Tag: league

Cuban Stars of the New Britain Perfectos

Decades prior to the New Britain Red Sox, Rock Cats or Bees, Connecticut’s Hardware City had another minor league team. From 1908 to 1911, the New Britain Perfectos were a level-B club in the Connecticut State League. The Perfectos acquired their nickname after the arrival of four Cuban players: Armando Marsans, Rafael Almeida, Alfredo Cabrera and Luis Padrón. They were the first Cubans to become stars during baseball’s Dead Ball Era.

New Britain Baseball Club, 1908.

New Britain’s Nicknames

This Cuban-American tale traces back to when team nicknames were assigned by fans and sportswriters. The team’s official name was the New Britain Baseball Club, yet its many nicknames were subject to change. Before being dubbed the Perfectos, New Britain went by the Mountaineers because their ballpark, Electric Field, backed up into a rugged hillside. When the Cubans came to the affluent city of New Britain in 1908, the team’s new moniker reflected a general sense of culture shock.

Electric Field, New Britain, 1909.

The name “Perfectos” was a backhanded compliment directed at the Cuban players. The term alluded to the Spanish word for “perfect” and described the superb abilities of Marsans, Almeida, Cabrera and Padrón. However, a Perfecto was also a type of Cuban cigar which referenced their appearance. Multiple Hartford Courant articles called the Cubans “smoke players” to cite their skin color and fast play. In the face of racial prejudice, the four Cubans would prevail to varying degrees of success.

Alfredo Cabrera, Rafael Almeida Armando Marsans and Luis Padrón.

The Cuban Sportsmen

Before coming to New Britain, the men were among baseball’s first Latino prospects. They were from well-off families and played baseball for sport. Alfredo Cabrera, known as Cabbage or Cabby, was allegedly the nephew of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera of Guatemala. Almeida was said to be Portuguese royalty. Armando Marsans was the son of a Havanan merchant who grew wealthy during the Spanish-American War and the Occupation of Cuba. In 1906 the men toured the United States with the Baseball Stars of Cuba, playing 122 games and winning 84 of them.

1908 Almendares Baseball Club

In 1907, Marsans and company were rumored to be headed for Scranton of the New York State League, but the move never materialized. Instead, they remained fixtures on the Almendares and Habana clubs of the Cuban Winter League. Meanwhile in New Britain, club owner Charles Humphrey vowed to assemble a contender for the 1908 season. Knowing of their exploits, Humphrey traveled to Havana and successfully recruited the four Cuban players. The men arrived to Connecticut via steamship and resided at Hotel Beloin, 91 Church Street, New Britain.

New Britain, Connecticut, 1908.

Mixed Public Reaction

Marsans, Almeida, Cabrera and Padrón were immediately polarizing figures. While some fans compared them to heroes like D’artagnan and the Three Musketeers, others spurned the Cubans for disrupting “white” baseball. Non-whites were informally barred from participating in the Connecticut State League, but owner Humphrey maintained that they were descendants of Spaniards. A columnist ironically noted that Perfectos catcher, Nick Rufiange, had darker skin than his Cuban teammates, other than Padrón who was reportedly “half-African.”

1908 New Britain Baseball Club (Cuban players not pictured)

Despite objections from players, managers and fans, the Cubans were allowed to participate. They proceeded to solve the Connecticut State League. Padrón batted .314, ranking third in the league. He excelled as a two-way player, winning 18 games as a pitcher while hitting 7 home runs in the batter’s box. Almeida smashed a .291 average with 5 home runs. Marsans batted .274 while swiping 33 stolen bases.

1908 New Britain Baseball Club

New Management

Midway through the 1908 season, Charles Humphrey sold the New Britain Baseball Club citing financial issues. Even though the Perfectos drew 500 to 2,000 spectators at each home game, ownership transferred to William W. Hanna, a stone magnate and owner of the city’s roller polo team (an early form of ice hockey). The club took on new nicknames when Hanna bought the team, including: Bank Wreckers, Clam Bakers, Hannaites and Hanna’s Morro Castle Knights (referencing a historic fortress in Havana). A former pitcher from New London, Albert L. Paige was appointed as manager and oversaw a fourth place finish in the standings.

William W. Hanna, Owner & A.L. Paige, Manager, New Britain, 1908.

The Padrón Affair

Upon purchasing the New Britain club, Billy Hanna faced ongoing criticism for using non-white players. Manager Dan O’Neil of the Springfield Ponies took special issue with Luis Padrón, who happened to be a top performer in the state league. Because Padrón had darker complexion than his peers, O’Neil demanded proof of his Spanish heritage. However, p resident of the league, James O’Rourke declined to ban players on the basis of race. O’Rourke was approached by a New Britain Herald reporter who published the following account on the Padrón affair:

Luis Padron, c. 1906.

“…Officials say Padrón’s color was never a subject of talk at league meetings, and they claim there is nothing to indicate that there will be a discussion of the point. It is feckless business to bring up racial talk—a fact which the directors recognize. Padrón may be a negro, as many players and fans claim, but such an expert as James H. O’Rourke does not know of any written baseball law that would deny a negro the right to play. Of course there is an understanding that negroes will not be hired to play in organized leagues, and sentiment is strongly against the black man in league baseball. If Padrón is a negro—this has not been proved—he is the first to play in the Connecticut league. Mr. O’Rourke says in his years of experience he has heard of but one man in league baseball. Grant [Frank], who was believed to be a negro.”

New Britain Herald, July 24, 1908.
James H. O’Rourke, President, Connecticut State League, 1908.

Off to Cuba

Opposition to the Cuban stars forced owner Hanna to lead a fact-finding abroad. In December of 1908, Hanna sailed from New York to Havana around the same time that Frank Bancroft’s Cincinnati Reds were touring the island. Hanna made several visits to Almendares Park, home to many of Cuba’s best ballplayers. Presumably, Hanna investigated the lineage of his players because he decided to release Luis Padrón from New Britain.

1908 Cincinnati Reds and Frank Bancroft (wearing suit), Almendares Park, Havana, Cuba.

Padrón Released

Padrón was dismissed despite being a fan favorite in his first year with the Perfectos. He learned of his release in a handwritten letter from Hanna. Later, Padrón was rumored to have been scouted by Charles Comisky’s Chicago White Sox. He played several years in different minor leagues from Connecticut to California. Padrón would also make a comeback to New Britain at a later date.

Luis Padrón, Pitcher, New Britain, 1908 (c.)

Marsans Gets Sick

The following spring, Marsans, Cabrera and Almeida returned to New Britain for the 1909 season. In May, Marsans was stricken by a respiratory illness that landed him in New Britain Hospital. After a subpar experience at the hospital and fearing tuberculosis, Marsans returned to Cuba. Cabrera and Almeida continued on as everyday players. Almeida raked 10 homers with a .308 batting average.

Armando Marsans (left) and Rafael Almeida (right), c. 1908.

State Leaguers Cry Foul

As New Britain finished in third place in 1909, owner Hanna was again pestered by state leaguers calling for the removal of “non-white” players. According to the Hartford Courant, many opposing players did not want “brown players” to participate. Instead of caving to pressure this time, Hanna went to great lengths to legitimize his team. He hired as manager a former umpire turned President of the National League, Thomas J. Lynch. The Perfectos were fond of Lynch, though he would only manage for part of the season.

1909 New Britain Baseball Club (Cuban players not pictured)
Thomas J. Lynch, Manager, New Britain Perfectos, 1909.

The Cubans Strike

The Perfectos endured abusive slurs made by players and fans, especially from their rivals, the Hartford Senators. These insults may have revealed a jealous streak among state leaguers since Marsans, Cabrera and Almeida were top performers. They were said to have acted like gentlemen by not seeking revenge. Only once did the trio retaliate publicly as a form of protest. Around Christmas of 1909, the three men led a strike and refused to play in a Cuban Winter League game because their opponents had three American players.

1909 New Britain Baseball Club, Alfredo Cabrera (standing, far left) and Rafael Almeida (sitting, center).

Back in New Britain

Nevertheless, the protest controversy subsided and Marsans, Almeida and Cabrera rejoined New Britain in 1910. Owner Hanna hired Joe Connor as Perfectos player-manager, a big leaguer from Waterbury and younger brother to home run king, Roger Connor. The team slumped from April to May. Then, in a surprising twist, Billy Hanna sold the New Britain franchise to Manager Dan O’Neil for $3,500 on a few words and a handshake. It was claimed to be the fastest deal ever made in the Connecticut State League.

1910 New Britain Baseball Club (Cuban players not pictured)
Players with New Britain, 1910.

O’Neil Buys the Club

Upon purchasing the Perfectos, O’Neil was quoted saying, “If the team as it stands at present does not suit, why, I will go out and hunt up some players who will.” Baseball aficionados speculated that New Britain would sell off its players. Instead, O’Neil established a Board of Strategy headed by Charles “Pop” Irving and local hotelier Fred Beloin.

Dan O’Neil, Owner, New Britain, 1910.
Hartford Courant cartoon of the New Britain Baseball Club, 1910.

Baseball’s First Year-Round Players

New Britain’s existing roster thrived under O’Neil in 1910. The Perfectos set a scoreless streak of 33 innings and Marsans compiled a .304 batting average in 111 games. Fans anticipated a pennant bid but New Britain ultimately finished third. That offseason, Marsans, Almeida and Cabrera made their regular appearances for the Almendares club in Havana. They were among few professionals who played year-round:

1910 New Britain Baseball Club

“The average ball player thinks he has done enough diamond work when he puts in a couple of months at training, and then plays five or six months during the Summer. There are three Cuban players who engage in the grand old game of baseball practically the entire year. The players in question are Cabrera, Marsans and Almeida, all members of the New Britain team of the Connecticut League during the Summer months. Just as soon as they return to Havana at the close of the American season, they join the Almendares, playing first against the major league teams that annually invade the island, and then later in the Cuban League, which starts immediately on the departure of the big leaguers for the States. The trio are all clever infielders and play a fast article of ball.”

New York Times, December 18, 1910
Headlines from Cuba, Times Union (Brooklyn, New York), December 31, 1910.

The World’s Best Visit Cuba

In November of 1910, the isle of Cuba welcomed the apex of Major League clubs to Havana. A series of matchups were organized by Cuban officials and American baseball statesman, Frank Bancroft. The Almendares club, boasting Marsans, Almeida and Cabrera, pulled off an unbelievable defeat of the Philadelphia Athletics, World Series champions. Then, Almendares faced Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers, runner-ups of the American League. Of any American teams to visit Cuba, only the Tigers had won a series against Almendares thus far, winning 7 out of 12 games.

Ty Cobb at Almendares Park, Havana, Cuba, 1910.

The Perfecto Holdouts

As worthy opponents of the Athletics and Tigers, demand for Cuban players reached a fever pitch. Before the next season, owner O’Neil persuaded Cabrera to take a pay raise. When Marsans and Almeida held out for higher salaries, O’Neil turned to his bilingual associate, Billy Hanna for assistance. A frequent visitor to Cuba, Hanna boarded a ship to iron out new contracts with Marsans and Almeida.

Hartford Courant cartoon depicting Dan O’Neil’s New Britain Baseball Club, 1911.

Signed, Sealed, yet Undelivered

Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida signed with New Britain but were mostly absent for the 1911 campaign. Almeida never appeared for the club that season. When Marsans was present, he tussled with O’Neil. Marsans quit the team in mid-May after advising O’Neil to change pitchers in a game against Hartford. Some accounts blamed Marsans for disappearing when he lost a $50 bet on the Hartford game. Others held O’Neil responsible for scolding Marsans over his baserunning.

News report of Armando Marsans, May 17, 1911.

Marsans Comes and Goes

“O’Neil’s Chocolate Soldiers” were identified as deserters who wilted in the heat of battle. Local columnists slammed the two “dusky ball tossers” and recommended suspensions. Some journalists claimed that Marsans and Almeida were playing amateur ball in Brooklyn. Alfredo Cabrera was distressed and feeling abandoned by his friends. When Marsans departed, he wrote a short letter to Dan O’Neil, stating that his mother was sick and he was obliged to return home.

Armando Marsans, Cincinnati Reds, 1911.

Cubebs Sold to Cincinnati

The absence of Marsans and Almeida from New Britain precipitated a historic transaction. In June of 1911, Dan O’Neil sold Marsans and Almeida to the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the first Cubans in the National League. O’Neil profited handsomely. He received $2,000 upon agreeing to sell their contracts. O’Neil collected an additional $2,500 from Cincinnati when the transaction was closed. As part of the deal, O’Neil liquidated his shares in the team. He sold the New Britain franchise for an additional $2,300 to the next owner, James J. Murphy.

1911 New Britain Baseball Club with Alfredo Cabrera (standing, far left).

Armando Marsans

Marsans and Almeida debuted for Cincinnati at Chicago’s West Side Grounds on July 4, 1911. The 23 year old Marsans batted .317 and stole 35 bases in his second season with the Reds. He was sometimes called Cuba’s answer to Ty Cobb. Marsans played 8 seasons in the major leagues, earning a reputation as one of the game’s fastest outfielders. While in the big leagues, Marsans operated a cigar store and managed a tobacco farm in Cuba.

Armando Marsans, Cincinnati, 1912.
Armando Marsans, St. Louis, 1915.

Rafael Almeida

Rafael Almeida played three partial seasons in Cincinnati. His best year was in 1911 when he swatted a .311 batting average in 115 at bats while amassing an .890 fielding percentage at third base. At the time, Almeida was considered the strongest hitter ever produced from Cuba. His final stop in American baseball was for Scranton in the New York State League. Almeida’s professional career spanned more than 20 years and finally ended with Habana of the Cuban Winter League.

Rafael Almeida, Cincinnati, 1912.

Alfredo Cabrera

As for Alfredo Cabrera, the reliable shortstop had 407 base hits in 416 total games with New Britain. Following stints for Waterbury and Springfield in 1913, he suited up for a single big league game with the St. Louis Cardinals. Cabrera remained in the minor leagues and the Cuban Winter League for the rest of his career. He led Almendares to a pennant as player-manager in 1915. Cabrera’s latter years were spent as groundskeeper of Havana’s El Gran Stadium until retiring in the 1950’s.

Alfredo Cabrera (c.) 1940.

Luis Padrón

In August of 1911, Luis “Mulo” Padrón was invited back to New Britain. Ownership had received letters from fans requesting to sign Padrón. The remarkable Cuban was with the Mansfield club of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League and threw a no-hitter in a Sunday league game in Brooklyn. His second stint with New Britain lasted just 12 days but he was a professional ballplayer in white, black and Cuban baseball for nearly twenty years. Padron wielded great power at any position and some accounts attested that he hit the longest ever home run at New Britain’s Electric Field.

Luis Padrón, 1910.
Luis Padrón, 1911.

The Perfectos’ Legacy

When the Connecticut State League collapsed in 1913, the New Britain franchise dwindled away. The team will forever be remembered as a stepping stone for Cuban players on their way to the National League. By 1915, Marsans, Almeida, Cabrera and Padrón were back in Cuba for good. They were national heroes, pillars of Cuban baseball and eventual inductees into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.

1913 Cincinnati Reds with Almeida and Marsan (sitting, middle row).

A Reporter Reminisces

“In my career as a sports writer, I have never encountered a colored athlete who didn’t conduct himself in a gentlemanly manner and who didn’t have a better idea of sportsmanship than many of his white brethren. By all means, let the Negro ballplayer play in organized baseball. As a kid, I saw a half dozen Cuban players break into organized baseball in the old Connecticut League. I refer to players like Marsans, Almeida, Cabrera and others. I recall the storm of protest from the One Hundred Per Centers at that time but I also recall that all the Cubans conducted themselves in such a manner that they reflected nothing but credit on themselves and those who favored admitting them to baseball’s select circle.”

Dan Porter, New York Daily Mirror, 1933.
Armando Marsans, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1918.

Sources:

1. Hartford Courant database at Newspapers.com
2. New Britain Herald, Connecticut
3. Agate Type: Reconstructing Negro League & Latin American Baseball History
4. The Montgomery Times, Alabama
5. Brooklyn’s Standard Union, New York
6. A.G. Spalding & Bros. Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide. Chicago; New York, 1910.
7. SABR Article by Stephen R. Keeney, Blurring the Color Line
8. New York Daily Mirror, Dan Porter quotation, 1933.

Painting of Almendares Park (I) by Jorge S. 1908.

A Ballpark Timeline: The Polo Grounds

The long gone stadium known as the Polo Grounds was home to five different professional sports teams from 1890 to 1963. Originally built in 1876, the venue was intended for the equestrian sport of polo. The site was owned by a newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett and a German-American financier, August Belmont Sr.

First professional “base ball” game at the Polo Grounds (I) between New York Metropolitans and Washington Nationals, September 29, 1880.

1880: The New York Metropolitans began playing base ball at the “polo grounds” used for the sport of polo and horse racing. The venue was located between 110th and 112th Street, and 5th and 6th Avenue. Since baseball fields, like English soccer fields, were usually called “grounds” in those days, it would later officially become known as the Polo Grounds.

Yale vs. Princeton at Polo Grounds (I), New York, New York, 1882.

1882: The Metropolitans joined the American Association and played most of their season at the Polo Grounds.

1883: The Troy Haymakers of the National League left the Albany area for Manhattan, moved into the Polo Grounds, and become the New York Gothams.

1884: The Metropolitans won the the American Association pennant

Official score card of the Polo Grounds (I), 1885.
A depiction of Opening Day at the Polo Grounds (I), April 29, 1886.

1886: The Metropolitans preferred not to share the Polo Grounds and moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds on Staten Island. After the 1887 season, financial concerns led to the demise of the original New York Mets club.

1887: Harvard and Yale football faced off on Thanksgiving Day at the original Polo Grounds.

New York Giants batting practice at the Polo Grounds (I), 1886.
Home games at the Polo Grounds (I) New York, New York, 1887.

1888: Giants won the National League Pennant.

Decoration Day at the Polo Grounds (I), New York vs. Philadelphia, May 5, 1888.

1889: New York City extended its street grid to West 111th Street, cutting through the Polo Grounds. The New York Giants had to vacate. They moved to the St. George Cricket Grounds again, and won the National League pennant.

Location of Polo Grounds (II) depicted in The Evening World New York, June 22, 1889.

1890: A new ballpark was constructed at the terminus of the 9th Avenue Elevated line, at 155th Street and 8th Avenue, and at the foot of Coogan’s Bluff. That same year, the Players League challenged the established leagues. The Players League formed a new team called the New York Giants, and built a larger ballpark next door named Brotherhood Field. That league folded after a season, and the National League Giants moved in. The 1890 ballpark was renamed Manhattan Field, and Brotherhood Field became the new Polo Grounds (II).

Horse drawn carriages in the outfield, Polo Grounds (II), 1890.
A view of Polo Grounds (II) from Coogan’s Bluff, 1890.
Artist rendition of Polo Grounds (II), 1890.

1891: The New York Giants of the National League played their first game at the new Polo Grounds on April 22, 1891. This version of the Polo Grounds had a seating capacity of 16,000. The main double decked grandstand arched around home plate and down the baselines.

At the Polo Grounds (II) by Jay Hambidge, 1895.
Lifetime Pass to Polo Grounds (II) issued by New York Baseball Club President, Andrew Freedman, 1897.

1904: The New York Giants hired John McGraw as manager, traded for pitching icon Christy Mathewson and won the NL Pennant.

1905: New York Giants won the Pennant and the World Series.

Polo Grounds (II), 1905.
Polo Grounds (II), 1905.
Pittsburgh at New York, Polo Grounds (II), May 10, 1905.
Polo Grounds (II), 1905.

1908: New York Giants lost the pennant to the Chicago Cubs on Fred Merkle’s “Boner”.

A crowd at Coogan’s Bluff, Polo Grounds (II), 1910.
Polo Grounds (II), 1911.

1911: The ballpark burned down on April 14, 1911, at the dawn of a new season. As a friendly gesture, the New York Highlanders offered the Giants the use of Hilltop Park while the Polo Grounds was rebuilt in fireproof concrete and steel. Later that year, the Polo Grounds (III) opened. The Giants faced the Boston Rustlers, and won, 3-0. Christy Mathewson pitched, allowed nine hits and zero walks to keep the shutout. A home run was hit by “Laughing Larry” Doyle, a man who once said, “It’s great to be young and a Giant.” (The Rustlers were named for their owner, William H. Russell, who died right after that season ended. They were bought by James Gaffney, who held the rank of “Brave” in New York’s Tammany Hall “political machine,” and the team’s name was changed to the Boston Braves.)

The Giants won the Pennant in 1911, but lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics.

Polo Grounds (III), New York, 1912.
Polo Grounds (III), New York, 1912.
New York Giants at Polo Grounds (III), 1913.

1912: The New York Giants won the Pennant again, but lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox.

1913: The Giants lost another World Series to the A’s for three straight World Series losses. The only other team ever to do that has been the 1907-08-09 Detroit Tigers.

Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants pitches at Polo Grounds (III), 1913.
Fans catch the train after World Series game, Polo Grounds (III), 1913.

In 1913, noting that the Highlanders, who had just officially changed their name to what people were already calling them, the Yankees, had their 10-year lease at Hilltop Park ended, offered them a 10-year lease at the Polo Grounds, as a way of thanking them for the use of Hilltop in 1911.

Photographers at Polo Grounds (III), 1913.
Babe Ruth, pitcher of the Boston Red Sox at Polo Grounds (III), 1915.
Babe Ruth of the Red Sox at Polo Grounds (III), 1915.

1917: The Giants won another Pennant, but lost the World Series to the Chicago White Sox.


1920: The Yankees signed Babe Ruth, and started bringing more fans into the Polo Grounds than the Giants. McGraw said, “The Yankees will have to move to Queens, or some other faraway place, to wither and die.” Little did he know that, one day, the New York team in the National League would play in Queens.

Aerial view of Polo Grounds (III), 1922.

1921 & 1922: The Yankees won their first American League pennant and again in 1922, but lost the World Series to the Giants both times. The Giants remained the better franchise.

1923: Yankees owner, Jacob Ruppert, planned on vacating the Polo Grounds. He wanted a ballpark that he could control, so he built a stadium across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds at 161st Street and River Avenue in The Bronx. Yankee Stadium dwarfed the Polo Grounds. When Giants owner Charles Stoneham expanded the Polo Grounds, but it remained smaller than Yankee Stadium. That Autumn, the Polo Grounds hosted the Heavyweight Championship fight in which challenger Luis Firpo knocked Jack Dempsey out of the ring, but Dempsey got back in before the count of 10, and knocked Firpo out. A few weeks later the Polo Grounds hosted another World Series. This time, the Yankees beat the Giants.

Interior view of Polo Grounds (III), 1923.

1924: The Giants won another Pennant, but lost the World Series to the Washington Senators. Later that year, the football team at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York hosted the University of Notre Dame, and Notre Dame won. Nationally-syndicated sportswriter Grantland Rice covered the game, and named Notre Dame’s backfield “The Four Horsemen,” after the Biblical riders of the Apocalypse.

1925: A football team named the New York Football Giants began playing at the Polo Grounds. They won the NFL Championship in 1927, 1934 and 1938, but lost it in 1944. They moved to Yankee Stadium in 1956.

New York Giants team photograph at Polo Grounds (III), 1936.

1933: Baseball’s New York Giants won the World Series, beating the Senators. This team featured slugging right fielder Mel Ott and ace pitcher “King Carl” Hubbell.

1936 & 1937: Giants defeated by the Yankees in the World Series.

1951: The New York Giants came from 13 1/2 games back to beat their archrivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers – winning the pennant in a playoff game, on what we would now call a walk-off home run by Bobby Thomson. However, the Giants lost the World Series to the Yankees.

Aerial view of Polo Grounds (III), 1940.
Polo Grounds (III), 1943.
New York Giants vs. Brooklyn Dodgers at Polo Grounds (III), 1951.

1954: The Giants won the pennant again, led by Willie Mays, who won the NL batting title. Game 1 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians featured Mays making his signature over-the-head catch, and a walk-off home run in the 10th inning by Dusty Rhodes. The Giants swept the Series.

“The Catch” made by Willie Mays at Polo Grounds (III), 1954.
“The Catch” made by Willie Mays at Polo Grounds (III), 1954.

1957: The stadium and its surrounding neighborhood had begun to fall apart. The Giants left for San Francisco after the season. Their last game was as 9-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 29.

Willie Mays makes jumping catch at Polo Grounds (III), 1957.

1960: The American Football League was founded, and the New York Titans began play at the Polo Grounds. They would become the Jets in 1963. The stadium hosted one last title fight, with Floyd Patterson regaining the Heavyweight Championship from Ingemar Johansson.

1962: The New York Mets, a National League expansion team began to call the Polo Grounds home. They played two terrible seasons at the Polo Grounds before moving into Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadow, Queens.

1963: The Mets played the last baseball game at the Polo Grounds on September 18, 1963, losing 5-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies. The last event was a New York Jets football game on December 14, 1963, a 19-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

1964: Six days before Shea Stadium opened, the same company that demolished Ebbets Field, used the same wrecking ball, painted to look like a baseball, to demolish the Polo Grounds.

1968: The Polo Grounds Towers opened on the site of the former baseball stadium. It included a playground known as Willie Mays Field. Across 155th Street is Rucker Park, now one of New York’s most famous pick-up basketball sites.

Sources

  1. Uncle Mike at Unclemikesmusings.blogspot.com
  2. www.Baseball-reference.com
  3. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com

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.

Hartford Base Ball Park of 1896

Long before the Yard Goats roamed Dunkin’ Donuts Park, there was a place named Hartford Base Ball Park. Also called Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, the park was constructed in 1896. Hartford’s minor league team Manager William “Bald Billy” Barnie led the effort to build the minor league venue. That season, grandstand tickets were 15 cents and Newark finished in first place in the Atlantic League. However, Hartford protested their victory.

City planning map showing Hartford Base Ball Park, 1896.

Manager Barnie argued that Newark’s record was unfairly inflated due to a dozen extra games played. Newark also used a suspended pitcher named Joseph Frye who had left Hartford mid year. As a result, the 2nd place Hartfords challenged Newark to a 7-game series. Newark declined the invitation but the 3rd place Paterson club accepted and prevailed over Hartford.

Hartford Base Ball Park, (c.) 1900.

By November of 1896, the matter was put to rest by Sam Crane, President of the Atlantic League who declared Newark as champions. Manager Barnie passed away in Hartford in 1900 beloved by local fans. He was buried alongside many other baseball greats in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Hartford finally won a minor league pennant in 1909 at Hartford Base Ball Park.

Bill Barnie, Manager, Hartford, 1900.
Hartford vs. Brockton at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds (Hartford Base Ball Park), 1901.

Baseball Bloodlines: The Riemer’s

Over the last 50 years, men of the Riemer family have achieved remarkable baseball success. The story of a father and his two sons begins in New Britain, Connecticut in 1974. A junior at New Britain High School named Mark Riemer was a fleet-footed infielder with a quick bat. Behind Mark, the Hurricanes won the Class AA State Championship. In 1975, New Britain won 30 consecutive games but lost 1-0 to North Haven in the state championship game. Mark was awarded First Team All-State honors. Later that fall, he also earned All-State honors as a linebacker on the football team.

1974 New Britain High School
1974 New Britain High School
1975 New Britain High School

Mark Riemer matriculated to Eastern Connecticut State University where he was a four-year starter on the baseball team under Head Coach Bill Holowaty. Mark helped the Warriors to their first four NCAA Division-III tournaments. He was the first position player in New England Division-III to earn First Team NCAA All-American honors. As a junior right fielder in 1978, he batted .403 with an .803 slugging percentage, led Division-III in hits (73), RBI (59), total bases (146), was second with 14 home runs, and tied for second in doubles (19). Mark holds the Warriors career record for triples (18), is second in total bases (366) and home runs (34), third in RBI (152) and fourth in slugging (.637).

Mark Riemer, GHTBL Batting Champion, 1979.
Hartford Courant excerpt, August 8, 1979.
Mark Riemer, Eastern Connecticut Baseball, 1978.
Mark Riemer, ECSU Hall of Fame

Throughout his baseball career, Mark Riemer also starred in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. At 18 years old, he suited up for the Moriarty Brothers of Manchester, winners of the 1975 league championship. Then he changed teams in 1977 and joined Manager Tom Abbruzzese’s Society for Savings. After winning the GHTBL batting title and another championship season in 1979, Mark signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. As a member of the Carolina League’s Salem Pirates in 1980, he finished second on the team in batting with a .298 average in 416 plate appearances.

Mark Riemer, Marco Polo, GHTBL, 1985.
Hartford Courant, June 24, 1985.

Mark served two years in professional baseball before returning home to Connecticut. He rejoined Society for Savings with whom he won 4 league titles. Afterwards, Mark jumped to the East Hartford Jets franchise from 1985 to 1992. Late in his baseball career he won several National Senior Baseball World Series men’s league tournaments in Phoenix, Arizona alongside GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee, Dave Bidwell. Mark continued to make twilight league appearances until around 2011 as a designated hitter for Tom Abbruzzese’s People’s United Bank franchise. Mark’s nickname is “Trout” because of his love for fishing. He is a father of three children, Matt, Meagan and Mike.

Hartford Courant excerpt, August 19, 1989.
Mark Riemer, East Hartford Jets, GHTBL, 1989.
Mark Riemer breaks up a double play, 1990.

Matt Riemer followed in his father’s footsteps in many respects. After graduating from Ellington High School, Matt took his skills to Eastern Connecticut State University. There he displayed speed and versatility under Head Coach Bill Holowaty, winning a Little East Conference championship in 2007. Matt began his Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League career in 2004 for People’s Bank. He was an effective leadoff hitter who got on base and collected steals at a high rate. Matt led People’s to a league championship in 2006, and regular season titles in 2007, 2008 and 2011. He took the field for the last time in 2013 after eight GHTBL seasons.

Matt Riemer, People’s United Bank, GHTBL, 2009.
People’s Bank wins GHTBL Championship, 2006.
Hartford Courant excerpt, August, 13, 2009.
Matt Riemer People’s United Bank GHTBL, 2011.

Mike Riemer, the youngest of the Riemer men, graduated from the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts, class of 2008. Like his father and older brother, Mike played under Bill Holowaty at Eastern Connecticut State University. He transferred to the Warriors from Division-I Central Connecticut State University. In 2011, Mike was primarily a relief pitcher in his first season. Then he became a two-year starter in center field and a heart-of-the-lineup hitter as a junior and senior. In his final collegiate season, he was one of three players to start all 44 games. Mike batted .329 with three home runs, 30 RBI and committed only one error in center field in 2013.

Mike Riemer, People’s United Bank, 2010.
Riemer’s Reds win at Doubleday Field, 2010.
Mike Riemer, Pitcher/Outfielder, 2011.
Riemer’ Reds win 3rd straight tournament in Cooperstown, New York, 2012.

During summer months, Mike Riemer was a valuable member of People’s United Bank team in the GHTBL. The Riemer men also organized an amateur squad that won three straight tournaments in Cooperstown, New York in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Men’s league experience helped Mike develop into a more complete player and in 2014, he signed to play professional baseball in Germany. The 6-foot-2 and 220 pound, 24 year old joined the Tübingen Hawks of the German Baseball and Softball Association (DBV). He landed in Germany after being recruited by Jason Holowaty, Director of Major League Baseball international development operations in Europe and Africa.

Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2012.
Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2012.
Mark and Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2013.
Mike Riemer with his mother Ellen in Germany, 2017.

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

Hartford’s Minor League Club Part II: The Senators (1902-1915)

The Hartford Senators remain Connecticut’s most enduring baseball franchise of all-time. For more than three decades (1902-1934) the Senators were Hartford’s headliner club. The minor league team became an elite training ground for players on their way to the Major Leagues. Legends like Lou Gehrig, Jim Thorpe, Leo Durocher and Hank Greenberg honed their skills in Hartford. The following chronology recounts the Senators during their early years (1902-1915) when minor league championships were a significant source of local pride. Since entering the minors in 1878, the City of Hartford had been deprived of a pennant, but the Senators would change that fact.

Minor Leagues

Championship Seasons

  • 1909
  • 1913
  • 1915

Notable Hartford Senators of the early years

Charles A. Soby, Owner, Hartford Senators, 1902.

In 1902, Hartford joined the Connecticut League. The club was headed by Charles A. Soby and headquartered at Soby’s cigar store at 867 Main Street. Home games were held at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, also called Hartford Baseball Park. The team was nicknamed “Senators” most likely by sports editors at the Hartford Times newspaper. Two-time World Series champion catcher of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ira Thomas played his rookie season for the Senators. Frank Reisling was Hartford’s player-manager and guided them to a fourth place finish. Reisling later sued the club over unpaid wages after being fired for recruiting players to a team in Toledo, Ohio.

Ira Thomas, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1902.
Doc Reisling, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1902.
Doc Reisling, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1902.

In 1903, the Hartford franchise was purchased by magnates William J. Tracy of Bristol and Thomas Reilly of Meriden. The Senators rejoined the Connecticut League and Reilly acted as manager. The team consisted of a fresh roster, except for Ira Thomas who returned as catcher. New signees included Walter Ahearn of New Haven, Bill Luby of Meriden and Billy Derwin of Waterbury. The infield featured Larry Battam at third base and captain Bert Daly at second base. Hartford struggled during their rebuild and ended up last in the league.

Thomas Reilly, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1903.
Walter Ahearn, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1903.
Dr. Bert Daly, Second Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1903.
Bill Luby, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1903.

Before the 1904 season, Thomas Reilly was elected Mayor of Meriden. Then he sold his shares in the Hartford club to William J. Tracy. As sole owner of the Senators (and later President of the Connecticut League), Tracy appointed his friend and Bristol-based barber John E. Kennedy as manager. The only man to reappear from the previous season was second baseman Bert Daly. New players like Bill Foxen, Bill Karns and Tom Bannon entered the fold. The Senators had a losing record (53-61), and Hartford’s decades-long championship drought continued.

William Tracy, Owner, Hartford Senators, 1904.
Thomas O’Hare, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1904.
John E. Kennedy, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1904.
1904 Hartford Senators

In September of 1904, Hartford was introduced to James H. Clarkin, proprietor of the Senators for the next 24 years. When Tracy decided to sell the club, Clarkin and Daly became owners. Clarkin leased Wethersfield Avenue Grounds for the next six years for $600 per year. Hartford fans took special trolleys to the well-kept Wethersfield Avenue Grounds. Starring for the club were pitching prospect, Pete Wilson of Springfield, Massachusetts, and shortstop Harry Noyes of New Haven. In Clarkin’s first season as owner, the Senators of 1905 had a winning record (58-55).

Hartford trolley assigned for ball games, 1905.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1905.
James Clarkin, Owner, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Lajoie’s Base Ball Guide excerpt, 1905.
Peter Wilson, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Harry Noyes, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Neal Doherty, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Frank Doran, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1905.
1905 Hartford Senators

After the 1905 season, Clarkin sold his top pitcher William Foxen to Providence for $250. The sale of Foxen was the first of many transacted by Clarkin, who acquired a reputation for selling players. In 1906, Bert Daly served as player-manager until midway through the season, when he left to practice medicine in his hometown in Bayonne, New Jersey. Clarkin became sole owner of the Senators and Harry Noyes was named player-manager. Hartford signed Herman Bronkie of Manchester, Connecticut, a rookie third baseman who later signed with the Cleveland Naps.

1906 Hartford Senators
Group of Three Hartford Players, 1906.
New players on the Hartford Senators, 1906.
1906 Hartford Senators
Bert Daly, Player-Manager, Hartford, 1906.
1906 Hartford Senators

Despite another lackluster season, Hartford retained its core in 1907. Harry Noyes held onto his player-manager role and Pete Wilson returned as pitching ace. Career minor leaguers Charlie Fallon, Ed Justice and Billy Luyster came back to the Senators. Newcomers included first baseman Jack Rothfuss and outfielder Izzy Hoffman. Owner Clarkin recruited a Dutch immigrant and an all-time minor leaguer, Jack Lelivelt on a tip from Philadelphia manager Connie Mack. That year, Clarkin offered the Senators a $100 bonus for a five game win streak. While popular with players, the bonus scheme failed and Hartford finished fifth in the Connecticut League.

Three New Hartford Players, 1907.
Billy Luyster, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1907.
Jack Lelivelt, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1907.
Izzy Hoffman, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1907.

Proprietor Clarkin sought to retool Hartford by hiring veteran leadership for 1908. During the offseason, Thomas Dowd, a big league journeyman and assumed managerial duties and all baseball operations. Dowd lured players such as Ray Fisher, a pitching phenom, Hank Schumann, a reliable strike-thrower and Bob Connery, a muscle-bound first baseman. There was also Earle Gardner, a second basemen destined for the New York Yankees and Chick Evans, an 18 year old who threw a perfect game for the Senators on July 21, 1908. Hartford had its finest team to date, but lost to Springfield by a half game in the last days of the season.

New Hartford Senators, 1908.
1908 Hartford Senators
1908 Hartford Senators
Hartford Senators at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, 1908.

A disappointing conclusion to Hartford’s 1908 season lit a fire under the Senators in 1909. Clarkin appointed Bob Connery player-manager in place of Thomas Dowd who reportedly struggled with alcoholism. New additions Jimmy Hart and Jack Wanner led the squad in batting. With masterful pitching and defense, Connery’s crew captured first place. Hartford outlasted second place Holyoke and finally won their first championship. On September 13, 1909, the Senators were honored with a parade on Main Street, a ceremony outside Connecticut’s Old State House, a musical performance at Hartford Theater and a late night banquet at Hotel Garde.

1909 Hartford Senators, Connecticut League Champions.
1909 Hartford Senators
Johnny Wanner, Second Baseman, Hartford, 1909.
Quartet of players, Hartford Senators, 1909.
Michael Wadleigh, Catcher, Hartford, 1909.
New players for the Hartford Senators, 1909.
George Metzger, Third Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1909.
1909 Hartford Senators, Connecticut League Champions.

In 1910, the Senators were the envy of the Connecticut League. A pennant flag flew over the pristine Hartford Baseball Park. The venue had a smooth playing surface, player clubhouses and concession stands. Meanwhile, Clarkin further delegated his duties by creating the Hartford Baseball Club Board of Strategy. The group devised plans and scouted players like pitchers Buck O’Brien and Carl Lundgren. Though it was player-manager Bob Connery who picked up a rookie from St. Louis, Wally Rehg who was later dubbed the world’s sassiest player. Amid high expectations, the Senators underachieved to fourth place – six games behind first place Waterbury.

First day’s workout, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Senators at Hartford Baseball Park, 1910.
1910 Hartford Senators
John Vann, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Walter Rehg, Utility, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Buck O’Brien, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Board of Strategy, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Carl Lundgren, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1910.
William Moore, Groundskeeper, Hartford Baseball Park, 1910.

Before the 1911 season, Connecticut League officials increased the championship purse from $25 to $100 to attract better talent. That year, rookie outfielder Hugh High rose to local stardom by hitting for a .302 average in 431 at bats. Former Boston Doves pitcher Tom McCarthy only played half of the season, yet he twirled 15 wins. A low point for the club came when they were caught drinking alcohol on a Sunday at Lighthouse Point in New Haven. Arrest warrants were issued for nine Hartford players including manager Connery but the charges were later dropped. The Senators fell short of a title but finished in a respectable third place.

1911 Hartford Senators
Clint Ford, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Hugh High, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Robert Henry Ray, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Nick Lakoff, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Nick Lakoff, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
John Hickey, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Herman Shincel, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
1911 Hartford Senators

As winter descended on Hartford, Jim Clarkin renewed his lease of the Wethersfield Avenue Grounds for ten more years. He then built the largest grandstand in the league to seat more spectators. When the 1912 season began, Bob Connery suited up for his last managerial campaign. Connery would later discover Rogers Hornsby as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. Hartford also added Benny Kauff who batted .321 in 53 games. Hugh High led the Connecticut League with 145 base hits and 5 homers. Si McDonald served as primary catcher and captained Hartford to second place.

A new grandstand at Hartford Baseball Park, 1912.
New Players of the Hartford Senators, 1912.
Bob “Tom” J. Connery, Player-Manager, Hartford Senators, 1912.
Hugh High, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1912.
New Haven vs. Hartford, 1912.
Members of the Hartford Senators, 1912.
Waterbury vs. Hartford, 1912.
Si McDonald, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1912.
Bill Powers, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1912

At an offseason meeting, President Jim O’Rourke and Connecticut League officials renamed the loop the Eastern Association, reflecting the inclusion of three Massachusetts clubs. In preparation for the 1913 season, the Senators announced Si McDonald as Hartford’s player-manager. Important acquisitions were shortstop, Bill Morley, second baseman, Jim Curry and first baseman, Mickey Keliher. Center fielder Benny Kauff had one of the Senators’ best seasons, leading the league with 176 hits and a .345 batting average. Behind superior hitting and pitching, Hartford won 83 games and another triumphant league championship.

1913 Hartford Senators
Benny Kauff, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1913.
Gus Gardella, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1913.
1913 Hartford Senators
Eastern Association final standings, 1913.

Most of Hartford’s title winners appeared again in 1914. Si McDonald became full-time manager while Hartford-born Jack Muldoon was promoted to starting catcher. Eventually McDonald was deposed by owner Clarkin, who assigned the job to a veteran manager, Dan O’Neil. New arrivals Ed Barney and Jack Hoey were Hartford’s most productive hitters. Pitchers Clyde Geist and Fred Rieger carved out brilliant seasons and were among the league leaders in wins. When the Eastern Association wrapped, the Senators had completed a tenth consecutive season with a winning record.

1914 Hartford Senators
Dan O’Neil, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Maurice Kennedy, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Jimmy Curry, Second Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Jack Hoey, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Roger Salmon, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Ed Goeb, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Mickey Keliher, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Murray Parker, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.
James Crowley, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.

In 1915, proprietor Clarkin abandoned the Eastern Association. Instead, he entered Hartford into the Colonial League, loosely affiliated with the infamous Federal League. Shortly before the season, 36 year old infielder Jim Delahanty was named player-manager. He mashed a .379 batting average, earned MVP of the league and led the Senators to the Colonial League pennant. Other players on the squad were former Federal Leaguers with the Brooklyn Tip Tops and the Newark Pepper. A mix of outcasts won Hartford its third pennant during a span of six years.

1915 Hartford Senators, L to R: Back Row – Mike Simon, George Textor, Dennis Gillooly, Gus Helfrich, Gil Whitehouse, Aime Proulx and Fred Trautman. Front Row – Blondie Sherman, Henry Demoe, Jim Delahanty, Jack Murray and Ray Werre.
Gil Whitehouse, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1915.
Clyde Geist, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1915.
Bill Jensen, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1915.
Hartford Senators on the New York Yankees, 1915.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant via Newspapers.com
  2. Hartford Times microfilm collection at Hartford Public Library
  3. Baseball-Reference.com
  4. Statscrew.com
  5. Bob Connery SABR Bio by Steve Steinberg

Barry Chasen Ballpark in Windsor

FORMER HIGH SCHOOL COACH AND GHTBL HALL OF FAMER EARNS A GREAT HONOR.

Reposted article from Journal Inquirer by Joe Chaisson 

WINDSOR — It was a joyous occasion Saturday as town officials, current and former players and coaches, and family and friends honored Barry Chasen, dedicating the ballpark outside the high school in his honor.

Chasen, who turns 73 this month, was the head coach of the high school’s baseball team from 1975 to 2003 while also teaching social studies for 36 years.

The ceremony was scheduled to take place in March during the season, head coach Joe Serfass said, but had to be rescheduled because of the pandemic. The afternoon, however, offered warm baseball-type weather.

Many of the former coaches and friends in attendance called Chasen a “walking encyclopedia” for baseball. During his speech, Chasen rarely spoke of himself, but instead attributed his coaching career to a long list of coaches he worked with during his career. Chasen concluded the speech by thanking his wife, Joanne, and son, Matthew, for all their support.

Chasen led the school to a state championship title in 1979 and again in 1991.

Before the ceremony began, Chasen said he was incredibly pleased to be recognized by the town and the high school.

Barry Chasen addresses the media at Barry Chasen Ballpark outside the high school, 2020.

“I feel really good about this. Obviously, it’s been tough the last eight months, but the turnout today has been really nice. It’s a nice tribute and certainly I feel very honored to see my name up there on the sign,” Chasen said.

“I didn’t go into coaching for that though, and you don’t get here by yourself, so it’s thanks to all the people who have helped me out between players, coaches, administrators, town people, parents, and many more.

James Apicelli, who coached with Chasen from 1998 to 2003, said Chasen was the ultimate coach.

“I think the best part about coaching with Barry was we would always come back after the game, we’d go into the coaches office, and we’d sit down for hours after games and go over in-game details. It wasn’t to criticize or anything, we would look at every decision that was made during the game and he’d ask if we should have done things differently.”

Mayor Don Trinks said Chasen is much more than just a baseball coach.

“When you think about his tenure as a coach and all the lives he’s impacted and the success of young people that he helped mold and create — he’s really contributed so much to the town and certainly in many other ways than just baseball,” Trinks said.

Trinks credited Chasen with inspiring him to get involved with politics after Chasen was his teacher during the Jimmy Carter presidency.

“He really gave me a peek into the political and government world,” Trinks said. “I can’t go as far as to say he made me go into government, but he certainly had an impact on that decision so I imagine he’s impacted a lot of other students in the past the same way.”

Serfass, who’s been with the school since 2010, said he was happy to see the field finally completed with the addition of the new sign.

“Unfortunately, when I came here the field was one of the worst in the state,” Serfass said. “There were no dugouts, no fencing, no scoreboard, no press box, and the infield was in bad shape. We finally renovated it about six years ago and redid everything and it’s an honor to have Coach Chasen on the sign.”

Signage at Barry Chasen Ballpark, 2020.


Click Here to Watch the Barry Chasen Ballpark News Story by NBC Connecticut / Xfinity Sportsdesk on Instagram.

Bristol’s Baseball Magnate, William J. Tracy

Bristol, Connecticut, is home to Muzzy Field as well as a distinguished baseball history. One the most significant figures in Bristol’s baseball chronicles is William J. Tracy; the man who prompted the construction of Muzzy Field. Also known as Bill Tracy, he was baseball club owner, executive and friend of legendary managers Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics and John McGraw of the New York Giants. A photograph of Tracy and Mack at the 1911 World Series has been curated by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Map of Bristol, Connecticut, 1893.

William J. Tracy was born in Bristol on January 1, 1869. He spent his youth working at the Central Meat Market on North Main Street. Eventually Tracy became sole proprietor of the meat market, later called the Bristol Beef Company. As a respected young man around town he was elected Constable of Bristol in 1894. However, Tracy’s real passion was the national game of baseball. So when the meat business paid off, he decided to finance a top-rate Bristol club in the Connecticut League.

Hartford Courant, 1900.

In 1900, Bill Tracy became an of the Bristol Baseball Association. He joined fellow proprietors, State Representative Otto F. Strunz and a barbershop owner named John E. Kennedy who later became the state’s chief umpire. The town was overjoyed to have a team in the Connecticut League with Tracy at the helm. While in charge of the club, he also acted as umpire on multiple occasions. The following season cemented Bristol’s admiration for Tracy when he led Bristol to the 1901 state league championship.

John E. Kennedy, Bristol, 1900.
Otto F. Strunz, Bristol, 1900
The Journal (Meriden, Connecticut), June, 14, 1901.

Bristol was the smallest town in the Connecticut League circuit, yet they conquered the competition. Bill Tracy’s club of 1901 won the pennant over second place Bridgeport. Bristol featured player-manager and pitching ace Doc Reisling who went on to play major league ball for the Brooklyn Superbas and Washington Senators. There was also Ted Scheffler an outfielder from New York City, Red Owens an infielder from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and Andy Anderson, a catcher from Detroit, Michigan. Connecticut’s baseball community praised Bristol for winning the league in honorable fashion.

Hartford Courant, September 7, 1901.
Hartford Courant, September 17, 1901.
Doc Reisling, Pitcher, Bristol, 1901.
Andy Anderson, Catcher, Bristol, 1901.
Connecticut League standings, 1901.

In spite of their first championship, Tracy’s club was not invited back to the Connecticut League in 1902. League officials cited revenue issues due to the small size of Bristol. Tracy wholeheartedly disagreed with the snub of his championship team. Hall of Fame player-manager Jim O’Rourke of the Bridgeport club was reported to have headed the cabal who dismissed Bristol. President of the Connecticut League, Sturges Whitlock upheld the decision. Tracy was only temporarily discouraged and held no grudge against O’Rourke. The next summer Tracy funded a Bristol squad, “The Flats” in the Town Amateur Baseball League.

Jim O’Rourke, Secretary, Connecticut League, 1901.
Sturges Whitlock, President, Connecticut League, 1901.

When presented the opportunity, Bill Tracy returned to the Connecticut League in 1903 by purchasing the Hartford Senators franchise. After two unremarkable seasons as head of the Hartford club, he decided to pursue a position as a league officer. He sold his ownership stake in the Hartford Senators to would-be longtime owner, James H. Clarkin and the team’s captain, Bert Daly for $5,000. In 1905, Tracy was appointed Vice President of the Connecticut League, the forerunner of the Eastern League. By October of 1906, Tracy was voted in as President.

1904 Hartford Senators

The Connecticut League was a professional association whose teams were unaffiliated with Major League clubs. The minor leagues were classified by playing level on a scale of Class A to Class F. Bill Tracy was president of the Class B Connecticut League until 1912. His role consisted of disciplining players and settled disputes between clubs hailing from cities like Hartford, Meriden, Bridgeport, New Haven, New London, Norwich, Springfield and Holyoke. He was also tasked with managing relationships with big league clubs who often signed state league players known as “contract jumpers”.

William J. Tracy, President, Connecticut League, 1906.
Hartford Courant, May 26, 1910.

Outside of baseball, Bill Tracy was appointed to the Bristol Trust Company Board of Directors in 1907 and to the Bristol National Bank Board of Directors in 1909. Tracy served as a charter member of the Bristol Board of Park Commissioners and as superintendent of Bristol Parks for 15 years until his retirement in 1935. In this position he was instrumental in the acquisition and development of Memorial Boulevard, Rockwell Park and Muzzy Field – named after Adrian J. Muzzy of Bristol, a prominent businessman and State Senator who donated land for the ballpark in memory of his two sons who died young.

Adrian J. Muzzy, 1904.
Commemorative plaque at Muzzy Field, 2015.
Muzzy Field, Bristol, Connecticut, 2015.

Like Adrian Muzzy, Bill Tracy aggressively sought to improve Bristol while capitalizing on business opportunities. He founded a real estate and insurance company that later became Tracy-Driscoll Insurance. At 68 years old, Tracy passed away on December 1, 1937 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He is remembered as a baseball executive, businessman, public servant, philanthropist and family man. Tracy was married 43 years to Ellen Lacey Tracy. They had 4 sons, Paul, Joseph, Francis, and William E. Tracy; all of whom played baseball.

William J. Tracy, 1925 (c.)

Francis “Tommy” Tracy was a clever pitcher who captained the Dartmouth College ball club. William E. Tracy founded Bristol Sports Promotion who owned and operated the Hartford Bees of the Eastern League in 1947 and 1948. William J. Tracy and his family pioneered for Bristol a lasting reputation as one of the great baseball towns in America. In 2002, Tracy’s many contributions were honored when he was inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame.

William E. Tracy, 1958.

Sources:

  1. Hartford Courant database (Newspapers.com)

GHTBL East Hartford Jets 2020 Playoff Champions

East Hartford Jets, 2020 Champions

Jets win 1st playoff tournament in franchise history.

After 50 years, the East Hartford Jets finally achieved their first GHTBL Playoff Championship. The Jets have competed in the twilight league since 1970. This year, Player-Manager Taylor Kosakowski led the Jets to the Twi-loop’s ultimate prize at their home turf, McKenna Field in East Hartford.

A walk-off extra base hit from Bryant University outfiedler,  Jarod Dalrymple scored former Eastern Connecticut State University star Jimmy Schult  from first base. The Jets bested the Vernon Orioles 3 to 2. The Orioles were tournament favorites and a veritable dynasty in recent years. Manager Jack Ceppetelli’s O’s previously won 4 consecutive playoff championships. 

Congratulations to all East Hartford Jets players, coaches, fans and family! 

We will see if the Jets could repeat and soar in the summer of 2021.

Corey Plasky, Second Baseman, East Hartford Jets strides to reach base.

Read the full championship recap by the Journal Inquirer:
https://www.journalinquirer.com/sports/dalrymple-provides-hometown-heroics-for-eh-jets-in-twilight-league-title-game/article_9ac5a072-e3b7-11ea-8e5e-7fd2d05f1710.html

3 Clubs Aim for Playoff Championship

People’s, Vernon and East Hartford to play final games of 2020.

GHTBL’s 2020 Playoff Tournament is nearly finished and our mid-August  classic is down to 3 clubs; People’s United Bank, Vernon Orioles and the East Hartford Jets. 

G11 – TUESDAY, 8/18, MCKENNA FIELD – 7 PM

G12 – WEDNESDAY, 8/19, MCKENNA FIELD – 7 PM

G13 – THURSDAY, 8/20, MCKENNA FIELD – 7 PM (IF NECESSARY)

On Tuesday, People’s will face Vernon at East Hartford’s McKenna Field. Superior batting and 2 homers from Infielder, Willy Yahn along with gritty pitching performances from Aidan Dunn have led Manager Tom Abbruzzese’s bankers franchise in the Tournament thus far. As for Manager Jack Ceppetelli and the Vernon Orioles, veterans like Third Baseman, Dan Trubia and First Baseman, Jack  Halpin along with new additions such as Infielder, Jimmy Titus and Pitcher, Matt Cleveland will look to win their way into the championship game.

Jimmy Titus (left), Third Baseman, Vernon Orioles and Neifi Mercedes, Shortstop, People’s United Bank.

On Wednesday, the East Hartford Jets will take on the winner of Game #12. Manager Taylor Kosakowski has guided the Jets to 3-straight playoff victories. Bryan Albee has been the team’s ace on the mound. Designated Hitter Jimmy Schult, Shortstop, Jeff Criscuolo and Outfielder, Mike Santiago are currently having success at the plate. However, if the Jets are defeated on Wednesday, then Playoff Game #13 will be played on Thursday.

At each game, the league will request a $5 donation at the main gate. Admission is free for kids 14 & under.

We look forward to seeing you at McKenna Field this week!

Cinderella Story Playoffs?

Evan Chamberlin and Rainbow Graphics upset Expos 5-2.

The Rainbow Graphics baseball club of Manchester shook up the first round bracket with a 5-2 win over the 2nd seed Record-Journal Expos. Veteran, 30 year old pitcher, Evan Chamberlain earned the win by throwing a 2 hitter through 6 innings with 1 earned run. Edison Galan went 3 for 4 with 2 runs and an RBI. Ryan Pandolfi went 2 for 4 with an RBI on 2 doubles. Max Quinn went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI’s. Co-Managers, Tyler Repoli and Ryan Pandolfi will lead their team to Playoff Game #6 at Ceppa Field in Meriden, CT on Thursday at 6:30 PM.

Follow the Rainbow Graphics team on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/rainbow_graphics_ghtbl

Check out the team’s sponsor Rainbow Graphics at: https://rainbowgraphicsct.com/

South Windsor Captures Regular Season Title

Ron Pizzanello and the fightin’ Phillies clinch 1st place.

The South Windsor Phillies defeated the Vernon Orioles on Thursday, August 6th and captured the 2020 Regular Season Title.  In 2018, the Phillies pressed the reset button on a Twilight franchise in South Windsor. It only took 3 seasons for the club to achieve a pennant. Over our 12-game season, the Phils relied on the slugging of Mike Lisinicchia, Brody Labbe and Jordan Zima and solid pitching from Trevor Moulton and Andre Jose.

Trevor Moulton, Pitcher, South Windsor Phillies.

Ron Pizzanello, former catcher in the GHTBL and professional player in the Italian Baseball League, recruited and managed the South Windsor Phillies to victory. This is Ron’s third year as manager. By leading the Phillies and by overcoming health complications, Ron continues to prove that, with grit and passion, any goal is achievable.

Ron Pizzanello, Manager, South Windsor Phillies.

The GHTBL Executive Committee thanks and recognizes Tony Desmond (1944-2020) and Gary Burnham Jr. for supporting the South Windsor franchise for many years. Congratulations to the South Windsor Phillies on their success as they proceed to the 2020 Playoff Tournament starting Sunday, August 9th at various sites.  Will the Phillies win both championship titles this summer? We shall see. Stay tuned! 

Johnny Taylor Field Charity Series at Dunkin’

To raise funds for Johnny Taylor Field, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League will play a doubleheader on Monday, August 3, 2020 at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

If you’ve been itching to watch some baseball at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, you’re in luck. And if you’re interested in Hartford’s baseball heritage, it’s must-see baseball.

The venerable Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League will stage a doubleheader Monday beginning at 6 p.m., fans allowed, to raise money for what’s yet needed to complete Johnny Taylor Field at Colt Park. A host of future major league players have appeared in the GHTBL though its history, which began in 1929, but Taylor, though he was kept out of the segregated major leagues in his time, is considered by many to be the greatest of them all.

Johnny Taylor Field under construction, Colt Park, Hartford, Connecticut, 2020.

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

“He’s probably the most talented pitcher to ever come from Hartford,” said Wes Ulbrich, GM of the Ulbrich Steel team and the league’s historian. “The Yankees were going to sign him, and he would have been the first Black player signed in the history of the game, but they decided not to when they found out he was African-American. He would have been the first in the 1930s.”

Taylor played for Bulkeley High as a senior in 1933, and struck out 25 batters in a nine-inning game against New Britain. A Yankees scout, Gene McCann, was sent to Hartford to watch Taylor pitch, and called The Courant to find out when he’d be on the mound again. Sports Editor Albert W. Keane told McCann that Taylor was African-American, and McCann’s response, “cannot be printed in a family newspaper,” Keane wrote. The Philadelphia A’s were also reported as interested at the time, but unwilling to sign Taylor.

Taylor, who had the nickname “Schoolboy,” went on to a long professional career in the Negro Leagues. In 1936, columnist Lewis R. Dial in the New York Age, chastised Yankees top executive Ed Barrow for not signing Taylor, who was by then starring for the New York Cubans. “Surely, Mr. Barrow has heard of him, for his talent scout went all the way to Hartford to look over this youngster,” Dial wrote.

One can only imagine how many games the fire-balling Taylor might have won for the Yankees of the 1930s, with Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri and Bill Dickey producing runs for him.

There were suggestions that Taylor renounce his heritage, learn Spanish and pose as Cuban, but he would not do that. He often returned to Hartford to play before packed crowds, at Colt Park or Bulkeley Stadium. In September 1941, Taylor brought an all-star team from the Negro Leagues to play the famous Savitt Gems; his catcher was Hall-of-Famer Josh Gibson. Taylor struck out 15.

Johnny Taylor (left) and Satchel Paige, 1942.

“There was one time [Taylor] needed a police escort, because there were so many people,” Ulbrich said.

Taylor’s story is particularly relevant this summer as the Negro Leagues’ 100th anniversary is commemorated. He finished his pro career playing for the Eastern League’s Hartford Chiefs in 1949, and he lived in the city until his death in 1987.

Through the Colt Park Foundation, Ulbrich hopes to raise more money to supplement funds already allotted for improvements. Johnny Taylor Field at Colt Park is supposed to be ready for the spring of 2021.

“We’re going to donate to Public Works, so they can get things like bases and signage,” said Ulbrich, “or they might choose for us to buy it and donate it. We really need lights, which is a lot of money, but they just gave an additional $500,000 for Colt Park. We want to keep fundraising through the Colt Park Foundation. We really care about the park, and it ties in with our league’s history so much.”

Watch more on the push to rename Johnny Taylor Field in Colt Park:

NBC Connecticut covers Johnny Taylor Field renaming.

The Greater Hartford Twilight League is playing its 92nd season despite the pandemic, with health and safety protocols and social distancing rules proving effective so far. The league schedule, usually 24 games, is 12. “We’ve had no issues,” Ulbrich said.

For the games Monday at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the league got a reduction in rent from the Yard Goats and secured free parking in the Trumbull Street Stadium lot, which holds about 250 cars. With Dunkin’ Donuts Park’s 6,000 capacity, and a 25 percent capacity limit, that should be enough for Monday’s doubleheader. Tickets are $10 for adults; children under 14 get in free. The Record-Journal Expos play People’s United Bank at 6 p.m., and Ulbrich Steel plays the East Hartford Jets at 8 p.m.

Dom Amore can be reached at damore@courant.com.

Watch more on the renaming of Johnny Taylor Field in Colt Park:

Hardball for Hartford at Dunkin’ Donuts Park

Two games to raise funds for Johnny Taylor Field in Colt Park.

Fans are invited to Dunkin’ Donuts Park at 1214 Main Street Hartford to fundraise for the new “Johnny Taylor Field” in Colt Park. Recently, our league petitioned the City of Hartford to name a new ballpark after one of the Connecticut’s greatest pitchers. Now, Johnny Taylor Field is being constructed and additional funds are needed. Read more about Johnny Taylor here: https://ghtbl.org/thebatandball/taylor.

Night games will be played at Dunkin Donuts Park on Monday, August 3, 2020:

– Record-Journal Expos vs. People’s United Bank at 6 PM.

– East Hartford Jets vs. Ulbrich Steel at 8 PM.

– $10 per person at the Main Gate / free for kids 14 and under.

– Due to COVID-19, everyone who enters the stadium, players and spectators, must wear a mask and social distance. Once players take the field and spectators find their seats, all are welcome to remove masks.

– For cleaning requirements, the stadium will open one half of the stands for each game.

– Indoor cages are not available due to Covid-19 guidelines.

– No seeds or gum allowed in the dugouts.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Dunkin’ Donuts Park!

Hartford Twilight League Persists in Pandemic

GHTBL is featured on NBC Connecticut.

By Gabrielle Lucivero • Published July 22, 2020 • Updated on July 23, 2020 at 2:19 pm

The pandemic threatened it, but the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is on the field for a 91st season. The long running men’s league has been a stop for major leaguers of the future and of the past.

“All the names that you know about in baseball history in the state of Connecticut you know, almost everyone was involved with the Hartford Twilight League in some capacity,” said Greg Morhardt, who started playing in the league in 1982. He went on to turn a minor league career into a scouting position with the Boston Red Sox.

Now, on these summer nights, he watched from behind the backstop as his son, Justin, a 2017 draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, takes the mound. And sometimes he’s joined by Justin’s grandfather, Moe.

Moe Morhardt played his first Twilight League game more than 50 years ago, in 1954. He went on to play first base for the Chicago Cubs for part of two seasons in the 60s and then came back again to the Twilight League.

“Baseball’s often been described as being passed own as father and son,” said Moe. “Playing catch and things like that and that’s absolutely true. That’s the backbone.”

They may not know how many years they’ve all played – though they can agree, Greg’s brother Darryl has played the most – what they do know is that those years made a difference in their careers.

“We were playing with men,” said Moe. “Playing with people older, faster, stronger than we were.”

“Guys would go from playing on a major college team hitting fourth to going to the Hartford Twilight League team and hitting sixth,” said Greg.

It’s the kind of league where every strikeout has a story and those stories get bigger every time.

“Guys that are, you know, chewing tobacco, spitting on the ground,” said Justin. “Saying, ‘I don’t care if he’s 16, I don’t care if he’s a Morhardt, get a hit’.”

And that’s a story that never gets old.

“Even in the major leagues, things are changing,” said Justin. “We’ve got new rules and new ways to do things but here in this league, you know, things don’t change.”

Bill Shea Photographs GHTBL Ball Games

Professional photos from a fan of the league.

Since last season, a local photographer named Bill Shea has been snapping shots of Twilight League action. Fans of the league are welcomed to send in photos to: CONTACT@GHTBL.ORG or tag us on Instagram: @GHTBL. We will feature you and your talents! Thank you to Bill and all of the fans who have come to our games this season. We are reporting a record number of fans this year!

VIEW BILL SHEA’S PHOTOGRAPHY AT: https://www.billsheaphotographer.com/GHTBL-Baseball

Play Ball! 2020 Schedule Posted

The GHTBL Regular Season schedule has been published.

After a recent league meeting, GHTBL Executive Committee members have determined the 2020 Regular Season schedule.  Some dates are subject to change. 7 franchises will compete in the 92nd season of the Twilight League. Each team will play 12 games followed by our standard double-elimination playoff tournament.

Players will need to appear in 2 games to qualify for playoffs. Fans will be welcomed at all games as long as they social distance and adhere to state guidelines..

GHTBL officials, managers and players are pleased to be playing baseball again. In partnership with the Hartford Board of Umpires, the league will work diligently to protect players, coaches, umpires and fans.

League Update on 2020 Season

In the wake of COVID-19, GHTBL Executive Committee and managers weigh options.

GHTBL Executive Committee members and managers are exploring options for our upcoming season. Even though COVID-19 has disrupted our way of life, the Twilight League is staying optimistic.

General consensus among our managers is to plan for a shortened season followed by a double-elimination playoff tournament. Whether it’s 14 or 17 regular season games, league officials are doing everything they can to create a schedule for this summer.

Unfortunately, any final decision on our 2020 season is not our choice to make. While Governor Ned Lamont has announced partial reopening for the State of Connecticut on May 20, 2020.

Park and Recreation departments from around the state should be opening up ballfields on this date but no guarantees can be made. GHTBL managers will be coordinating with town, municipalities and stadium owners to firm up possible dates.

President Bill Holowaty will make an official announcement on our 2020 season by the end of May. Let’s hope that by June our league will be able to publish a schedule. Stay tuned for updates and expect to play baseball this summer.

**Our entire league applauds nurses, doctors and first responders who continue to battle the virus everyday. We send our condolences to those of you who have lost family members to COVID-19.**

Winter Workouts for Twi-Leaguers & Prospects

860Baseball of Hartford hosts GHTBL and new recruits.

A new Twilight League development has materialized this off-season.  The first “Winter Workout” was held on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 860Baseball in Hartford, Connecticut. 

GHTBL veterans and prospective players met up to stretch out, throw bullpen, take indoor batting practice and to socialize.  In all, 18 ballplayers attended the inaugural Winter Workout, many of which said they would be back for the next training session.  

Winter Workout #2 will take place on Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 860Baseball.  In fact, the GHTBL plans to organize monthly workouts this off-season.  Each training session will be announced 3 weeks in advance. Two sessions will be planned for April. 

Many thanks goes to the friendly staff and ownership at 860Baseball for their hospitality.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A CLIP FROM WINTER WORKOUT #1. 

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.

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.

The Hartford Poli’s Baseball Club

The Hartford Poli’s were a semi-professional baseball club formed in 1905 by management and employees of Poli’s Theatre. The vaudeville venue sponsored the team for men between the ages of 18 and 30. Said to be Hartford’s “fastest” club, the Poli’s welcomed major league legends and challengers across New England including their rival, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company. The owner of Poli’s was Sylvester Z. Poli who operated theaters in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury and other cities throughout the Northeast.

Poli’s Theatre employees form a baseball league, 1905.
Poli’s advertisement, Hartford Courant, 1909.
Hockers Gamerdinger, Hartford Poli’s, 1912.

In their early years, the Harford Poli’s played in an intercompany loop, the Poli Baseball League. Hartford’s theater team was first headed by Manager R.J. Kelly and their captain first baseman Fred Jendron. In 1908, the Hartford Poli’s won the league over the New Haven Poli’s in a title game by a score of 18 to 6. The club was presented a championship cup by owner Sylvester Poli himself. Eventually, the Hartford Poli’s would graduate from the Poli Baseball League to become of Connecticut’s top independent teams.

1913 Hartford Poli’s Baseball Club

Poli’s utility infielder, Curtis Gillette was superintendent at the Poli Theatre of Hartford. Gillette was raised in New Haven but came to Hartford in 1911 to pursue career opportunities. By 1913, Gillette was appointed manager of the Poli’s and he named first baseman Ed DeVanney team captain. That year, the Poli’s won 26 of their 31 games against teams like the Royals and the Olympias of Hartford and the Pastimes of East Hartford. Gillette led the club to unprecedented success against local opponents and captured multiple amateur state titles.

1914 Hartford Poli’s Baseball Club
Hartford Poli’s, 1914.

As baseball’s popularity skyrocketed in Hartford, the Poli ballclub became a more serious operation. The club served up effective publicity for Poli Theatre on Main Street. The company scouted the best players in the city. Pitchers Ed “Smiler” Oppelt and Jack Vannie as well as shortstop Joe Griffin ushered the Poil’s to dozens of lopsided victories throughout Connecticut. Poli home games were held at Colt Park as well as Wethersfield Avenue Grounds in Hartford.

1915 Hartford Poli’s Baseball Club

In 1915, the Poli Theatre Company constructed a new ballpark in East Hartford named Poli Field. The grounds covered 10 acres and boasted a grandstand stretching from first base to third base. Wire netting behind home plate prevented foul balls from reaching the stands. With a brand new facility and a talented team, the Poli’s were a local attraction. Large crowds, tough opponents and baseball’s biggest stars became guests of the Poli’s.

1916 Poli Baseball Club

On Tuesday, October 24, 1916, Detroit Tigers Most Valuable Player, Ty Cobb came to Hartford to face the Poli’s. As a guest star for the New Haven Colonials, Cobb played center field, first base and served as relief pitcher. Cobb had two hits, showed off his speed in a run-down and pitched 3 innings of one-hit ball. He gave up a double to Poli’s catcher, John Muldoon, a future professional who had three hits on the day. Cobb and Colonials shut out the Hartford Poli’s and their guest star, Benny Kauff by a score of 7 to 0. The exhibition delighted a small crowd of 800 fans at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds.

Manager Gillete recruited Benny Kauff of the New York Giants to take on Ty Cobb who made an appearance for the New Haven Colonials, 1916.
Joe Griffin, Shortstop, Hartford Poli’s, 1916.
Babe Clark, Captain and First Baseman, Hartford Poli’s, 1916.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1917.
Lester Lanning, Outfielder, Hartford Poli’s and Wesleyan University graduate, 1917.
Rex Islieb, Shortstop, Hartford Poli’s Baseball, 1917.
1917 Hartford Poli’s Baseball Club
New York Bloomer Girls take on Hartford Poli’s, 1917.

In mid-September of 1918, the Poli’s welcomed a recent World Series champion to Hartford. The one and only, George Herman “Babe” Ruth of the Boston Red Sox guest starred for the Poli’s in a benefit game. The event raised funds for American troops from Hartford who were fighting overseas in World War I. Ruth arrived to the city amidst cheering fans in the streets. Manager Curtis Gillette of the Poli’s drove the Babe to Hotel Bond on Asylum Street where he was swarmed by reporters. The next day, Ruth joined the Poli’s at Wethersfield Avenue.

1918 Hartford Poli’s Baseball Club with Babe Ruth (back row, third from right).

Then Ruth and the Poli’s opposed the Fisk Red Tops of Chicopee, Massachusetts. On Sunday, September 15, 1918, while Ruth pitched and battied third in Hartford. He recorded two hits, including a double off of the “Bull Durham” tobacco sign on the center field wall. Ruth threw a complete game shutout, allowed four hits and led the Poli’s to victory. Another Red Sox teammate, Sam Agnew played catcher for the Poli’s and drove in the game’s only run, beating another Red Sox counterpart, Dutch Leonard, who guest starred on the mound for the Red Tops. Ruth entertained a Hartford crowd of more than 5,000, and earned $350 for his appearance.

Bill Kopf, Shortstop, Hartford Poli’s, 1918.
New Haven Colonials vs. Hartford Poli’s, 1918.
Al Mamaux, Pitcher, Hartford Poli’s guest star, 1918.
Fisk-Poli Trophy, 1918
Fred Rieger, Pitcher, Hartford Poli’s, 1918.
Joe Briger, Catcher, Hartford Poli’s, 1918.
John “Boggy” Muldoon, Catcher, Hartford Poli’s, 1918.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1918.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1918.

A week later, Ruth played for the Poli’s in a doubleheader. It was a Sunday at the Hartford Grounds (also known as Wethersfield Avenue Grounds and Hartford Baseball Park). They went head-to-head with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. Five Major Leaguers including Ruth appeared that day. Ruth pitched had a quality start but was outdueled by Pratt & Whitney and his Red Sox teammate, “Bullet” Joe Bush by a score of 1 to 0.

Ruth to play at the Hartford Grounds with Poli’s, 1918.

In the second game of the day, Ruth and the Poli’s faced a former Hartford Senators pitcher turned New York Yankee, Ray Fisher. Fisher was the headliner for a Fort Slocum team who ended up defeating the Poli’s. Ruth played first base, had a base hit and scored the Poli’s lone run. A crowd of more than 3,000 were in attendance for the occasion; a doubleheader featuring Babe Ruth in Hartford.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1918.

The following year, Ruth played first base in a reprisal with the Hartford Poli’s. On September 28, 1919 at Poli Field in East Hartford they opposed the New Britain Pioneers. Mayor of Hartford, Richard J. Kinsella threw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch and posed for a photograph with Ruth. The Babe hit two balls over the right field fence but was only allowed one base for each long ball due to a “short porch” ground rule. Earlier that day he had hit a batting practice homer said to be struck over 500 feet. The Poli’s shutout the Pioneers before a crowd of more than 6,000 fans.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1919.
Hartford Poli’s vs New Haven Nutmegs, 1919.
Mayor of Hartford, Richard J. Kinsella and Ruth, 1919.

The Hartford Poli’s persuaded Babe Ruth to make an encore appearance in 1920. After his first season with the New York Yankees, Ruth starred for the Poli’s against New Departure at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut. On October 2, 1920, he hit clean-up, played nearly every position and went 4 for 4 with three singles and a double. However, New Departure shutout the Poli’s thanks to crafty pitching from Gus Helfrich, a minor league spitballer from the New York State League. Extra trains and trolleys were scheduled to Bristol that Saturday afternoon, allowing 10,000 fans to see Ruth’s final game with the Hartford Poli’s.

Babe Ruth comes to Muzzy Field, 1920.
Ruth Four Hits at Bristol for the Hartford Poli’s, 1920.
Ruth in the Batter’s Box at Muzzy Field, 1920.
Ruth Tagged Out at Muzzy Field, 1920.
Ruth Playing First Base at Muzzy Field, 1920.
Ruth Accepts Honorary Gift at Muzzy Field, 1920.

For more than 15 years, the Hartford Poli’s were a top tier amateur club. By 1920, the club had developed some of the best players in Hartford. They included Rex Islieb, a standout third baseman, Bill Pike, a left-handed ace and Jim O’Leary, a hard-throwing pitcher. The Poli squad eventually disbanded and evolved into another team called the All-Hartfords in 1921 with a similar roster from previous years. Though a century has passed since the Poli’s won local prestige, their contributions culturally significant and a source of entertainment and civic pride.


The Man Behind the Poli’s

Sylvester Zefferino Poli, (December 31, 1858 – May 31, 1937) an Italian immigrant to the United States who became a world famous theatre magnate.

The Hartford Poli’s baseball club was sponsored by Sylvester Zefferino Poli, a theater mogul, vaudeville pioneer and entertainment proprietor. In 1881, Poli was an expert wax sculptor and a first generation Italian immigrant living New York City. His wax figurine business attained massive success which led him to become a major pioneer of vaudeville theaters in the northeastern United States. Poli’s Theatre on Main Street Hartford first opened in 1903. By 1916, he was heralded as the largest individual theater owner in the world. When Poli retired at the age of 70, he had amassed 28 theaters, 3 hotels (including the Savoy in Miami), 500 offices and two building sites.

Poli’s Theatre first opened on Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut in 1903.
Poli’s Stock Company advertisement, Hartford Courant, 1906
The summer home of Sylvester Z. Poli and his family, “Villa Rosa” Woodmont, Connecticut, 1910.
A scene from “The Fortune Hunter” at Poli’s Theatre, 1912.
Poli’s Palace Theatre, Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut, 1914.

In July of 1928, Poli merged his company with Fox New England Theaters. He still retained majority interest when Fox-Poli’s was created. However in May of 1934, Loew’s Theatres purchased Poli’s remaining theaters, which became known as Loew’s-Poli Theaters. Sylvester Poli spent his final years at his summer home, Villa Rosa in the Woodmont section of Milford, Connecticut. The palatial estate was named after his wife Rosa Leverone. Sylvester Z. Poli died on May 31, 1937 at the age of 79 due to pneumonia. Loew’s-Poli Theatre stayed open in Hartford until 1957.

Poli’s Capitol Theatre, Main Street, Hartford, designed by Thomas W. Lamb and opened August 28, 1920.
Fox Poli Theatre, Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut, 1929.
Loews Poli Theatre in the background, 1956.

2019 Playoff Tournament: August 5th to 14th

Postseason at Trinity College and Palmer Field.

The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is excited to announce the 2019 Playoff Tournament schedule and bracket. This year, the majority of the double-elimination tournament will be hosted at Trinity College in Hartford, from August 5th until the 12th. 

Then, the final two games of the playoffs will determine a champion at Palmer Field in Middletown on August 13th and 14th. The Record-Journal Expos and Vernon Orioles are the top seeds entering the GHTBL postseason.  Seeding has yet to be determined.

2019 Twilight Season Set to Begin

Opening Day is May 28th, 6 PM, Henry Park, Vernon, CT.

More than 90 years of twilight baseball will continue this summer as our league gets the 2019 GHTBL season underway.  Reigning champions, the Vernon Orioles and their longtime manager, Jack Ceppetelli will face off against last year’s runner-up, Rainbow Graphics of Manchester. 

Rainbow Graphics and the Vernon Orioles have replenished their rosters with newly recruited collegiate athletes to play alongside veteran twilight leaguers.  Co-managers, Tyler Repoli and Ryan Pandolfi will step into leadership roles for Rainbow Graphics this season. 

Meanwhile, the Orioles will field familiar names like the Dan Trubia and Tony Trubia as well as their upstart second baseman, Zach Donahue who has recently committed to play baseball at the University of Connecticut under another GHTBL alum Head Coach, Jim Penders.

Opening Day schedule:
– Tuesday, May 28th
– Henry Park in Vernon, Connecticut, on Frank J. McCoy Field. 
– Opening Day presentation and ceremonial first pitch at 5:55 PM.
– Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President will be master of ceremonies. 
– Game time is scheduled for 6 PM.  

A special thanks goes to the Town of Vernon Parks and Recreation for their continued support and cooperation.  The Vernon Orioles have been proud to represent the Town of Vernon since 1966.

2nd Annual Buzzy Levin Golf Tournament

May 17th Golf Tournament and Awards Banquet kicks off 2019 season.

To all Alumni, Players, Friends and Family,

On Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Blackledge Country Club in Hebron, CT, the our twilight league will come together on the golf course for a fantastic day.  This event is the league’s largest fundraiser of the year and honors Buzzy Levin, former owner and franchise sponsor of Malloves Jewelers of Middletown.  His son, Marc Levin has brought Malloves Jewelers back to GHTBL this season and the league is pleased to welcome his family back into the fold.

**May 19th Itinerary**

1:00 PM – WELCOME
Lunch, chat with old teammates, receive a gift bag and buy raffle tickets ($20).

2:00 PM – SHOTGUN START (TEE OFF)
Foursomes to play a scramble format (groups use the best shot).

7:00 PM – AWARDS BANQUET & DINNER
Dinner is served.  2018 award winners are presented with trophies and plaques.

7:45 PM – RAFFLE
Raffle winners to be announced.

**This event funds our entire season and makes possible our charitable mission.**

The GHTBL gives back to charitable organizations in our Greater Hartford community on an annual basis.  Games are scheduled once a year at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford and the ticket proceeds are given to charity.  Before we can give back, we must first fund our league.  The GHTBL relies on donations and sponsors to pay rising costs.  Your involvement in this event as well as your donations fund the costs of fields, umpires, and equipment.  Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

To sign up go to www.GHTBL.org/Donate.
Or show up on the day of the event and pay by cash or check. 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW EVENT BROCHURE

Launching New Angle with “Games of the Week”

2019 season will feature live broadcasts on YouTube.

This summer, our historic twilight league will be advancing deeper into the digital age with live video broadcasts.  The 2019 season will usher in “Games of the Week” featuring Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League action on our YouTube channel.  Wherever they might be, baseball fans will be able to watch two GTHBL games per week for free of all 8 teams.

These streams will be complete with commentary from Middletown native and amateur broadcaster, Dan Saccu who will break down all of the live baseball action on a twice-a-week basis.  Other commentators will likely chime as well.  To watch and get notified when streams begin, subscribe to our YouTube channel:

Click here to visit the GHTBL YouTube channel.

Stay tuned.  This summer is going to be great one.

– Macon Jefferys, GHTBL Video Coordinator

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.

New Management in the Twilight League

3 new managers assume roles in East Hartford, Meriden and Middletown.

Record-Journal Expos – Charlie Hesseltine, Manager
– Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 42nd round of the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft as a left-handed pitcher.
– In 2006, he signed with the Atlantic City Surf of the Atlantic League.
– He pitched for 3 more Atlantic League teams including the Bridgeport Bluefish in 2008.
– Meriden, CT, resident and member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

East Hartford Jets – Taylor Kosakowski, Manager
– Right-handed relief pitcher at Central Connecticut State University (’06-’08) with 72 K’s and 35 walks over 96 innings.
– Veteran of GHTBL and player-manager of the Ulbrich Clippers in 2018.
– Public school psychologist in Hebron, CT.

Middletown Outlaws – Christian Budzik, Manager
– Shortstop at Eastern Connecticut State University (’14-’17) with a .354 OBP and 77 hits in 121 games.
– He was part of the Cromwell High School baseball team who won the 2012 CIAC Class S championship.
– Special education teacher in Cromwell, CT.

2018 GHTBL Annual Award Winners Announced

Twilight players honored for their standout seasons.

The top GHTBL players and the best team, the Vernon Orioles separated themselves from the competition this season.

Here are the 2018 GHTBL Award Winners:

Frank McCoy Award – Most Valuable Player – Mark DiTommaso, OF, Rainbow Graphics

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

Ray McKenna Award – Player of the Year – Jonathan Walter, OF, Record-Journal Expos

Rev. Thomas Campion Award – Outstanding Playoffs Hitter – Dan Trubia, 3B, Vernon Orioles 

Mike Abbruzzese Award – Outstanding Playoffs Pitcher – Paul Dougan, P, Vernon Orioles 

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

Gene Johnson Award – Regular Season Batting Title – Jonathan Walter, OF, Record-Journal Expos

Ralph Giansanti Sr. Award – Stolen Base Winner – Jonathan Walter, OF, Record-Journal Expos

Jack Repass Award – Gold Glove – Jeff Criscuolo, INF, Ulbrich Clippers

James Gallagher Award – Rookie of the Year – Jake Petrozza, OF, South Windsor Phillies 

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

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

President’s Note:

Our successful 2018 season was a great milestone for the GHTBL. This past summer marked the 90th year of the league as the premier amateur league in Connecticut. The league hosted games at some of the best fields and stadiums in state and matriculated 3 players into the professional ranks. The running tally of GHTBL players who have played professional baseball is now 320.

Next season, the GHTBL will seek to strengthen its current franchises and will explore opportunities for expansion. The league most recently had an Executive Committee meeting and has scheduled another meeting for November 4th at 5 PM in East Hartford. 

– Bill Holowaty, President

Visit our Instagram account @GHTBL for the latest updates and follow our blog “The Bat and Ball” on GHTBL.org for Greater Hartford’s historic baseball stories and tidbits.

Vernon Wins 3rd Straight Playoff Championship

THE O’S DYNASTY CONTINUES.

Jack Ceppetelli and his Vernon Orioles have done it again. For the third consecutive year, Vernon has won the GHTBL Playoff Tournament. At Trinity College on Sunday, August 12th, Vernon toppled Rainbow Graphics in the final championship round with two wins: 3-1 and 7-1.  Strong pitching by Seth Sypniak and Matt Purnell overmatched the opposition while a barrage of hits came from the Dan Trubia and Tony Trubia

Earlier this year, Vernon also captured their sixth straight Regular Season title by finishing first in the standings. The franchise has transformed into a veritable dynasty in recent years. Solid defense and tough pitching have greatly contributed to the O’s success. Congratulations to the Vernon Orioles on their superior ball playing and their long run of success!

Many thanks go to our friends at Trinity College for hosting the league, Dan Saccu, our PA Announcer, and to Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President, Andy Baylock GHTBL Vice President, Tom Abbruzzese, Manager, People’s United Bank and Chris Kehoe, GHTBL Treasurer, for organizing and facilitating the playoff tournament.

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.

Charity Series at Dunkin’ Donuts Park

4 GHTBL games to benefit Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to be held June 21 and 22.

June 21st and June 22nd – first pitch at 6:10 PM each night.

The GHTBL Charity Series will feature a pair of doubleheaders on back-to-back nights to raise funds for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

 South Windsor Phillies East Hartford Jets6:10 PM EDT 
06/21/18
 Rainbow Graphics Vernon Orioles8:00 PM EDT 
06/21/18
 People’s United Bank Middletown Outlaws6:10 PM EDT 
06/22/18
 Record-Journal Expos Ulbrich Clippers8:00 PM EDT 
06/22/18

Tickets are $10.00 per person; free entry for kids 14 and under.
Reserve tickets or pay at the Main Gate – 1214 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103. Event open to the public; tickets valid for any and all games. 

CLICK HERE TO RESERVE TICKETS

Thank you to the Hartford Yard Goats for facilitating our stadium rental.

We’ll see you at the ballpark for this great cause!

GHTBL Tops CTL 4-1 at Muzzy Field

GHTBL wins 3 out of 3 matchups versus Connecticut Twilight League.

The GHTBL All Stars shined bright on Monday night, defeating the Connecticut Twilight League All Stars 4-1 in 9 innings. Even though the game was tied 1-1 until the top of the ninth inning, the GHTBL boys of summer eventually claimed victory.

Chris Anselmo (Clippers) drove in the game winning run after Tyler Pina (People’s) was hit by a pitch and stole a base. Then Jeff Criscuolo (Clippers) hit a booming triple off the right field wall scoring Anselmo. Thad Zentek (People’s) had an RBI plating Criscuolo.

Dan Trubia (Vernon) had two hits, starting pitcher Brendan Smith (People’s), relievers James Davitt (Clippers), Travis Salois (Marlborough), and John Martin (Middletown) threw scoreless innings while Tyler Pogmore (Vernon) earned the save.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM THE GAME

Morhardt Drafted in 22nd Round by Atlanta Braves

Justin Morhardt is the 25th GHTBL player to turn pro since 2010.

People’s United Bank slugger and Bryan College catcher, Justin Morhardt was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2017 MLB Draft (650th pick overall) by the Atlanta Braves. 

Morhardt, who hails from Winsted, Connecticut, was a 2017 NAIA second-team All-America baseball player. In his junior year, Morhardt set Bryan College baseball records with 86 hits and a .439 batting average. Those inflated totals went along with 12 home runs, 20 doubles, 47 walks (second most in Lions history) and 51 runs batted in this season. As the Appalachian Athletic Conference player of the year, Morhardt had an on-base percentage of .551 and a slugging percentage of .724 for the most prolific Bryan offense in school history. 

Justin, like his father Greg Morhardt, his uncle, Darryl Morhardt and his grandfather, Moe Morhardt, he is the fourth man in his family to go from the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League to professional baseball. Moe Morhardt broke into the Major League’s as pitcher with the Chicago Cubs  in the 60’s. Congratulations to the entire Morhardt family and we wish Justin all the best in his new job and pro baseball career!

Pros Playing Hartford Twilight Ball This Season

These GHTBL players have professional baseball experience.

Matt Purnell

Team: Vernon Orioles
Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right  •  Throws: Right
6-2, 210lb (188cm, 95kg)
Born: April 8, 1991 (Age: 26-064d)
School: Eastern Connecticut State University (Willimantic, CT

Kevin Rival

Team: Ulbrich Clippers
Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right  •  Throws: Right
6-2, 220lb (188cm, 95kg)
Born: November 27, 1979 (Age: 37-196d) in New Britain, CT
School: Central Connecticut State University (New Britain, CT)

Tyler McIntyre

Team: Ulbrich Clippers
Positions: First Baseman and Rightfielder
Bats: Left  •  Throws: Right
6-4, 220lb (193cm, 99kg)
Born: April 10, 1990 (Age: 27-062d)
School: Central Connecticut State University (New Britain, CT)

James Kukucka

Team: Ulbrich Clippers
Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right  •  Throws: Right
5-11, 225lb (180cm, 97kg)
Born: January 23, 1987 (Age: 30-139d)
School: Eastern Connecticut State University (Willimantic, CT)

John Kubachka

Team: People’s United Bank
Position:
 First Baseman
Bats: Right  •  Throws: Right
6-5, 240lb (196cm, 113kg)
Born: May 25, 1979 (Age: 38-017d)
School: Eastern Connecticut State University (Willimantic, CT)

Kevin Jefferis

Team: Marlborough Braves
Position:
 Pitcher
Bats: Right  •  Throws: Right
6-1, 195lb (185cm, 88kg)
Born: April 23, 1991 (Age: 26-049d)
School: Western New England College (Springfield, MA)

Charlie Hesseltine

Team: Record-Journal Expos
Position: Pitcher
Bats: Left  •  Throws: Left
5-11, 180lb (180cm, 81kg)
Born: January 19, 1985 (Age: 32-143d) in Meriden, CT
Draft: Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 42nd round of the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft from Francis T Maloney HS (Meriden, CT).
High School: Francis T Maloney HS (Meriden, CT)

Kevin Putkonen

Team: East Hartford Jets
Bats: Left  •  Throws: Left
6-0, 205lb (183cm, 92kg)
Born: April 4, 1988 (Age: 29-068d)
High School: South Windsor High School