Tag: courant

Remembering Owen Canfield and his Twilight League Coverage

Owen Canfield Jr. was an esteemed Register Citizen sports columnist turned Hartford Courant editor who died on Saturday, November 30, 2019 in his hometown of Torrington, Connecticut. Canfield worked in the newspaper business for nearly 59 years reporting on several sports including baseball at the local and national level. He was known for his ease in connecting with people and for his comedic style of writing. He was 85 years old. Canfield was also a GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee, Media Division.

Hamilton Standard wins Twilight Playoffs by Owen Canfield, 1966.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1976.

Owen Canfield Jr. was born in Torrington, on February 1, 1934, to the late Owen F. Canfield, Sr. and Marjorie (Wheeler) Canfield. He graduated from Torrington High School in 1952 and spent four years in the Air Force, including some time in Korea during the Korean Conflict. He met his wife Ethel Riley, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, when he was stationed in St. Albans, Vermont. The Canfield’s became parents to 10 children and were lifelong parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi Church of Torrington.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1977.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1978.

He began his journalism career in 1960 at what was then called the Torrington Register. In mid-September of 1965, Canfield was hired at The Hartford Courant by legendary sports editor Bill Lee. Throughout his career, Canfield covered Jack Nicklaus’ Masters victory in 1986; Reggie Jackson’s 3-homer game in the World Series of 1978 at Yankee Stadium, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in Atlanta, Pete Rose’s base hit that broke Ty Cobb’s record and the NCAA tournament game in 1990 when Scot Burrell threw the pass and Tate George made the shot to beat Clemson.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1983.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1983.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1983.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1983.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1984.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1984.

Canfield became a 7-time Connecticut Sportswriter of the Year, a Torrington High School Hall of Fame and the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee. He penned special interest columns in the Hartford Courant on the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League from 1966 until 1995 and was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame. Canfield retired in 1995 from The Courant after working at the paper for 30 years. He continued to write columns periodically through 2008 and then did the same for the Register Citizen until the final year of his life.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1985.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1985.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1990.

In his last article on March 30, 2019, Owen Canfield wrote, “Once I heard Mickey Mantle say in a TV interview that whenever he took a swing at a pitch, he swung with all his might. ‘I wanted to hit it as far as I could every time,’ said The Mick. I like that, and I like to think that whenever I submitted a column, I had swung with all my might, even if I struck out.”

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1993.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1995.

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.

1866: “The Bat and Ball” Makes Debut in Hartford

The Bat and Ball” is one of the first known baseball periodicals. The publication sold for 5 cents a copy on the streets of Hartford, Connecticut and was delivered for 50 cents for 14 issues. The Bat and Ball was published for budding ”base ball” fans to read about recent developments throughout the country. There were also columns on the game of cricket. During the post-Civil War era when the sport, still in its infancy, baseball was becoming increasingly more popular and fans demanded closer coverage of the sport. The author of capitalize on the

The Bat and Ball mentioned by the Hartford Courant, 1866

THE Sporting News is generally acknowledged to have been the first newspaper primarily devoted to baseball since it made its debut March 17, 1886. But now it appears that a paper known as The Bat and Ball, published in Hartford, beat The Sporting News to the newstands by 20 years.

Hartford Courant excerpt, August 25, 1866.

A rare copy of The Bat and Ball has been uncovered at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, which serves as a repository of virtually every newspaper ever published in the state. Linda Grodofsky, the reference and government documents librarian at the library, said in an interview that she recently found the paper on a shelf in a reading room among other old newspapers.

Hartford Courant excerpt, October 16, 1866.

The issue in the possession of the Connecticut State Library, dated May 1, 1867, was the first during the paper’s second year of publication.

”This season, which is now opening, bids fair to be one of the most exciting that our National Game is likely ever to know,” a story on page one of the four-page paper said, nine years before the first major league was formed. ”And it is well that it should be so, for there is no more worthy object of public attention now before the American people than this same national game.”

The Bat and Ball issue also outlined rules agreed upon by local base ball dignitaries:

Rules of the Connecticut Base Ball Player’s Association. 

1. All match games for the championship shall be played in accordance with the rules adopted by the National Convention. 

2. The season for play shall commence on the first day of May, and continue until the first day of November. 

3. All challenges shall be sent to the secretary of the club at the time holding the emblem. 

4. The champion club must be prepared to play within fifteen days after receipt of a challenge, provided that they be not required to play a game oftener than once in ten days, and shall play clubs in the order of the dates of their challenges, the champions being allowed choice of time, ground and ball for the first game, the challenging that for the second game; and the third game, if such game be necessary, shall be played upon neutral ground in the State, with a ball furnished by the cham­ pion club. In case of any dispute relative to grounds or rules, the difficulty shall be referred to the committee on rules and regulations, and their decision when given shall be final. 

5. The expenses of every champion game must be defrayed by the challenging club. 

7. No challenging club, being defeated, shall challenge again the same champions during the same season. 

8. The champions, being defeated, may chal­lenge immediately after the defeat, and be allowed a match in the order of their challenge. 

9. In case the champions shall change bands during the season, all outstanding challenges shall be assumed by the new champions. 

President – John A. Sterry of Norwich. 

Vice President – lst, Gersbom B. Hubell of Hartford; 2d, S. M. Knevals of New Haven. 

Recording Secretary – R. E. Crane of Agallian Club, Middletown. 

Corresponding Secretary – Thomas M. Haven of Pequot Club, New London. 

Treasurer – Alexander Hawley of Bridgeport Club, Bridgeport.

At a time when rules varied widely, including the number of balls and strikes allowed a ”striker,” as batters were known, the story calls for ”a uniform manner of playing.” Another column urges umpires to be more diligent in ensuring that pitchers (who, at the time threw underhanded from a distance of 45 feet) throw their pitches where the striker, or batsman, wanted the pitch, a rule during the early days of ”base ball.”

View of Hartford, Connecticut, 1869.

Not surprisingly, that rule, changed in the 1880’s, accounted for high scores. For example, The Bat and Ball, in a column headed ”Match Games,” reported how, in a game played on ”the birthday of the father of his country” (Feb. 22, 1867) in San Francisco, the Eagles routed the Pacifics, 70-32. Grodofsky does not know how long the publication endured. But she said that, given its historic significance as a baseball journal, the Connecticut State Library’s copy of The Bat and Ball had been preserved and stored in a secured area, and available for perusal by library users.

Hartford Courant featurette on “The Bat and Ball”, August 21, 1990.