles, 1943.

Towards the end of his career, Bob played 43 games for the 1947 Hartford Chiefs. He retired from professional baseball following another season with the Baltimore Orioles in 1949. Thereafter, he made appearances for the Hartford Indians, a semi-professional squad who took on Negro League and professional opponents at Bulkeley Stadium. In the latter half of his life, Bob Repass made his home in Wethersfield, Connecticut. He was known as a humble friend and a patriotic American.

Bob Repass at a dinner fundraiser, 1961.

In 1963, he became the resident golf professional at Edgewood Golf Club (now TPC River Highlands) in Cromwell, Connecticut. Bob Repass played his last ballgame in 1968, appearing in a GHTBL Old Timer’s game. For many years, he worked as a steamfitter with the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 777. Bob “Spike” Repass lived a long life, was married to his wife, Genevieve, for 64 years and died at 89 years old on January 17, 2006.

GHTBL Old Timers’ Game, 1968.
GHTBL Old Timers’ Game, 1968.
Bob “Spike” Repass (center), 1974.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1975.
Bob Repass, 1999.

John Jack Repass (1924 – 2001) was the youngest brother of the Repass family who helped sustain amateur baseball in the Greater Hartford area. His baseball legacy began with a successful athletic career at Bulkeley High School. Jack was a speedy infielder and solid contact hitter. In the summer of 1946, he joined the Hartford Twilight League as member of the St. Cyril’s baseball club.

1947 St. Cyril’s

He then played shortstop for the Shamrock A.C. team in 1949. That same year, he organized and managed the Paragon Indians who won the Courant-Junior Chamber of Commerce League, later named the Jaycee-Courant Amateur Baseball League. Jack entered the Paragon Indians into the East Hartford Twilight League the following year; his first season as a player-manager.

Jack Repass stepped away from baseball in 1951 to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. When he came home two years later, Jack organized another team in the Hartford Twilight League as player-manager of a team sponsored by Yellow Cab. He enrolled at Hillyer College and helped form a baseball team at the school before its 1958 merger into the University of Hartford.

Hartford Twilight League awards banquet, 1955.

During University of Hartford’s inaugural season, Jack, a 34-year-old junior, batted for a .463 average and led the NCAA College Division in stolen bases. In addition to his baseball talents, Jack was a skilled writer, researcher, pianist, and singer. His skills propelled him to earn a living at the Manchester Herald as a reporter. He later went on to revolutionize the Sports Information Director position at the University of Hartford for over 14 years.

Jack Repass (right), University of Hartford, 1958.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1959.

As his playing days came to close, Jack Repass became the statistician and Secretary of the Hartford Twilight League. In 1979, he created a 32-page booklet documenting the history of the league and commemorated its 50th anniversary. The following year, Jack founded the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League Hall of Fame. The organization gave local players, managers, umpires, sponsors, and sportswriters recognition for their contributions to the league.

Jack Repass and Art McGinley, 1968.

In 1991, he was named to the University of Hartford Alumni Athletics Hall of Fame and the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance presented Repass with its Good Sport Award; given to top volunteers in support of community sports. Jack, a long-time resident of East Hartford, Connecticut, passed away on November 10, 2001, at 77 years of age. A debt of gratitude is owed to Jack Repass and the entire Repass family for their remarkable contributions to the game of baseball in Greater Hartford.

Jack Repass, 1971.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1971.
University of Hartford honors Jack Repass (2nd from left), 1972.
Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League 50th Anniversary booklet, 1979.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1989.
Jack Repass, 1991.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 2001.

Twilight Alum, Pollock Signs Deal with Dodgers

In 2008, Pollock played for a Glastonbury-based team, Monaco Ford.

The Dodgers have landed a right-handed hitter to complement their deep, left-handed heavy lineup in free-agent outfielder A.J. Pollock (Allen Lorenz Pollock). Pollock and Los Angeles agreed to a $55 million, four-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the agreement had not been announced.

A.J. Pollock, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2020.

The agreement includes a $10 million player option for 2023 with a $5 million buyout that would make the deal worth over $60 million for five seasons. Pollock could opt out after the 2022 season and $45 million, becoming a free agent again, if he meets specified plate appearance thresholds. The 31-year-old outfielder hit .257 last year with 21 home runs, 65 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 113 games for NL West rival Arizona.

A.J. Pollock celebrates his first Arizona Diamondback home run at Chase Field on April 10, 2013. (Charlie Leight/The Arizona Republic)

Pollock was a standout baseball player at RHAM High School in Hebron, Connecticut earning All-Northwest Conference accolades three times. RHAM won the State Championship in 2004 behind Pollock. He was All-State in 2005 and 2006 and named the CHSCA and Gatorade Player of the Year in addition to being the All-Courant baseball player of the year before going on to play at Notre Dame. In his senior season, Pollock hit .465 with eight doubles, five triples, four home runs, 20 RBI, 36 runs, 16 stolen bases and an .897 slugging percentage. He struck out just once that year.

A.J. Pollock, RHAM High School, 2005

He will fill a void created when the Dodgers traded outfielders and right-handed hitters Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to Cincinnati for a pair of prospects in December. Pollock figures to play center field, with manager Dave Roberts using a platoon of Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles and possibly top prospect Alex Verdugo in the corners.

A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2018.

Pollock missed nearly two months last year because of a broken left thumb, the latest in a long line of injuries that have limited Pollock to 113 games since his breakout All-Star season in 2015. He rejected a $17.9 million qualifying offer by the Diamondbacks in November.

– The article above was written by Beth Harris, Associated Press.
– AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

A.J. Pollock, Notre Dame University, 2008.

From GHTBL to the Cape League to the Pros

In 2008, Pollock played for Monaco Ford, a Glastonbury-based team in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League under manager Al Garray. Pollock was soon picked up by the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League and ended up earning the Cape League’s MVP award.  The following year, Pollock was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1st round (17th) of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft out of the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN).

A.J. Pollock, Falmouth Commodores, Cape Cod Baseball League, 2008.

Additional A.J. Pollock facts:

The Moriarty Brothers Franchise & the Legendary Gene Johnson

The most accomplished amateur baseball franchise in Connecticut’s history was a team named Moriarty Brothers. The club hailed from Manchester and its origins could be traced all the way back to the year 1933. The Moriarty nine competed against amateur and semi-pro teams across Connecticut. They were also a part of the Manchester Twilight League for many years before joining the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League in 1962.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1935
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1939
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1941
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1946

The team was sponsored by Matthew Moriarty Sr. (GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee) and his brother, Maurice Moriarty, small business owners in Manchester. Moriarty’s was a full service Lincoln-Mercury car dealership, gas station, auto body shop, towing service and used car lot. Matt Moriarty’s profession may have been cars but his passion was baseball. He was an avid fan and supporter of his summer baseball club in the Hartford Twilight League.

Matthew Moriarty Sr. 1958.
Moriarty Brothers, Manchester, CT, 1958.
Moriarty Brothers, Manchester, CT, 1958.

The Moriarty Brothers were nicknamed the “Comets” in reference to the Mercury Comet sports car and to the team’s fast play on the diamond. Over the years, players like Harold Lewis, Moe Morhardt, Pete Sala, Leverette Spencer, Mike Gerich and many more would sign to play professional baseball. In their early GHTBL years, the franchise was led by a series of player-managers including University of Connecticut star, Wally Widholm. By 1963, Moriarty Brothers appointed their power-hitting third baseman, Gene Johnson as player-manager.

Wally Widholm, University of Connecticut, 1961.

While players like Widholm were local legends in their own right, it was Johnson whose became forever intertwined with the Moriarty Brothers franchise. Born in 1937 in Hartford, Eugene Edward Johnson grew up in the town of Manchester as the son of Raymond and Julia Muller Johnson. At 13 years old, Johnson won his first baseball championship with the St. Augustine School of Hartford. By the age of 15, he was a standout batsman for Manchester High School. Then he became an exceptional third baseman for Manchester’s American Legion Post 104 team.

St. Augustine, Greater Hartford CYO Grammar School Champions, 1950.
Gene Johnson, American Legion Post 102, Manchester, 1953.
1954 Manchester High School Varsity Baseball

Johnson began his Hartford Twilight League career in 1954 on the St. Cyril’s baseball club. He was named to the all-star team in his rookie season. In the summer of 1955, he batted .454 in the twi-loop. The New York Giants organization signed Johnson midseason as a 17 year old. He would go on to smash 36 home runs in his first 3 minor league seasons. Johnson temporarily came back to the Twilight League in 1958 with St. Cyril’s, but was signed by the Milwaukee Braves shortly thereafter.

Gene Johnson, Lake Charles Giants, 1956.
St. Cyril’s baseball club, 1958.

In the Braves organization Johnson was slated behind Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Eddie Matthews on Milwaukee’s depth chart at third base. A determined Johnson hit 19 home runs, had 82 RBI and batted .278 for the 1959 Eau Claire Braves of the Northern League. Then he slammed 18 homers, 92 RBI, and hit .292 for the 1960 Cedar Rapids Braves of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. Johnson was hitting .316 in the Texas League for the 1962 Austin Senators when he decided to step aside from professional baseball. After eight seasons and a total of 91 minor league home runs, Johnson returned home to Connecticut to start a family.

1959 Eau Claire Braves with Gene Johnson (top row, 3rd from left).

Gene and his wife Helen Johnson had six children and made their home in Manchester. He immediately appeared in games for Moriarty Brothers and won the GHTBL batting title in 1962. The following year, Johnson took over as player-manager and eventually led the Comets to 8 Regular Season Titles and 10 Playoff Championships during in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Games took place at Dillon Stadium in Hartford and later at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. More often than not, Johnson and his Moriarty Brothers were top Twilight League contenders in pursuit of the Jack Rose Playoff Championship Trophy.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1962.
Moriarty Brothers Win Twi-Loop, 1965.
Gene Johnson, Moriarty Brothers, 1965
Moriarty Brothers advertisement, 1965
A 1966 Mercury Comet, Matt Moriarty Jr. (right).
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1966
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1967.
The Johnson Family, 1970.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1970
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1970.
1970 Moriarty Brothers
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1971.
1971 Moriarty Brothers
Moriarty Brothers, Manchester, CT, 1973.
Gene Johnson, Moriarty Brothers, 1976.
Leverette Spencer, Moriarty Brothers, 1976.

Comet home games were played at what would become Moriarty Field at Mount Nebo Park in Manchester. Crowds came by the hundreds to watch the best amateur baseball players in the state. Moriarty Brothers’ roster was stacked with professional caliber ballplayers such as Leo Veleas, Jack Taylor and Bob Carlson, though it was Gene Johnson who won MVP year after year. Johnson was a 5-time Batting Title Champion bestowed with the Player of the Half Century Award in 1979 when the league celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Pete Sala (left) and Gene Johnson, 1979.

The 1980’s proved to be another successful decade for the Moriarty Brothers dynasty. Johnson recruited the best collegiate players, pro prospects and local veterans to create a new generation of champions. University of Connecticut first baseman Dave Ford, and Wake Forest University outfielder Bill Masse were mainstays on the team who later signed to play in the minor leagues. Johnson’s sons, Mike Johnson and Jeff Johnson followed in their father’s footsteps by playing for Moriarty Brothers. They were drafted to the minor leagues by the Texas Rangers and the Atlanta Braves respectively.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.
Gene Johnson and his Moriarty Brothers, 1980.
Gene’s son Mike Johnson, Moriarty Brothers, 1980.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.

On December 1, 1985, Matthew Moriarty Sr. passed away at the age of 82. The Moriarty Brothers business reorganized and the car dealership became Newman Lincoln-Mercury in 1990. Matt Moriarty Jr. continued to sponsor the baseball team who took on the new name. Even though his playing days were over and the team was no longer the Comets, Gene Johnson remained manager for Newman Lincoln-Mercury

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1985.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1998.
Newman Lincoln-Mercury, 1998.
Jeff Johnson, Foss Insurance, 2010.

The franchise once known as Moriarty Brothers won a total of 7 more GHTBL titles as Newman Lincoln-Mercury. The club fielded strong lineups thanks to players like Brian Crowley and Chris Peterson from the University of Hartford, Craig Steuernagle of the University of Connecticut and Ray Gilha from Eastern Connecticut State University. Dave Bidwell, an Assumption College graduate and seasoned veteran pitched effectively for the Gene Johnson franchise since 1976. Bidwell pitched until 2015 and currently holds the all-time GHTBL record for games started, wins and innings pitched.

Dave Bidwell, Foss Insurance, 2009.
Moriarty Field at Mount Nebo Park, 2010.

In 2004, Mark and Jane Foss of Foss Insurance stepped in to sponsor the franchise for the league and Gene Johnson. With a mix of young players and seasoned veterans, the team continued to compete at a high level. On November 10, 2014, Gene Johnson passed away at the age of 77. He spent 58 years of his life playing or coaching in the GHTBL. Players such as Mark DiTommaso and Kevin Jefferis of Western New England College, Evan Chamberlain and Mike Susi of ECSU took over the franchise. In 2015, Foss Insurance won the GHTBL Playoff Championship trophy in Gene’s honor.

Gene Johnson, Manager, Foss Insurance, 2011.
Gene Johnson, Manager, Foss Insurance, 2014.
Foss Insurance, 2014.
Dave Bidwell (left) and Gene Johnson, 2014.
Foss Insurance, GHTBL Champions, 2015.

In 2018, the franchise once known as Moriarty Brothers, received a new sponsorship from Rainbow Graphics, a Manchester-based apparel and design company. Mark DiTommaso carried the torch as player-manager until 2018. The following year, Ryan Pandolfi and Tyler Repoli assumed managerial duties for Rainbow Graphics. Gene Johnson’s franchise holds an all-time Greater Hartford Twilight record of a combined 35 Season Titles and 18 Playoff Championships. Rainbow Graphics are seeking their next title and will continue to develop local ballplayers in the Manchester area for years to come.

Mark DiTommaso, Foss Insurance, 2015.
Mark DiTommaso, Marlborough Braves at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017.
John Nollet, Rainbow Graphics, 2018.
Jack Johnson, grandson of Gene Johnson, Rainbow Graphics, 2020.
Matthew M. Moriarty Field, dedicated in 2020.
Matthew M. Moriarty Field, dedicated in 2020.

Dedicated to Gene Johnson, 1937-2014.

GHTBL Alumni Enter Hartford Public Hall of Fame

Among the inductees: Ed Skehan, 100 year old World War II Veteran.

On Sunday, November 4, 2018, a select group of former Hartford Twilight ballplayers were inducted into the Hartford Public High School Hall of Fame. Three of the four inductees are members of the GHTBL Hall of Fame joining three other GHTBL/HPHS Hall of Fame crossovers: MLB-alum Pete Naktenis, Johnny Dione, and Pete Sala.: 

Ed Skehan’s Amateur Baseball Career
– 1935 to 1937, Hartford Public High School.
– 1936, Lincoln Dairy, Hartford Twilight League.
– 1936, Prospect Tavern, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1937 to 1941, St. Lawrence O’Toole, Catholic League.
– 1937, East Hartford Red Sox, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1938, Pope Park Drug, Keene Senior Twilight League.
– 1941, Conrose All-Stars, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1942, Finasts, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1943, Owen’s All-Stars, East Hartford Twilight League.
– 1944, Joe Laing’s Spartans, a Hartford Twilight team turned semi-pro club based in Colt Park.
– 1948 to 1950, Hartford Fire Department.
– 1985, Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame (Gold Glove Division).

Edward Skehan (100 years old), class of 1937, was an outfielder on conference championship baseball teams at Hartford Public High School. In a game against LaSalette, Skehan led off with a home run and contributed two hits in the 8 to 4 win over the crosstown team. He would have many other multi-hit games and he played any position where HPHS Hall of Fame Coach Jimmy Woodworth needed him. Skehan became a utility player but would later find his niche at first base.

Ed Skehan turns 100 years old, 2018.

After high school, Skehan attended Hartford State Technical College, graduating in 1939. Skehan played amateur baseball for over 20 years in multiple local leagues. Most notable were the Greater Hartford Twilight League and the East Hartford Twilight League. He was a perennial all-star, a .300 hitter, and an outstanding defensive first baseman. 

Life was disrupted with the onset of World War II and soon Skehan was in the U.S. Army. He served from 1943 to 1946 as a Combat Engineer and spent two years in the European Theater.  He is a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, a key turning point to facilitating the end of the war in Europe. 

In 1946, Skehan became a full-time employee at the City of Hartford Fire Department after working as a part-time firefighter in previous years. He would serve as a Hartford firefighter for 25 years.  While in the department he played on their highly competitive baseball and bowling teams. 

In 2017, at the age of 99, Ed Skehan was the guest of honor at the GHTBL’s Camp Courant Kids Day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.  The entire Skehan family celebrated their patriarch that day as Ed threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Ed Skehan throws out first pitch at Camp Courant Kids Day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017.

Jack Hines
– On the 1958 Robinson Builders team in the GHTBL.
– Played for the Riley Redlegs in the GHTBL from 1959 to 1961.
– 1962 Ames Construction team in the GHTBL.
– Manager of the 1963 Herb’s Sports Shop team in the GHTBL.   
– Manager of the Hartford entry into the Connecticut Summer Collegiate Baseball League.
– Manager of the 1965 Royal McBee team in the GHTBL. 
– Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1988.

Jack Hines, Hartford Public High School class of 1956, played on the varsity baseball and basketball teams.  In baseball, he was catcher and team captain. He caught HPHS Hall of Fame pitcher and minor leaguer, Pete Sala.  Jack was behind the plate in Sala’s 10 inning 1-0 shutout and win over New Britain and their flamethrower Steve Dalkowski.  His leadership helped the Owls to the City championship in 1956. In basketball he was on solid teams that were City Champs his junior and senior years.  

Jack Hines, Riley Redlegs accepts Hartford Twilight League trophy, 1959.

Jack played basketball at Central Connecticut State University after high school.  He began a long career in the Greater Hartford Twilight League, most notably as a manager.  In 1988 he was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame.

Jack was involved in amateur athletics in Bristol for many years.  He also currently serves as the President of the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame after serving as executive director and a board member. He authored the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame scholar–athlete ceremony that is named in his honor. In 2017 Jack Hines was inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame. Jack was also a founding Board member of the Hartford Public High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Jack has received the Bristol Boys & Girls Club Humanitarian award and the Bristol Tramps Chuck McCarthy award in 2008. Jack Hines also received an honorary degree from Tunxis Community College, the first the school ever granted. 

Jack Hines of Bristol, Connecticut.

Bill Wishinsky
– Hartford Insurance Group from 1969 to 1974
– Herb’s Sports Shop player-manager from 1975 to 1992.
– Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1995.

Bill Wishinsky, class of 1967, was multi sport star, playing baseball and football.  In baseball he was one of Hartford Public’s greatest baseball players ever. He was an outstanding pitcher, but also a great hitter on strong teams in the mid 1960’s.  

In baseball, he lettered all four years. He was the winning pitcher in 19 games which is believed to be a school record. As a freshman he beat East Hartford 1-0 and struck out 8 batters for his first career win. Highlights of his sophomore year were beating Hall for his 5th win of the season and against Bulkeley, in a 7-2 win, he drove in 5 runs. 

His junior year was the winning pitcher in eight games. In a game against East Hartford he was the winning pitcher, had three hits, including a home run.  In a win over New London he had 5 hits, 2 of which were triples.

Bill Wishinksy

Some highlights of his senior year were five more wins as a pitcher.  He pitched 12 shutout innings against Norwich in a 0-0 tie. Bill was the winning pitcher in a 3-1 besting of Bulkeley and had 3 hits and a rbi. In another win over Fitch he collected three hits and drove in five runs. He was the winning pitcher over Bulkeley (4-3) to clinch the city title and tie for the CDC crown. He hit .438 as a senior.

Wishinsky also played football and was a solid fullback and outstanding punter. His punting was key in an 8-6 win over rival Bulkeley in 1965.

Bill Wishinsky served in the military as a Marine.  He had a short stint in the minor leagues before returning home and embarking on a long career in the Greater Hartford Twilight League.  He was a fixture playing and managing for Herbs Sports Shop. He won the league batting title in 1974.  He was inducted in the Twilight League Hall of Fame in 1995.

Bill Wishinsky (born: 1949 – passed away: 2017). 

Hartford Courant article on Bill Wishinsky, 1990.

Jake Fournier

– On the Society for Savings team in the GHTBL from 1991 to 1992
– On the Newman Lincoln-Mercury team in the GHTBL from 1993 to 1996 led by manager, Gene Johnson.
– Player for KGA in the GHTBL from 1999 to 2002 and later player-manager from 2003 to 2004.
– Player-manager of Bill’s Sport Shop in the GHTBL from 2005 to 2007.
– Player-manager of RMR Construction in the GHTBL from 2008 to 2010.
– Played part-time for the Ferguson Waterworks team in the GHTBL from 2012 to 2013. 
– Fournier made his final appearance in 2015 in a GHTBL game with the Ulbrich Clippers.

Jake Fournier, class of 1990, was a versatile athlete playing multiple positions and competing in four sports during his time at Hartford Public. He earned at total of seven varsity letters.

In football, as a senior, Fournier played tight end and led the team in receiving and was also the punter, averaging over 40 yards per kick. He also threw an 82-yard option for a TD to tie South Windsor. Fournier was part of the group that helped transition Hartford Public football from the tough years in the 1980’s back to being a state power in the 1990’s.  Fournier lettered two years in basketball on strong teams that were city and conference champions in 1990 with an 18-4 record.

In baseball, Fournier earned a varsity letter three times and was team captain twice.  He was named All-CCC after his Junior and Senior season.  The HPHS baseball team made the state tournament his Sophomore year.

Jake Fournier hit a grand slam for Newman Lincoln Mercury of the GHTBL, 1994.

Fournier was the valedictorian of his class and was accepted at Yale University. While at Yale he played baseball as a walk on for two years.  In his Senior year, he earned the starting catcher spot and had an outstanding season.  He hit .301 and led the team in walks as Yale won the Ivy League championship.

After college Fournier explored professional baseball opportunities but decided to move to Portland, Oregon.  While there he met his future wife and played in very competitive amateur baseball leagues while on the west coast. He moved home to Connecticut in 1998 and continued his amateur baseball career as a key player for manager and leader in the the GHTBL. 

Fournier has coached his son’s team in Mayor Mike’s Little League in Hartford for the past five years. He has also has coached basketball locally in a travel league. Congratulations to Jake and the entire Fournier family! 

Jake Fournier of Hartford, Connecticut.

Rob Dibble Played Hartford Twilight Ball in ’83

Robert “Rob” Keith Dibble graduated from Southington High School in 1982 and was drafted in the 11th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Instead of going pro, he enrolled at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. During the summer he played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League on the Katz Sports Shop club of Meriden, Connecticut, during the 1983 season. Shortly thereafter, Dibble was selected 20th overall in the 1st round of the MLB June Draft-Secondary Phase by the Cincinnati Reds.

Dibble became a World Series champion in 1990 with the Reds. He would also go on to earn a pair of MLB All-Star appearances in ‘90 and ‘91 as a closer with the Reds. He was part of a Cincinnati bullpen nicknamed the “Nasty Boys” which included Norm Charlton and Randy Myers. After twelve professional seasons, Dibble finished his career as relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers. Dibble now hosts the Rob Dibble Show on 97.9 ESPN radio at studios in Hartford, Connecticut.

Jack Patterson & Zac Susi Selected in MLB Draft

GHTBL Alumni matriculate to professional baseball.

Jack Patterson (Suffield, Conn.) – currently pitching for the Vernon Orioles selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 32nd round (968th overall)

High School: Suffield Academy
College: Bryant –After going 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA as a true freshman in 2014, Patterson missed most of 2015 and all of 2016 before returning to the diamond in 2016. What has followed is one of the most impressive two-year runs for a left-handed pitcher in program history.

Patterson went 4-0 with three saves and a 2.90 ERA as a redshirt junior before cementing himself as the best left-handed power pitcher in program history this spring. He became just the second pitcher in program history to strikeout 100+ batters in a single season and allowed just 75 hits in 82 innings on his way to Northeast Conference Pitcher of the Year honors. This spring, he recorded six quality starts, threw Bryant’s first nine-inning complete-game shutout since 2014 and struck out 10+ batters on four occasions.

Jack Patterson, Bryant Baseball, 2018.

Zac Susi (Southington, Conn.) – former catcher for Rainbow Graphics franchise selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 12th round (354th overall).

High School: Southington High
College: University of Connecticut – 
Susi, 21, has been a three-year starter at UConn since graduating Southington High in 2015, where the left-handed slugger was a two-time All-State backstop. He has been UConn’s primary catcher the last three seasons. He started 41 games as a freshman. As a sophomore, he hit .286 and started 56 games and was named to the Johnny Bench Award Watch List.

In 2017, Zac played 57 games and started 56 behind the plate as the Huskies primary catcher. He hit .286 on the year and was second on the team with 61 hits, nine doubles, two triples, two home runs and was second on the team with 40 RBI. Susi led the team with 27 walks and had a .362 on base percentage. He also had a team-leading 15 RBIs in the seventh inning or later. Behind the plate, he threw out 15 base runners attempting to steal.

Susi earned All-Star status with the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod Baseball League. He played in 23 games and hit .276 with 20 hits, three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs and scored 12 runs. Zac is the son of John Susi, Head Baseball Coach at Western Connecticut State University and

Zac Susi (right), UConn Baseball, 2018.

Pete Naktenis, Hartford’s Major League Southpaw

Peter “Lefty” Naktenis was the first Hartford Twilight League player to advance to Major League Baseball. Naktenis was born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1914. Soon after his birth, the Naktenis family moved to Manchester, Connecticut. He grew up to be a talented pitcher at Hartford Public High School, and set the state record for strikeouts in a season. As a young pitching phenom, he dominated the Hartford Twilight League during the summer months. At 18 years old, Naktenis pitched well for the Frederick Raff team in the summer of 1932.

Peter “Lefty” Naktenis, 1932.

The following summer he hurled for the Mayflower Sales team, who became champions of Hartford Twilight League. Naktenis pitched a no-hitter in the 1933 championship series against Charlie Repass of the Home Circle team, winning 4 to 0. In his second game of the day, Naktenis took the mound again and beat crosstown rival, Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, a hard-throwing right hander from Bulkeley High School. Taylor, who later became a Negro League star and Naktenis would become two of Hartford’s greatest pitchers.

Pete Naktenis toss no-hitter in Hartford Twilight League, September 3, 1933.

The 6’1” Pete Naktenis was highly sought after by professional teams, but he would take the advice of a Philadelphia Athletics scout and attend college instead. After graduating from Duke University in 1936, he signed his first professional contract to pitch for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics. Naktenis made his major league debut for the Athletics that same year at age 22. He played in seven games and compiled an 0-1 record, allowing 24 hits and 26 runs with 18 strikeouts.

Philadelphia Athletics sign Pete Naktenis, June 13, 1936.

However, Naktenis ended up spending most of his time in the minor leagues. In 1937, he competed in the New York-Pennsylvania League, pitching for the Binghamton Triplets of the New York Yankees organization. The following year he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and pitched well for their minor league team, the Albany Senators of the Eastern League . Naktenis didn’t compile eye-popping numbers, but he many memories.

I remember one time in 1936 when I was with the A’s, I had my hair parted by a line shot off the bat of Joe Vosmik of the (Cleveland) Indians. The drive hit the button of my cap and the centerfielder picked up the ball on one short hop. A little lower and it would have parted me in half. That was what you would call a narrow escape.”

Pete Naktenis
Pete Naktenis, Pitcher, Philadelphia Athletics, 1936.

When his professional seasons were complete, Naktenis often returned to Hartford during the off-season and signed with the Savitt Gems. The Gems were a semi-pro team led by their owner, Bill Savitt and player-Manager, Jigger Farrell. Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s Naktenis drew great crowds to Bulkeley Stadium for the Gems. “Lefty” made his first appearance for the Gems in Hartford on September 25, 1938. He delivered a complete game performance versus the Philadelphia Colored Giants, allowing just 3 hits and one unearned and leading the Savitt Gems to victory.

Naktenis pitches for the Savitt Gems, 1935.

In 1939, the southpaw from Connecticut logged three games in the big leagues with the Cincinnati Reds. While property of the Reds, Naktenis found more competitive opportunities with the Savitt Gems. On September 24, 1939, he took the mound for the Gems against the Scranton Red Sox (previously known as the Scranton Miners) of the Eastern League. He out-pitched Mickey Harris and the Gems trounced Scranton by a score of 11 to 3.

Pete Naktenis, Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds, 1939.

In 1940 and 1941, Naktenis was a starter in the Reds organization with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association. His next minor league stop was with the 1942 Milwaukee Brewers led by Bill Veeck and Charlie Grimm, former big leaguers turned owners. During World War II, Naktenis returned home and gained employment at Colt Manufacturing to support the Am erican war effort. He continued to pitch on a part-time basis for the Hartford Senators, choosing to throw solely in home games. In 1944, he led Hartford to an Eastern League pennant title.

Pete Naktenis, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1943.
Naktenis scores for Hartford, 1944.
Pete Naktenis, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1944.

Naktenis retired after the 1945 season. He and his wife Kathleen became residents of Newington, Connecticut, where they raised three daughters. He continued to work in manufacturing and became president of Dean Machine Products in Manchester, Connecticut. Later in his life, Naktenis was inducted into the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League Hall of Fame and the Hartford Public High School Hall of Fame. He eventually moved south to Singer Island, Florida, in the 1980s. Peter “Lefty” Naktenis went to rest in eternal peace on August 1, 2007.

L to R: Johnny Taylor, Walter Elliot and Pete Naktenis, 1958.
Hartford Courant features Naktenis, August 22, 1976.

Sources:

1. Hartford Courant
2. Reading Times

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