Tag: base ball

Hartford’s First Ball Game Under Electric Lights

In Connecticut’s capital, a technological experiment occurred on Wednesday evening, July 23, 1890. It was Hartford’s first night baseball game aided by electric light. The event made national headlines and was touted as the “Greatest Novel Attraction of the Season” by the Hartford Courant. Ten arc lamps belonging to the Hartford Electric Company were connected to generators and suspended above Ward Street Grounds. More than 2,000 spectators paid admission to witness Connecticut’s first night baseball game.


At that time, the leisurely game of “base ball” had become a professional enterprise in Hartford – though it was a minor league one. The Hartfords were in last place in the Atlantic Association, and they needed a jolt in attendance. The night game allowed fans with day jobs to be patrons on a weekday. According to a humorous Hartford Post article, “The Hartford Base Ball team does well to play at night. Many of its games would look better in absolute darkness.”

Hartford Base Ball Association annual meeting, Hartford Courant, January 21, 1890.
Main Street, Hartford, CT, 1890.
Atlantic Association standings, 1890.


The evening game matched Hartford with the original Baltimore Orioles, and locals knew them well. Baltimore’s manager was “Bald Billy” Barnie, a former member of the 1874 Hartford Dark Blues. The Orioles featured a young Connie Mack at catcher, who started his career with Meriden and Hartford. Leading the hometown club were directors and shareholders of the Hartford Base Ball Association. A printer named A.W. Lang served as president of the organization and a former major leaguer named John M. Henry was Hartford’s manager. The team’s three-hitter was “Gentleman George” Stallings, who became a longtime manager in the big leagues.


Hartford would see a boost in ticket sales, but the evening game was a debacle. Due to an insufficient amount of light, the experiment was labeled a burlesque and a parody. Players were unable to track the ball in dim lighting, and batters were bunting for base hits. Every man on defense played in, and fielders rolled the ball to first base to record outs. The exhibition was called off after four innings. No official score was taken.

Ball by Electric Light, Hartford Courant, July 24, 1890.


While Hartford’s first night game failed, the attempt built upon previous experiments. Baseball by electric light traced back to July of 1880 – a year after Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. The Boston Post reported on a night game between amateur nines at Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts. One of Edison’s rivals, Edward Weston, supplied the lights. Here’s a drawing of the Weston arc lamp:

Edward Weston arc lamp, 1880.


There were many naysayers and detractors to the idea, but Hartford’s club tested night baseball again in 1901. This time, a string of carbide lights were hung on poles around Hartford Base Ball Park (near Hanmer Street and Wethersfield Avenue). The game was described as a successful demonstration of night baseball. Spectators were said to be amused, and they did not seem to care that Hartford lost to Brockton, 15-8.

Hartford Base Ball Park (Wethersfield Avenue Grounds), c. 1900.

Sources:

  1. Eddleton, O. (1980). Under the Lights. Sabr.org. https://sabr.org/journal/article/under-the-lights/.
  2. Various articles, Hartford Courant database, Newspapers.com.

When Hartford Witnessed the Remarkable Rube Waddell

Of all the Hall of Famers to barnstorm Hartford, Connecticut, (Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Babe Ruth, to name a few) one of the earliest stars to come here was George Edward “Rube” Waddell. The unpredictable left-hander led Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics against the Washington Senators at Hartford Base Ball Park. The postseason exhibition game took place on a Monday afternoon, October 8, 1906, to benefit Newington’s Cedar Mountain Hospital for consumptives (patients with tuberculosis).

Rube Waddell, 1901.
Rube Waddell, Philadelphia Athletics, 1902.

A year prior to his Hartford visit, Waddell won a rare pitcher’s Triple Crown. He paced the American League with 27 wins, 287 strikeouts and an earned run average of 1.48. Waddell was baseball’s biggest celebrity and drawing card, though he was injured for the 1905 World Series. Over thirteen big league seasons, he appeared with Louisville, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis. He was nicknamed “Rube,” meaning “country bumpkin” – as many rural players were called at the time.

Philadelphia Athletics at the World Series (an injured Rube Waddell kneels to the right of Connie Mack, standing center) Polo Grounds, New York City, 1905.

Born on Friday the 13th of October, 1876, in Bradford, Pennsylvania, George Edward Waddell was the sixth child of Mary and John Waddell, who worked in the oil fields for Standard Oil Company. Rube made his Major League debut at 20 years old. He garnered a reputation for unmanageable free-spiritedness. Rube was known to miss regular season games for fishing trips and he often moonlighted with amateur teams, which included appearances at Rollins College and Volant College. Sometimes dubbed “Lunatic Lefty,” Waddell indulged in drinking, gambling, firefighting and even alligator wrestling.

Hartford Base Ball Park, c. 1905.

Despite his eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, Waddell was baseball’s top southpaw at the time of his Hartford sojourn. Rube was the talk of the city as the Philadelphia club arrived late to check-in at Hartford’s Heublein Hotel on Wells Street. The game was scheduled for 2:30 PM. Fans arrived early, packing the grandstand and encircling the roped off field. Local dignitaries such as Morgan G. Bulkeley, former U.S. Senator, Connecticut Governor and first President of the National League, William J. Tracy, Vice President of the Connecticut League of Baseball Clubs and John F. Gunshanan, former professional ballplayer, community leader and head organizer of the Rube-featured exhibition.

Rube Waddell, c. 1905.
Hotel Heublein, Hartford, Connecticut, 1908.

Before night fell over Hartford Base Ball Park, onlookers were awed by Waddell’s victorious complete game shutout. He allowed two hits and struck out 16 batters. His fastball was overpowering and his curve confounded opponents. Behind Rube at second base was another Hall of Famer, Charles “Chief” Bender who recorded a double and a run in the game. A pitcher’s duel that lasted one hour and twenty minutes ended with the Athletics downing the Senators, 2-0. Washington’s lefty, Frank Kitson earned the loss on just five Philadelphia hits.

Hartford Courant excerpt, October 9, 1906.

More than 4,000 fans were estimated in attendance at $0.50 per ticket. Waddell’s Hartford game raised $1,250 for consumptives at Cedar Mountain Hospital – the reported cost of running the institution for about a month. After the game, it was claimed that Waddell has some of his teammates stopped in at Wethersfield Prison to lift the spirits of inmates (something you would never hear of Major League baseball players doing today).

Rube Waddell, St. Louis Browns, 1908.

Coincidentally, Waddell contracted tuberculosis less than eight years later. He died of consumption at 37 years old on April Fool’s Day, 1914. He was buried in San Antonio, Texas. The nearly unhittable “Rube” was eventually elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Rube Waddell’s National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.

Rube was one of a kind — just a big kid, you know. He’d pitch one day and we wouldn’t see him for three or four days after. He’d just disappear, go fishing or something, or be off playing ball with a bunch of twelve-year-olds in an empty lot somewhere. You couldn’t control him ’cause he was just a big kid himself. Baseball was just a game to Rube.”

Sam Crawford, Detroit Tigers, National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

Sources

  1. Baseball-Reference.com
  2. Rube Waddell: Baseball’s Peter Pan by John Thorn
  3. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
  4. SABR Article: The Strangest Month in the Strange Career of Rube Waddell by Steven A. King

The 1870 Connecticut Base Ball Convention

150 years ago in baseball history – On Wednesday, November 2, 1870, Hartford hosted the third ever Connecticut Base Ball Convention. Hartford’s own Gershom B. Hubbell presided over the meeting. Delegates attended from the most prominent teams in the state. Many of them arrived in Hartford via steamship on the Connecticut River. Ball clubs represented were Yale College, Middletown Mansfields, Stratford, New Britain, Essex, Meriden and others from Hartford including Trinity College.

Hartford Courant excerpt, November, 1870.
Gershom B. Hubbell, President of Connecticut Base Ball Association, 1870.
Hartford Courant excerpt, November 3, 1870.
Painting by John Stobart, City of Hartford Steamship on the Connecticut River, Hartford, 1870.

The Charter Oak Base Ball Club of Hartford

The New York style of “base ball” rose to prominence in Hartford during the summer of 1860. The first club to organize was the Independent Base Ball Club. Local merchants, W. O. Sherman and Charles A. Griswold served as President and Vice President. A few years later on June 13, 1862, a new team was formed in Bushnell Park called the Charter Oak Base Ball Club.

The club was named after an unusually large White Oak tree and a symbol of American freedom from the Revolutionary War called the Charter Oak. Membership was limited to 40 men. Game days in the park were Monday, Wednesday and Friday. According to the Hartford Courant, the club’s mission was to “…establish on a scientific basis the health-giving and scientific game of base ball, and to promote good fellowship among its players.”

Painting of Charter Oak by Charles De Wolf Brownell, 1857.

The Charter Oaks were founded by their President, Gershom B. Hubbell, a native of Bridgeport. He was a telegrapher at the American Telegraph on Main Street, Hartford and later, superintendent of Western Union’s Hartford office. Other elected officers of the club included: James B. Burbank, Vice President; Charles A. Jewell, Secretary and Treasurer; Thomas Hollister, G. F. Hills and E. H. Lane, Directors. James Burbank was a clerk; Charles Jewell, was a clerk at his father’s hide and leather business, Pliny Jewell & Sons; Enos A. Lane, 20, was also a clerk at George S. Lincoln Company, iron founders of Hartford; George F. Hills, aged 25, a teller at the State Bank; and Thomas A. Hollister, aged 30, who returned from New York as an apprentice bookbinder. All of the founders, except Burbank, made Hartford their permanent home.

The Charter Oak Base Ball Club is organized, July 2, 1862.
Hartford Courant excerpt, July 19, 1862.
Hartford Courant, August 8, 1862.

The Charter Oaks fielded a “first nine,” a “second nine” and a “muffin team,” as was customary for some clubs in this early era. Practices and friendly inter-squad games were held in Bushnell Park. Their uniforms consisted blue pants with a white hat and a white shirt. On July 17, 1862 the “first nine” were picked. They were the Bunce twins—Frederick and Henry Lee (both of whom became banking executives), Henry Yergason, Dickinson, Burbank, Branch, Hills, Hollister and Gershom Hubbell. In 1863, the team disbanded due to the start of the American Civil War and the ensuing military draft.

Charter Oaks vs. Collinsville,1864
Charter Oaks vs. Collinsville,1864

The Charter Oaks reorganized in the summer of 1864 and achieved greatness. The ball club defeated local teams like Trinity College, the Hartford Mechanics and nines from Middletown, Norwich, Collinsville, and Waterbury. The Oaks recruited a Trinity College student, Cy Blackwell to take over pitching duties. In the fall of 1864, Blackwell and the Charter Oaks out-dueled New Haven’s Yale College by a score of 44-32. A rematch was later cancelled due to snowy weather.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 15, 1864.
Yale challenges the Charter Oaks, 1864.
Aerial view of Hartford by J. Weidermann, 1864.

By 1865, “base ball” soared in popularity as soldiers returned home from the Civil War. Thousands of spectators witnessed the Oaks win a majority of their games along the banks of Park River in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. In addition to local teams, the Oaks “first nine” competed against the game’s first professional clubs in an era when there was no official difference between professional and amateur. The Philadelphia Athletics, the Atlantics of Brooklyn, the Unions of Morrisania, the Eons of Portland, Maine, the Lowells of Lowell, Massachusetts, the Eurekas of Newark, New Jersey, were among the top challengers to visit Hartford.

Main Street Hartford, Connecticut, 1865.

The Charter Oak Base Ball Club also scheduled away games, otherwise known as “base ball excursions.” In Worcester, Massachusetts, on July 31, 1865, the Oaks were thoroughly defeated by Harvard, 35-13. Nevertheless, the Oaks earned a winning record against in-state rivals that season. As a result, they were honored as champions of Connecticut and given a miniature wooden bat with inscribed silver emblems by a supporter of the club, J. G. Belden. The bat was said to be made from the original Charter Oak tree destroyed in a storm nine years earlier.

1865 Charter Oak Base Ball Club.

In 1866, the Charter Oaks retained their state championship title in a three-game series against the Norwich Chesters. The final game took place at Hamilton Park (later known as Howard Avenue Grounds) in New Haven, Connecticut. Hubbell, Jewell, the Bunce twins and the rest of the Oaks dominated the Norwich club, winning 39-22. A second consecutive state championship padded their well-regarded reputation. When the season was through, Hubbell represented the Charter Oaks at the annual “National Base Ball Convention” where the game, its rules and its clubs made efforts to standardize and coordinate base ball operations.

Charter Oaks vs. Norwich Chesters, 1866.

By 1867, Hubbell and the Bunce twins had appeared in every game the Oaks ever played. In late summer, the Pequots of New London managed to defeat the Charter Oaks and take hold of the state title. After the season, the first base ball convention of Connecticut was hosted in Hartford at Central Hall on Central Row. In attendance were representatives from each of the state’s major base ball clubs. The meeting formed the Connecticut Base Ball Players Association in which organization Gershom B. Hubbell played a lead role. He hosted two more base ball conventions in Hartford. By the 1870 convention, the Charter Oaks were history but they had put Hartford base ball on the map.

Charter Oak Base Ball Club travels to New London, 1867.
Charter Oak Billiard Hall , 1867.
Charter Oaks vs. Yale, 1867
Charter Oaks vs. Pequots 1867.

The Charter Oaks and Gershom B. Hubbell led the early development of base ball in Hartford. Four years after the Oaks disbanded, Hartford’s first professional team was established. The Hartford Base Ball Club colloquially known as the Hartford Dark Blues were inaugural members of the National League. Former Charter Oaks captain, Hubbell, was selected as the club’s President.

Charter Oaks vs. Yale, June 20, 1870.

In addition to pioneering the game, Hubbell was also a three-term City Council member of Hartford’s 7th Ward, an expert electrician and a championship pool player. He is credited with introducing the first telephones to Bell Telephone Company and with starting the first telephone exchange in Hartford. Hubbell owned a local billiards hall on Pearl Street during the late 1860’s called Charter Oak Billiard Hall.

Base Ball Convention, Hartford, 1870.
The Hubbell House, Fairfield, Connecticut, 1880 (c.)

Yung Wing & Hartford’s Chinese Base Ball Club

In 1872, a delegation of dignitaries and students from China arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, for a prolonged visit. The Chinese government had commissioned the students to undergo a Western education in order to develop future ambassadors of the Qing Dynasty. However, China did not expect the young students to become Americanized as they did, to forget how to speak Mandarin and to grow an affection for a game called base ball. Hartford’s Sino-guests were a part of the first Chinese Educational Mission (CEM) and led by Yung Wing, a Chinese man educated in America. Also known by his Mandarin title, “Rong Hong” Yung was the first Chinese person to graduate from New Haven’s Yale College.

Yale College (left) New Haven, Connecticut, 1850 (c.)

Originally, Yung Wing was born in 1828 and raised in the Zhuhai prefecture near Macao. In his formative years, Yung attended the Morrison School in Macao, the first Christian missionary school in China founded by another Yale graduate, Reverend Samuel Robbins Brown. In 1847, Yung was offered an opportunity to study in the United States by Reverend Brown, who was returning home due to poor health. Yung accepted the invitation, traveled half-way around the world and initially enrolled at Monson Academy in Massachusetts. During this time he became a convert to Christianity and accustomed to a New England way of life. In 1852, while studying law at Yale, Yung also became an American citizen.

Yung Wing (Rong Hong), Yale Graduate, Class of 1854.

After Yale, Yung Wing returned to China. He was determined to bring Chinese students to the United States so they too could experience a Western education. The Qing court debated the idea of sending students to study abroad in 1863. Meanwhile Yung was promoted up the ranks of China’s government and became envoy to the United States. He returned to America to acquire machinery, thereby equipping the city of Shanghai with modern manufacturing technology. He was then called upon to serve as lead interpreter to negotiate the 1868 Burlingame Treaty, providing legal rights to both Americans and Chinese people while abroad. Then Yung was key to negotiations with France following the Tianjin Massacre of 1870.

View of Hartford, Connecticut, 1869.

Eventually, Yung Wing became a Viceroy of the fifth rank, and he used his influence to appeal for the Western education of Chinese boys. His persistence paid off when the Tongzhi Emperor approved the Chinese Educational Mission to America. Yung went ahead of other Chinese officials and students in order to establish the CEM in New England. He vetted American families who would open their homes to young Chinese students and would eventually set up CEM headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut. The first group of thirty students sailed to America in 1872, and rode a series of trains to reach Hartford.

Reverend Samuel Robbins Brown, 1870 (c.)

The first group of students from China were 30 boys ranging in age from 10 to 14. They arrived in Hartford in 1872. A second detachment of students arrived from China in 1873, followed by a third and fourth in 1874 and 1875. The students lived with host families in Connecticut and Massachusetts, where they were immersed in the English language and American customs. CEM students attended local schools, including West Middle School and Hartford Public High School. They would go on to study at secondary schools throughout New England in preparation for college.

Chinese Educational Mission students departing Shanghai, 1872.

A majority of Chinese Educational Mission students hailed from Guangdong Province, while others came from Fujian Province, Shanghai, and various coastal locations of China. They arrived in Hartford wearing traditional Chinese garb but soon adopted an American style of attire after experiencing ridicule from peers. The students also improved speaking English at the expense of their Mandarin. They assimilated to a new culture, including going to church on Sunday, eating American cuisine and playing baseball, a game spreading rapidly in popularity throughout the United States at that time.

The first Chinese Educational Mission students arriving in Hartford, Connecticut, 1872.

In 1874, the Chinese Education Mission constructed a headquarters, at 352 Collins Street in Hartford, where in the summer, many of the boys lived and studied Chinese classics and culture. Summertime also brought about more outdoor leisure and more time to play baseball. A team of at least nine players was formed and called the Celestials (also referred to as the Orientals). In 1875, while directing the CEM, Yung Wing married Mary Louise Kellogg, the daughter of a prominent doctor in Hartford. Mary Kellog and Yung Wing were married by a close friend, sponsor and first pastor of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell.

Reverend Joseph H. Twichell (left) and Yung Wing, 1875.
Yung Wing on his wedding day, 1875.
Mary Louise Kellogg, wife of Yung Wing on their wedding day, 1875.
The parlor of the Chinese Educational Mission, 1878.
The classroom Chinese Educational Mission of Hartford, 1878.
Yung Wing, leader of the Chinese Educational Commission, Hartford, Connecticut, 1878.
The Celestials, 1878.

The marriage of Yung Wing and Mary Kellogg was the talk of Hartford at the time. They would have two children named Morrison Brown Yung and Bartlett Golden Yung. Not long after the birth of his sons, Yung Wing found himself in a predicament over the fate of the Chinese Educational Mission. Other CEM commissioners with traditional viewpoints wrote in secret to the Chinese Court denouncing the students for becoming too Americanized. These negative reports, funding concerns and a United States breach of the Burlingame Treaty prompted China to announce the end of the mission.

Chinese student, Hartford, Connecticut, 1879.

However Yung Wing and his Hartford-based circle of influence fought back. The closest friend of Rev. Joseph H. Twichell and an avid CEM supporter happened to be Samuel Clemens, better known as the famed author Mark Twain. Twain took the initiative to write a letter to former United States President Ulysses S. Grant whom China respected. Twain’s letter urged former President Grant to appeal China’s decision ending the CEM. Grant made the appeal and as a result, the CEM was temporarily allowed to continue.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) of Hartford advocates for CEM, 1881.

Despite the unpredictable future of the mission, integration of Chinese students into New England society thrived. By the spring of 1881, the CEM was so effective that many of its students were enrolled at colleges and preparatory schools. In fact, Phillips Exeter Academy and Phillips Academy Andover both featured a Chinese student on their baseball teams. Other students adapted to American culture by forming political clubs or joining religious organizations. CEM students were also well-versed in specialized fields such as telegraphy, machining, medicine, law, government and international studies.

Yung Wing (second from right) and other leaders of the Chinese Educational Mission, 1881.

Eventually though the Chinese government ordered the students back to China on June 8, 1881, six years earlier than originally planned. By August, one hundred CEM students were making their way back to China along with Yung Wing. The Chinese cohort stopped in San Francisco to await a steamer back to China but before their departure, a local Oakland baseball team challenged the Celestials ball club to a game. The Oakland club expected to walk all over with the young Chinese squad. However, to the surprise of most people in attendance, the Celestials drew on their experience in Hartford and won their final baseball game in America.

Chentung Liang Cheng (seated, right) of the Phillips Academy Andover Base Ball Team, 1881.
Chin Kin Kwai (seated, right) of the Phillips Exeter Academy Base Ball Team, 1881.
Chinese Educational Mission headquarters at 352 Collins Street Hartford, Connecticut, 1887.

In 1883, Yung Wing came back to Hartford to care for his wife who had fallen ill while in China. Sadly, she never recovered and passed away in 1886. A devastated Yung Wing raised his two sons who helped console him through the loss of both the Chinese Educational Mission and his wife. In 1895 Yung Wing returned to China in the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese War in which China was defeated. He made suggestions to government officials, such as construction of railroads, establishment of a national bank, but none were adopted.

Yung Wing in China, 1908 (c.)

Yung Wing then joined the Reform Party who lobbied for new progressive policies in China. During the summer of 1898, Empress Dowager Cixi brought a halt to any notion of reform and a $70,000 bounty was placed on the head of Yung Wing. He fled for his life to Shanghai and then on to Hong Kong. Though his United States citizenship had been annulled in 1898 as a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act, he snuck in to the country via a port of San Francisco in June of 1902. Yung Wing arrived in New Haven in time to see his younger son, Barlett Golden Yung graduate from Yale.

Along with his longtime friend, Rev. Joseph Twichell, Yung Wing published an autobiography in 1909 entitled My Life in China and America. On April 22, 1912, he died in Hartford and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery. If not for Yung Wing, 120 Chinese students would not have come to live and study in New England during the 9-year Chinese Educational Mission. The students entered into diplomatic service, worked as engineers, physicians, educators, administrators, magistrates and naval officers; thus achieving the original vision of Yung Wing. He left a trailblazing legacy of international diplomacy, he led a Western expansion of China’s cultural footprint and perhaps unintentionally, Yung Wing ushered the game of baseball from Hartford to China.

Yung Wing in Hartford, Connecticut, 1909 (c.)
Morrison Brown Yung and Bartlett Golden Yung, 1910 (c.)
Yung Wing statue in Zhuhai, China, 2005.
Tombstones of Mary Kellogg and Yung Wing, 2012.
Yung Wing Statue Sterling Memorial Library Yale New Haven, Connecticut. 2014.

Sources:

  1. Wing, Yung. My Life in China and America. Nabu Press, 2010.
  2. Chinese Exchange Students in 1880’s Connecticut, www.ctexplored.org/chinese-exchange-students-in-1880s-connecticut.
  3. “Yung Wing, the Chinese Educational Mission, and Transnational Connecticut: Connecticut History: a CTHumanities Project.” Connecticut History | a CTHumanities Project, www.connecticuthistory.org/yung-wing-the-chinese-educational-mission-and-transnational-connecticut.
  4. Hartford Courant, Connecticut State Library digital database.