Tag: gene johnson

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.

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

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.