Tag: moriarty

Wally Widholm, the Best Twilight Backstop of All-Time

In the world of baseball, a top-notch catcher is like finding a unicorn—rare and game-changing. Elite backstops not only excel at calling games, preventing wild pitches and controlling the basepaths, but they also contribute offensively, making them a double threat. With a great catcher behind the plate, the game flows more smoothly, reducing the chaos and boosting chances of victory. However, exceptional catchers are few and far between.

The likes of Josh Gibson, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Ivan Rodriguez, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, and Adley Rutschman are some of the game’s greatest anomalies.

So what about catchers from Connecticut? Who’s been the best man with a mitt from the Nutmeg State?

Maybe it was one of the following major league catchers: Brad Ausmus, Brook Fordyce, John Ellis, or Skip Jutze. Perhaps the title belongs to a lesser-known big leaguer such as Nick Koback, Mike Sandlock, Matt Sinatro, or P.J. Higgins. There are several unsung candidates from the minor leagues including Jim Sheehan, Roger LaFrancois, and George Enright.

Last but not least, many have called Wallace “Wally” Widholm one of the best. He is rarely remembered today, but Widholm dominated the local scene in the 1950s and 1960s. His mentees, GHTBL President Bill Holowaty and Vice President Andy Baylock, still rave about his talent and control of the game behind the plate. It’s no understatement to call Wally Widholm the best twilight backstop of all-time.

Let’s take a look at his life and athletic career:

Wally Widholm, 1954.

Originally from Astoria, Queens, New York, Wallace R. Widholm was born on August 6, 1927. Widholm grew up in the same Astoria sandlots as the famed southpaw, Whitey Ford. He was Ford’s teammate and catcher. Widholm once claimed a broken finger prevented him from signing with the New York Yankees at the same time as Ford.

University of Connecticut Baseball team with Wally Widholm (far right), 1950.

Instead, in 1946, the New York Giants signed Widholm to a professional contract at 18 years old, but Widholm opted to serve in the United States Navy. He briefly attended Ursinus College before transferring to the University of Connecticut in 1949 as a two-sport athlete. His college eligibility was called into question when newspapers reported on his professional contract, but a court ruling made him eligible.

Wally Widholm, University of Connecticut Baseball, 1951.

To become UConn’s starting catcher, Widholm won a head-to-head competition in tryouts. Longtime Connecticut head coach J. Orlean Christian chose him over a returner named Walter Allen. Widholm ended up batting .325 on the season. He earned the role of captain and a First Team All-District selection. His commanding presence and “lead by doing” approach were unmistakable both on and off the field, as he effortlessly took charge and set the standard for others to follow.

Wally Widholm (left), UConn Basketball, 1951.

At 6’2″ Widholm was also key to the UConn Huskies on the basketball court. He manned the forward position and was a part of UConn’s first ever team to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Though the Huskies lost to St. John’s University at Madison Square Garden, he described the game as, “The biggest thrill I had at UConn.” Widholm played three basketball and baseball seasons for the Huskies.

Wally Widholm, University of Connecticut Basketball, 1952.

After graduating, Widholm began working at Hamilton Standard – a propeller maker in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. He was one part ballplayer and one part employee. Hamilton teams were nicknamed the “Propellers” or “Props” and Widholm was their field general behind the dish. He was known for timely line-drive hitting and for blocking nearly every ball behind the plate.

Hamilton Standard Propellers and Wally Widholm (standing, fifth from left), 1952.

His performance spurred the Props to a second place finish in the 1952 Hartford Industrial Baseball League – known as the Dusty League for short. Then the Props won four pennants in 1953: the Dusty League, the Connecticut State Semi-Pro, the Connecticut Industrial, and the Bi-State (Connecticut and Rhode Island) championships. Hamilton Standard also established a basketball team, and Widholm guided them to yet another Dusty League title that winter.

Hamilton Standard Propellers and Wally Widholm (standing, fourth from left), 1953.

That same year Widholm assumed the captain role for Hamilton Standard. He was highly regarded and heavily scouted as a top catching prospect in New England. Because of this, Widholm was sought after by local amateur and semi-pro clubs. The Puritan Maids of the Hartford Twilight League recruited Widholm, and he immediately won an All-Star selection. He also made appearances for the Portland Brownstones of the Middlesex County Baseball League.

Hamilton Standard Baseball, 1953.

Widholm had many highlights in ’53, but none more memorable than his trip to Dallas, Texas. Hamilton Standard athletes were flown to the Lonestar State to oppose airplane manufacturer, Chance Vought in a series of contests: baseball, basketball and bowling. Both Hamilton Standard and Chance Vought were divisions of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft at the time, and Chance Vought had relocated from Stratford, Connecticut, to Dallas, Texas a few years prior. The interstate competition allowed the divisions to meet and negotiate labor union contracts.

Hamilton Standard Basketball, 1953.

In the lead up to Texas, the Hartford Courant splashed Widholm’s face across the sports page. The captain and his fellow employees were photographed as they boarded a United Aircraft Convair at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. On September 12, 1953, the counterpart companies did battle at Burnett Field in Dallas. Chance Vought edged the Props 2-1 and held them to one hit.

Widholm (right) departs East Hartford, 1953.
Burnett Field, Dallas, Texas, 1957.

Many of Widholm’s Hamilton teammates were longtime Hartford Twilight League players. They were William Landers, Harold Lewis, Charlie McMeans, Ed Kukulka, Joseph Haberl, Thomas Delucco, Daniel Ambrosio and others. Some of these men, at one time or another, were minor leaguers, and Widholm would follow suit. In 1954, he signed a contract with the Milwaukee Braves organization and designated to the Miami Beach Flamingos of the Florida International League.

Widholm hits grand slam for Miami Beach, 1954.
Flamingo Field, Miami Beach, Florida.
Wally Widholm (left), Miami Beach Flamingos, 1954.

Miami was managed by a 3-time World Series Champion, Pepper Martin. Of the Miami club, Widholm once said, “That was the best team I ever played with.” That season, he banged 6 home runs in 80 games with a 2 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was a 26 year old rookie who showed flashes of brilliance on defense. His bat proved to be full of contact, but he lacked consistent home run power.

Wally Widholm (right) of the Miami Beach Flamingos.

When the Miami Beach Flamingos folded midseason, Widholm was sent to the Quebec Braves of the Provincial League. He performed at a high level in Quebec, batting .347 in 29 games played. The only catcher with a better batting average was Dick Brown of the Sherbrooke Indians. Somehow, during his torrid streak in Quebec, Wiholm managed to avoid hitting a home run.

Wally Widholm is tagged out in a rundown, 1954.

To squeeze more homers out of Widholm, the powers-that-be of the Milwaukee Braves organization sent him to work with Hall of Famer, Paul Waner (113 MLB career home runs). Waner considered Widholm an “arm hitter” and claimed it was too late to change styles. Widholm recalled the memory in a 1976 Hartford Courant interview stating, “I didn’t believe him then, but I did later in my second year when I batted .292 with no homers.”

City Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1955 (c.)

Widholm’s brief professional career came to an end in the state of Mississippi. There he played 117 games with the Chicago Cubs-affiliated Vicksburg Hill Billies of the 1955 Cotton States League. He may have forgotten, but Widholm swatted 4 home runs and finished third on the team in RBI (45). Knowing the big leagues were out of reach, he decided to make a new life back in Connecticut.

Hamilton Standard wins the Hartford Twilight League Regular Season Title with Wally Widholm at catcher (bottom, right), 1958.

Widholm married his fiancé Joyce Papetti, then settled down in East Hartford and later in Glastonbury. Wally went back to work (and play) for Hamilton Standard. In addition to the Props, he started at catcher for the Meriden Merchants and the Bloomfield Athletic Club. For the next decade plus Widholm was a mainstay in statewide tournaments, the Hartford Industrial League and Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League.

Merchants Invitational Baseball Tournament – L to R: Fred Vogel, Wally Widholm, Dave Musco, Mickey Garbeck, Jack Hines, & Bill Malerba, 1959.

His Hamilton Standard team of 1958 remains one of the greatest in GHTBL history. The Propellers lost only one game in the Regular Season to capture the league title, and they swept the Playoff Tournament. Widholm called nearly every pitch that season. A year later with the Meriden Merchants, he was named Most Valuable Player of the 1959 Merchants Invitational Tournament at Ceppa Field.

Widholm dives safely into third in GHTBL game, 1965.

For most onlookers, there was no catcher in the state with more ability than Widholm. His noticeable right arm threw hard enough to afford him many occasions on the mound as a relief pitcher into his later years. Widholm had his most dominating season in 1966 when he served as player-manager for Hamilton Standard and won Most Valuable Player at 39 years old. Former big leaguer and manager Frankie Frisch presented Widholm with his MVP award.

Wally Widholm (2nd from right) accepts Twilight League MVP Award, 1966.

Widholm suited up in the Twi-loop until the age of 43. He switched clubs a few times from the Hamilton Props to Herb’s Sport Shop, and the Manchester-based super team, Moriarty Brothers. He collected 7 Season Titles and 8 Playoff Championships in the GHTBL. Widolm retired from playing in 1970 as a member of Moriarty Brothers and became a successful head baseball coach for East Hartford’s Post 77 American Legion.

Moriarty Brothers vs. Hamilton Standard at Dillon Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1967.

After an impressive athletic career and a full life, Wally Widholm passed away on March 4, 2005, at age 77. He was survived by his wife Joyce and their two children, Leslie and Wallace. Today, Widholm is remembered fondly by his friends. His character reflected an archetype of a well-rounded athlete. Widholm was a great catcher, a power forward, a family man, an animal lover, a generous soul, a gentleman, and a quiet leader of men.

Wally Widholm
Wally Widholm

The greatest thing about sports is the people and the ballplayers. It’s a healthy environment. You get to know a lot about yourself.

Wally Widholm

Other star catchers of the GHTBL:

– Francisco Ascensio, Meriden Merchants
Andy Baylock, Hamilton Standard
Bob Blinn, Herb’s Sport Shop
– William “Sonny” Carroll
Dennis Casey, Riley’s Redlegs
Dave Chicon, Bristol Cassins
Art Clune, Hartford Knights
Kyle Cooney, Meriden ProCare
Edward “Red” Cox, East Hartford Anchors
Theodore DeMaio, Herb’s Sport Shop
John Dione, Columbia A.C.
Marek Drabinski, Newman Lincoln-Mercury
Walter Dunham
Douglas G. Elliot, Malloves Jewelers
Douglas S. Elliot, People’s United Bank
Ray Fagnant,
Max Festa,
Jake Fournier, Bill’s Sport Shop
Allan Garray, Society for Savings
– Willie Gonzales,
– Simon Greenbaum,
Mike Gulino, Record-Journal Expos
Matt Hackney, Bristol Merchants
Dan Hickey, Ferguson Waterworks
Doug Holmquist,
Albert G. Huband,
Matt Hukill, Society for Savings
Skip Jutze,
Ronald “Rollie” Johnson, Hartford Orioles
William “Hank” Karlon, Savitt Gems
Stanley “Mickey” Katkaveck
Nick Koback,
Ronald Kozuch,
Mike Leonard,
John Liptak, Valco Machine
– Michael J. Lombardi
Felix Lupia, People’s United Bank
Kevin MacIlvane,
Richard Magner,
Justin Morhardt, People’s United Bank
Bill Nardi,
Jim O’Connor,
– Frank Orefice, Tuckel’s Radio Rhymers
Jim Penders, East Hartford Jets
Ron Pizzanello, Vernon Orioles
Matt Pliszka,
Jeff Rustico, People’s United Bank
Sebby Salemi, Hamilton Standard
– Guy Settino,
– Thomas Shortell, Mayflower Sales
Zac Susi, Foss Insurance
Dick Teed, Herb’s Sport Shop
Chris Thomas, Malloves Jewelers
– Jim Tucker, Superior Auto
– Francis “Woody” Wallett, Savitt Gems
Edward Wojcik, St. Cyril’s

Celebrating the Life of Ray Gliha, National Champion

Recently on August 14, 2023, a former GHTBL player, Raymond E. Gliha, passed away peacefully at his home in Manchester, Connecticut. He lived a full life that was closely associated with local baseball. Gliha was passionate about the game and he excelled on the diamond for many teams.

Raymond E. Gliha (1959-2023)

Ray Gliha was born December 23, 1959. He was a lifelong Manchester resident who was known to have a witty sense of humor. He would often write a poem or limerick for friends and family on their birthday and anniversary celebrations. People close to Ray knew him as the life of the party, a very loyal friend and an avid Boston Red Sox fan.

1980 Eastern Connecticut State College Baseball Team

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

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

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

Ray Gliha (left) homers for Eastern Connecticut, 1982.

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

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 10, 1982.

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

Gliha helps Moriarty Brothers win GHTBL title, 1984.

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

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

Ray Gliha, 1994.
2019 Buzzy Levin Field Middletown Baseball

Four Fields Named After Twilight Hall of Famers

Did you know? The following four ballparks are named after longtime GHTBL players, coaches, team sponsors and GHTBL Hall of Fame inductees:

1. Matthew M. Moriarty Field at Mt. Nebo park in Manchester, Connecticut – dedicated in 1975:

2. Ray McKenna Field at McAuliffe Park in East Hartford, Connecticut – dedicated in 1984:

3. Frank J. McCoy Field at Henry Park in Vernon, Connecticut – dedicated in 2010:

4. Buzzy Levin Field at Pat Kidney Sports Complex in Middletown, Connecticut – dedicated in 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 the state. 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, 1935
Hartford Courant, 1939
Hartford Courant, 1941
Hartford Courant, 1946

The team was sponsored by Matthew Moriarty Sr. (GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee) and his brother, Maurice Moriarty, who were 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 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 around the diamond. Over the years, players like Harold Lewis, Moe Morhardt, Pete Sala, Leverette Spencer, Mike Gerich and 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.

Gene Johnson 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 and an exceptional third baseman for Manchester American Legion Post 104.

St. Augustine, Greater Hartford CYO Grammar School Champions, 1950.
Gene Johnson (left), American Legion Post 102, Manchester, CT, 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.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1966
Gene Johnson, Moriarty Brothers, 1965
Moriarty Brothers advertisement, 1965
1966 Mercury Comet, Matt Moriarty Jr. (right).
The Johnson Family, 1970.
1970 Moriarty Brothers
Moriarty Brothers, Manchester, CT, 1973.
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.
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 sponsored Gene Johnson’s franchise. 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 like Mark DiTommaso and Kevin Jefferis of Western New England College as well as Evan Chamberlain and Mike Susi of ECSU took over the franchise. In 2015, Foss Insurance won the GHTBL Playoff Championship in Gene’s honor.

Gene Johnson, Manager, Foss Insurance, 2011.
Foss Insurance, 2014.
Gene Johnson, Manager, Foss Insurance, 2014.
Dave Bidwell & 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.
John Nollet, Rainbow Graphics, 2018.
Mark DiTommaso, Marlborough Braves at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017.
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.