Tag: twilight league

Baseball Bloodlines: The Spanswick Family

The Spanswicks of Enfield, Connecticut, were once the most talented family of pitchers in New England. Two brothers, William Henry “Bill” Spanswick Jr. and James “Jim” Spanswick as well as Jim’s son, Jeff Spanswick, excelled as amateurs and professionals. At some point in their careers, each of them also appeared in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. Let’s take a closer look at their story…

The Spanswick family lived in the Thompsonville section of Enfield. Bill’s father, William Henry “Harry” Spanswick Sr. originally hailed from Hartford, while his mother, Bonnie Spanswick was from Enfield. Harry was an employee of the Hartford Machine Screw Company, an amateur ball player, a local bowling champion, and a soon-to-be Little League coach. Harry and Bonnie had four children: Bill, James, Barbara and Nancy. Bill Spanswick Jr. was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on July 8, 1938, and Jim arrived three years later.

Bill Spanswick Jr., 1956.

Both Bill and Jim Spanswick developed into standout athletes at Enfield High School. The brothers once pitched no-hitters in the same week for American Legion Maciolek Post 154. Bill was a 6’3″ left-handed pitcher with a lively fastball. He threw seven consecutive shutouts, one no-hitter and seven one-hitters in his senior year of high school. Nicknamed “Span,” Bill matriculated to the College of the Holy Cross and starred on the freshman baseball team.

Enfield High School yearbook, 1956.

Then in 1958, Bill Spanswick signed with his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. However, his quick decision was costly. He accepted the contract over the phone with Jack Onslow, a Red Sox scout and a former manager of the Hartford Senators. Onslow showed up at the Spanswick house the next morning. The $4,000 contract was inked at the kitchen table, but Major League Baseball soon revoked a bonus rule and Spanswick lost out on $60,000.

Nevertheless, Bill Spanswick traveled west to join Boston’s Class-D Midwest League affiliate in Waterloo, Iowa. He was promoted mid-year to the Lexington Red Sox of the Nebraska League, posting a 7-4 record with a 3.13 ERA and a league-leading 142 strikeouts. In a game against the Superior Senators on August 21, 1958, he tallied a Nebraska League record 22 strikeouts.

Raleigh wins behind Spanswick, August 4, 1959.

The following season he advanced to the Carolina League and dominated with the Raleigh Capitals. His win-loss record soared to 15-4 behind a 2.49 earned run average. He led the league in both categories and Raleigh went on to capture the pennant. At the time, Bill Spanswick was considered a top prospect in the Red Sox organization among other talented pitchers including Dick Radatz, Dave Morehead, Earl Wilson and Wilbur Wood.

That same year Jack Onslow signed Bill’s brother, Jim Spanswick. He was another hard-throwing southpaw who chucked three consecutive no-hitters at Enfield High School. In the minors Jim tossed a total of 407 innings with the Red Sox (1960-1962) and the Washington Senators (1963). After being released by the Winston-Salem Red Sox in 1964, he took the mound at Colt Park in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for Herb’s Sports Shop and later for Royal Typewriter.

Meanwhile, Jim’s older brother worked his way through the minors. Bill Spanswick endured a few bumps in the Pacific Coast League with Boston’s Triple-A affiliate, the Seattle Rainiers. In 1963, he conquered control problems to become an All-Star and PCL strikeout king with 209. He earned a 14-8 record for the last place Rainers and three of his defeats were by one run. During this time, both Spanswick brothers served their country as reserves for the United States Marines Corps.

Coming out of 1964 Spring Training in Tucson, Arizona, Red Sox Manager Johnny Pesky admired Spanswick’s ability and judged him to be ready for the majors. The Associated Press ranked Spanswick, “…the brightest pitching prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization.” When he made the team, the 25 year old lefty credited his minor league coach, Mace Brown, for helping him prepare mentally. It would be Spanswick’s only big league season.

Spanswick made his debut by tossing three innings of hitless relief at Fenway Park on April 18, 1964, against the White Sox. His first win came on May 8, versus the Washington Senators in a 9-3 victory. Bill’s teammates started calling him “Crow” for his dark and bird-like physical features. He was known to have a habit of stashing Camel cigarettes in his cap – something he may have learned in the Marines.

On June 12, 1964, Bill Spanswick faced his toughest opponents yet. Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees beat up on the Red Sox, 10-6 at Yankee Stadium. Mantle had two hits and a pair of RBI in the contest. It was indicative of Span’s 1964 season. He pitched in 29 games with a bloated 6.89 ERA, 55 strikeouts, 44 walks and a 2-3 record. The Red Sox sank to eighth in the American League. Even though Spanswick showed flashes of brilliance, reporters described his time in Boston as a failure.

Bill Spanswick, Boston Red Sox, 1964.

In 1965, Bill Spanswick was traded to the Triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs. He achieved a 6-3 record before being released again. The California Angels organization picked him up in 1966, but his career was coming to an end due to elbow injuries. He returned to Connecticut once more to be with his family and took a sales job in the trucking industry. In a surprise appearance, he pitched his last game for Hamilton Standard of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, beating Moriarty Brothers 4-3 on June 28, 1967. Bill would later established Spanswick Trucking, which remains a family business to this day.

Bill Spanswick stayed connected to baseball through coaching. In 1991, he managed American International College to the NCAA Division-II College World Series. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Enfield Athletic Hall of Fame as the town’s only major leaguer. Upon retiring to Naples, Florida, he became an usher for Red Sox Spring Training games at JetBlue Park. Bill Spanswick died peacefully in Naples on December 2, 2020, and was buried at Thompsonville Cemetery.

Bill Spanswick featured in Globe Sports, July 17, 1967.

I feel good about saying I pitched in the big leagues. Back then, there were only eight teams in the American League. You were one of 72 guys pitching. You had to prove yourself in the minor leagues. It’s pretty special.

– Bill Spanswick Jr.
Bill Spanswick, 1979.

Bill’s nephew and Jim’s son, Jeff Spanswick, represented the next generation of the family. Naturally, Jeff was an ace pitcher at Enfield High School. The young right-hander had great coaches including Enfield’s longtime skipper, Bob Bromage. Jeff suited up for American International College where his Uncle Bill was head coach. At AIC, Jeff became an ECAC All-Star and a Division-II Second Team All-American. Though he was never drafted, Jeff followed his family’s footsteps by pitching at Fenway Park in the 1992 College All-Star Game (the Division-I All-Stars defeated the Division-II & Division-III All-Stars, 6-3).

Jeff Spanswick took time off from baseball after college, and in 1994 he married Lisa Noyes of Enfield. Four years later he made a return to the diamond with the East Hartford Jets of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. Thanks in large part to Jeff’s 7-0 record, the Jets and their manager Hal Benson were co-champions of the 1998 Regular Season. Jeff Spanswick played for East Hartford until 2002 when he changed teams to Mr. G’s (Giansanti) of South Windsor. It was his last year in baseball and Mr. G’s won GHTBL’s 2002 Regular Season.

Sources

1. Bill Spanswick by Bill Nowlin, SABR Bio Project, 2021: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/Bill-Spanswick/.

2. Bill Spanswick Dies, Enfield’s Only Major League Baseball Player by Tim Jensen, Patch.com: 2020, https://patch.com/connecticut/enfield/bill-spanswick-dies-enfields-only-major-league-baseball-player.

3. Mass Live article by David Dorsey, The News-Press, 2012: Bill Spanswick, formerly of Enfield and Boston Red Sox, finds new home at Jet Blue Stadium

Eight Twi-Loop Clubs to Return This Year

With summer around the corner, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is gearing up for our next Opening Day. Though an exact date has yet to be determined, you can expect more announcements as the schedule unfolds. Eight GHTBL franchises will return to action around late May of this year. The 2024 Regular Season should include another charity series at Dunkin’ Park. Each team will fundraise for a different food bank around the state. Read more about this effort called Stadium Series 4 Food Banks at Dunkin’ Park: Givebutter.com/ss4fb (more to come on this).

The twilight league continues to present a uniquely competitive experience for players of all ages. A mix of young and old teammates – local amateurs, college players, high school prospects, and ex-professionals – have developed talent, camaraderie and lifelong friendships. Deep into each season, teams seem to melt together in one way or another in pursuit of a common goal. To describe the GHTBL, one might say we’re a meritocracy operated by a large group of friends with help from umpires.

Peter Kelley, 1B, Vernon Orioles
GHTBL’s switch-hitting home run king of 2023.

Maybe that’s why GHTBL has staying power? For the last 95 years, the league has clung to a classic style of the game. Baseball purists seem to appreciate that the league requires nine players to a lineup while disallowing leniencies like metal bats, courtesy pinch-runners, and free-for-all substitutions. Whatever the reason, the tradition continues. After all, traditions are important, and they don’t go unrecognized. When a sport as beloved as baseball is played and witnessed in a pure form, virtually unchanged from years gone by, that’s something people can appreciate.

On behalf of President Holowaty and the Executive Committee, enjoy the rest of your off-season and here’s to another summer!

To apply for a roster spot, players are asked to fill out a Player Application found at GHTBL.org/join. Here’s a list of our current teams and managers:

League Management









GHTBL Executive Committee

Jack Ceppetelli
Treasurer
Wes Ulbrich Secretary
Wes Ulbrich
Secretary
Ryan Ruggiero GHTBL Assistant Secretary
Ryan Ruggiero
Assistant Secretary




Back in 1979, Gene Johnson of Moriarty Brothers in Manchester was bestowed with the “Player of the Half Century Award” by the GHTBL Hall of Fame. Here’s Gene (right) accepting the award from his teammate, Peter Sala (left).



GREATER
HARTFORD
TWILIGHT
BASEBALL
LEAGUE


Where Are They Now? GHTBL Players Leading Impressive Careers

Recently, Rainbow Graphics player-manager Jason Valliere accepted a role as Assistant Sports Information Director at the United Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Congratulations to Jason on his latest career move! Jason is on a path to a promising career in sports. He joins the countless number of twilight players who have worked for high profile institutions – men who have led inspiring careers in athletics, business, and public service.

Jason Valliere, Player-manager, Rainbow Graphics

Hundreds of twilight leaguers have made their mark in a wide array of professions and careers. From coaching to teaching to sales and management, you might say that GHTBL alumni help keep the economy going. And you might be wondering, “where are they now?” Well, here’s a list of former twilight players and their current occupation followed by their company or organization:

  • Ryan Aiken, Operations Manager & Treasurer, High Grade Gas Service, Inc.
  • Greg Annino, Senior Field Technician, Greenskies Clean Energy
  • Chris Anselmo, Realtor, Marino Realty
  • Brian Archibald, Special Education Teacher, Bristol Central High School
  • Jeff Bagwell, Special Advisor, Houston Astros
  • Steve Bartunek, Insurance Agent, RDDK
  • Andy Baylock, Director, UConn Football Alumni/Community Affairs
  • Ken Bratina, Program Director, Connecticut Junior Republic
  • Conor Bremer, Supplier Program Manager, Dynetics, Inc.
  • *Brett Burnham, Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual
  • *Steve Cannata, Head Coach, Kingswood-Oxford School Baseball
  • Clarke Caudill, Area Sales Manager, Intuitive
  • Tony Cekovsky, Regional Account Manager, Monster Energy
  • *Jack Champagne, Teacher, Longmeadow School District
  • *Paul Ciotto, Engineering Director, Aetna
  • Rob Cipolla, MSSP Sales, IBM
  • Chris Corkum, Founder, Chris Corkum’s Baseball, Inc.
  • *Scott Cormier, Vice President of Purchasing, Katsiroubas Produce
  • *Tony Dedominicis, Musician
  • Tyler Dew, Attorney and Claim Director, Chubb Insurance
  • Ryan DiPietro, Senior Environmental Inspector, BL Companies
  • Mark DiTommaso, Kitchen Designer, EHL Kitchens
  • Doug Elliot Jr., Financial Advisor, Marcum LLP
  • Doug Elliot Sr., President, The Hartford (retired)
  • Jake Fournier, Financial Manager, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
  • Paul Gallo, Lead Instructor, Los Angeles Dodgers Training Academy
  • *Ralph Giansanti Jr., Financial Advisor, Infinex Investments, Inc.
  • *Roberto Giansiracusa, Owner, GimaSport
  • John Gieras, Teacher, Somers Public Schools
  • *Kevin Gieras, Detective, New York Police Department
  • TJ Grande, Senior IT Business Management Specialist, Burns and McDonnell
  • Matt Grosso, EVP of Business Development, Wentworth DeAngelis & Kaufman Insurance
  • Jerry Hasler, Vice President, Forestville Manufacturing
  • Mike Hepple, Insurance Broker, Wentworth, DeAngelis & Kaufman Insurance
  • Rick Hewey, Contract Administrator, Hartford HealthCare
  • Charlie Hickey, Head Coach, Central Connecticut State University Baseball
  • Dan Hickey, Client Manager II, Lockton Companies
  • Nick Hock, Batting Practice Specialist, Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles)
  • Matt Hodges, Off Campus Operations Manager, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jack Hurley, Pension Consultant, PASI
  • *Scott Jeamel, VP Financial Consultant, Charles Schwab
  • Dave Katz, Owner, Katz Sport Shop
  • Chris Kehoe, Technical Architect, TriZetto Group
  • *Tom Kirby, Chief Financial Officer, JE Shepard Company
  • *Steve Krajewski, Assistant Director, Vernon Parks and Recreation Department (Retired)
  • John Kubachka, Operations Manager, Town of Newington
  • James Kukucka, Financial Analyst, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
  • Ryan Lamarche, Owner, RDL Painting
  • **Gary LaRocque, Director of Player Development, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Matt Lavatori, Vice President of Client Services, Fred C. Church Insurance
  • Marc Levin, Owner, Malloves Jewelers
  • Derek Litke, Business Develop Manager, Triumph Group
  • *Jason Maule, Physical Education Teacher, Meriden Public Schools
  • *Brian Marshall, Field Reimbursement Manager, Novartis
  • Steve Matyczyk, Principal, Tariffville Elementary School
  • Frank McCoy Jr., Personal Injury Attorney, McCoy & McCoy
  • Adam McLaughlin, Senior Vice President, Webster Bank
  • *Todd Mercier, Manager, Murray Kaizer Inc.
  • Daryl Morhardt, Head Coach, Housatonic High School Baseball 
  • Greg Morhardt, Professional Scout, Boston Red Sox
  • Mike Mowel, Chief Accounting Officer, Safepoint Holdings
  • *Walter Nakonechny, Science Department Chair, Rockville High School
  • Tyler Olander, Assistant Coach, University of Saint Joseph Men’s Basketball
  • Basilio Ortiz, Youth Services Officer, CT Department of Children and Families
  • Cory Parker, Sales Manager, AnnieMac Home Mortgage
  • Joe Parlante, Sales Account Manager at New England Industrial Supply
  • Jim Penders, Head Coach, UConn Baseball
  • *Adam Peters, Corporate Safety Director, KBE Building
  • Kevin Powell, Second Vice President, Travelers (retired)
  • *Bunty Ray, Teacher and Coach, Bristol Eastern High School
  • Cory Riordan, Pitching Coach, Dunedin Blue Jays (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Kevin Rival, Founder, CT Rivals AAU Program
  • Jake Ruder, Manager, Fastenal
  • Peter Rynkowski, Senior Executive Recruiter, Ed-Exec, Inc.
  • *Dave Sacco, Operating Manager, Rhino Insurance Services
  • *Harvey Shapiro, Manager, Wareham Gatemen (retired)
  • *Michael Schweighoffer, Chief Lending Officer, Farmington Bank
  • Jim Shannon, Owner, Metro Communications
  • Charlie Shover, Plant Manager, Corsicana Mattress Company
  • *Jim Snediker, Commercial Insurance Leader, Travelers
  • Chris Strahowski, Teacher, Windham Technical H.S. & Adjunct Professor, SCSU
  • David Swanson, KZone Producer, ESPN and Founder of Swanson Baseball
  • Rob Tenzca, Project Manager, Arcadis
  • Tom Thibodeau, Head Coach, New York Knicks
  • **Leo Veleas, Head Coach, Berlin High School
  • Pete Walker, Pitching Coach, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Justin Waz, Director of Revenue Operations, RecDesk Software
  • Josue Zamora, Police Officer, State of Connecticut
  • *James Ziogas Jr. Attorney at Law, Ziogas Law

*GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductee
**GHTBL Hall of Fame Gold Glove Honoree

Comment below with your addition to this list.

12 Inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame, Class of 2023

The Greater Hartford Twilight League inducted a dozen into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, November, 19, 2023 at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington. Among the inductees were GHTBL President, Bill Holowaty as well as Kevin Beaudoin, Steve Cannata, Jack Champagne, Scott Jeamel, Tom Kirby, Walt Nakonechny, Adam Peters, Bunty Ray, Dave Sacco, Bobby Stefanik and Mike Susi. GHTBL Hall of Fame President, Steve Krajewski was the master of ceremonies.


Congratulations to all coaches and ballplayers! This class represents some of the top baseball names in the Greater Hartford area from the 1960’s to 2000’s. The event brochure, written by GHTBL Hall of Fame Committee Member Jack Hurley, will be posted at a later date. Here’s the presenting words given by the League Secretary inducting Bill Holowaty:

I’m proud to present the induction of our President, Bill Holowaty to the Executive Committee, recognizing league officials. Coach Holowaty is just the 10th person to earn this honor and the first since Jim Gallagher. What people might not realize about Bill is that he’s one of Connecticut’s all-time amateur sports figures.

He played basketball at UConn starting in 1964 – not too long ago. While in college he appeared in the Hartford Twilight League with Hamilton Standard. His teammates were fellow Hall of Fame inductees, Wally Widholm, Hal Lewis and Bill Risley. Holowaty only played for a few summers before graduating and embarking on a coaching career at Eastern – a fledgling college at the time. 

He built up the program by installing an attitude of toughness and hard work. His demands for excellence were unparalleled. Bill won his 1000th game at Eastern in the year 2000. The Warriors went to 39 postseasons in 45 years under Holowaty, who won 4 National Titles and a total of 1,412 games – more than any coach in New England. 

He led the project to build a baseball stadium at Eastern and it really should be called Bill Holowaty Stadium if you consider all that he achieved. Though he did help start the NECBL, Coach sent hundreds of players to the Twilight League. For example, one of his former players, Jim Schult has helped the East Hartford Jets win the last 4 championships.

After retiring from coaching, he agreed to be Twilight President in 2017. Everyone continued to call him Coach Holowaty and he immediately made us more competitive. He gave veteran players and longtime managers new energy. He started a golf tournament/fundraiser with Marc Levin. With Bill at the helm, the league has raised over $25,000 for charities with benefit games at Dunkin’ Park. A lot of his contributions have also been thanks to his wife Jan.  

Bill has has seen many obstacles for a guy born in 1945 from Little Falls, New York. He has fought through controversy and illness, and has won again and again. His sports career is rivaled by few. Before our state had Geno Auriemma, Jim Calhoun or Dan Hurley, we had Coach Holowaty winning National Championships. The Greater Hartford Twilight League is grateful for his leadership. We are in the best financial position we’ve even been in and he hasn’t asked for anything in return.

Coach, you’re now one of the Hall of Fame’s most well-known “baseball guys” – right up there with Phil Rizzuto an Honorary Member. Let’s put it this way; you’re one of two people in this room with a Wikipedia page. You are highly regarded, even today in this forgetful world. You’re a friend and a great role model. You’re one of a kind. Congratulations on the induction.

Bill Holowaty inducted to GHTBL Hall of Fame by Weston Ulbrich, League Secretary, 11/18/23.

Excellent Turnout at Golf Tourney Raising Funds for GHTBL

On Sunday, September 17, 2023, GHTBL alumni, friends and family gathered for another twi-loop event on the golf course. The 6th Annual Buzzy Levin Golf Tournament went off without a hitch and was successful in raising plenty of funds for the league. There were a record number of golfers in attendance this year at 108. Right now, thanks to so many contributors, GHTBL is in great financial position to grow the league.

Thank you to the following sponsors who came through for the league in a big way:

Connecticut Lighting Centers
Famiglietti & Famiglietti
David Chapman, Attorney
SRC, Certified Public Accountants
Balaban & Raczka Law
Best Cleaners of Middletown
David and Terry Gilbert
Phil Wieloch
Larry Mchugh

GHTBL is grateful for your continued support!

You’re Invited to the 6th Annual Buzzy Levin Golf Tournament

Another year, another golf tournament! GHTBL’s 6th Annual Buzzy Levin Golf Tournament is scheduled for Sunday, September 17, 2023 at Blackledge Country Club at 180 West St, Hebron, CT.

The general public, alumni, current players, family and friends are welcome to sign up a foursome today using this registration form: https://tinyurl.com/s78a9ed7. Or become a Tee Sign sponsor – $100 donation each (W-9 available to all donors).

For full details, itinerary, registration and to sponsor, use the following form at https://tinyurl.com/s78a9ed7

Hartford Baseball Talk on Local Radio WLIS/WMRD with Ed Litos

On August 27, 2023, a radio show called Baseball Talk with “Fast” Ed Litos interviewed Weston Ulbrich, GHTBL Secretary, who made his third appearance on the program. The topic of discussion was minor league baseball history in Hartford. Other guests on the hour-long talk show were Dom Amore, sports journalist for the Hartford Courant and David Arcidiacono, author of Major League Baseball in Gilded Age Connecticut.

Ed and Wes talked mainly about the Hartford Bees and the Hartford Chiefs and the various minor league teams and soon-to-be Major League players who have represented the capital city. Click this link to listen the latest episode of Baseball Talk: https://rb.gy/2s284.

Baseball Talk with Ed Litos, a West Hartford native, has been airing since 2020. The following stations broadcast Baseball Talk: WLIS – 1420 AM & 97.3 FM / WMRD – 1150 AM & 103.7 FMv. All of their broadcasts are also available as podcasts. Visit the homepage at http://wliswmrd.net/.

Celebrating the Life of Ray Gliha, National Champion

Recently on August 14, 2023, a former player of the GHTBL, Raymond E. Gliha passed away peacefully at his home in Manchester, Connecticut. Gliha was born December 23, 1959, and was a lifelong Manchester resident. He was known to have a witty sense of humor. He would often write a poem or limerick for friends and family on their birthday and anniversary celebrations. People close to Ray knew him as the life of the party, a very loyal friend and an avid Boston Red Sox fan.

1980 Eastern Connecticut State College Baseball Team

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

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

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

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 10, 1982.

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

Newspaper advertisement for Moriarty Brothers, 1982.

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

Moriarty Brothers Wins Twilight Title, 1984.

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

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

Ray Gliha, 1994.

Jets Soar to Four Straight Playoff Championships

The East Hartford Jets are GHTBL’s 2023 Playoff Champion and have now won their fourth consecutive postseason. Jim Schult was once again the ace on the mound for East Hartford. His pitching performances were unmatched. In two complete games against M&T Bank, he gave up just 7 hits over 14 innings while striking out 24 opposing batters. Schult has been a key two-way player (also an outfielder and DH) for this Jets dynasty.

As for other major contributors, East Hartford’s shortstop, Jeff Criscuolo, earned his sixth career playoff title and his first as player-manager. Additional leadership was provided by General Manager Chris Kehoe who served as Third Base Coach. Kehoe is the longest contributing member of the Jets (since 1991). Corey Plasky had an amazing postseason to match his torrid hitting pace during the Regular Season. At one point Plasky made a diving play at second base to save two runs in their semi-final game against M&T Bank.

Manny Alejandro, the player with the most seasons as a Jet, was a very reliable starting pitcher. First year player Darrion Williams was just as impressive with several complete game appearances on the mound. Relief pitcher and Twi-loop veteran, Taylor Kosakowski has now won seven GHTBL Playoff Championships, a league-high among active players. A balanced mix of older and younger members of the team has been a winning formula.

Congratulations to this year‘s championship team as well as the other clubs who competed deep into the playoffs. Until next year, GHTBL extends sincere gratitude to all of our fans, players, managers and umpires for their commitment and dedication to amateur baseball.

(Featured image photograph by Phil Ledwith.)

2023 GHTBL Playoff Tournament Palmer Field

GHTBL’s 2023 Postseason to be Busier Than Ever

The 2023 GHTBL Playoff Tournament will begin on Monday, August 7, at two sites: Palmer Field in Middletown and McKenna Field in East Hartford. As always, a double-elimination tournament will crown a Playoff Champion. Admission will be $10 for one adult all-tournament pass. Kids ages 14 and under will be free of charge. Concessions to be available at Palmer Field. Dave Hutchins of Vernon will serve as PA announcer.

The postseason usually brings out some of the twilight league’s best baseball and closest games. That should be the case this year, though seeding is yet to be determined for the playoffs – as most teams are still contending in the Regular Season. Here is the playoff bracket that will be updated during the tournament on the GHTBL homepage:

2023 GHTBL Playoff Tournament Bracket 2

League note: The traditional format of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is to present the Regular Season and Playoff Tournament as two separate seasons. The Regular Season dictates the seed of each team for the Playoff Tournament. No less than 5 Regular Season appearances qualifies a player for the Playoffs. At the start of the Playoffs, all player stats are reset to zero.

Then, on Friday, August 18, the Connecticut Champions Cup will begin. The competition has been organized by four summer leagues in our state – GHTBL, Connecticut Twilight League, West Haven Twilight League and Tri-State Baseball League. GHTBL Managers will be selecting an all-star team. Special edition hats and jerseys to be provided by league. The cup format will be a double-elimination tournament held at the following sites:

8/18 – Ceppa Field, Meriden

8/19 – Fussenich Park, Torrington

8/20 – Finals at Muzzy Field, Bristol

Connecticut Champions Cup GHTBL Logo

More details to follow.

2023 Vernon Orioles

1st Place O’s Nest 11 Straight, Leading Fight for Top Playoff Seed

After a 1-4 start to the season, the Vernon Orioles are now first place in the standings. The O’s have won 11 consecutive games. Dan Trubia is near the top of the leaderboard with 16 RBI, Peter Kelly is tied for the most home runs (3) and Jason Ray is pacing the O’s with 5 wins and a league-leading 49 strikeouts.

Vernon is one of GHTBL’s most storied franchises. The first Vernon Orioles team joined the league in 1966. Mostly due to their success in recent years under Manager Jack Ceppetelli and several returning players, the franchise has amassed a total of 10 Season Titles and 6 Playoff Championships.

Not far behind Vernon are four other teams with plenty of time to make an ascent up the league table. East Hartford Jets and M&T Bank are tied for second place right now. Rainbow Graphics have the most wins (13) but have dropped a few head-to-head matchups with Vernon. Per usual, Record-Journal Expos are also knocking on the door.

League note: The traditional format of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is to present the Regular Season and Playoffs as two separate seasons. The Regular Season dictates the seed of each team for the Playoff Tournament. No less than 5 Regular Season appearances qualifies a player for the Playoffs. At the start of the Playoffs, all player stats are reset to zero and a double-elimination tournament decides a Playoff Champion.

2021 Charlie Hesseltine Meriden GHTBL Record Journal Expos

Hesseltine’s 4-Hitter, Hendrickson’s Homer Carry R-J Expos to Latest Twilight Win

By Ron Buck, Special to the Record-Journal

MERIDEN — Where were you in 2002?

Charlie Hesseltine was 18, fresh out of Maloney High School and throwing his first pitches for the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League team that would become the Record-Journal Expos.

Fast forward to Tuesday night.

Now 38, Hesseltine was on the mound for the Expos — better than ever — in making quick work of the South Windsor Phillies.

The veteran southpaw twirled a four-hit complete game in beating the Phillies 3-1 in a GHTBL affair that lasted just over 90 minutes at Ceppa Field.

Hesseltine’s battery mate, A.J. Hendrickson, provided the offensive fireworks. The catcher not only launched a towering two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, he also drove in the tying run with a solid single in the fourth inning.

Hendrickson finished the game 2-for-3, while Jack Rich was 1-for-2 with a double to the right-field fence ahead of Hendrickson’s blast.

Phillies starter Luke Mathewson matched Hesseltine through five innings before allowing Rich’s double and then Hendrickson’s home run. Mathewson had allowed just three hits — all in the fourth inning when the Expos tied the game 1-1.

Hesseltine, toeing the rubber in his 17th season for a Meriden-based squad, finished strong after allowing all four Phillies’ hits over the first three innings. Overall, Hesseltine struck out seven 20-somethings en route to lifting the Expos to 8-5. 

The Phillies fell to 3-9.

“At my age, location is the key,” dead-panned Hesseltine, who until this season had played the role of player-coach of the Expos.

“All my pitches were working; and as long as I locate my pitches, they can’t put the barrel on the ball,” Hesseltine added. “If I’m middle-middle, they are hitting it a long way.

“My goal is to miss their barrels and let my defense do the work,” Hesseltine continued. “And, tonight, they did a great job behind me.”

Hesseltine was drafted by the Texas Rangers as a teenager out of high school. He would spend three seasons in the minor leagues before returning to Meriden. 

A staple with the Expos, Hesseltine allowed his only run Tuesday in the third inning.

Down 1-0, Hesseltine proceeded to retire the Phillies in order in three of the next four innings. Hesseltine’s shutdown performance allowed the Expos to tie the game in the fourth and then for Henrickson to win things in the sixth inning.

The Phillies’ only threat after scoring came in their own half of the sixth, when they put runners at first and third with two outs. 

Hesseltine, however, got some defensive help by fellow Maloney grad Max Giacco, who made a diving catch at second base to end the top of the sixth inning and keep the game tied.

The Expos then proceeded to score the winning runs in the bottom half when Hendrickson turned around a hanging curveball and launched a no-doubter well over the left field fence.

“I was sitting on a curveball up,” said Hendrickson, who took over the coaching duties from Hesseltine this season. “He’d thrown it to me both times I was up, so I was sitting on that and put a good swing on it.”

Back to Hesseltine. Before pitching in the minor leagues, the lefty threw for the Meriden Merchants after his days at Maloney. A mainstay of the Expos since the team’s inception, Hesseltine remains a part of this season’s 1-2 pitching punch with J.D. Tyler.

Sporting a few grey hairs in his beard these days, Hesseltine has combined with Tyler for six of the Expos’ eight wins so far this season.

“It makes it so easy when he’s on,” Hendrickson said of Hesseltine. “When all his pitches are working, he makes things so easy on everybody.

“Today everything was working for him and he was hitting spots,” Hendrickson added. “He was on his game today.”

2023 Stadium Series 4 Hartford PAL GHTBL Charity Event Dunkin' Park

Stadium Series 4 Hartford PAL

This season all 8 GHTBL teams will play benefit games to fundraise for the Hartford Police Athletic League at Dunkin’ Park. Bat raffles and concessions will be available at our Stadium Series 4 Hartford PAL:

Dunkin’ Park, 1214 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103

CLICK HERE to DONATE or to BUY TICKETS

For the seventh consecutive summer, GHTBL will go to bat for the local community. This year the Hartford Police Athletic League will be benefactors. Hartford PAL empowers the youth of Hartford to realize their greatest potential through mentoring, sports, education and a positive relationship with police officers. Learn more about this wonderful organization by visiting: https://www.hartfordpal.org.

All 4 Games at Dunkin’ Park presented by ProBats:

July 12 – 6 PM: Rainbow Graphics @ M&T Bank

July 12 – 8 PM: East Hartford Jets @ Middletown Mets

Jul 13 – 6 PM: Record-Journal Expos @ Bristol Greeners

Jul 13 – 8 PM: South Windsor Phillies @ Vernon Orioles

Concessions will be open!

Here are the results from GHTBL’s previous benefit games at Dunkin’ Park:

2017: $5,641 to Hartford’s Camp Courant

2018: $4,500 to Connecticut Children’s

2019: $7,000 to MS 4 MS

2020: $2,000 to Colt Park Friends and Foundation

2021: $5,624 to Connecticut Cancer Foundation

2022: $5,035 to Sandy Hook Promise

2023: $??? to Hartford PAL

Visit www.givebutter.com/hartfordpal to buy tickets or donate.

Be there for the kids! Together we are helping contribute to Hartford PAL and to the well-being of children and families in Hartford.

Make a donation at www.givebutter.com/hartfordpal. If not today, then we will see you at Dunkin’ Park on July 12 & 13!

CLICK HERE to DONATE or to BUY TICKETS

Share Fundraiser

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With Smoke Set to Subside, Graphics Lead League Undefeated

The Rainbow Graphics franchise of Manchester have begun the 2023 Regular Season in near perfect form. They’ve been scorching opposing pitching so far and now sit atop the GHTBL standings at 6-0. The Graphics will seek to continue their hot play as the Canadian wildfire smoke subsides. Air quality standards have been determined to be playable and Rainbow Graphics will host the East Hartford Jets tonight at 7:00 PM at Northwest Park, Manchester.

The Graphics have managed to strike a balance between veteran players in their prime and rookie players contributing from the get-go. Some of their more experienced names have taken league leaderboards by storm: Travis Salois, Edison Galan, Tyler Repoli and Eric Anderson. First-timers like Dan Orzech and Matt Costanza have proven to be solid additions as regulars in the lineup and especially on defense.

Meanwhile, around the league, there are two other undefeated teams: Record-Journal Expos and M&T Bank. At least one of the three remaining no-loss teams will end their winning streak because the Expos and Bankers will face off at Wethersfield High School tonight at 6:00 PM. Even though four teams (Mets, Greeners, Orioles and Phillies) are mired at the bottom of the standings, plenty of their losses have been by two runs or less.

It should be another exciting season. As always, the GHTBL is proud to feature and promote some of the best amateur ballplayers in the State of Connecticut. With longtime veterans, former professionals, high school prospects and with so many new talents added to the league this year, the future is bright for twilight baseball in Greater Hartford.

To players: please do your best to keep your cool when you take issue with taunting by opposing players or when you disagree with an umpire’s call. The league needs to maintain a working relationship with umpires and we must show them respect. Like it or not, GHTBL players reflect the character of the league. It’s in our best interest to keep our good reputation in tact. Everyone should act appropriately, even when it’s the hard thing to do – out of respect for each other, opponents and fans of all ages. Sportsmanship still matters.

The league extends a sincere thank you to players and contributors who are representing the league well day in and day out. The season is going very well thanks to so many of you. Be well and have a great summer! -Weston Ulbrich, League Secretary

NEXT GHTBL EVENT: JULY 12 & 13, 2023 – STADIUM SERIES 4 HARTFORD PAL

Jeff Criscuolo Appointed Jets Manager

With three consecutive Playoff Championships under their belts, the East Hartford Jets have selected Jeff “Crisco” Criscuolo as their first-time Manager.

When he began his GHTBL career in 2012 as an infielder from Saint Anselm College, Criscuolo found immediate success. He played second base for Ferguson Waterworks managed by Greg Annino. Criscuolo’s quick bat, dependable glove and top-end speed helped Ferguson win the Regular Season Title and a second straight Playoff Championship in his rookie year. He moved over to shortstop the following year and Ferguson captured a third consecutive Playoff Championship.

2012 Ferguson Waterworks (Criscuolo kneeling second from left).

Flash forward to 2020 and Criscuolo had joined the East Hartford Jets. Led by Manager Taylor Kosakowski and General Manager Chris Kehoe, Criscuolo and other key players propelled the Jets to three straight Playoff Championships. In part due to Criscuolo, history was repeated and another Twi-loop dynasty cemented itself at the top of the league.

2019 Jeff Criscuolo GHTBL East Hartford Jets
Jeff Criscuolo, SS, East Hartford Jets, 2019.

Criscuolo, originally a native of Durham, CT, will now take over in-game managerial duties in 2023. Many returners and several first year players are rumoured to be on board with the Jets this summer. Fans and onlookers can expect steady competition against East Hartford – they are presumed to be the team to beat. Therefore, when opposing teams pick their starting pitcher and fill out lineup cards the Jets will likely see their best.

Cooper Johnson Adelphi Baseball GHTBL M&T Bank

Cooper Johnson, Third Generation Twilight Player

For the last five years, Cooper Johnson of Newington, Connecticut, has played at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. The center fielder has recently committed to M&T Bank for the upcoming 2023 GHTBL season as a third generation player. He will be joining the same franchise as his father, Mike Johnson, who played with Tom Abbruzzese’s Bank Boston team in the 1990’s. Cooper’s grandfather Rollie Johnson was a GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee and a significant figure in professional scouting. Here are some of Cooper’s individual accolades coming into the GHTBL as a first-year player:

  • NE10 Academic Honor Roll – Academic Distinction
  • NE10 Academic Honor Roll – Academic Honors
  • Walked-off a win on his birthday (11th inning) w/ RBI single vs. Saint Rose in NE10 Tournament
Cooper Johnson Adelphi Baseball GHTBL M&T Bank 2
Cooper Johnson (left), Adelphi Baseball, 2023.

Cooper’s grandfather, Roland “Rollie” Johnson was a scout for more than 40 years, including 30 year with the New York Mets. He initially scouted for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973 to 1982. Rollie served as director of scouting for the Mets from 1986 to 1992. Rollie also co-authored influential baseball books – The Baseball Encyclopedia (1969) and The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball (1974).

During Johnson’s tenure as Director of Scouting with the Mets, there were several notable draft picks including Todd Hundley in 1987. Johnson also remembers drafting Curtis Pride on the recommendation of an area scout. Pride was 95% deaf, but a great athlete, and a greater individual.”

SABR Bio Project, Rollie Johnson by Alan Cohen
1964 Rollie Johnson Paces Twilight Loop
Rollie Johnson Paces Twilight Loop, 1964

Rollie had the rare opportunity to draft his son, Mike Johnson, in the 42nd round of the 1993 MLB Draft. Mike suited up for the New York Mets organization at Rookie ball in Kingsport. He was promoted to low and high Single-A the following year, but Mike’s professional career came to end shortly thereafter.

In 1990, Rollie earned an induction into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in the Players Division. He was a Trinity College graduate who began twi-loop ball in 1961 as a catcher for the East Hartford Merchants. Then he played for a team known as Landerman Orchestras – sponsored by Hartford’s most well known musicians of their era, Paul and Maurice Landerman. Rollie joined the Hartford Orioles in the summer of 1963. Rollie he finished his twilight career with Moriarty Brothers in 1973.

(Aside: the Rollie Johnson family is unrelated to Gene Johnson’s family.)

1975 Head for Baseball Camp Rollie Johnson St. Thomas Seminary
Rollie Johnson heads baseball camp at St. Thomas Seminary, 1975.

Rollie was a veritable baseball junkie. After publishing two books, he was hired away from the Twilight League by the St. Louis Cardinals. From there Rollie enjoyed a marvelous scouting career. He was bestowed with the A.B. “Turk” Karam Award in 1998 and was later elected to the Professional Scouts Hall of Fame in 2009.

1990 Twilight Inductions GHTBL Hall of Fame
GHTBL Hall of Fame inductions, 1990.
Rollie Johnson GHTBL Baseball Scout
Rollie Johnson (1940-2022)
2023 GHTBL Tribute to Gary Zavatkay

Gary Zavatkay, A Baseball Life

An excerpt published in the Hartford Courant on Apr. 16, 2023:

Gary was raised in Torrington and graduated from Torrington High School, class of 1979, where he was recognized as an all-star baseball and basketball player. Following high school, Gary received a “full ride” baseball scholarship to the University of New Haven where he started at third base all four years for the UNH Chargers and compiled such strong statistics that he was inducted into the UNH Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. To date, he ranks eighth in career RBIs (126) and recently fell out of the top-10 for all-time home runs.

In 1981, Gary played for the Harwich Mariners of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League and was named to the All-Region and All-New England Collegiate Conference in 1983. After graduation, his love for baseball continued and he played numerous seasons (1983-1988) on the Society for Savings team in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League all while continuing his education earning his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hartford Campus.

Professionally, Gary leveraged the leadership skills he learned on the field and built a successful career as a National Account Manager for several industrial organizations such as J.M. NEY Company, Curtis Industries, and Barnes Distribution. In addition to his full-time job, he went on to have a prolific career as a women’s basketball official at the Division I, II, and III collegiate level, ultimately getting to spend time on the court refereeing teams of the Atlantic 10, Ivy League, American East and MAAC conferences.

In his personal life, Gary was an avid runner having completed the Boston Marathon and too many road races to count, namely the Litchfield Road Race, an annual occurrence with a large group of his friends and family in attendance. Over time, golf became his passion and something he enjoyed regularly with friends and family. He was a member of Indian Hill Country Club as well as Suffield Country Club where you would find him weekly trying to improve his game. We will always remember the many years filled with laughter on and off the course annually sponsoring what became known as the ZAV OPEN. Although Gary’s time with us was cut short, his memory will live on in the hearts of all who knew him for years to come.

For Gary’s full obituary go to: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/hartfordcourant/name/gary-zavatkay-obituary?id=51601640

2020 Pat Barnett Vernon Orioles Pitcher GHTBL

Preview: Opening Day & GHTBL’s 2023 Season

On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the GHTBL will open its 94th season for local amateurs, student-athletes, ex-professionals and prospects. Wood bats will start cracking on Opening Day with a 6 PM matchup at Frank J. McCoy Field in Vernon between the veteran Vernon Orioles and the Manchester-based Rainbow Graphics. Jason Valliere, a longtime contributor to the Tri-County Legion program will assume in-game duties as Head Coach for Rainbow Graphics this season.

It will be anyone’s guess as to which players, new or old, will make an impact on Opening Day. One might think it would be the players fresh off their college season, but it would be a mistake to overlook experience. Dan Trubia and Tony Trubia of the O’s and Evan Chamberlain of Graphics have nearly 60 years of combined experience of twilight ball. At the same time, it will be interesting to see how rookie players will fare for both teams and throughout the league.

The second game of Opening Day will begin at 7 PM at Rotary Field in South Windsor. The Meriden-based Record-Journal Expos will play the South Windsor Phillies under the lights at one of Greater Hartford’s most unsung baseball diamonds. You’d be hard-pressed to find any player who doesn’t enjoy playing at Rotary Field.

A core group for Manager Ron Pizzanello and the South Windsor Phillies since forming in 2018 has included Aedin Wadja, Jake Petrozza, Patrick McMahon and a few others returning in 2023. AJ Hendrickson, 2022 GHTBL MVP, has stepped into the Expos manager role in place of Charlie Hesseltine, who had served as manager since 2017. Hesseltine has been a dominant pitcher for Meriden since 2004 and will continue to pitch for the team this year.

Over in East Hartford, the 3X Playoff Champion Jets will take flight on Thursday, May 25 at home against their main foe, the Vernon Orioles. O’s Manager Jack Ceppetelli will square off against the Jets and their newly re-appointed Manager Chris Kehoe. Both Ceppetelli and Kehoe are the most tenured GHTBL contributors behind Tom Abbruzzese – who is going into his 48th year as manager of the “Bankers” franchise – now named M&T Bank.

There is however, a newcomer in charge of the recently consolidated Middletown Mets. A sixteen year old named Ryan Ruggiero of Xavier High School will become the youngest manager to lead a GHTBL team. As an Assistant Coach for the Hartford Colts in 2022, Ruggiero welcomed the opportunity and the idea of moving the franchise to Middletown – a closer location for its players and an upgraded home field with Palmer Field and Buzzy Levin Field. Fixtures for the Mets are expected to be Albertus Magnus standout Sean Jefferson and former Keene State right-hander Alex Koletar on the mound.

The Bristol Greeners are entering their third GHTBL season and have managed to book one of Connecticut’s best ballparks, Muzzy Field, for a majority of their home games. They return under the direction of another young manager, Trevor Mays, in his second year at the helm. New additions to the Greeners will include Gabe Zamorano Jr., a freshman at University of St. Joseph and Robert Bibisi, a graduate of Utica University.

Last but not least, M&T Bank are once again expected to have the league’s best left side of the infield: former professional Willy Yahn at shortstop and Eastern Connecticut’s Brendan Lynch at third base. Along with a contingency of players from Elms College, Tom Abbruzzese seeks to regain his title-winning ways in a new sublimated, double-sided, M&T Bank uniform.

Note: a new uniform rule will take effect this season as voted on by GHTBL managers. Any player out of uniform (wrong jersey, wrong hat, different color pants, etc.) will earn their team a $50 league fine.

On behalf of President Holowaty, thank you to all of our league sponsors, fans, families, spouses and friends who support the twilight league!

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:

2023 GHTBL Winter Workout D Bat Bloomfield ProBats

Workout #3 on April 20th at 7 PM

On Thursday, April 20, 2023, at 7:00 PM, GHTBL will hold another off-season workout at D-Bat Bloomfield located at 62 Douglas St, Bloomfield, Connecticut.

New players and GHTBL alumni are invited to attend this hitting and pitching session. Cages have been rented and we expect live pitching to take place towards the end of the workout. D-Bat Bloomfield’s Zach Risedorf and Willy Yahn will be in attendance to offer instruction.

  • Each participating player is asked to pay $10 (either cash or Venmo) at D-Bat Bloomfield on the night of the workout.
  • GHTBL’s official bat sponsor, ProBats will also be in attendance to demo and sell wood bats.
  • Please RSVP by messaging the league on one of our social media accounts or by emailing us at Contact@GHTBL.org.
2023 GHTBL Winter Workout Bloomfield Connecticut

Winter Workout #2 on March 23rd at 7 PM

On Thursday, March 23, 2023, at 7:00 PM, GHTBL will hold a Winter Workout at D-Bat Bloomfield (located at 62 Douglas St, Bloomfield, Connecticut). New players and GHTBL alumni are invited to attend this hitting and pitching session. Four cages have been rented and we expect live pitching to take place towards the end of the workout. D-Bat Bloomfield’s Zach Risedorf and Willy Yahn will be in attendance to offer instruction and tips.

  • Each participating player is asked to pay $10 (either cash or Venmo) at D-Bat Bloomfield on the night of the workout.
  • GHTBL’s official bat sponsor, ProBats will also be in attendance to demo and sell wood bats.
  • Please RSVP by messaging the league on one of our social media accounts or by emailing us at Contact@GHTBL.org.
Leo Bravakis Umpire GHTBL

The Passing of Hall of Famer Leo Bravakis Jr.

Leo James Bravakis, Jr., 79, of Windsor Locks, passed away peacefully on Saturday, March 4, 2023. He was born on July 26, 1943, in Middletown, CT, to Doris (Ahern) and Leo J. Bravakis, Sr.

Leo attended Middletown High School (1961), completed undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut (1965), and received his Master of Education from the University of Hartford (1970). Leo earned varsity letters in football, basketball, and baseball in high school. In 1960, he was awarded the Thom McAn football MVP Trophy and as quarterback, led his team to a 7-2-1 record. Leo was also a two-year starter in hoops. Baseball was where Leo excelled. He was co-captain of the 1961 Middletown High Tigers who were the Connecticut Valley Conference Co-Champions and ranked #1 in the Class M CIAC Tournament with a 19-1 record. Leo recorded 121 strikeouts in 76 innings of work. He received the prestigious Sal Mazzotta Award given annually to the best all-around senior athlete who has demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and citizenship. Leo was inducted into the Middletown Hall of Fame in 2002.

1961 Central Valley Conference All Star Team Connecticut
Central Valley Conference All Star Team, Connecticut, 1961.

Leo pitched four years for the UConn Huskies, tossed a no-hitter as a freshman and was a key pitcher on the 1965 College World Series squad that only gave up 66 hits in 254 innings. During the deciding series versus Holy Cross at Fenway Park, Leo hit a double off the famous Green Monster. At the CWS, Leo pitched in relief and got a hit in UConn’s victory over Lafayette. His senior year, Leo received the “C’ Ring, an award for excellence in athletics, scholarship, citizenship, and leadership. As a proud Husky alum, Leo was a member of the UConn Dugout Club.

1962 UConns Leo Bravakis Pitches No Hitter
UConn’s Leo Bravakis Pitches No-Hitter, 1962.

After college, Leo pitched in the Middlesex County and Hartford Twilight Leagues before an arm injury ended his career. Leo finished with a 27-9 record in the Hartford Twilight League and was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in 1997 as pitcher.

After his athletic playing career ended, Leo turned to officiating soccer and umpiring baseball. Leo was considered to be one of the state’s best in both sports. Leo worked 15 state soccer tournament title games – 8 girls and 7 boys finals-and worked 18 state baseball tournament title games. He served on the soccer officials and baseball umpires committee boards. He was President of the soccer association from 1983-1985 and was President of the Connecticut Board of Approved Umpires twice. He served as the Commissioner for the Hartford Chapter of the Connecticut Board of Approved Umpires. Leo received the 1981 Central Connecticut Soccer Officials Association Bernard O’Rourke Distinguished Service Award and also was conferred lifetime membership for his years of dedicated service. Leo was inducted as a charter member into the Connecticut Girls Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003 for officiating.

1964 Leo Bravakis Jr. UConn Baseball
Leo Bravakis Jr. UConn, 1964.

Leo was a math teacher for East Windsor Public Schools from 1965-2001. He coached girls’ basketball and baseball at East Windsor High School. His baseball teams had a record of 89-69 winning league titles twice. He coached his son Sean’s Windsor Locks American Legion baseball team for three summers.

When he retired from coaching, Leo served as the athletic director at East Windsor High School for ten years. During his tenure, Leo was instrumental in bringing about changes that have made girls’ basketball one of the most respected and valued sports in Connecticut.

He served as the President of the East Windsor Education Association and was on the East Windsor Athletic Club Hall of Fame nominating committee. He was a member of the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors Executive Board and a member of the CIAC Girls’ Basketball Committee for five years. In 2000, Leo received Central Connecticut Board No. 6 of Approved Basketball Officials Commissioner’s Award. Leo was inducted into the East Windsor Athletic Club Hall of Fame in 2006.

1965 Carolyn M. MacCarthy Bravakis Wedding Photo
Carolyn (MacCarthy) Bravakis, 1965.

Leo and his wife Carolyn enjoyed visiting various North American cities plus venturing abroad to Prague, Paris, Rome, London (2012 Olympics), Barcelona and taking the Rhine Cruise and Baltic Tour.

Leo, a devoted fan of UConn’s basketball programs, held season tickets for games both in Storrs and Hartford. He enjoyed watching sports on TV. An avid golfer, Leo was a member of Tallwood Country Club in Hebron, CT, for decades and won numerous club championships. He loved his visits with his three grandchildren and enjoyed following their pursuits.

Leo enjoyed raising many a glass of adult beverages with his numerous friends. With Leo you always knew where you stood; he loved a spirited debate about anything. He once proudly stated “I am not politically correct, I am Leo correct.” Leo was a one-of-a-kind character who made an impression on everyone he met.

1975 Bristol American Legion vs. Middletown Legion Leo Bravakis Sr. Umpire
Bristol American Legion vs. Middletown Legion with Umpire Leo Bravakis Jr, 1975.

He leaves behind his high school sweetheart and beloved wife of 57 years, Carolyn McCarthy Bravakis; his son Sean Emmett Bravakis and his wife Rebecca; grandchildren Emmett, Isabelle, and Timothy Bravakis. He is survived by his sister, Alice Hodge and her husband Richard; niece Leigh Hodge Fischer and her husband Sean; nephew James Hodge and his wife Dawn; and Christopher Hodge and his wife Heather; his brother-in-law Dr. Robert E. McCarthy; nieces Katharine, Christine, and Coreen McCarthy. Leo was predeceased by his parents and sister-in-law Sandra McCarthy. Leo’s family would like to extend heartfelt appreciation to the ICU Team at St. Francis Hospital for making his last days comfortable. Special recognition to Doctors Sudhanshu Mulay, Paul B. Murray and Alan Soroka for their extraordinary care, compassion, and kindness to Leo over the year

Leo Bravakis Jr.

A time of visitation for family and friends will be held on Monday, March 13, 2023, from 4-7 p.m. at the Carmon Windsor Funeral Home, 807 Bloomfield Ave., Windsor. His funeral service will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Leo’s name to the East Windsor Athletic Club, c/o Ted Szymanski, 166 Rockville Road, Windsorville, CT 06016 and the UConn Baseball Stadium Enhancement Fund, c/o Jim Penders, Head Baseball Coach, 2095 Hillside Road, Unit 1173, Storrs, CT 06269. To leave an online message of condolence for his family, please visit www.carmonfuneralhome.com.

Published by Hartford Courant on Mar. 9, 2023.

2023 GHTBL Winter Workout 1

Winter Workout #1 at D-Bat Bloomfield

On Saturday, February 18, 2023, at 6:00 PM, GHTBL will hold a Winter Workout at D-Bat Bloomfield (located at 62 Douglas St, Bloomfield, Connecticut). New players and GHTBL alumni are invited to attend this hitting and pitching session. Four cages have been rented and we expect live pitching to take place towards the end of the workout. D-Bat Bloomfield’s Zach Risedorf and Willy Yahn will be in attendance to offer instruction and tips.

  • Each participating player is asked to pay $10 at D-Bat Bloomfield on the night of the workout.
  • GHTBL’s official bat sponsor, ProBats will also be in attendance to demo and sell wood bats.
  • Please RSVP by messaging the league on one of our social media accounts or by emailing us at Contact@GHTBL.org.

Eleven Big Names Inducted to Hall of Fame

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, the GHTBL Hall of Fame Committee organized a night to remember at Indian Hill Country Club in Newington, Connecticut. Eleven new inductees were officially honored and inducted as the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. Here’s the list of players (and one manager) who earned the league’s highest honor:

Scott Cormier
Mike Schweighoffer
Jim Snediker
Brian Marshall
Roberto Giansiracusa
Jason Maule
Jeff Johnson
Brett Burnham
Todd Mercier
Kevin Gieras
Thomas Abbruzzese

Congratulations to all inductees! Special thank you GHTBL Hall of Fame Committee, its President Steve Krajewski and Jack Hurley for your diligent efforts.

Nov. 5: Hall of Fame Dinner

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, the GHTBL Hall of Fame will officially honor ten new inductees. Tickets can be purchased in advance.

VENUE: Indian Hill Country Club, 111 Golf Street, Newington, Connecticut

TIME: 5:30 PM Check-in, Dinner at 6:30 PM, Ceremony at 7:00 PM

COST: $50 per person

PURCHASE TICKETS: Make checks payable to “ORIOLE BASEBALL ASSOCIATION” and send to:

Steve Krajewski
61 Thrall Road
Vernon, CT 06066

DEADLINE: Friday, November 1, 2022

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact GHTBL Hall of Fame President, Steve Krajewski at (860) 815-7121 or email krashtrip7@gmail.com.

Here’s the list of GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductees for the Class of 2022:

  1. Scott Cormier
  2. Mike Schweighoffer
  3. Jim Snediker
  4. Brian Marshall
  5. Roberto Giansiracusa
  6. Jason Maule
  7. Jeff Johnson
  8. Brett Burnham
  9. Todd Mercier
  10. Kevin Gieras

See you on November 5th!

Jack Hurley (left) announces 2022 GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductees Brian Marshall, Jim Snediker, Mike Schweighoffer and Scott Cormier at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

Learn more about the GHTBL Hall of Fame by clicking here.

Johnny Taylor: Hartford’s First Professional Black Athlete

John “Johnny” “Jackson” “Schoolboy” Arthur Taylor

Born: 2/4/1916 – Hartford, Connecticut
Died: 6/15/1987 – Hartford, Connecticut

Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor was a pitching phenom from Hartford, Connecticut. He began his career at Bulkeley High School where he set a national record for strikeouts in a high school game. Taylor was nearly signed by the New York Yankees about fifteen years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, but instead he went on to throw a dozen no-hitters as an all-star in the Negro National League, the Mexican League and the Cuban League. When the Hartford Chiefs signed him in 1949, Taylor became the city’s first professional black athlete.

Johnny Taylor, 1933.

Born on February 4, 1916, to John and Etta Taylor, Johnny grew up in the South End of Hartford on Douglas Street and then Roosevelt Street. He learned baseball in city parks and sandlots. Taylor and his sandlot teammates earned a small wage by chasing down foul balls and home runs at Bulkeley Stadium by the likes of Lou Gehrig and Leo Durocher of the Hartford Senators. Not until Taylor’s senior year at Bulkeley High School did the right-hander pitch competitively.

Bulkeley High School, 1933.

Johnny Taylor had been snubbed by the Bulkeley baseball team as an underclassman. Alternatively, he pole-vaulted and high-jumped in track and field. When he made the Maroons baseball club as an upperclassman, Taylor joined a team comprised of an eventual major leaguer, Bob Repass and a future scout, Whitey Piurek. Bulkeley’s longtime head coach, Babe Allen, is credited with discovering the tall (6’0″) and slim (170 lbs.) Taylor who had a high leg-kick, a whip-arm, a lively fastball and a sharp “12-to-6” curveball.

1933 Bulkeley High School Baseball with Johnny Taylor (front row, second from left)

On April 28, 1933, Taylor won his first game against Hartford Public High School. Three days later he punched out 17 batters to defeat West Hartford High School. Then he tossed 19 strikeouts by the Hartford Hilltoppers, surpassing a record set by another Hartford native, Pete “Lefty” Naktenis. Taylor was also a proficient hitter, batting nearly .500 in his senior season. When the Maroons walloped an undefeated Weaver High School, he homered over the left field fence (claimed to be the longest high school home run at Bulkeley Stadium).

Johnny Taylor, Pitcher, Bulkeley High School, 1933.

In Taylor’s final high school game, he shattered his own single-game strikeout record with 25 strikeouts against New Britain High school, which remains a State of Connecticut record to this day. He won 8 games, finished with a .428 batting average and was named to the Greater Hartford Scholastic Team. The New York Yankees were interested in Hartford’s “Schoolboy.” However, when Yankees scout Gene McCann learned that Taylor was black, McCann suggested that he claim Cuban heritage since white baseball barred black players. The light-skinned Taylor refused to falsify his family lineage.

Johnny Taylor sets a Connecticut scholastic record with 25 strikeouts against New Britain High School, June 3, 1933.

After the Yankees passed on him, Taylor competed with Home Circle of the Hartford Twilight League. He twirled on the many diamonds of Colt Park on Wethersfield Avenue and at Bulkeley Stadium on Hanmer Street. At the stadium on September 10, 1933, about 5,000 fans witnessed a wild-throwing Taylor. He lost the game to his crosstown rival, Pete Naktenis. Later, Taylor joined forces with Naktenis, winning a New England amateur championship organized by the United States Amateur Baseball Association. 

Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1933.

The following year, Johnny Taylor continued to pitch on Connecticut’s semi-pro circuit. He hurled for Check Bread of the Hartford Twilight League, the Savitt Gems (Bill Savitt’s baseball club) and Yantic of the Norwich City League. On August 21, 1934, he fired his first no-hitter for the Northwest Athletic Club of Winsted. That winter, he turned down offers from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh of the Negro National League. Wanting to be closer to home, Taylor signed with the New York Cubans.

Johnny Taylor’s Negro League contracts, 1935.

Taylor and the Cubans played home games at Dyckman Oval on the northern edge of Manhattan. They were owned by Alex Pompez and business manager Frank Forbes, who signed Taylor for $175 per month and $2 per diem. New York’s player-manager was a versatile five-tool talent named Martín Dihigo, who directed several Cuban players including Alejandro Oms, Cocaina Garcia and Lazaro Salazar. Midway through the season, the Cubans scheduled an exhibition in Hartford with the Savitt Gems. Taylor shut out his hometown team while fanning fifteen.

Johnny Taylor (left) & business manager, Bernie Ellovich, Savitt Gems, Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1935.

According to existing records, Taylor had 55 strikeouts for the New York Cubans in 1935, a few behind his teammate Luis Tiant, Sr. New York went 28-24 on the year, finishing third place in the Negro National League. Yet they managed to win the second half of the season to qualify for the championship series. The Cubans faced a formidable opponent, the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Hall of Fame catcher, Josh Gibson. Taylor dropped the third game of the series, then New York blew Taylor’s lead in the sixth game, and they ultimately lost to Pittsburgh.

1935 New York Cubans (Johnny Taylor identified under “15”).

After the season, Johnny Taylor was elected to the Negro League All-Star team. On October 13, 1935, he faced Dizzy Dean‘s All-Stars at Yankee Stadium. An estimated crowd of 20,000 watched Taylor whiff seven batters in seven innings. This time, Josh Gibson was his battery mate. After Dizzy Dean pitched a 3-0 complete game shutout, he complimented Taylor for his breaking ball, saying it was one of the best “drop balls” he had ever seen.

Johnny Taylor, Pitcher, New York Cubans, 1935.

In 1936, Taylor received a $10 per month raise from the New York Cubans. He was their undisputed ace, with a 5-2 record and 58 strikeouts, second in the Negro National League to Satchel Paige of the Pittsburgh Crawfords. That June, the Cubans scheduled a rematch in Hartford to face the Savitt Gems. Taylor, the local star, struck out 18 to blank the Gems once again.

Johnny Taylor and the New York Cubans, 1935.

Encouraged by Dolf Luque, a pitcher for the New York Giants, Taylor tried his hand at winter ball in Cuba. He traveled from Hartford to Miami and boarded a steamship for Havana in November of 1936. Taylor joined Martín Dihigo’s Marianao club at Havana’s Tropical Stadium. He struggled that season due to a serious back injury caused by a street trolley accident. Nevertheless, Taylor was popular with fans and was nicknamed “El Rey de Hartford” (translated to King of Hartford).

Johnny Taylor in Havana, Cuba, 1936.

When the New York Cubans dropped out of the Negro National League in 1937, Taylor threw for the Savitt Gems. Hartford-based jeweler Bill Savitt paid him to pitch from April to October. Taylor and the Gems defeated Will Jackman and the Philadelphia Colored Giants on three separate occasions in Hartford. One game was a 20-inning marathon in which Taylor set down 22 batters via the strikeout.

Johnny Taylor, Pitcher, Savitt Gems, 1937.

Then on September 19, 1937, Taylor stunned the baseball world. As moundsman for the Negro National League All-Stars at the Polo Grounds, he tossed a no-hitter against Satchel Paige and the Trujillo All-Stars. After holding his opponents hitless through eight innings, Taylor retired George Scales, Spoony Palm and Cool Papa Bell in the bottom of the ninth. Taylor and his catcher Biz Mackey did not allow a runner to reach third base.

“Good ballplayer. Yes, I hit against him. Didn’t get much on it.”

Buck O’Neil on Johnny Taylor
Johnny Taylor (right) after tossing no-hitter for the Negro National League All-Stars against Satchel Paige’s Trujillo All-Stars, Polo Grounds, New York, September 19, 1937.

Taylor’s no-hitter made him a desirable free agent. He planned on returning to New York but wound up signing with Pittsburgh for $400 per month. Crawfords owner Gus Greenlee preferred Taylor instead of re-signing Satchel Paige. Taylor turned in an excellent season with 11 wins, while batting .368 as a utility man. He was one of league’s top players and participated in the 1938 East-West Negro League All-Star Game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.

Negro League All-Star Game at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, (Taylor, standing second from left) 1938.

During the winters of 1938 and 1939, Johnny Taylor appeared for the Santa Clara Leopards of the Cuban League. The Leopards nabbed the pennant with Taylor on the mound and Josh Gibson behind the plate. Around this time, the Mexican League lured Negro Leaguers like Taylor with higher salaries. For $600 a month he became the ace of the Cordoba Cafeteros. He tossed for an 11-1 record, a 1.19 earned run average and was a local folk hero in Cordoba.

“Man, did he have good stuff! Taylor would have been a major leaguer for sure if he hadn’t come along before they allowed colored boys to play in organized baseball.”

Roy Campanella on Johnny Taylor
L to R: Indian Torres, Cocaina Garcia, Lazaro Salazar, Johnny Taylor, and Ray Brown, pitchers of the Santa Clara Leopards, Cuban Winter League, 1938.

In the summer of 1939, an eight team semi-pro loop formed known as the Connecticut State Baseball League. Taylor pitched for the New Britain entry against New London on Memorial Day weekend. Because he was a man of color, the New London club protested the game. Subsequently, the league banned black players. Without comment on the matter, Taylor returned to the Negro Leagues and pitched sporadically for the New York Cubans in 1940. He also appeared for the Homestead Grays and the Newark Eagles with his regular catcher, Josh Gibson.

1939 Cordoba Cafeteros of Mexican League (Johnny Taylor identified as number “3”).

By winter, Taylor was back in Mexico. This time he joined the Veracruz Azules. The club owner, Jorge Pasquel, was a teetotaling liquor magnate who paid more Negro League teams. Pasquel bought Taylor a new suit each time he pitched a shutout. In 1941 with Veracruz, Taylor won 13 games while striking out 115. The club would be remembered as one of the finest Mexican League outfits of all-time.

“A tall good-looking right-hander with the damnedest overhand curveball you ever did see.”

Monte Irvin on Johnny Taylor
Johnny Taylor, 1940.

Taylor once told Bill Lee, sports editor of the Hartford Courant, of his difficulties in the high altitude of Mexico City. His fastball didn’t have the same zip and his curve seemed to forget to bend. In September of 1941, he made a visit to Hartford with a team of Mexican League All-Stars led by Josh Gibson, Sam Bankhead, Ray Dandridge and Willie Wells. They squared off against the Savitt Gems, who started Pete Naktenis. Taylor and his All-Stars won in ten innings, as Taylor rung up 15 batsmen.

Johnny Taylor, Veracruz Azules, Mexican League, 1946.

When America entered World War II, Taylor returned to Connecticut to work for United Aircraft in East Hartford. He continued to pitch for the New York Cubans on weekends. During the war years, he also tossed for the Savitt Gems, Fred Davey’s Waterbury team and Highland Lake Athletic Club of Winsted. Taylor went back to Mexico to suit up for Monterey after the war. This time he brought his wife, Estelle and son, John Jr. Estelle Singleton Taylor was a respected maternity nurse and the first black nurse at New Britain General Hospital.

1946 Veracruz Azules – Johnny Taylor (4th from right) and Josh Gibson (4th from left).

Taylor hurled for Veracruz of the Mexican League until 1946, when he suffered an arm injury. At the time, the Mexican League sought to compete with Major League Badeball. White players like Danny Gardella, Sal Maglie and Mickey Owen signed with teams south of the border. Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler blacklisted them for five years. The Negro National League handed five-year bans to eight players, including Johnny Taylor and Ray Dandridge. The suspensions were later shortened, though Taylor’s professional career was coming to a close.

Johnny Taylor, Hartford Chiefs, 1949

That was until 1949, when Taylor signed with the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League. In doing so he became Hartford’s first black player in organized baseball. He went 6-7 with the Chiefs, mainly in relief. The minor league club released Taylor in November. He later made his final pitching appearances in Hartford Twilight League old-timer games, alongside Pete Naktenis and Walter “Monk” Dubiel.

“Schoolboy” Johnny Taylor (left) and Satchel Paige, 1950.

After baseball, Taylor raised four children with his wife and worked for his father’s construction business. Taylor also became a trailblazer in the game of golf. He had learned to play golf as a teenager at Hartford’s Goodwin Park. Taylor frequented Edgewood in Cromwell (no known as TPC Cromwell), and he studied Ben Hogan’s book The Fundamentals of Modern Golf. Taylor was one of the first black men in Connecticut to hold a handicap card. He was made an Edgewood member in 1959, a year after Jackie Robinson had been denied membership at High Ridge Country Club in Stamford, Connecticut.

L to R: Johnny Taylor, Walter Elliot and Pete Naktenis, 1958.
L to R: Monk Dubiel, George Balf, Frank Strong and Johnny Taylor, 1969.

In 1975, the Boston Red Sox were World Series bound, and Taylor planned a trip to meet an old teammate, Luis Tiant Sr. The dictatorship of Cuba allowed Tiant to travel to watch his son, Luis Tiant Jr. pitch at Fenway Park. Taylor and Tiant Sr. had a tearful reunion. A dozen years later, Johnny Taylor passed away after a battle with cancer. His memory lives on as a character in Mark Winegardner’s novel, The Veracruz Blues and as the namesake of Johnny Taylor Field in Hartford’s Colt Park (dedicated 2020).

John “Johnny” “Jackson” “Schoolboy” Arthur Taylor (1916-1987)

Sources

SABR article by Jon Daly, February of 2011.

Hartford Courant

Hartford Times

Alexander, Charles C. Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Hogan, Lawrence D. Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006.

Holway, John. The Complete Book of Baseball’s Negro Leagues—The Other Half of Baseball History. Fern Park, Florida: Hastings House Publishers, 2001.

Lanctot, Neil. Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

Ribowsky, Mark. A Complete History of the Negro Leagues, 1884 to 1955. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995.

Bonus Photo Gallery

Remembering Allan Garray, an All-Time Great

Last year, GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee Allan Garray passed away. His involvement in the Twi-loop spanned three decades. Garray’s baseball career first began as a promising catcher at Nonnewaug High School in Andover, Connecticut. He matriculated to UConn Avery Point and set the school record for batting average (.536 in 1976). Then he transferred up to the University of Connecticut for three seasons (1977-79).

1977 University of Connecticut Baseball Team

Garray excelled at UConn under Head Coach, Larry Panciera and became a formidable catcher with help from Assistant Coach, Andy Baylock. He was a starter for the Huskies’ first College World Series run in 1979. Garray posted a .291 career batting average at Storrs. In the summer months, he played in the Cape Cod Baseball League. After a spectacular college campaign, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 34th round of the 1979 MLB Draft.

Allan Garray, University of Connecticut, 1979.

Garray caught in the Gulf Coast League and in the South Atlantic League, however, a fastball to the eye was said to have ended his professional career. In 1982, he appeared in an all-star game against the GHTBL with the Waterbury Twi-Met league and was recruited by GHTBL’s Tom Abbruzzese. With Garray behind the plate in 1983, Abbruzzese’s Society for Savings club claimed the pennant. In five summers with the “Bankers” Garray batted .338 with 23 home runs and 98 RBI. He won two Season Titles, two Playoff Championships and the 1985 Bud Mahon Award for Most Valuable Player.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 29, 1986.

In 1994, Garray founded the New England SportsPlex in Vernon, Connecticut. It was a 14-acre complex made up of softball fields, volleyball courts and horseshoe pits. That same year, he was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame by its director, Jack Repass. The recognition may have convinced Garray to make a comeback to the diamond. At 38 years old Garray joined up with Gene Johnson’s Newman Lincoln-Mercury franchise (previously known as Moriarty Brothers).

Hartford Courant excerpt, April 23, 1994.

As Newman’s Designated Hitter, Garray captured a GHTBL Playoff Championship in 1997 and back-to-back Season Titles in 1999 and 2000. Then he was honored as an inductee of the UConn Avery Point Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. He continued to play locally while operating a pension consulting firm in Rocky Hill. Garray was an avid “Sunday leaguer” who competed in the Over 30 World Series and Over 40 World Series. He also served as an umpire for amateur loops throughout the state.

Allan Garray, Umpire, Palmer Field, Middletown, CT, 1998.

Allan Garay returned to the GHTBL yet again in 2004, establishing Monaco Ford, an expansion team out of Glastonbury, Connecticut. The club briefly fielded Major League slugger AJ Pollock during the summer of 2008. Baseball talent seemed to flock to Allan Garray, a lifelong contributor to the GHTBL and one the league’s all-time catchers. The league sends our best to Allan’s family and friends.

Allan Garray

We play because we love the game.

Allan Garray

Vernon Orioles Going To Bat For Community

The Vernon Orioles have continued their community involvement this year.

Chris Dehnel, Patch Staff

VERNON, CT — At a recent game, the Vernon Oriole family had Carol Hartmann throw out the ceremonial first pitch to remember and honor her son Brenden Mailloux, an outstanding Rockville baseball player.

In 2010, the Hartmann family lost a beloved family member, Brenden. He was was the son of Carol Hartmann and Len Mailloux, and grandson of Russell Hartmann of the beloved Hartmann’s Supermarket in town. Brenden died unexpectedly in 2010.

The family wanted to do something in Brenden’s memory and felt that contributing to improvements to McCoy Field, known as the Home of the Vernon Orioles, was a fitting choice to honor Brenden and benefit current and future ball players.

Carol Hartmann throws out the first pitch, McCoy Field, 2022.

Brenden grew up playing baseball from Little League to All-Stars, to JC Courant League, Rockville High School Varsity, and American Legion. He was a skilled player and loved the game. His special talent was his glove at first base. He played many games on McCoy field.

The Family is thrilled that the Vernon Orioles and other teams are benefitting from the improvements made. The outfield was named as the Brenden Mailloux Alley, which is located on the scoreboard.

“The Vernon Orioles Family would like to thank the Hartmann Family for their generous donation. McCoy Field is one of the premier fields in the league,” Orioles officials said [led by Manager Jack Ceppetelli, Kevin Powell and Steve Krajewski].

Brendan Mailloux Alley at McCoy Field, Vernon, CT.

The Vernon Orioles Family remembered and honored a fellow Oriole, Steve Czyz by having his daughter Kat throw the Ceremonial first pitch against Rainbow Graphics. Steve played shortstop for the Orioles from 1993 to 2000. In that time, he played on two championship teams, 1996 and 1999. He was also named to numerous All-Star teams throughout his career.

Steve grew up in Ellington and played for Ellington High School’s baseball team. He then went on to play college ball at Western New England. Steve died in 2015 at age 44. The Orioles donate each year to the Steve Czyz Scholarship Fund that goes to an Ellington High School student.

In April of this year, the Orioles made Kat Czyz, an honorary Vernon Oriole. Kat is a sophomore at Ellington High School, plays softball and has led the Knights to the NCCC Championship. She plays for the CT Bomber Travel Team, coaches an Ellington Little League team and plays Volleyball for Ellington High School.

Honorary Vernon Oriole, Kat Czyz throws out first pitch.

Original article: https://patch.com/connecticut/vernon/vernon-orioles-going-bat-community

Managers Pick 2022 GHTBL All-Star Team

GHTBL is pleased to announce the top Twi-loop players from our 2022 campaign. League managers from every franchise have recently convened to vote on the GHTBL All-Star team. This season, 25 players have been selected. These All-Stars have been invited to participate in an interleague matchup against the Connecticut Twilight League All-Stars on Friday, August 19, 2022, at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut. At 6:00 PM there will be a Home Run Derby featuring GHTBL and CTL players. Then, around 7:30 PM, the All-Star Game will commence.

Congratulations to the following players on being named 2022 GHTBL All-Stars:

Cardinals
Evan Wilkinson, OF (9)
Colts
Dan Livingston, P (9)
Nick Landell, SS (5)
Nick Flammia, OF (7)
Expos
Justin Marks, P/OF (7)
AJ Hendrickson, P/C/OF (9)
Will Kszywanos, 1B (7)
Graphics
Ryan Callanan, P (5)
Evan Chamberlain, P/3B (9)
Dan Steiner, C (5)
Greeners
AJ Lorenzetti, C/OF (5)
Jets
Bryan Albee, P (9)
Jim Schult, P/OF (9)
Corey Plasky, 2B (7)
Nate Viera, 3B (5)
Jeff Criscuolo, SS (8)
Orioles
Matt Curtis, P (7)
Matt Cleveland, P (9)
Tony Trubia, SS (6)
Jimmy Titus, 1B (9)
Nick Roy, OF (7)
People’s
Willy Yahn, SS (9)
Brendan Lynch, 3B (9)
Phillies
Trevor Moulton, P (6)
Aedin Wadja, 2B (7)
(Number of manager votes in parentheses)

Jets Soar, Earn 3rd Straight Pennant

Schult leads East Hartford Jets to third straight Twilight League playoff title
By Adam Betz, Journal Inquirer

MIDDLETOWN — Jim Schult is no stranger to success on the baseball diamond.

He had a standout career at Eastern Connecticut State University, including being named the 2011 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division III National Player of the Year.

Since joining the East Hartford Jets of the Greater Hartford Twilight League in 2019 “after being on the couch for a few years,” that success has remained.

And it gained another example Tuesday.

Schult finished with two hits, two RBIs, a run scored, and was the winning pitcher as No. 2 East Hartford rallied to beat the third-seeded Vernon Orioles 5-4 to win their third straight GHTBL playoff championship at Palmer Field.

“It was hard to win the first one. It was really hard to repeat,” the 32-year-old Fishkill, New York native said. “We had a special group of guys that were able to battle through the adversity. … I’m not sure I have the best words to describe how I’m feeling right now, but it means a lot.”

Schult pitched 4 1/3 innings of relief. He allowed two runs on four hits, struck out seven, and walked one. At the plate, he was the only Jet with multiple hits.

Jim Schult, Pitcher/Outfielder, East Hartford Jets

“He leads us by example and he makes everyone around him better,” East Hartford player/manager Taylor Kosakowski said of Schult. “He’s the guy you want on the mound or at the plate in a big spot. He’s the guy you want to see up there.”

The Jets, who were co-regular season champions, finish 24-7. They lost their first game of the double-elimination tournament [to the Hartford Colts] before rattling off six straight wins, including a 5-1 win over the Orioles on Monday to force Tuesday’s winner-take-all game.

“It says a lot about who we are,” designated hitter Andy Pelc said. “I feel like that first game, even though it didn’t go our way, put a chip back on our shoulder. I think that’s the reason we’re here today.”

The Orioles were making their seventh straight championship game appearance Tuesday night. They finish 20-9.

“I’m really proud of how we played a much better game tonight,” manager Jack Ceppetelli said. “We swung the bats well against a couple of the premier pitchers in the league. We just ran into one bad inning.”

Jack Ceppetelli, Manager, Vernon Orioles

Vernon held a 2-0 lead and threatened to break the game open with the bases loaded and two down in the top of the third.

But Schult came in from right field and needed only one pitch to end the inning.

Manny Alejandro led off the bottom of the frame with a single, the first Jets’ baserunner.

East Hartford would load the bases, with the help of a two-out error, to set the stage for Schult. He sent the first pitch from starter Bill Riggieri to center for a two-run single to tie the game.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Schult said. “I worked the count in my prior at-bat, so I got to see some pitches from him. It just so happened that I got a mistake with the first one.”

Janiel Ramirez drew a bases-loaded walk to break the tie and Pelc added a two-run single as East Hartford brought 10 batters to the plate in the inning to make it 5-2.

Janiel Ramirez, Outfielder, East Hartford Jets

The Orioles trimmed the deficit to one in the top of the sixth when Ian Halpin sent a two-run double to the right-field fence.

He finished with three hits Tuesday.

“That’s a huge hit to get us close in the sixth,” Ceppetelli said. “We just couldn’t quite get there.”

Schult regrouped and struck out the next batter looking to end the inning.

“I’ve got a whole bunch of guys in the dugout that are counting on me to get out of the inning,” Schult said. “We’re all hurting, we’re all tired at this point in the year. You just want to push through it. Like Bryan (Albee) threw 20-something innings for us during the playoffs, I wasn’t going to let him down. I wasn’t going to let anyone down. Just concentrating and finishing the job.”

Vernon jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Nick Roy scored on an error and Tyler Pogmore brought home Halpin with an RBI single.

Peter Kelley finished with two hits for Vernon. Riggieri took the loss. He allowed five unearned runs on five hits while striking out two and walking two over four innings.

East Hartford starter Albee, a member of Eastern’s National Championship team this year, allowed two runs — one of them earned — and struck out two in 2 2/3 innings.

2022 Playoff Championship winners, East Hartford Jets with Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President (right) and Andy Baylock, GHTBL Vice President (left).

Tuesday’s win was a bittersweet one for Kosakowski, who has managed the team since it re-formed in 2019 after folding a year prior. The Berlin native said he’s stepping down to devote more time to his family.

“Obviously, it’s very emotional,” he said. “Sixteen years playing in this league, it’s hard to come by a championship, let alone be a part of something this special. So, I hope I can continue to help out and contribute to the team as much as I can. I’m a school psychologist, and they always teach you to leave them better than you found them. For me, that’s what I’ve aimed to do with this team and I hope that I did that.”

Taylor Kosakowski, Player-manager, East Hartford Jets

5th Buzzy Levin Golf Tourney: Sep. 18

On Sunday, September 18, 2022, GHTBL and Malloves Jewelers of Middletown will host the 5th Annual Buzzy Levin Golf Tournament at Blackledge Country Club in Hebron, Connecticut. All twilight leaguers, alumni, fans, friends and family are welcomed. Your support and participation helps to fund the GHTBL year after year.

Unable to attend? please consider sponsoring a hole for $100. Your name or company name will be displayed prominently. Players, coaches and league officials are grateful for your continued support!

Download the the Registration Form:

The GHTBL is a registered nonprofit organization. All donations to the league are used on baseball expenses such as umpiring, equipment, field rentals and insurance. This year, the golf tournament is dedicated to Buzzy’s wife, Harriet Levin, who passed away on April 9, 2022. The entire league sends our condolences to the Levin family.

2022 Playoff Championship on the Line

Will the East Hartford Jets earn a 3rd straight postseason title? That’s the question going into GHTBL’s 2022 Playoff Tournament.

The Jets have dominated as of late in close games and have blown out a few opponents as well. Yet, it was the Record-Journal Expos who also captured a share of the Regular Season Title. The other favorites remain the Vernon Orioles who finished third in the standings. M&T People’s and Rainbow Graphics hit their own hot streaks towards the end of the season and might have what it takes to win.

As the double-elimination tournament gets underway, here are some things to know:
– Stay tuned for rainout announcements and postponements.
– $10 admission for adults to the entire tournament.
– Free for kids 14 and under.
– Higher-seed teams are home team in the 1st Round.
– A coin flip determines home team for every round thereafter.

Expos & Jets, Regular Season Co-champions

Now that the 2022 Regular Season has come to a close, the Record-Journal Expos (18-6) and the East Hartford Jets (18-6) have agreed to split the Season Title. Both managers elected to share a co-championship this year. According to GHTBL By-laws this scenario takes place when two teams tie for first place in the standings:

VIII. Postseason Playoff 

C. In the result of a tie for Regular Season champion, a one game playoff will be scheduled to determine the champion. This game may be eliminated if both managers agree to a co-championship. If a co-Championship is elected, then seeding for the playoff will defer to:

  • 1) The Co-Champions head-to-head regular season record.
  • 2) If the head-to-head record also result in a tie seeding will then default to a coin flip conducted by the Executive Committee.

D. Season records determine the remaining seedings. If there is a tie for any seeding, regular season head-to-head record will prevail; if head-to-head record results in a tie a coin flip will then be implemented conducted by the Executive Committee. If there is more than two teams for any seeding position the process then be selected by lot. 

The Expos swept all three games from the Jets this summer, therefore Record-Journal will be the top seed in the upcoming Playoff Tournament. The playoff bracket is published on the homepage of www.GHTBL.org (scroll towards bottom).

As a recap of the Record-Journal Expos at M&T People’s game last night here’s an original article by Ron Buck, Special to the Record-Journal:

R-J Expos drop regular season finale, but still lay claim to Greater Hartford Twilight pennant.

HARTFORD — Even in defeat, the Record-Journal Expos won Thursday night.

Already secure in the knowledge they had wrapped up the No. 1 seed in next week’s Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League playoffs, the Expos dropped their regular-season finale 1-0 to People’s Bank at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

The loss prevented the Expos from winning the regular season outright and ended a six-game winning streak by the Meriden squad. The Expos finished the regular season 18-6.

People’s Bank, which scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the sixth inning, finished the season 14-9.

The Expos’ regular-season record is good enough to be, at the least, co-champions with the East Hartford Jets. The Jets (17-6) were on their way to tying the Expos for the regular-season title. At press time, they were leading the Hartford Colts 7-0 in the fourth inning of Thursday night’s nightcap of the Twilight Stadium Series 4 Sandy Hook Promise

The Expos, however, will earn the playoff’s top seed via a sweep of the Jets during the regular season. Looking to win Meriden’s first GHTBL tournament title since the Meriden Merchants went all the way in 2014, the Expos begin their quest Tuesday night at Palmer Field.

This is the second regular-season championship for player/manager Charlie Hesseltine, who saw his club win the 2019 pennant.

“The 1 seed was more important to us,” said Hesseltine. “I would have been nice to win. Justin (Marks) pitched great. Our bats were (just) hit and miss.” 

“But playing at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, everyone is trying to square one up and hit it a mile. It was a fun game,” added Hesseltine.

The Expos had one regular-season contest remaining — a game with People’s Bank on Tuesday at Ceppa Field was suspended by rain tied 2-2 in the top of the third — but they voted after Thursday’s game to forfeit the makeup. The decision was based on both teams’ desire to save their pitching for the playoffs.

“Our goal from the beginning of the year was to win the (postseason) championship,” said Hesseltine. “Regular-season standings never really matter because you have to beat everyone in the playoffs, but we played well all season.”

“We have four solid arms,” he added. “So as long as we hit, we have four pitchers for four games (in the playoffs).”

Marks, a tall lefty from Woodland High School, has shown why the Expos have the arms to win it all this season. He entered the game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park at a perfect 4-0 on the season with a 1.54 ERA, and he threw four more scoreless innings Thursday.

Marks hit the mid-to-high 80s in striking out seven.

“Our mindset is we got our loss out of the way (tonight) and we are ready for the playoffs” said Marks, who was making his seventh start of the season. “Tonight gives us confidence that we can beat anyone.”

Hesseltine picked up where Marks left off and struck out the side in the fifth inning.

People’s Bank scored, however, in the sixth after Hesseltine pitch brushed the jersey of Willy Yahm, who stole second and scored on a single by Brandon Lynch.

The Expos had their chances to score and, even in their final at-bat in the seventh, put a runner at second base with two outs via a ground-rule double by A.J. Hendrickson.

But Jason Sullivan struck out to end the game.

The Expos managed just four hits against four People’s Bank pitchers. And when they did come up with a few early hits, aggressiveness on the base paths were costly. A pair of Expos were thrown out at the plate in the third inning. 

Johnny Walter was out attempting to score from first base on Nhasean Murphy’s double into the left-field corner. Murphy was later called out at the plate on a close play trying to score after Sebby Grignano grounded out to shortstop.

The Expos also threatened in the second. Hendrickson singled sharply to left to start the inning. Sullivan then lined out to left field ahead of Shawn Remillard, who was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. 

Hendrickson moved to third base on Remillard’s ball into the right-center gap, but Will Kszywanos grounded out to third base to end the inning.

People’s Bank had its own struggles at the plate, managing just three hits off Marks and Hesseltine. The Expos’ hurlers allowed just two runners to reach second base before People’s broke through in the sixth inning.

This is the second regular-season title for the Expos in four years. The Expos, however, lost in the 2019 playoffs as the top seed. The Vernon Orioles won it all that year, while the Jets have won the past two championships.

“This year is a different group of guys,” said Kszywanos, who played for the 2019 Expos. “We are younger, more resilient and have a lot more chemistry.

“We have been together for so long, since Legion days,” added the first baseman. “And some of the younger guys are really stepping up at the plate. But pitching is going to win it, and Justin has been lights out. If we can string five or six hits together, we’ll be fine.”

The Jets and Vernon Orioles had been chasing the Expos all season. The O’s lost Wednesday night to the Wallingford Cardinals and finished 17-7. With a win later Thursday night, the Jets (17-6) were poised to earned the No. 2 seed.

Visit Record-Journal.com for more stories on the Expos from this season.

Stadium Series 4 Sandy Hook Promise

On Thursday, August 4, 2022, Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League will fulfill its annual mission as a nonprofit organization. Players, coaches, families and fans are invited to the Twilight Stadium Series 4 Sandy Hook Promise – a doubleheader marking GHTBL’s sixth consecutive year of charity games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. This special event is presented by Eversource Energy, which has supported the cause with a community grant and has been named GHTBL’s Presenting Sponsor.

Dunkin Donuts Park, Hartford, Connecticut

On the night of August 4, the Main Gate (near the Ticket Office) will be open at 5:30 PM to spectators. The first game will begin at 6:00 PM between the Meriden-based, Record-Journal Expos and the Wethersfield-based, M&T People’s franchise. At 8:00 PM the 2020 and 2021 Playoff Champions, East Hartford Jets will face the Hartford Colts.

  • Admission: $10 for adults. Free for kids 14 years old and under.
  • All proceeds: donated to Sandy Hook Promise.
  • Concessions: available on the first base side of the stadium, brought to you by facility hosts, the Hartford Yard Goats.
  • Buy tickets or donate online at www.givebutter.com/twi.
  • Parking: available in LAZ Parking lots for $5. (Public/metered parking within walking distance.)
  • Raffles: 50-50 Raffle hosted by GHTBL for $5.00 & Bat Raffle hosted by Probats (free with admission ticket)

More about Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), a charitable organization in Newtown, Connecticut:

Since the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly ten years ago, SHP has led a bipartisan movement to protect America’s children from gun violence. Most recently, the organization has engaged in educational workshops at schools across the United States. Over 23,000 “Know the Signs” programs have taught youth and adults how to prevent school violence. Students and educators learn how to identify at-risk behaviors and how to intervene to get help. According to SHP, “These early-prevention measures empower everyone to help keep schools and communities safe.”

Help us take action for the well-being of children and Sandy Hook Promise by attending the Twilight Stadium Series 4 Sandy Hook Promise. Or you can make a donation online:

  • DONATE or BUY TICKETS ONLINE in lieu of paying admission in person.
  • You will receive an email confirmation but there’s no need to print your tickets, as donors will be on a “Donor List” and admitted into the stadium at no additional charge.
  • ALL DONATIONS & TICKET PROCEEDS GO TO SANDY HOOK PROMISE.

*Both Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League and Sandy Hook Promise are registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. W-9 forms are available at your request. Send any questions or correspondance to Contact@GHTBL.org.

Massicotte No-hits Cardinals

On Friday night, Jeff Massicotte steered the Record-Journal Expos to the franchise’s first no-hitter in nearly a decade. Massicotte’s gem came against the Wallingford Cardinals in an 8-0 victory. Massicotte is going to be a senior next year at St. Peter’s University where he plays Division-I ball. He’s from Meriden, Connecticut, and graduated from Maloney High School. He has been a part-time member of the Record-Journal Expos since 2016.

The last time a no-hitter was thrown by the Expos, it Kevin Jefferis in 2013, when the club was called the Connecticut Expos. Today, the team is currently a game back from the first place East Hartford Jets.

Cohen to Start Career at M&T Bank

In a bit of good news off the field, Andrew Cohen, pitcher for M&T People’s, has recently been hired by his team sponsor, M&T Bank. The career opportunity came about this past Spring and he will report to work in Wilmington, Delaware starting next week. Between then and now, Andrew has earned two wins and a save for Tom Abbruzzese’s “Bankers” franchise. Cohen graduated this past May from Bowdoin College. He grew up in Glastonbury and is a graduate of Loomis Chaffee. The GHTBL wishes Andrew all of the best in his professional pursuits!

The Twilight League would like to also express our gratitude to M&T Bank for sticking with the GHTBL as a team sponsor. The Buffalo, New York-based M&T Bank is currently acquiring the Bridgeport-based People’s United Bank in a high-profile merger. Here’s to a hundred years!

Rainbow Repels M&T People’s, 5-2

By Joshua Macala
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On July 10, 2022, the M&T People’s at Rainbow Graphics game started at 5 PM. It ended around 6:30 PM. Both teams started this quick contest with the same record and were fighting for fourth place. While the Jets, Expos and Orioles hold the top three spots, this was a battle for the middle of the standings.

These are the next two best teams in the GHTBL in my opinion. Both teams can hit the ball and can categorized as be wildcard teams. You can’t always predict if the Graphics or People’s will win, but they usually grind out close games. This game was evenly matched too.

M&T People’s struck first. In the first inning, with two outs, Brendan Lynch would hit a home run out towards center field. People’s went up 1-0 early on but in the bottom of the second inning Bryan Rodriguez came home after an RBI single and then Austin Martin drove in another run with runners on second and third to give the Graphics a 2-1 lead. 

In the top of the fourth, the tying run scored for People’s when a bloop over second base. A number of Graphics players were caught watching it. Then the Graphics’ right fielder made a spectacular diving catch and it seemed to provide a boost of energy.

Graphics put up two more runs in the bottom of the fourth. After a HBP, a run was scored via a double and there was a bad throw to home. Had that throw been on target it might have very well gotten the runner and left the game tied. A sac fly by Austin Martin brought in the second run of the inning and the Graphics led comfortably, 4-2.  

I wasn’t the only one confused in the bottom of the fifth inning when Travis Salois singled in the fifth and final Graphics run of the game. People’s right fielder appeared to have caught the ball. There seemed to be some confusion by coaches and players alike, as it looked to have been caught. However the umpires said the ball was trapped, ruled the hit and the run scored. 

The good news coming out of this game was that the Graphics seem to have found another consistent starting pitcher in Ryan Skaff, who had a great game. The rarely seen bat of Travis Salois also proved to be effective and the offense shined when it needed to. Rainbow Graphics could be putting together a solid run towards the postseason and they might take some people by surprise.

Rainbow doesn’t play until Thursday when they go to Vernon. If the Graphics manage to get a win against the Orioles, it could push into third place. The Graphics will also meet the Colts on Friday at Northwest Park at 7 PM.

For People’s, Brendan Lynch has been a consistent bat but their club has had their ups and downs offensively. People’s has days when they can’t be stopped but on other days, they might fail to produce at the plate. Their pitching staff can also be spotty at times but they have pulled together some good performances lately.

M&T People’s are going to Ceppa Field in Meriden on Tuesday, where they last defeated the Record-Journal Expos. People’s then also returns home on Thursday night to welcome the Phillies, who have had a rough but resilient season.

With so much happening this week in the GHTBL, the standings could see some major changes by the end of it. The Expos could move into first, the Orioles could move down to fourth and the Colts could climb up as People’s sink down. Many factors make this week a big one for the league and it’s one week closer to the Playoff Tournament in early August.

Orioles, Jets & Expos Feud for 1st Place

Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is nearly halfway through the 2022 Regular Season and once again, the Vernon Orioles are up to their usual habits; winning ball games. Yet the two-time reigning Playoff Champions, the East Hartford Jets, are currently tied with the Orioles for first place. The Jets also have the upperhand in terms of runs scored and runs allowed.

Then there’s the Record-Journal Expos, who are only a game behind from a three-way tie atop the standings. They have two wins on the year against the Jets in games decided by one-run margins. Expos also have a slightly easier schedule in the second half of the 2022 season.

Here are the remaining games between these three clubs:

See the full schedule at www.GHTBL.org/Schedule.

Orioles Outdueled 6-2 by Hesseltine

By Joshua Macala
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After meeting each other this past Sunday in Vernon, the Record-Journal Expos and Vernon Orioles were ready to do battle once again. Only this time on the Expos’ home turf. The Orioles won the game on Sunday but the Expos were coming off of a win over Rainbow Graphics, who are having a good season start. The Expos went into this game with a 4-2 record while the O’s were 6-1.  

This game had a lot of implications, such as if the Orioles lost they would have two losses – same as the Expos – and the Jets would become the only team with only one loss. As the O’s did lose, this put them at 6-2 and the Expos at 5-2 which seems to put them closer together in the rankings. Had this game gone differently the Expos would’ve seemed to dropped down.

This game started off with both teams getting runners on in scoring position but nothing coming of it. The first two innings saw nothing happen on offense and only behind the pitching of Charlie Hesseltine did the Orioles seem to not be able to even get a hit off. The first two innings alone saw four strikeouts for Hesseltine who was on his game in the best possible way this evening.  

In the bottom of the third the Expos got the bases loaded and then on a wild pitch a run would score- the first run of the game. It would take all the way until the top of the fifth inning for a single to score a run for the O’s and it was all tied at 1-1. This would not last very long as the Expos needed some insurance runs going into the last two innings for the Orioles and they were going to get them in grand fashion.

AJ Hendrickson brought in the go ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning. This would keep the bases loaded and another run would walk in. Jonathan Walter would hit a huge single to drive in a runs. Justin Marks would also RBI in another run, the fifth and final run of the inning. This would put the Expos up 6-1, and it appeared the O’s were all but through. The burst of offense really broke the game wide open and it was so great to see.

With this win, the Expos continue their battle for second place as they face the first place East Hartford Jets on Monday in East Hartford. The Orioles are off to face the Bristol Greeners in a doubleheader on Tuesday and even though the odds seem to be in favor of the O’s, with doubleheaders you never know who might prevail. Next week seems like it could reshape the standings depending upon who wins and who loses. 

Eastern’s World Series Winners

Recently, five GHTBL alumni were victorious on the national stage for Eastern Connecticut State University. Bryan Albee, Jack Rich, Zach Donahue, Aidan Dunn and Andres Jose earned a D-III College World Series Championship ring over LaGrange University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Congratulations to Head Coach Brian Hamm, who has captured Eastern’s fifth national title. Guided by Hamm, Albee, Rich, Donahue, Jose and Dunn have become proven winners, on and off the field. GHTBL is grateful to have these men as representatives of our league.

Graduating senior Bryan Albee plans to pitch for the East Hartford Jets, who are currently in first place in the GHTBL standings. Albee nabbed the Mike Abbruzzese Award for Outstanding Playoff Pitcher last season with the Jets. Jack Rich is also aboard the Record-Journal Expos as their perennial all-star outfielder. Last year, Jack was the Frank McCoy Award winner for Most Valuable Player in the league.

Want to rewatch the clinching World Series game? CLICK HERE

Cardinals Fly by People’s, 11-6

By Joshua Macala
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One of the things I knew going into this game was that both teams were winless on the year up to this point. Wallingford Cardinals and M&T People’s are off to rough starts. What I hadn’t considered going into this game was that this would be my third time seeing the Wallingford Cardinals play and that’s as many times as I’ve seen the Record-Journal Expos play. Perhaps this season will brew a rivalry between cross town teams, as Ceppa Field and Pat Wall Field aren’t too far apart.

The Cardinals came out hot and started this game like they were going to make a statement about it. There have been certain last place teams in the league over the years who ended up disbanding like Malloves Jewelers – so in many ways it felt like the Cardinals wanted to get on a winning track. A double and two singles put together two runs for the Cardinals in the first inning. Then a walk and another double brought home two more runs after yet another double and a run scored to give the Cardinals a 5-0 lead right away. This would be the theme of the game, though it would only happen over two innings when the Cardinals offense exploded. 

People’s pushed a run across in the bottom of the third, making it a 5-1 game. They found life in their offense with a single and a stolen base, but they couldn’t figure out the pitching of Wallingford’s Alex Koletar. Meanwhile, People’s had some pitching problems. The staff would give up a hit, walk someone, then a passed ball would move the runners over, then another walk or single and ultimately the runs would home. It was small ball in that way – advancing the runners – but the pitching helped Wallingford by missing the mark. People’s changed their pitcher and would go on a good defensive stretch. They kept the Cardinals from scoring up until the fifth inning.  

The top of the fifth started with a home run deep to left field by Evan Wilkinson. That started a big inning for the Cardinals. A walk and a single brought about another pitching change, but then a walk loaded the bases. A strikeout got the first out of the inning but then a run scored on a wild pitch. Another walk loaded up the bases and a single scored two runs as People’s catcher went down looking hurt. A quick strikeout for two outs in the inning but then a run scored on a wild pitch. And after that, a run scored on another wild pitch. 

A final pitching change led to back-to-back walks but a third strikeout finally ended the fifth inning. People’s got out of it with the Cardinals putting up six runs. It was now 11-1 and People’s would have a long path to stage a comeback. People’s had a runner on second base in the bottom of the fifth but a strikeout and double play put that inning to an end. They would keep the Cardinals from scoring for the rest of the game but they weren’t done on offense yet. People’s had some catching up to do and they almost did it.

In the bottom of the sixth inning a double brought in a run and then a three run homer by Isaiah Rivera gave People’s some hope, as they were now down 11-5. Just like that, things can change and even when you’re up five runs or even ten runs you never quite know what will happen. People’s had that chance to walk it off. In the bottom of the seventh a run scored for People’s on a wild pitch with two outs but then a strikeout ended the game at 11-6.

This game took M&T People’s to 0-3 as they struggle to find a win this season. But it took the Cardinals to 1-4, which might not seem great but it’s a win that could push them to keep winning. Though they started their season 0-4, the Cardinals also took those losses to the Expos, Orioles, Colts and Graphics. While the Cardinals are meeting the Expos again on Wednesday night at Pat Wall Field, perhaps a true test for the Cardinals will come next Tuesday when they meet the Phillies.

Expos Clip Jets, 4-3

By Joshua Macala
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Baseball is such a wild game. After watching a GHTBL game on Wednesday in the rain, then being rained out on Thursdaynwith the sun shining, I thought for sure this would be the game without rain. A big, dark cloud came over Ceppa Field but it didn’t threaten any rain at first. Part way through the game, that same cloud opened up and the rain went from a drizzle to near downpour. Yes, for the second time in week I was caught in the rain watching a baseball game.

The Record-Journal Expos and East Hartford Jets both came into this game undefeated. The Jets had played one more game than the Expos, so the Jets were 3-0 while the Expos were 2-0. What’s notable about their records? Well, had the game not been postponed due to weather the night before, the Expos may have beaten the Bristol Greeners, so both teams could have gone into this game at 3-0. But this rain really has been something else this week and it amazes me that the baseball continues during the deluge.

In the top of the first inning, Jets shortstop Jeff Criscuolo made it to third base but after two strikeouts from Expos ace pitcher Justin Marks the inning would come to an end without any runs. The bottom of the first inning was a different story entirely for the Expos. Kyle Hartenstein was walked onto first base. Jason Sullivan hit a huge double to put the runners onto second and third. And then AJ Hendrickson came up to the plate and smashed a three run homerun.

Knowing where that ball went over the fence near left field, I was looking for it near the road but couldn’t find it. Someone was sitting on the road in their car and there was another random person just walking by. I assumed at that point perhaps someone had just been like “Oh! A baseball!” and picked it up. But I followed what I felt like was the flight path and sure enough I found the home run ball that Hendrickson smashed. It was across the street and in the yard of the house there.

The rest of this game was a stalemate. Jets pitcher Cole Lalli seemed to have two modes: either throwing all strikes and thus a strikeout occurred or throwing all balls and thus, a walk. It was either hard down the middle or it was bouncing in front of the plate. Both teams played a tight defense leading up until the final portion of the game. The top of the third saw two great catches by Will Kszywanos and Justin Marks, while runners got on base for both teams but were unable to score. Marks stuck out the side in the fourth inning – and into the fifth, two more strikeouts probably made him the player of this game.

The Expos scored another run in the bottom of the fifth making it 4-0 (they ended up needing that insurance run). The Jets then plated a runner in the top of the sixth as Charlie Hesseltine would come in to pitch. As the game headed into the bottom of the sixth, the rain picked up. The rain started off where you just felt some droplets and it wasn’t too big of a deal, but it quickly grew consistent. If you were in it for a minute or so you’d be soaked. Nearly everyone in the stands took cover where they could and somehow the game persisted. I’m always worried about the ball being able to be gripped in the rain, but the Expos and Jets played on.

At one point, one of the Jets lost control and their bat went flying because it was wet. This felt like one of those signs that playing in the rain was a tad dangerous but no one was stopping the game. The umpires were getting as soaked as the players! In the bottom of the sixth it felt as if the inning was cut short and I felt like the game was either going into a rain delay or being called early but apparently there were three outs. The Jets put up a run in the top of the sixth and had the momentum they to have a chance at winning.

In the last inning, with the score at 4-1 in favor of the Expos, Charlie Hesseltine had a hard time controlling his fastball. At one point, the ball even got away from catcher AJ Hendrickson. It was a bit of a mess and back-to-back doubles scored two more runs, putting the game at 4-3 and the Expos still leading. The last out came as a strikeout and it sealed the fate for the Jets, who were quite amused in the dugout with the way this game was going. While the rain was also making it darker and hard to see, it was making it just so difficult to control the ball and I think that was really the story of the end of the game here.

Now let’s be realistic. The Expos were at home. If the Jets managed to either tie this game or go ahead, then the Expos would still have their final at bats and the Jets would have been the one’s pitching in the rain. It seemed like it was a lot easier to hit the ball while the rain was coming down than it was to control a fastball. The rain actually started to let up a little bit before the game ended, but it certainly did feel like a factor in the end of this game. A 3-0 game turned into a 4-3 final after the rain and it made for an exciting ending.

With the Orioles taking a 1-0 loss to the Jets, this game was actually a battle between the last two undefeated teams in the GHTBL. By winning this game, the Expos now are solely in first place and the only team yet to face defeat. 

In the week ahead they’re looking at two opponents they’ve already beaten, the Wallingford Cardinals, in Wallingford on Wednesday night and the South Windsor Phillies will come back to Ceppa Field on Friday, June 10th. However, before all of that the Rainbow Graphics come to Ceppa Field for the next Expos game on June 7th, which could be interesting because the Graphics have a history of being a tough opponent for the Expos. Rainbow Graphics are also 3-1 on the year so it should be a good game to watch.

Colts Shuffle Cards, 7-3

By Joshua Macala
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What makes the Hartford Colts vs. Wallingford Cardinals such an intriguing matchup is that both of these teams are fairly new to the league and both feature former Ulbrich Steel players. The Wallingford Cardinals (brand new for this season) went into this game 0-2 with losses to the Expos on their Opening Day and then the Orioles after that in the Cardinals’ home opener. The Expos and Orioles are generally considered to be amongst the top teams though, so having those losses isn’t really a cause for alarm.

The Hartford Colts are a somewhat new team, and they went into this game 1-1, with a huge victory over the Greeners and a loss to the Champion Jets.  While the Cardinals, led by Manager Jeff DeMaio, were looking for that first win, the Colts were looking to stay above .500. And rightfully so, both teams toughed it out, neither wanting to be the losing side. Sometimes you go into a game where one team is favored over another, but this felt like a game either team could win, and it stayed that way until the last inning.

Both the top and bottom half of the first inning went 1-2-3. The second inning came and the Colts got on top. And it would stay that way. A series of singles drove in two runs, the second run not even being contested at the plate when there was a chance that the Cardinals could’ve had a play. That very well might have been the key moment of the game, where the Colts went up 2-0 and stayed ahead of the Cardinals until the very end. The Cardinals scored a run of their own to answer back in the bottom of the second and make it 2-1, but then a runner was caught stealing with only one out, which makes you wonder why they’re taking such chances in a close game.  

In the top of the third inning with runners on first and third, a run scored for the Colts on a balk. A gapped double in the bottom of the third scored another run for the Cardinals, keeping the game close at 3-2. By the third inning, the rain had come in. It started off just a little bit where I could see some droplets, but eventually, it opened up for an inning or two where it was coming down steadily. It wasn’t that heavy, as other fans went under umbrellas or took cover somewhere, but I stayed in it, and so did the players and umpires. It’s not quite warm enough yet into summer where the rain felt refreshing, but it also isn’t cold enough to where I had to hide from it. I was most concerned about the handling of the ball.

The fourth inning went by without any runs scored but then in the top of the 5th the Colts went up 4-2 as a runner was able to score on a wild pitch. This game was a lot about putting the ball into play, getting those hits and moving the runners to score.  A few errors also helped, but this game remained close throughout, and up until the end, it was either team’s game to win. In the bottom of the fifth, the Colts escaped trouble with a double play followed by a pop-up to first. In the bottom of the sixth, the Cards would double then a single would bring in a run, leaving it 4-3 with one inning left to play. There was a solid chance here that if the Colts didn’t add some insurance runs the Cardinals could be motivated to walk it off.  

This game started in somewhat overcast weather and even though it rained a bit and then the rain stopped, this was one of those games where you had to watch until the end to see who won. In the top of the seventh inning, the Colts got runners on first and second, but they eventually did a double steal to advance. This wouldn’t really matter as the Cardinals changed pitchers and then a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases. 

A huge single past first base scored two runs for the Colts. It was what they needed to win this game. A pitch got by Cardinals’ catcher Adam Leone for a third and final run to score, making this game 7-3. The fact that the Cardinals put up three runs all game seemed to infer that they wouldn’t be able to put up three or more in one inning and that was all they had left. A huge double play and then a slow-rolling groundout to first ended the game and secured the Colts’ win.

There are several factors to consider why this game went the way that it did. First off, if the Colts did not put up those three runs in the top of the seventh and this was a different team, the Cardinals could have easily tied it or even walked it off and got the win. It really felt like the pitching by Alex Koletar for the Cardinals kept this game within reach for them the entire time. And yet the complete game pitched by Matt Goldman was what also helped the Colts get the win here. A pitching effor like that is often needed to win games. Both teams had it going on this night, but the Colts took advantage of more breaks. Perhaps if Goldman wasn’t pitching, the Cardinals would’ve had a win, but that’s hypothetical

Coming out of this game, the Hartford Colts improve to 2-1 and have People’s and the Orioles on deck to face. This will be an interesting next few games for the Colts because if they can defeat the Orioles and hand them their first loss, they’ll be right up there in the top of the league. At the same time, the Cardinals are up against People’s, the Graphics and the Expos again. It might be a tough week coming for them, as they have their work cut out for them, but one of these games might be their chance to get their first win. People’s are the interesting team coming out of this game because thus far they have only played once and it was a loss so what fate awaits them against both Colts and Cardinals will be fun to see.  

Expos Expose Phillies, 7-0

By Joshua Macala
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Exactly one week after their season opener, the Record-Journal Expos returned to Ceppa Field to take on the South Windsor Phillies and scored 7 runs once again. The Phillies and Expos have quite the rivalry going, and so this was promising to be a stellar matchup. Both teams have, in recent seasons, finished in first place even though the then champions would go on to become either the Orioles or Jets. Some teams are at the top of the league, the middle of the league and the bottom of the league. The Expos and Phillies are both top-of-the-league teams, so playing each other should be exciting baseball.

The Expos scored five runs during the bottom of the second inning. It was a deficit from which the Phillies were unable to overcome. A hit-by-pitch, two walks and then a run was walked in as well before AJ Hendrickson hit a deep shot to center field to clear the bases. That double drove in three runs. It would’ve been a grand slam if it went over the fence (I thought it did at first). In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hendrickson would do the same as he hit a long shot out to left field to score two more runs. Five of the seven runs in the game would be AJ Hendrickson’s runs batted in.

While this might not seem like a big deal because players can have big offensive nights, the fact is that AJ Hendrickson was also pitching the entire game and he managed to shut out the Phillies, barely giving up any hits. There were only one or two occasions where it really felt like the Phillies might have a chance to score and then those opportunities quickly got shut down. In many ways, it felt like Hendrickson was doing everything in this game and that just feels even more surreal considering how he played last game, but this was definitely a team effort when you don’t just consider the statistics of it all.

For one thing, the Expos have a new player in Javon Malone and he not only drove in a run but also had a few well-made defensive plays. Everyone seemed to step up offensively for Record-Journal; taking the walk when they needed to, and going that extra mile defensively to make it so that the Phillies couldn’t score. To start off this season with these first few games, everything is clicking for the Expos and their offense and defense are both delivering the way they should.

But with this game it should also be noted that the Phillies played well. The second inning was their biggest downfall and aside from that the combined pitching efforts of Noah Shaw and Connor Egan left the Expos scoreless for five innings. Offensively, the Phillies were missing Brody Labbe and Mike Lisinicchia, as well as Trevor Moulton as a pitcher, but these are just things which happen at the beginning of the season. Jack Rich has yet to play for the Expos as he is off doing great things with the ECSU Baseball team.  

With only two games into the season for the Expos (and the most games being played is three) it might be a bit early to see this as being a runaway season for the Expos. What the standings look like now- with the Expos, Jets and Orioles on top. But it is interesting to see that the new team of the Cardinals is 0-2 while the somewhat new team of the Greeners is 0-3. Whether they can turn their seasons around or not remains to be seen but there is a lot of baseball to be played still so it’s anybody’s game.

While the Expos only had one game last week, they play three this week. They go to Muzzy Field on Thursday night to take on the Greeners, who will be looking for their first win. Then on Friday night they welcome the Jets to Ceppa Field – a matchup to anticipate because the Jets are the reigning and defending Twi Champions. Baseball is one of those unpredictable sports though where it seems like the Greeners should be an easy win but they might not be. I’ve seen it before where first place teams fall to last place teams (mostly the Mets in previous years) and it doesn’t make sense but it happens.  

So even though it feels like Thursday should be an easy win and Friday will be more of a competitive game, anything can happen and you never really know until that game happens. The historic Muzzy Field is a great place to watch baseball and these two games just feel like they’re going to set an important tone for the rest of the season. Either way, win or lose, it’s a nice time of year to be outside watching baseball again. 

Honoring Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League honors the legacy of every United States military service member who made the ultimate sacrifice. Since the forming of our nation, soldiers have fought for freedom and justice. This most somber of national holidays is a reminder to be grateful for those who defended America.

After all, our way of life hinges on the valorous acts of military servicemen and women. Because of their unwavering commitment to duty, millions of Americans prosper today. Due to the significance of our fallen heroes, communities like Greater Hartford can have trivial things like amateur baseball. GHTBL players, coaches and league officials express our sincere gratitude this Memorial Day.

St. Cyril’s Baseball Club, The Semi-Pro Polish-Americans From Hartford

During the “Roaring Twenties” immigrant communities often integrated themselves into American culture by forming baseball clubs. Members of Hartford’s Polish-American community organized St. Cyril’s Baseball Club in 1925 on behalf of Saints Cyril and Methodius Parish, a Catholic church established in Hartford in 1902. The original nine was managed by Jack J. Zekas and assisted by Stanley “Spike” Spodobalski. Catcher Francis “Frankie” Kapinos captained the team from behind the plate.

St. Cyril’s organizes first baseball club, 1925.

St. Cyril’s joined its first amateur league in 1926, the Hartford Amateur Baseball League. It was a precursor to the Hartford Twilight League and sponsored by the Hartford Courant. St. Cyril’s vied for the “Courant Cup” but landed fourth in the standings. Player-manager John Strycharz steered the team which included Bob Young, a pitcher from University of Wisconsin and Ray Swartz of Notre Dame University. The following year, St. Cyril’s scheduled matchups with “fast semi-pro teams”¹ throughout Connecticut.

1926 St. Cyril’s Baseball Club
Hartford Courant excerpt, June 7, 1927.

After a five year hiatus caused by the Great Depression, St. Cyril’s returned to the field in 1933. Nicknamed the Saints, they earned a reputation as Hartford’s best Catholic club. Nearly every player was of Polish descent. Edward Kostek served as the team’s new manager. Jack Repass, an infielder, cut his teeth with St. Cyril’s in 1938, before becoming Secretary of the Twilight League and Founder of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball Hall of Fame.

1938 St. Cyril’s Baseball Club

St. Cyril’s won its first championship in 1939 as part of the Central Connecticut League. Then they secured the Connecticut District Semi-Pro Title of 1940. Pitching aces, Casimir “Cos” Wilkos and Yosh Kinel headlined the roster. Also on staff was Walter “Monk” Dubiel, a 22 year old rookie who later became one of Hartford’s all-time hurlers following a career with the Yankees and Cubs. After their days with St. Cyril’s, all three pitchers (Wilkos, Kinel, and Dubiel) were inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame.

Casimir “Cos” Wilkos, St. Cyril’s, 1939.
Walter “Monk” Dubiel, 1940.

In the wake of World War II, St. Cyril’s rejoined the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. Nearly every Twi-loop game was held at Municipal Stadium or on one of a dozen skin diamonds at Colt Park. Standout players for manager Kostek during the 1940’s were Pete Sevetz and Charlie Puziak. Some of the men played ball to forget the horrors they saw while at war. Others played for the love of the game and in between work hours life, not unlike amatuer players of today.

1947 St. Cyril’s Baseball Club
L to R: Twilight Leaguers, Tom Deneen of St. Cyril’s, Dick Foley of Pratt Whitney Aircraft and Bill George of Yellow Cab at Colt Park, Hartford, 1947.

Manager Kostek led St. Cyril’s on a winning crusade during the 1950’s. Many professional players suited up for the run, such as Charlie Wrinn, Don Deveau and Ed Samolyk. They conquered multiple titles starting with a sweep of the 1951 Hartford Twilight League Season Title and Playoff Championship. Five years later, the club nabbed the 1956 Season Title and Playoff Championship. In 1957, they captured the State Semi-Pro Title and the Eastern Regional Semi-Pro Title.

1951 St. Cyril’s Baseball Club
Charlie Wrinn, Pitcher, St. Cyril’s, 1951.
Hartford Courant excerpt, September 8, 1951.
1953 St. Cyril’s Baseball Club

In 1958, the Polish National Home hosted a testimonial dinner in honor of Ed Kostek and his St. Cyril’s Baseball Club. Former Business Manager of the Hartford Chiefs, Charles Blossfield gave remarks commending Kostek for his coaching achievements. Also in attendance were Brooklyn Dodgers scout John “Whitney” Piurek of West Haven and Kostek’s former player and longtime friend, Monk Dubiel.

L to R: Whitey Piurek, Ed Kostek and Monk Dubiel at the Polish National Home, Hartford, 1958.
1959 St. Cyril’s Baseball Club

St. Cyril’s last pennant-winning season came in 1960. The club finished in first in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League with a 17-4 win-loss record. Outfielder and GHTBL Hall of Famer, Robert Neubauer was the team’s star player (Neubauer later became a celebrated coach at Sheehan High School in Wallingford, CT). St. Cyril’s, finally played its final season in 1962 and the Catholic baseball dynasty was finally retired after 35 years of play.

St. Cyril’s Manager, Ed Kostek (middle) accepts Hartford Twilight Season Title trophy from Lou Morotto and Jim Nesta, 1960.
Valco Machine beats St. Cyril’s in Playoff Championship 1960.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
  2. 1929 to 1979 GHTBL 50th Anniversary Program

2022 Regular Season Preview

Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League returns for the 93rd year!

This summer, GHTBL will utilize some of Connecticut’s top ballparks, including Muzzy Field, Palmer Field, Trinity College and Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Players from as far as Boston, Massachusetts, to Stamford, Connecticut, will compete in the league. A 24-game Regular Season will open at 3 PM, Sunday, May 22, 2022. The Rainbow Graphics are to host Jack Ceppetelli’s Vernon Orioles at Mount Nebo Park in Manchester, CT.

Ceppetelli has managed the Orioles since 2001. Before then Jack was a pitcher with the O’s for two decades. Kevin Powell, another Oriole of the 1980’s, will serve his second year as bench coach. Powell recently retired from Travelers Insurance after a 38 year career. Mainstay Orioles like the Trubia brothers and the Halpin brothers are expected back for another season. Former minor leaguer Jimmy Titus has also declared for Vernon.

Vernon Orioles, 2021.

Rainbow Graphics has their own share of experience. Along with player-manager Tyler Repoli, fixtures like Evan Chamberlain, Travis Salois and Eric Anderson will suit up for the Graphics. Other than the season opener, Rainbow home games will be hosted at Northwest Park in Manchester. Many thanks to Fred Kask and the Rainbow Graphics team for sponsoring GHTBL’s longest-running franchise.

Meanwhile, Manager Taylor Kosakowski and the East Hartford Jets are seeking a three-peat. Another Playoff Championship run will require solid performances from Kosakowski’s fleet of everyday position players. They include Jeff Criscuolo, Jim Schult, Nate Viera and Corey Plasky, who’ve been consistent on both sides of the ball for East Hartford. Bryan Albee of Eastern Connecticut State University is also expected to return to the mound.

Nearby in South Windsor, the Phillies and Manager Ron Pizzanello are preparing for the summer. The Phillies also have a solid core of players who have been with South Windsor since 2018. They are Brody Labbe, Pat McMahon, Aedin Wadja and Jake Petrozza. A few additions to the team are Wendell Anderson, the 2002 GHTBL MVP and AJ Pietrafesa of Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

As for Tom Abbruzzese’s Wethersfield-based franchise, the team has been renamed M&T People’s (formerly People’s United Bank). First-year players will include Jordan Valentino of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, Nick Tuozzola, a graduate of SUNY Purchase and at least four players from Elms College. The most veteran players on People’s are Brendan Lynch and Eric Malinowski.

Eric Malinowski, People’s, 2019.

Recently, President Holowaty has welcomed Ryan Ruggiero as the newest member of the Executive Committee. Ryan joins the league as the official Statistician. He’ll also assist with operations for the Hartford Colts franchise. The Colts expect to field many players currently in college including Kyle Darby of Westfield State University, Kiernan Caffrey of American International College, Sean Jefferson of Albertus Magnus College and AJ Desarro of New England College.

The most newcomers of 2022 will likely appear for the Wallingford Cardinals, who have become sponsors in place of Ulbrich Steel. General Manager Chris Bishop and Manager Jeff DeMaio will welcome numerous collegiate players like Evan Wilkinson of Post University and Zach Pincince of University of New Haven. Returners such as Sam DeMaio, Alex Koletar and Brendan O’Connell will continue to be key contributors for Wallingford.

The league’s westernmost franchise, the Bristol Greeners, will play eight games at Muzzy Field this year. Trevor Mays takes the reins as a first-time player-manager. Greeners catcher, AJ Lorenzetti, will look to repeat his 2021 All-Star performance.

Muzzy Field, Bristol, Connecticut.

Last but not least, the Record-Journal Expos will be directed by player-manager, Charlie Hesseltine, who’s been a part of the twi-loop since 2005. Other veteran players like AJ Hendrickson, Jonathan Walter and Sebby Grignano will perform under the lights at Ceppa Field. Current college athletes for the Meriden-based franchise are Jason Sullivan of Albertus Magnus, Carson Coon of Manhattan College and Kameron Hartenstein of SUNY Cortland.

On August 4, 2022, the league will hold our 6th annual charity series at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Hosted by the Hartford Yard Goats, the GHTBL will fundraise for a charitable cause by selling $10 tickets at the Main Gate. Tickets are valid for both games of the doubleheader at 6 PM and 8 PM. Concessions will be open. More details to come!

The 2022 Playoff Tournament will follow a few days after the Regular Season. Our double-elimination championship will transpire at Palmer Field in Middletown and at McKenna Field in East Hartford. Five appearances are required to qualify a player for the postseason.

Note to new players seeking a team in the GHTBL: Fill out a Player Application. Amateurs with collegiate-caliber abilities are most likely to be contacted by GHTBL managers who immediately receive these applications.

Nick Hock Hired to Minor League Post

Recently, Hartford Colts ace, Nick Hock accepted a job with the Baltimore Orioles organization. This spring Hock will ship out to Salisbury, Maryland, to work for the Delmarva Shorebirds of the Single-A Carolina League. He’ll be a member of the Player Development Department serving as an assistant to the coaching staff. Hock also expects to throw batting practice and simulated games. Shorebird home games are played at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Hailing from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Hock has played twilight ball for the last five years. He’s thrown 252.2 innings, tallying 215 strikeouts, 9 complete games and 3 shutouts. Hock was named a GHTBL All-Star three times and won the Mike Liappes Award for Most Valuable Pitcher in 2020. Please join us in congratulating Nick Hock on his next baseball chapter!

Opening Day: May 22

Coming soon to a ballpark near you, the GHTBL will begin its 93rd year of play. This season’s Opening Day will be held at Mount Nebo Park in Manchester, Connecticut, at 5 PM, Sunday, May 22, 2022. Manager Jack Ceppetelli and the Vernon Orioles will face Manager Tyler Repoli and the Rainbow Graphics. Last season, these teams split their head-to-head matchup with one win each.

This season, the GHTBL will go back to its traditional format. Each franchise will play three games against every other franchise. The 24-game schedule will be the most Regular Season games planned by the league since 2019. Things are finally back to normal for the time being.

However, since there are 9 clubs competing this year, the GHTBL Playoff Tournament will include a “play-in” game of the 8th and 9th place finishers. An 8-team double-elimination tournament will follow the “play-in” game.

As for the players; 225+ athletes are expected to suit up this summer. Plenty of returners and newcomers will fill a variety of roles throughout the league. From everyday position players, to relief pitchers and part-timers, local amateurs will travel from as far as Groton, Connecticut, and Longmeadow, Massachusetts, to contend for a championship.

A vast majority of GHTBL players are also current or former college players. A handful are ex-professionals. A few are high school prospects. They join the twi-loop for various reasons: to develop into a better player, for the love of the game, camaraderie with teammates. Whatever the reason, the GHTBL is grateful to remain one of most talent laden summer leagues in Connecticut.

GHTBL provides a pure, throwback style of the game while representing a highly competitive class of baseball. Wood bats and MLB Rules are enforced in a 7-inning format. To learn more about playing in the GHTBL, go to www.GHTBL.org/join.

The Baseball Origins of Dillon Stadium

Recently, the naming rights of Hartford’s oldest outdoor sports facility were sold to corporate interests. The time-tested Dillon Stadium has taken a bow to make way for Trinity Health Stadium. Though some people will refuse to call it anything other than Dillon Stadium, perhaps a review of its backstory will enlighten fans and provide some understanding in a time of change. Long before Hartford Athletic played soccer at Dillon, the venue first began as a baseball diamond called Municipal Stadium.

Dillon Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 2020.

Erected on Huyshope Avenue in the spring of 1935, Municipal Stadium was the result of public outcry for an enclosed baseball field for amatuer players. After more than a decade of petitions, the city finally built a diamond at the eastern edge of Colt Park. Funding for the project came from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Depression-era field had 8-feet tall fences, a chain link backstop and oversized bleachers hugging foul territory.

Bob Cameron of the Hartford Twilight League scores the first run at Municipal Stadium, Hartford, June 29, 1935.

Hartford’s amateurs were pleased with the ballpark because they no longer needed to rent Bulkeley Stadium for big games. At that time, there were nearly a dozen baseball field at Colt Park, including the new “Munie” Stadium. The field’s first headliner contests were played by Hartford Twilight League teams. In June of 1935, the stadium opened with a parade featuring a marching band. Mayor of Hartford, Joseph W. Beach dedicated the field by hoisting an American flag up a flagpole alongside the facility overseer and Recreation Supervisor, James H. Dillon.

James H. Dillon, c. 1936.

Less than a year later, a massive flood hit Hartford. Heavy rain overflowed the Connecticut River and Park River, engulfing the city and destroying Municipal Stadium. The Flood of 1936 forced amateurs out of Colt Park. Many defected to the East Hartford Twilight League. Hartford’s Municipal Stadium was out of commission for most of the summer. However, Supervisor Dillon spearheaded an effort to rebuild the venue and “Munie” Stadium was quickly revived.

Hartford Flood, March 21, 1936.
View of Colt Park, Hartford Flood, March 21, 1936.

After cleanup and repairs, the field was rededicated on September 19, 1936. City officials marched down to Colt Park to celebrate the recovery with another flag raising. The ceremony was followed by an interstate doubleheader played by Hartford’s Senior All-Stars and Junior All-Stars. Hometown pitching ace and GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee, Yosh Kinel won the afternoon for the Seniors; whipping a traveling club from Springfield, Massachusetts.

Rededication Ceremony at Municipal Stadium, 1936.
Rededication of Municipal Stadium after the flood, 1936.

Municipal Stadium had become a hotbed for regional baseball talent. In the summer of 1937, a professional tryout came to town. Hartford’s best showcased their ability before scouts of the Rochester Red Wings. It was the first of many minor league tryouts held at the facility. Between the 1930’s and the 1960’s, dozens of Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League players would sign professional contracts on the main diamond at Colt Park.

Rochester Red Wings host professional tryout at Municipal Stadium, 1937.

During the autumn seasons, Municipal Stadium doubled as a football field. As a result, a fieldhouse was constructed on the premises in 1939. The facility was reported to accommodate 10,000 spectators at that time. It was a fan favorite for its affordability and walkability. Aside from the occasional flood, South Hartford’s riverbank provided the perfect setting for local sporting events.

Municipal Stadium in Colt Park, Hartford, 1939.

Onlookers witnessed high school baseball at Municipal Stadium including Weaver, Bulkeley and Hartford Public. There were also several amateur loops using the stadium during the 1940’s: the Industrial League, Public Service League, Catholic League, and the Central Connecticut Twilight League. Semi-professional clubs like the Savitt Gems hosted benefit games at “Munie” Stadium to fundraise for local causes and wartime initiatives.

George Register of Weaver High School, Municipal Stadium, 1940.
Norman “Red” Branch (left) and Aaron Robinson of Coast Guard at Municipal Stadium, 1942.

Hartford Twilight League action returned to Municipal Stadium after World War II. The loop was re-established in the summer of 1946. That season, many players picked up a bat for the first time since carrying a rifle across Europe or Asia. Dozens of young war veterans were fixtures at “Munie” Stadium. Men such as U.S. Army veteran John Buikus starred for his company-sponsored team, Royal Typewriter.

Ernie Hutt, Walt Fonfara, John Buikus and Nonny Zazzaro of Royal Typewriter, Municipal Stadium, 1947.
Jon Cordier and Ed Roche of Royal Typewriter, Municipal Stadium, 1947.

By 1955, Municipal Stadium was worn down. Sports Editor of the Hartford Courant, Bill Lee wrote a subpar review of the ballpark in his “With Malice Toward None” column. He called it, “…a poorly maintained baseball diamond of sorts.” The following year, Hartford Mayor James H. Kinsella passed a resolution to rehabilitate and rename Municipal Stadium. From then on, the facility took on the name of Hartford’s favorite supervisor, James H. Dillon, whose accomplishments had won the city national acclaim in parks and recreation.

Jack Hines, catcher for Hartford Public High School hits an infield single, Municipal Stadium, 1955.
Hartford Courant excerpt, April 25, 1956.

The newly christened Dillon Stadium took over as Hartford’s sole baseball field in the late 1950’s. Nearby on Hamner Street, Bulkeley Stadium was abandoned and the land was eventually conveyed to the highest bidder. Hartford had neither a minor league stadium nor a minor league team. Consequently, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League (GHTBL) became the only game in town at Dillon Stadium. On August 12, 1959, a team of GHTBL All-Stars trounced a club of rookie professionals picked by the New York Yankees.

GHTBL All-Stars defeat New York Yankees Rookies at Dillon Stadium, August 12, 1959.

Due in part to public exposure at Dillon Stadium, the Twilight League enjoyed a golden era during the 1960’s. Season openers, playoff tournaments and old-timer games were well-attended for a nominal fee and widely-heralded in newspapers. The Hartford Courant and the Hartford Times were awash with recaps at Dillon. Despite the stadium’s deep connection to America’s National Pastime, the era expired in 1971. An aging Dillon Stadium was in need of a revisions and the city permanently reconfigured the site into a football, soccer and rock concert arena.

Bob Martin (left) of Valco Machine hits game-winning home run, Dillon Stadium, 1965.
Hartford Twilight League Old Timers Game at Dillon Stadium, 1967.
Hartford Twilight League Old Timers’ Day at Dillon Stadium, 1967.
GHTBL Opens at Dillon Stadium, 1970.
Hartford Twilight League Old-Timers at Dillon Stadium, 1970.

Many years later, a glimmer of hope appeared for baseball at Dillon Stadium. City officials organized the Dillon Stadium Task Force Committee in 1987 to bring professional baseball back to Hartford for the first time since the Hartford Chiefs left in 1956. The group was conducted by a firefighter, Michael P. Peters, the namesake of Mike Peters Little League. Peters and the task force sought to renovate Dillon Stadium into a minor league ballpark. Designs were drawn and models were presented for a $20 million revamp.

Dillon Stadium Task Force Committee reporting by Joel Lang and Owen Canfield, Hartford Courant, June, 1987.
Hartford baseball ad, July 16, 1987.

However, the project lacked enough public support. Skeptics included City Council members, real estate developers and business leaders. In addition, the Dillon Stadium Task Force was unable to attract a minor league club to the negotiating table. Most potential investors considered the Hartford market to be overlapped by the New Britain Red Sox of the Eastern League. By 1991, the deal withered away and the campaign helped Mike Peters become Mayor of Hartford (1993 to 2001).

Mayor Mike Peters at Dillon Stadium, 1989.
Promotional hat made for Dillon Stadium Task Force Committee, 1989.

“It was a very fine baseball stadium in terms of the field and ground. It was what I call a Class-A stadium. In the 1940’s it might have been the best baseball diamond in the Connecticut area.”

Victor Jarm, former Recreation Supervisor of Hartford, gushes over Municipal Stadium, 1989.
Dillon Stadium article by Roberto Gonzalez, Hartford Courant, August 31, 1989.

These days, baseball is a long gone memory at the former Dillon Stadium. In 2019, Hartford Athletic owners, Hartford Sports Group, partnered with Connecticut’s Capital Region Development Authority and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to refurbish the city-owned facility for $14 million. As part of the quasi-public deal, Hartford Sports Group reserved the right to sell the name of Hartford’s oldest remaining sports venue. Trinity Health Stadium is now home to Hartford Athletic soccer of the United Soccer League.

Dillon Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 2014.
Trinity Health Stadium, formerly Dillon Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 2022.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant: “Jon Lender: $14M Dillon Stadium renovation was marred by ‘charade of an RFP’ that ‘undermines public confidence,’ says watchdogs’ draft report”.
  2. Hartford Courant: Football, The Rolling Stones, elephants and soccer: A look at Dillon Stadium through the years.”
  3. Hartford Courant database at Newspapers.com
  4. Hartford Athletic: Hartfordathletic.com/dillon-stadium
  5. USL Soccer News: USLsoccer.com/news_article/show/1216699

Twilight League Seeks More Collegiate Players

As the NCAA season gets underway, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League wishes every college ballplayer all of the best this Spring. Special shoutouts go to those players who have recently honed their skills in the GHTBL. From Jack Rich and Brian Albee at Eastern Connecticut State University to Josh Pabilonia and Julian Gonzalez at Western Connecticut State University, players from the Twi-loop are expected to make their mark on the NCAA*.

There are roughly 34,500 college baseball players who compete each year in the United States. Student-athletes commit to their sweat, tears and sometimes blood to university programs. GHTBL is proud of our many college players who manage to juggle school, baseball, career and family life. Living up to these tall tasks is never easy.

However, nothing worth doing is ever easy. GHTBL Managers are seeking new recruits who have the work ethic, character and experience to compete at the college level. Our franchises have one goal: to improve baseball players on and off the field. We welcome current, future or former college athletes to fill out a Player Application found here: www.GHTBL.org/Join.

*GHTBL abides by strict amateur rules. No gifts, favors or money are dealt to players. These are violations of our By-laws found here: www.GHTBL.org/by-laws.

We’ll see you this summer and in the meantime…swing away!



CT Patch Features Schweighoffer, Former GHTBL Star

Meet a Local Ex-Pro Ballplayer: Mike Schweighoffer, Farmington

By Tim Jensen, Patch Staff

FARMINGTON, CT — If Mike Schweighoffer was playing baseball today, no scout would even give him a look. The way the game has changed, no one would be interested in a pitcher who throws 83 MPH sinker balls, who never tossed a varsity inning until his senior year of high school, who attended a Division III college in Connecticut best known for its outstanding academic standards.

Fortunately for Schweighoffer, times were different in the early 1980s. Not only did a scout sign him to a professional contract, he spent four solid seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization before embarking on an even more successful career, which continues today, as a banking executive.

Mike Schweighoffer, 2021

Now 59, Schweighoffer grew up in Hartford’s South End, and moved to Wethersfield just in time to start high school. He played football and baseball at now-defunct South Catholic High School, but even he never harbored dreams of someday becoming a professional athlete.

“I was a very late bloomer for my position,” he said in an exclusive interview with Patch. “I was an All-State shortstop, but had no expectations of playing pro ball.”

He chose to stay near home and attend Trinity College, where he majored in economics. He also went out for the baseball team, and made the squad as a pitcher. In his freshman campaign, “I was just a thrower,” but Schweighoffer learned the finer points about pitching from Bill Severni, who had played at Amherst College and overseas.

“Bill taught me more about pitching than any coach I ever had,” he said. “He taught me about mechanics, thinking about pitching and setting up hitters.”

As a junior with the Bantams, Schweighoffer played third base on days when he wasn’t pitching, and Trinity won the ECAC New England Regional championship. He also kept active during the summer by pitching for the Newington Capitols of the Greater Hartford Twilight League.

“By my senior year, my arm was hurting a bit,” he recalled. “I was still playing with Newington, but I graduated and accepted a position at Connecticut National Bank (CNB).”

Mike Schweighoffer, Vero Beach Dodgers, 1985.

That is, until fate intervened, in the form of longtime baseball scout Dick Teed of Windsor. Much to Schweighoffer’s shock, Teed offered him a contract with the Dodgers organization as an undrafted free agent. He signed the contract in late 1984, and resigned from the bank training program.

His first pro stop was Vero Beach in the Class-A Florida State League. Starting all 25 games in which he appeared, he posted a 10-11 record with an excellent 3.11 earned-run average. He was selected to the league all-star game, though he did not appear in the contest.

Hartford Courant article on Mike Schweighoffer by Tom Yantz, May 30, 1986.

The next season, Schweighoffer expected to play at Double-A San Antonio, and worked out with that club during most of spring training, but again fate intervened, this time in the form of Mother Nature.

“We had a few days of rain, and they needed someone to go to Melbourne for a game against the Twins,” he said. “I threw eight or nine pitches, all resulting in ground balls, and [San Antonio manager and former University of Hartford standout] Gary LaRocque said they wanted me in Triple-A. I didn’t believe it until the plane actually touched down in Albuquerque.”

Mike Schweighoffer, Albuquerque Dukes, 1986.

After skipping an entire level, Schweighoffer was used as a relief pitcher for most of the 1986 season, making 43 appearances. In the final month, the Dukes moved him back into the starting rotation, and he wound up with a 7-3 record.

His manager in Albuquerque was Terry Collins, who later piloted the New York Mets to the 2015 World Series. He also benefitted from a Connecticut connection.

“Terry was fiery and demanded a lot from the players, and Dave Wallace [of Waterbury] was a tremendous pitching coach,” he said.

1986 Albuquerque Dukes

Schweighoffer was asked to work on some new things during spring training in 1987, which he described as “mediocre.” He learned something during that training camp, however, which has stuck with him for more than three decades.

“Every day is a tryout, because no matter what you’re told, you still have to perform,” he said. “I use that to this day.”

Back under LaRocque in San Antonio, and converted again into a full-time starter, Schweighoffer posted a 4-4 record before being promoted back to Triple-A. Returning to Albuquerque meant returning to high elevations, and a switch back to the bullpen resulted in a 2-3 record and 5.33 ERA. The Dukes captured the Pacific Coast League title, which Schweighoffer dubbed one of the highlights of his professional playing career.


Mike Schweighoffer, Albuquerque Dukes, 1987.

The next spring, he was told he would be sent back to Double-A San Antonio, now guided by future Boston Red Sox skipper Kevin Kennedy. The Dodgers did not grant his request for a release, and he appeared in 43 games, including eight starts, with a 7-8 record and 3.96 ERA. At season’s end, he made the difficult decision to leave the game.

“I was 26 years old, had worked two winters at CNB and decided to give up playing,” he said. “I was also tired of dragging [his wife] Liz around the country.”


Mike Schweighoffer, San Antonio Missions, 1988.

With a number of former teammates making significant contributions, Los Angeles won the 1988 World Series in a shocking 4-game sweep of the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics. Despite never making it to the big dance, Schweighoffer said he had “absolutely zero bitterness and no regrets” about giving up the game.

“I got to pitch to Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Sandy and Roberto Alomar,” he recalled. “Gary Sheffield took me deep one day; that ball is still rolling down I-10 in El Paso. I remember that at-bat like it was yesterday.”

He began working full-time at CNB in 1989, and is still active in the banking industry today. He is currently regional manager for commercial lending at People’s United Bank. He and Liz reside in Farmington, and they have three adult children – a daughter and twin boys.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 2008.

Despite having played professional baseball and being associated with some of the top stars in the game, Schweighoffer said his biggest baseball thrills came far away from any stadiums filled with paying customers.

“My best baseball memories are from Trinity, the Newington Capitols, coaching travel ball and Unionville American Legion, and being an assistant coach when my kids won Little League state titles in 2004 and 2005,” he said. “I just wanted to give back to the game.”

Original news article: https://patch.com/connecticut/farmington/meet-local-ex-pro-ballplayer-mike-schweighoffer-farmington

Other stories in this series:

GHTBL to Play 24-Game Regular Season in 2022

A 24-game Regular Season schedule is expected by GHTBL Executive Committee members and leagues mangers in 2022. Next season will get underway in mid-May followed by a double-elimination tournament that usually wraps up by mid-August.

In the meantime, GHTBL franchises will be recruiting players from colleges, high schools, AAU and Legion programs and from local communities. You do not have to live in Greater Hartford to play in the league. No age requirements. The GHTBL is an amateur nonprofit organization. Players do not get paid.

You can fill out a player application by clicking here.

All the best wishes and have a great holiday season,

GHTBL Executive Committee

Bill Holowaty, President
Andy Baylock, Vice President
Marc Levin, Treasurer
Wes Ulbrich, Secretary

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.

Jack Rich, Most Valuable Player of 2021

Back in September of this year, outfielder/relief pitcher, Jack Rich of the Record-Journal Expos was unanimously voted Most Valuable Player of the Regular Season by league managers. The Expos were 10-8 on the season and 3-2 in the playoff tournament. Jack batted an impressive .475 while appearing in all 18 games with the Meriden-based franchise. In 59 at bats, he had 28 hits, 9 runs, a home run, 22 RBI and a league-leading 9 doubles. He also pitched 9 innings in relief. Jack has been a mainstay for the Expos since 2019.

Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2020.
Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2019.
Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2020.
Jack Rich, OF/P, Record-Journal Expos, 2019.
Jack Rich featured in Record-Journal, 2021.

Jack Rich grew up in South Meriden, Connecticut, playing baseball and basketball. He’s a graduate of Wilcox Technical High School and now attends Eastern Connecticut State University. As a key part of the Warriors baseball team, Jack has compiled a .315 batting average with 4 home runs, 49 RBI and a .399 on base percentage thus far during his college career. He will begin his senior year this coming spring, seeking a Little East Conference title and a Division-III College World Series.

Jack Rich makes the All-Star team, 1997.

Bill Masse, A Baseball Life

Manchester, Connecticut’s Bill Masse was a baseball careerist, an Olympic gold medalist and a minor league insider. He spent 9 seasons in the minors as an outfielder, 13 years as a coach, another 13 years as a scout and one year in a Hollywood movie. Masse’s story began at East Catholic High School in Manchester, CT, where he won a State Championship in 1983. The following year, he led the Eagles to a conference title and was selected to the Class-L All-Star Team.

Connecticut’s Class-L All-Star Team, 1984.

After an impressive tenure with Manchester’s American Legion Post 102, Masse joined the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. In the summer of 1984, he was a rookie in the Moriarty Brothers lineup and won the Season Title and Playoff Championship. Masse went 10 for 13 at the plate with 12 runs to secure the Playoff MVP. He matriculated to Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, and made instant waves in his freshman year as a leadoff center fielder.

Masse secures Playoff MVP and GHTBL Playoff Championship for Moriarty Brothers, 1984.

In 1985, Masse snatched the Southern Conference batting title with a .430 batting average. He tied Davidson’s single-season home run record (10) and set the school record for stolen bases (28). The 19 year old Masse earned All-Conference laurels and the SoCon Freshman Player of the Year Award. Masse achieved another All-Conference season in 1987 at Davidson and was honored as an American Baseball Coaches Association All-American.

Masse hits grand slam to defeat UConn, 1987.

Throughout his college years Masse spent summers aboard the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. He performed exceptionally, earning two Cape League All-Star nods (1985 and 1987). Masse was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 12th round of the 1987 MLB Draft, but he pursued a dream to compete in the Olympics. Team USA Baseball recruited Masse for the Intercontinental Cup of 1987 and he mashed a .317 batting average with 3 long balls. Along with teammates, Robin Ventura, Tino Martinez and Charles Nagy, Masse won the silver medal.

Bill Masse, Outfielder, Team USA, 1987.

Soon thereafter, Masse transferred to Wake Forest University to play for his Cape League coach, George Greer. Masse batted .422 for the Demon Deacons in his senior year. He wrapped 24 homers with 77 RBI, 83 runs and 35 steals in 58 games. Masse was sixth in NCAA Division-I in total bases (197) and named a 1st Team All-American. At the 1988 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees picked him in the 7th round, however Masse decided to forgo professional baseball once again, in favor of international competition.

BIll Masse, Outfielder, Wake Forest University, 1988.

Though he was offered a roster spot in Double-A, Masse choose to reappear on Team USA. As the regular right fielder, he hit .200 and scored 11 runs in 11 games at the 1988 Baseball World Cup in which Team USA finished runner-up to Cuba. A few weeks later, Team USA seized first place at 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, wherein Masse had a .314 batting average. To this day, he remains the only person from Manchester, Connecticut, to win an Olympic gold medal.

Bill Masse makes public appearance after winning Olympic Gold Medal, Manchester, Connecticut, 1988.

In 1989, Masse finally reported to the minor leagues with the New Yankees organization. He was assigned to the Prince William Cannons along with his high school teammate, Larry Stanford. Masse batted .239 for the Cannons with a league-high 89 walks. After splitting the 1990 season between Fort Lauderdale and Albany, he served a full season with Albany in 1991. That year, he deposited a .295 batting average and led the Eastern League in on base percentage.

Bill Masse, Outfielder, Prince William Cannons, 1989.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Albany Yankees, 1990.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Albany Yankees, 1991.

Masse eventually earned a promotion to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in 1992. He swatted new career-highs in 1993: a .316 batting average, 81 runs scored, 91 RBI, 19 home runs, 17 stolen bases and a league-high, 82 walks. He finished fourth in the International League in batting average and second to Jim Thome in on base percentage. Masse was named an All-Star and bestowed with Player of the Year among Yankees farmhands.

“I feel like I deserve to go up because I’ve proved myself all year. I feel like I could go up there and perform if I could just get my chance.”

Bill Masse, Hartford Courant, 1993.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Columbus Clippers, 1993.

Though he would never reach the majors, Masse competed alongside several legendary Yankees including Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. After a taste of the big leagues during Spring Training, Buck Showalter cut Masse from New York’s 40-man roster. In 1995, the Yankees released him after 47 games with Columbus. The following year, the Boston Red Sox signed Masse to a minor league contract, though back problems prevented him from continuing.

Bill Masse, Outfielder, Columbus Clippers, 1993.
Bill Masse, Outfielder, Columbus Clippers, 1994.

In 1998, Masse was cast as the character of Mike Robinson in Kevin Costner’s “For the Love of the Game.” Then he pivoted to coaching and became an assistant coach at his alma mater, Wake Forest. Masse spent four years in the Montreal Expos system working his way up from hitting coach to manager. The New York Yankees organization welcomed him back as hitting coach of the Tampa Yankees in 2001. He managed the Greensboro Bats in 2002 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Bill Masse, Manager, Vermont Expos, 1997.
Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Vermont Expos, 1997.

In 2003, Masse went back to manage the Tampa Yankees and stayed in that position until the end of 2004. Then he was promoted to manager of the Trenton Thunder in 2005. Next, he managed the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2007 and then the San Antonio Missions in 2008. MLB All-Stars such as Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera developed in the minors under Masse’s watch.

Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Tampa Yankees, 2001.
Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Tampa Yankees, 2003.
Bill Masse, Manager, Tampa Yankees, 2004.

“I turned over a TV, a microwave, a coffee pot. It cost me a little bit of money. It was not a pretty sight. It was ugly. But it worked.”

Bill Masse recalls a successful clubhouse tactic in 2007.
Bill Masse, Manager, Trenton Thunder, 2006.
Bill Masse, Manager, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 2007.

In 2009, Masse concluded his on-field career as hitting coach for the Double-A Binghamton Mets and the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He pursued a new role as a scout for the Seattle Mariners. From 2011 to 2013, he was Seattle’s Eastern Supervisor of Pro Scouting. Around this time, Masse owned a training facility in Hartford, Connecticut, once known as Baseball City. When Derek Jeter became President of the Miami Marlins in 2017, Masse sold his business and accepted a new scouting role from his former teammate, Jeter.

Bill Masse, Hitting Coach, Binghamton Mets, 2009.

Former Hartford Courant sports editor, Ed Yost, once ranked Bill Masse among the ten best male athletes from Manchester. Masse’s spectacular baseball career garnered him an induction into the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame. His family resides in Manchester. His sons, Easton and Rowan Masse, play baseball and hockey at Westminster School in Simsbury, CT. Bill Masse continues to work as a scout for the Miami Marlins.

Bill Masse (right), East Catholic High School Class of 1983 with his coach, Jim Penders Sr., 2021.

Sources

  1. Bill Masse player profile on Baseball-Reference.com
  2. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com

Bernie Williams Began his Career in the Twilight League

Before achieving stardom with the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams spent a summer in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. The story started when Williams was 16 years old. He was discovered by Yankees scout Roberto Rivera in Puerto Rico, however the right-handed outfielder was too young to sign a contract. The Yankees decided to stash Williams in Connecticut at Big League Baseball Camp on the campus of Cheshire Academy. His camp instructor, Frank Mohr, recruited Williams to play for GHTBL’s Katz Sports Shop team in the summer of 1985.

Bernie Williams’ signed Katz Sports Shop jersey, 1985.

As a teenaged prospect, Williams saw limited playing time in the twilight league among college-level competition. In 20 at bats for Katz Sports Shop, he had 4 hits. The team’s player-manager, Dave Katz once reminisced of Williams: “He was a really nice kid. He was shy, like he is now. He was so quiet, you didn’t even know he had a Spanish accent. Everybody on the team took to him. One thing does stick out in my mind. I hate to mention this; he dropped a routine fly ball in one game. But I remember my first baseman telling me that people at the camp said Bernie had all the tools.”

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1993.

The Yankees signed Williams as an undrafted free agent by September of 1985. It was the start of a 20-year professional career, solely with the Yankees. Williams played rookie ball in Florida’s Gulf Coast League and spent six years in the minors developing into a switch-hitter. He broke into the majors in 1991 and became a fixture in center field at Yankee Stadium until 2006.

Bernie Williams featured in Record-Journal, 1996.

Williams was a 4-time World Series champion with the second most postseason home runs (22) in major league history behind Manny Ramirez (29). Williams compiled a career .297 batting average, 287 home runs, 1,257 RBI, 1,366 runs scored, 449 doubles and a .990 fielding percentage. He earned five All-Star selections and four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger Award, the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award and the American League (AL) batting title in 1998.

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1998.
Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 2005.

Known for consistency and postseason heroics, Bernie Williams is considered one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. He is also an all-time New York Yankees great. The team honored Williams by retiring his uniform number (#51) and dedicating a plaque to him in Monument Park in 2015. Nowadays, he is an accomplished jazz guitarist. Following his retirement from baseball, Williams released two jazz albums and was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Record-Journal newspaper excerpt, 2015.

Author’s aside: The baseball world took Bernie Williams for granted. We did not realize the magnitude and depth of his career while he was an active player. What a story and what an interesting character. Much love Bernie!

Sources

  1. Bernie Williams page on Baseball-Reference.com

2. Record-Journal newspaper database on Newspapers.com.

Baseball Bloodlines: The Burnham Brothers

The Burnham brothers are two of the best baseball players ever to hail from South Windsor, Connecticut. Gary Burnham Jr. and Brett Burnham, sons of Deborah and Gary Burnham Sr. each became minor leaguers and traveled to world doing what they loved. Separated by six and a half years, the brothers were heavily influenced by their grandfather, Ralph Giansanti Sr. and their uncle, Ralph Giansanti Jr. both of whom also played professional baseball.

Gary Burnham Jr.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, on October 13, 1974, Gary Burnham showed athletic promise from an early age. At 15 years old he was a left-handed prospect who corked a .500 batting average for South Windsor’s American Legion Post 133. To develop his skills against more experienced players, he competed in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League in between his legion schedule. As a teenager, he manned the outfield and filled in at first base for the Moriarty Brothers franchise, managed by twilight legend Gene Johnson.

Gary Burnham graduated from South Windsor High School where he earned four varsity letters in baseball and football. As captain, hed led South Windsor baseball to the Class-L State Championship in his senior year and was named All-Conference, All-State and All-American along with Gatorade’s CT High School Player of the Year. Gary won the Hugh Greer Award as an outstanding athlete of South Windsor’s Class of 1993. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 22nd round of the 1993 MLB Draft but instead, Gary chose to accept an athletic scholarship to Clemson University in South Carolina. 

As a freshman at Clemson, Gary started in left field and batted fifth. Clemson was ranked first in the nation during most of the 1994 season. In 1995, he spearheaded a College World Series run and achieved All-ACC and All-American honors, walloped a .344 batting average and ranking second in NCAA Division-I with 27 doubles. That summer the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod Baseball League tapped Gary. After a formidable performance, he was selected to the 1995 Cape Cod League All-Star Game at Fenway Park and secured Most Valuable Player of the game.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Clemson University, 1994.

In 1996, Baseball America ranked Gary Burnham as the 56th “Best College Prospect” and as a Third Team Preseason All-American. He took Clemson to their second College World Series appearance and was voted to the All-ACC team. The Oakland A’s selected Gary in the 40th round of the 1996 MLB draft, but again, he refused to sign and returned to the Cape Cod League with the Falmouth Commodores. During his senior year, he led the Tigers in almost every offensive statistic and earned the team’s Most Valuable Player award. He hit .391 with 15 home runs, 82 RBI, 106 hits and set a program record with 77 doubles.

For a third time Gary was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 22nd round of the 1997 MLB Draft. It was the start of a 14 year professional career highlighted by 11 years in the minors and 4 seasons in Asia. He got his start in rookie ball on the Batavia Clippers of the New York-Pennsylvania League and led his club in base hits, batting average and total bases. In 1998, he was promoted to High-A ball with the Clearwater Phillies alongside Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell. Gary crashed a .296 batting average with 33 doubles, 10 triples and 93 runs, while leading all Florida State League first basemen with a .994 fielding percentage.

Gary won another promotion to the Double-A Reading Phillies in 1999, where he split time between first base and outfield. He compiled 12 home runs and 49 RBI over 116 games, though his batting average slumped to .249. The next season, Gary bounced back, hitting .268 with 28 doubles for Reading. In 2001, he suited up for a third season with Reading and hit .318 with 25 doubles and 15 homers. He had the best average in the Phillies farm system, which was third-best in the Eastern League.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Reading Phillies, 2001.

After five seasons with the Phillies organization, Gary ended up being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays during Spring Training of 2002. The Blue Jays gave the 27-year-old his first shot at the Triple-A level with the 2002 Syracuse SkyChiefs. Gary had a career year, hitting .281 with 151 base knocks, 34 doubles, 17 home runs and 88 RBI. He paced Syracuse in RBI and was chosen as the team’s MVP. He also led the Blue Jays organization with 238 total bases, was third in the International League in RBI and had the most assists among all first basemen.

Gary Burnham (right) and teammate, Kevin Cash, Syracuse SkyChiefs, 2002.

In 2003, Gary served as Toronto’s Triple-A backup plan for their star first baseman, Carlos Delgado. Gary carved out a .269 batting average for Syracuse with 9 home runs in an off-year. He then split the 2004 season between the St. Louis Cardinals’ Memphis Redbirds affiliate (.292 in 35 games) and the Cincinnati Reds’ Louisville Bats club (.261 in 69 games). In 2005, the 30-year-old southpaw played for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish. He led his team in runs (75), doubles (32), home runs (18) and RBI (84). Gary finished second in the Atlantic League with a .320 batting average. He was saluted with All-Star honors and awarded team MVP of the Bluefish.

Gary Burnham, First Baseman, Syracuse SkyChiefs, 2003.

Gary started the following season with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. He began the year batting .319 over 19 games and played well. The Philadelphia Phillies took notice and signed Gary to another minor league contract on May 23, 2006. He went on to clobber a .341 batting average in 80 games for the Double-A Reading Phillies with 16 homers and 60 RBI. He was recognized as a Topps National Player of the Month for hitting 10 dingers in August. Despite missing about a month of the season, Gary achieved the Triple Crown in the Phillies farm system and set the Reading Phillies career home run record (56).

Gary Burnham, Reading Phillies, 2006.
Paul Galloway & Gary Burnham at Clemson Alumni Game, 2006.

At the end of 2006, the Phillies called him up to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. Gary had a torrid hot stretch hitting .391 average, 9 runs and 8 RBI in 10 games. It was clear that he was a major league caliber player, but the Phillies had 2006 MVP Ryan Howard at first base. Gary remained in Triple-A in 2007, starting at designated hitter, first base and outfield for the Ottawa Lynx of the International League. After batting .292 with 12 home runs, 35 doubles, 84 RBI and a league-best on base percentage, Ottawa dubbed him team MVP.

After concluding his minor league career in the United States, Gary welcomed new opportunities from abroad. In the off-season, he made appearances in the Mexican Pacific Winter League and the Dominican Winter League. Then in 2008, Gary signed a contract with the La New Bears of Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League. Over a total of 70 games for the Bears, he batted .323 with 10 home runs and 56 RBI. At 33 years old, he set a league record among foreign-born players by hitting in 23 consecutive games.

Gary parlayed his Taiwan season’ into a role in Japan. He joined the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball, managed by Bobby Valentine. In a game against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Gary hit a game-winning homer off of future New York Yankees pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka. Gary was also selected to team Italy’s preliminary roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but he did not compete in the tournament. However in 2010, he inked his last professional deal with the Godo Knights of the Italian Baseball League, ranking top ten in most offensive categories.

Gary Burnham, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.
Gary with his wife, Rachel Burnham in 2009.
Gary Burnham, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.
Gary Burnham, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.
Gary Burnham, Chiba Lotte Marines, 2009.

Gary retired from professional baseball at 35 years old. In total, he amassed 155 home runs, 856 RBI, a .293 career batting average and a .375 on base percentage. He was also an underrated defender; in 662 minor league games, he maintained a .992 fielding percentage with only 51 errors. Gary was named an all-star at every minor league level and received three team MVP awards. In 2010, the Reading Phillies named him to the All-Decade team. Then in 2016, the Reading Phillies inducted Gary Burnham into the Reading Phillies Hall of Fame in the same class as Nick Punto, Eric Valent, Jason Michaels and Pat Burrell.

Gary Burnham accepting his induction into Reading Phillies Hall of Fame, 2016.
L to R: Nick Punto, Eric Valent, Gary Burnham, Jason Michaels and Pat Burrell – Reading Phillies Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

During his professional career, Gary spent several off-seasons as a substitute teacher and a baseball instructor in the Greater Hartford area. In 2018, he helped to establish the South Windsor Phillies franchise in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. Nowadays, he gives private and group lessons as owner of Gary Burnham Baseball Instruction in South Windsor. He works in surgical device sales as National Accounts Manager of Vanguard Medical while operating a real estate investment business, GRB Properties LLC. Gary lives in South Windsor with his wife Rachel and their three children.

Gary Burnham reunites with Bobby Valentine at a World Series Club event, West Hartford, Connecticut, 2017.

Gary Burnham sets Reading Phillies career home run record, 2006.

Brett Burnham

Born January 1, 1981, Brett Burnham was a tough kid and natural athlete who began his teenage years by overcoming cancer. At the age of 13, Brett made his first appearance on the national stage with the Connecticut Mariners at the 1994 AAU National Tournament in West Des Moines, Iowa. Brett was named Most Valuable Player after hitting a grand slam and pitching four hitless innings in relief to win the championship. His head coach was longtime AAU contributor, Bob Hetu. The following year, Brett smashed a three-run homer and was the driving force to another AAU national title run in Cocoa, Florida.

Brett Burnham attended South Windsor High School where, like his brother Gary, he started all four years on the baseball and football teams. Brett was named to the Class-LL All-State team as a sophomore, compiling a .474 batting average with 6 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Brett was also key to the South Windsor American Legion baseball team (1995-1998) and was twice named to the Connecticut All-Star team. In July of 1997, Brett was scouted by the Boston Red Sox at Yale Field to compete in the Area Code Baseball Games in San Diego, California.

In the summer of 1998, Brett Burnham joined the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. He was a rookie on Newman Lincoln-Mercury, the franchise formerly known as Moriarty Brothers. As a 17 year old, Brett improved his game in the GHTBL while leading the South Windsor American Legion team to their second straight Zone 8 title. In 1999, he batted a whopping .649 average during his senior year at South Windsor High School. He earned All-Region honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association for his high school season. After winning GHTBL’s 1999 Season Title with Newman Lincoln-Mercury, Brett traveled south to attend Auburn University.

As a freshman, Brett guarded third base for the Tigers, slashed .268, scored 28 runs and drove in 33 RBI with 9 doubles and 2 home runs. In early 2000, Brett was selected by the newly established Manchester Silkworms of the New England Collegiate Baseball League that summer. The following year at Auburn, he batted .275, scored 31 runs, stole 28 bases with 11 doubles and 22 RBI. Brett wanted a bigger role and an opportunity to get drafted going into his Junior season. Wanting greater responsibility and to be closer to home, Brett transferred to University of Connecticut in the fall of 2001.

Brett Burnham, Infielder, Auburn University, 2001.

Under the tutelage of Head Coach Andy Baylock, Brett played shortstop for the Connecticut Huskies. In 2002, he raked .335 with 14 doubles, 6 home runs, 49 RBI and led NCAA Division-I with 32 hit by pitches. For his terrific season, Brett was honored with a 2nd Team All-Big East Conference nod. He played in the GHTBL that summer as shortstop for Mr. G’s franchise – named for Brett’s grandfather, Ralph Giansanti Sr. The club was sponsored by his uncle, Ralph Giansanti Jr. and former big leaguer, Ricky Bottalico. Brett helped Mr. G’s win the 2002 GHTBL Season Title, while collecting the 2002 Herb Sheintop Player of the Year Award.

After serving as captain during 2003 season at UConn, Brett as was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 21st round of the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft. He went west for rookie ball in the Pioneer League. As a second baseman on the Idaho Falls Padres, Brett performed well over 50 games, leading the team in on base percentage and doubles while batting for a .290 average. At 23 years old, he was promoted to Single-A with the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League. During that 2004 season Unfortunately, Brett broke his hand in a Spring Training game. He returned six weeks later and in the first game back, broke his hand again. Brett was released and retired from professional baseball in 2004.

Brett Burnham, Infielder, Eugene Emeralds, 2004.
Eugene Emeralds logo, 2004.

Eventually, Brett rejoined the GTHBL aboard Mr. G’s franchise once again. He led the league in stolen bases during the summer of 2005. When Mr. G’s disbanded, he reunited with his former manager, Gene Johnson, who headed the Foss Insurance team (previously called Newman Lincoln-Mercury). By the end of his twilight career, Brett was a 3-time batting champion with three home run titles, seven RBI titles, four stolen base titles and a Triple Crown season in 2010. Brett was a 4-time MVP, a 5-time Player of the Year and a GHTBL All-Star nearly every year. His final baseball season was in 2011, when Brett received a special honor as GHTBL Player of the Decade.

In 2015, Brett and his wife, Cristi Burnham were both inducted into the South Windsor High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Together they founded Happy’s Nutrition in South Windsor, offering shakes, smoothies and teas using Herbalife products. Brett has pivoted from corporate America to full-time Herbalife entrepreneur with Cristi, and they have reached the top one percentile of sales. Brett and Cristi were high school sweethearts where it all began, in South Windsor. They now have four children and reside in Ellington, Connecticut.

Brett and and his wife, Cristi Burnham, Happy’s Nutrition, South Windsor, Connecticut, 2018.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
  2. BR Bullpen – https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Gary_Burnham
  3. BR Bullpen – https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Brett_Burnham

Hartford Twilight Manager Spotlight: Tom Abbruzzese

Since 1976, Tom Abbruzzese has managed the same Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League franchise. Abbruzzese initially managed Society for Savings Bank with his father, Mike Abbruzzese. They fielded strong teams rostered by the likes of Mark Riemer, David Gale and Kevin Gieras. Society for Savings eventually became Bank of Boston and then People’s Bank in the summer of 2000. The franchise has amassed fifteen Regular Season and Playoff Championships. The “Bankers” have recruited and advanced numerous professional players to and from the GHTBL year after year. With Abbruzzese at the helm, People’s remains a perennial contender.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 21, 1981.
2009 People’s Bank

Born on August 11, 1943, in Hartford, Connecticut. Abbruzzese is the longest serving GHTBL manager in history. He is a graduate of Wethersfield High School and Fairfield University (1965). Then he worked for the Hartford Parks Department for a brief period. In 1971, Abbruzzese organized and coached a team in the Junior and Senior Division of the Jaycee Courant League who played home games at Hartford’s Colt Park. His team was sponsored by team sponsored by Society for Savings, a regional bank with staying power in Hartford. Abbruzzese then entered Society for Savings into the GHTBL during the summer of 1976.

Tom Abbruzzese holds mound meeting, 2019.
Manager Tom Abbruzzese at Dunkin Donuts Park, Hartford, Connecticut, 2019.

Abbruzzese earned a Doctorate of Education from the University of Connecticut (1996). His current profession is as Director of Adult Education, in Newington, Connecticut.  Previously he was a Vice Principal of Ledyard High School Ledyard High School (1974-1995) and before that, Recreation Leader for the City of Hartford (1963-1976), According to Abbruzzese, he’s, “thankful not only for the outstanding players I have had the privilege of coaching and continue to have, but most importantly for their exceptional character as well. These two qualities are the ingredients for success.” Abbruzzese resides in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

Manager Tom Abbruzzese, People’s United Bank, 2020
Tom Abbruzzese (right) accepts GTHBL service award, 2020.
Manager Tom Abbruzzese at Dunkin Donuts Park, Hartford, Connecticut, 2021.

2021 GHTBL Award Winners

The following 2021 Regular Season and Playoff Tournament awards were either achieved and/or voted on by league managers:

Frank McCoy Award, Most Valuable Player – Jack Rich, OF, Record-Journal Expos

Mike Liappes Award, Most Valuable Pitcher – Matt Curtis, P, Vernon Orioles

Hal Lewis Award, Most Versatile Player – Evan Chamberlain, P/3B, Rainbow Graphics &

AJ Hendrickson, P/C, Record-Journal Expos

Gene Johnson Award, Regular Season Batting Champion – Jack Rich, OF, Record-Journal Expos

James Gallagher Award, Rookie of the Year – Matt Curtis, P, Vernon Orioles

Jack Repass Award, Golden Glove – Corey Plasky, IF, East Hartford Jets

Bill Chapulis Award, Home Run Title – Mike Munson, OF, Malloves Jewelers

Mark and Jane Foss Award, RBI Leader – Jack Rich, OF, Record-Journal Expos

Ralph Giansanti Sr. Award, Stolen Base Title – Christian Boudreau, IF, Hartford Colts

Rev. Thomas Campion Award, Outstanding Playoff Hitter – Chris Bogan, 1B, East Hartford Jets

Mike Abbruzzese Award, Outstanding Playoff Pitcher – Bryan Albee, P, East Hartford Jets

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

Jack Rose Trophy, Playoff Champion – Taylor Kosakowski, Manager, East Hartford Jets

Hartford All-Timer, Basilio Ortiz, ECSU Warrior Turned Professional

Basilio “Bo” Ortiz was a sensational outfielder who had power, speed, arm strength and defensive ability. He grew up on Charter Oak Terrace in Hartford, Connecticut, and attended Bulkeley High School. In his junior year, Ortiz led the Maroons in batting (.467), RBI (17), home runs (3) and stolen bases (8). He had similar numbers in his senior year as captain of the team and became the first Bulkeley baseball player to achieve All-State honors. By the end high school, his coach, Pete Kokinis called Ortiz, “One of the best to ever wear a Bulkeley baseball uniform.”

Basilio Oritz, Bulkeley High School, 1988.
Ortiz steals second, 1988.
Class LL All-State Team, 1988.

Ortiz was drafted out of high school by the San Francisco Giants in the 40th round of the 1988 MLB June Amateur Draft. Instead of signing, he accepted a scholarship to Eastern Connecticut State University. After his freshman year at ECSU, Ortiz made waves in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for the Newington Capitols. Ortiz batted .333 during the 1998 twilight league season and earned the Rookie of the Year award.

Hartford Courant features Ortiz, March 28, 1990.

As a sophomore leadoff hitter in 1990, Ortiz batted a team-high .370 in postseason play. He helped the Warriors win seven straight tournament games for the 1990 NCAA Division-III national title. That year, he batted .434 with 76 hits, 68 runs, 11 home runs, 41 RBI and 134 total bases en route to 1st team Division-III All-America laurels. In the summer, Ortiz suited up for the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Basilio Ortiz, Eastern Connecticut State University, 1991.
Basilio Ortiz, Eastern Connecticut State University, 1991.

Then, as a junior at ECSU, the 5’11”, 170-pound Ortiz batted .448 with 78 hits, 12 home runs, 62 RBI, 62 runs and 138 total bases. Again he was awarded the NCAA Division-III National Player of the Year. Ortiz was also recognized as one of five New England Division-III Athletes of the Year. At the conclusion of his college career, head coach Bill Holowaty praised Ortiz as, “the best player we’ve ever had.”

Basilio Ortiz accepts New England College Athletic Conference award, 1991.

Ortiz was selected in the 30th round of the 1991 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. In the summer of 1991, Ortiz had a successful start in the pros. In 56 plate appearances, he hit .307 in rookie ball for the Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League. He was quickly promoted to Single-A with the Kane County Cougars in the Midwest League. Ortiz spent the next two years between Single-A on the Frederick Keys and Double-A on Bowie Baysox.

Basilio Ortiz, Bluefield Orioles, 1991.
Basilio Ortiz, Frederick Keys, 1992.
Basilio Ortiz, Frederick Keys, 1993.

The best season of “Bo” Ortiz’s professional career came in 1994 for Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League. He compiled a career high .309 batting average with 10 home runs, 56 RBI and an .860 OPS. Towards the end of the season, Ortiz was traded to the California Angels organization and reported to central Texas, to play for the Midland Angels. In 1996, he was named to the Texas League All-Star team. After an injury-riddled season in 1997 with the Harrisburg Senators of the Montreal Expos organization, Ortiz played his last 60 games as a professional.

Basilio Ortiz, Midland Angels, 1995.
Basilio Ortiz, Midland Angels, 1996.

In 2007, Basilio Ortiz was inducted into the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletics Hall of Fame. Ortiz is regarded as the best outfielder, and among the best position players in program history. Ortiz ranks thirteenth all-time at ECSU with 204 career hits in three years, second all-time in career batting average (.415), first in slugging percentage (.729), fifth in home runs (29) and runs (180), sixth in doubles (43), tied for sixth in stolen bases (63), and seventh in total bases (358).


Sources
1. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
2. Baseball-Reference.com

The Hartford Twilight League Founder Who Brought Baseball To Bermuda

When Hartford was known as the Queen City of New England, the kingpin of its sports scene was Harry N. Anderson. He was a promoter of athletics and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. Anderson established dozens of baseball leagues including the Hartford Twilight League in 1929. Most notably, he arranged the first amateur game played on foreign soil, a feat that landed his Hartford-based team in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Harry N. Anderson, 1906.

Born on February 5, 1885, Harry Anderson was the son of Danish immigrants. His father, Jeef H. “Dave” Anderson was an engineer at Underwood Typewriter. His mother, Mary C. Smedgaard died at 27, before young Harry’s first birthday. He came of age in the working class neighborhood of Frog Hollow where baseball was immensely popular. In 1899, Anderson earned his high school degree from the Brown School on Market Street in Hartford.

Harry N. Anderson (standing, right – mislabeled in caption) and the Christ Church Crusaders, Hartford, 1906.

Anderson organized his first baseball league, Hartford’s Church League, in the summer of 1904. Teams came from Church of the Good Shepherd, Trinity Church, St. John’s Episcopal and Christ Church. He was Church League president and player-manager of the Christ Church Crusaders. The league hosted annual awards banquet at Caldwell Hart Colt Memorial Parish House, frequently attended by Mayor William F. Henney and Gustave Fischer, organizer of the Factory League. Fischer owned a department store in Hartford, where Anderson gained employment selling sporting goods.

Caldwell Hart Colt Memorial Parish House, 1907
Gustave Fischer, Hartford businessman and sports promoter, 1907.

While in charge of the Church League, Anderson began a new entity called the Fraternal Baseball League in 1907. The loop had eight entries: YMCA, Masons, Elks, Moose, Red Men, Royal Arcanum, Knights of Columbus, Oddfellows and Pythias. Anderson was league president and part-time umpire. Games were played at the baseball field at Trinity College and on the newly established skin diamonds at Colt Park. When summer ended, he coordinated the Fraternal Bowling League made up of the same benevolent organizations.

Baseball field at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, 1907.

Harry Anderson was a man of many talents, personal connections and fraternal organizations. He obtained memberships with the Freemasons, the International Order of Odd Fellows and the Modern Woodman. Anderson was a charter member of Hartford’s Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and president of the Laymen’s Association at Christ Church. He often directed and starred in musical performances in Hartford and East Hartford. Anderson gave singing performances and could play the cornet. In 1909, he was nominated for City Council of Hartford’s Ninth Ward by Republican electors, but he declined the nomination.

Harry N. Anderson, 1908.

Instead, Anderson dutifully joined the City Guard and the Governor’s Foot Guard. At a meeting at the State Armory In 1909, he formed Hartford’s Military Baseball League. Delegates from the First Infantry, Second Division, Naval Militia and Connecticut National Guard were in attendance. Lieutenant R. J. Goodman was elected league president and Romie B. Kuehns was made secretary. The Military Baseball League played every Saturday at Colt Park. Company H won the pennant and later accepted a championship trophy in a ceremony at the State Armory.

R. J. Goodman, President, Military Baseball League, 1909.
Romie B. Kuehns, Secretary, Military Baseball League, 1909.

Anderson was a constant in Hartford’s Republican Party for more than forty years. In 1910, he was master of ceremonies for Charles A. Goodwin’s gubernatorial campaign. However, Anderson spent more time pursuing athletics over politics. That same year, a local pitcher named Mike Sherman wrote an open letter in the Hartford Courant demanding a league to determine a city champion amongst the amateurs. Subsequently, the City Amateur Baseball League took shape. John Gunshanan, a former minor leaguer, was appointed president. Anderson was vice president. Hartford’s top players competed for the first City Amateur League title in 1911.

Charles A. Goodwin, 1910.
John Gunshanan, 1910.

On July 4, 1911, thousands of Hartford residents celebrated Independence Day by flocking to Colt Park and Pope Park for City Amateur League games. At season’s end, Anderson planned a grand banquet at Hotel Vendome, featuring dignitaries like Mayor Edward L. Smith. The Hartford mayor reported that 1,431 permits were issued for baseball games in the city parks and that 100,000 people attended the games. Senators Edward W. Hooker presented Manager O’Connor of the Laurels with the City Amateur League trophy. Congressman Tom Reilly, owner of the Hartford Senators, James H. Clarkin and major leaguer “Big Ed” Walsh were expected but were unable to attend.

Hotel Vendome, Hartford, Connecticut, (c.) 1910.

Early in 1912, Anderson was busy as president of the Hartford Amateur Basketball League and the Fraternal Bowling League. Then, to the surprise of many, he chartered a trip for Bermuda to promote tourism and amateur baseball. He first traveled alone via the Steam Ship Oceana from New York City to Bermuda’s capital of Hamilton. When he arrived, Anderson sent postcards to his sponsors: Gustave Fischer and a travel agent named H. R. Gridley. Anderson hatched plans for a series between Bermudans and an all-star team from Hartford.

S. S. Oceana, New York-Bermuda Service, 1912.

When a reporter learned of the Bermuda excursion, he quipped that Anderson had probably organized an island police force because, “He regards as lost each week that he does not organize something.” Anderson came back to Hartford and described Bermuda as having a fine venue for baseball. According to his boss Gustave Fischer, Anderson was the most popular man in the city because his telephone was inundated by players seeking a trip to Bermuda. Anderson and manager Luke J. Crowe recruited Hartford’s best available amateurs to what was called the All-City League team. In the wintry weeks before their departure, the players conditioned and stretched their limbs at the State Armory.

Bermuda Invaders (Hartford All Stars) photographed in 1912.

On a snowy morning, Anderson and a group of twelve young men left Hartford’s Union Station en route for New York. Workers at Royal Typewriter waved and shouted goodbye from their factory windows. The team boarded the S. S. Oceana for a 48-hour voyage to Bermuda on March 8, 1912. To entertain players and passengers, Anderson orchestrated musical performances on the ship. When they reached the island, the Hartford men checked into the Imperial Hotel and strolled to the Hamilton Grounds—a cricket pitch that would double as a baseball field.

Cricket at the Hamilton Grounds, Bermuda, 1912.

Hartford’s All City League team opposed a club comprised of native Bermudans, hotel staff and ex-professionals of the International League. The initial matchup of the series became the first baseball game played by American amateurs outside of the United States. Hartford lost four of seven games to the Bermudans, but the team returned home as celebrities. Anderson’s all-star team became known as the “Bermuda Invaders” and their expedition encouraged the New York Yankees to host spring training there the following year.

Bermuda Invaders, 1912.

A well-traveled Harry Anderson reorganized the City Amateur League in 1912. At a meeting at the Workingmen’s Club Rooms on Affleck Street, the loop was split into two divisions; senior and junior. Eight clubs vied for the title including the Imperials who had several players from the Bermuda Invaders. Mayor Louis R. Cheney was appointed president and Anderson was vice president. Anderson was made marshal of the league’s Opening Day parade wherein fans cheered on managers, players and umpires who rode in automobiles to the field at Trinity College.

Harry N. Anderson, Vice President, City Amateur League, 1912.
Mayor Louis R. Cheney, President, City Amateur League, 1912.

Before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, Mayor Cheney bestowed upon Anderson a set of resolutions commending his successful journey to Bermuda. By the end of the City Amateur League season, the Imperials seized first place in the Senior division, while the Campfields won the Junior division. A league-wide banquet at Harry Bond’s Cafe featured music by Bond’s Orchestra, introductory remarks by Anderson and a toast from State Senator Edward W. Hooker. The following year, Anderson installed Senator Hooker as honorary league president.

Harry Bond’s Cafe, Hartford, Connecticut, 1912.
State Senator Edward W. Hooker, 1913.

In 1913, Anderson and the Bermuda Invaders were featured in Spalding’s Official Metropolitan Base Ball Book. By then, Anderson was a beloved figure in Hartford and Connecticut’s most accomplished sports promoter. Therefore, when the Connecticut State League was organized, he was unanimously voted in as president. Unlike previous professional iterations of the Connecticut State League, this version was considered a semi-professional league. Seven contending clubs hailed from Hartford, New Britain, Manchester, Wallingford, Windsor Locks and Winsted. Wallingford captured the league’s inaugural pennant.

Harry N. Anderson in Spalding’s Official Metropolitan Base Ball Book, 1913.
Spalding’s Official Metropolitan Base Ball Book, 1913.
Spalding’s Official Metropolitan Base Ball Book, 1913.

Anderson assembled another extravagant banquet for the Hartford’s amateur baseball community on October 30, 1913. Players and managers attended a night to remember at Bond’s Cafe where each table was decorated by electric light. Distinguished guests like former governor, Morgan G. Bulkeley and curveball pioneer, Candy Cummings gave accounts of their baseball careers. Mayor Louis R. Cheney welcomed special guest Danny Murphy, captain catcher of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. After dinner, speakers noted Hartford’s great vigor for the national game and championship clubs were presented with loving cups (trophies).

Morgan G. Bulkeley, 1913.
Candy Cummings, 1913.
Danny Murphy, 1913.

The City Amateur League and the Connecticut State League were operated simultaneously by Harry Anderson in 1914, though his annual banquet stole headlines. At Hotel Garde, the United Baseball Leagues of Hartford celebrated their seasons. Cups were presented to the pennant winners of the Fraternal League, Insurance League, Public Schools, City Amateur and Junior City leagues. The Franklin club, led by Manager Crowe and other members of the Bermuda Invaders won the City Amateur League title. The banquet was described at length in the Hartford Courant which adulated Anderson for his energy, “…in promoting the amateur leagues of the city, Chairman Anderson has a warm spot in the hearts of all the followers of the game in Hartford.”

Franklin Baseball Club, City Amateur League Champions, 1914.

In 1915, the Connecticut State League and President Anderson faced a crisis. First place Meriden and second place Torrington were dissatisfied with road game attendance. To draw more ticket sales, the two clubs withdrew from the league and planned a series of games with Winsted. Despite his efforts, Anderson was unable to hold the league together and the State League disbanded on August 29, 1915. Remaining team managers voted for Winsted as State League champions. A few weeks later, Anderson presented Winsted with the Gustave Fischer trophy at Gilbert Field.

Baseball at Colt Park, Hartford, 1913.
Harry N. Anderson, 1915

During baseball’s offseason, Anderson continued to organize and compete in the Fraternal Bowling League. He also arranged a boxing match for Hartford’s welterweight title. Anderson had become synonymous with Hartford sporting events, and his popularity reached new heights when Courant Cigars used his name in advertisements. The following year, he would be re-elected president of the Connecticut State League while remaining vice president of the City Amateur League.

Harry Anderson in Courant Cigar advertisement, 1915.
City Amateur League trophy, 1915.

In April of 1916, Anderson and members of the Bermuda Invaders celebrated the fifth anniversary of their expedition. The group officially formed the Original Bermuda Invaders Last Man’s Brotherhood to commemorate the feat. An article in the Hartford Courant stated: “The organization is probably the most unique in the annals of amateur sports. The sporting event was one of the greatest attempted by amateurs in the promotion of the great national game.” At that time, a trip to Bermuda was still considered a rarity.

Babe Clark, Hartford, 1916.
Rex Islieb, Hartford, 1916.
Roster of the Bermuda Invaders, 1916.

Harry Anderson was a voracious supporter of fraternal organizations and in summer of 1916, he created the Masonic Baseball League. The circuit was composed of Masonic lodges throughout Connecticut. As for his duties in Hartford, he was chairman of Hartford’s new Fourth of July Baseball Committee. His legwork led to well-attended benefit games in Colt Park aiding American troops in the Mexican Border War. The round robin series culminated with the Hartford Tigers beating Pratt & Whitney Company for the cup.

Yates, Hartford Tigers, City Amateur League, 1916.
Players in Hartford’s Industrial League, 1916.

While manufacturing boomed in Hartford due to World War I, the city’s Industrial Baseball League became immensely popular. As the loop’s part-time promoter, Anderson penned an article for Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide of 1917 featuring four pages on the Industrial League amateurs. After the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, Anderson hosted benefit games for Clark Griffith’s Bat and Ball Fund. The national campaign gifted baseball equipment to soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in Europe.

Inside cover of Spalding’s Base Ball Guide, 1917.

At the amateur banquet of 1917, Anderson, for his conscientious work in the success of Hartford baseball, was gifted a box seat ticket to each World Series game held in New York. As the Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Giants at Brush Stadium, Anderson met with Clark Griffith to donate Hartford’s $30 check to the Bat and Ball Fund. Griffith later sent a letter addressed to the “Amateur Baseball Fraternity” of Hartford, and expressed his thanks writing, “I assure you it is appreciated and will be put to good use.”

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1917.
Clark Griffith, Manager, Washington Senators, 1917.

That winter, Anderson became president of the Industrial Bowling League, vice president of the Church Bowling League and captain of the Freemasons team in the Fraternal Bowling League. Sports of all kinds were interrupted in 1918, and Anderson prepared to support the allied war effort. He was recruited by Christopher Scaife of the YMCA to be a recreation supervisor in England and France. Anderson was to serve thousands of American troops in an auxiliary capacity by staging athletic competitions and live entertainment. Even though an armistice was reached on November 11, 1918, many Americans participated in military activities in Europe until 1923.

Officers of the Church Bowling League of Hartford, 1918.

Before active duty with the YMCA, Anderson hosted another Fourth of July celebration at Colt Park starring a team of Navy sailors from Hartford. Then, Anderson completed training courses in Springfield, Massachusetts, and French classes at Columbia University. He shipped out to Europe in December of 1918, sending greetings from Winchester, England, upon his arrival. In Winchester, he was stationed at Morn Hill Troop Transit Camp, a 50,000-man base near the port of Southhampton. Here, Anderson facilitated athletic contests, comedic routines and musical performances to boost morale of deploying troops and those returning from the Western Front.

Navy Sailors from Hartford with Harry N. Anderson, 1918.
Morn Hill Troop Transit Camp, Winchester, England, 1918.
Morn Hill Troop Transit Camp, Winchester, England, 1918.

On New Years Day, 1919, Anderson was in Paris, France, to meet friends from home and unintentionally began a long-lasting tradition. He reserved a lavish dinner at Hotel Regina for twelve civilians from Hartford serving as attachés to the AEF. Among the guests was Daniel D. Bidwell, a war correspondent who held the record for circumventing the globe in less than 47 days. The group adopted the name “Hartford Exiles” because of their auxiliary status. The Exiles pledged to hold annual New Years reunions back home, where the group became a prominent fraternal order into which qualified members were initiated each year.

Hotel Regina, Paris, France, 1919.

While in France, Anderson spent most of his time stationed in the province of Brittany at the coastal town of Dinard. It was a place of rest and relaxation for weary soldiers and sailors. Anderson arrived in Dinard during February of 1919, and he quickly became known for his continuous program of baseball games on the beach, boxing bouts, stunt nights, concerts and comedy routines promoted on the bulletin of the Grand Casino. Anderson mailed a game-used baseball back to Hartford from a contest won by the 26th Infantry “Yankee Division.” In his letter, Anderson wrote that the ball would be “ammunition” for Hartford’s part in the United States Victory Loan campaign.

The beach at Grand Casino, Dinard, France, 1919.

Anderson received praise and letters of appreciation for his exemplary service as recreation supervisor in France. When he put together a final track meet between American and French soldiers, the French Commander of Dinard, Colonel Garson presented Anderson with a gold medallion. Before leaving Dinard for the port city of Brest, the Mayor of Dinard awarded Anderson with a citation for “promoting Franco-American relations.” Towards the end of his duties in France, Anderson represented the State of Connecticut while visiting several military cemeteries near the front lines of the war.

The 26th Infantry Division baseball team, Dinard, France, 1919.

One of Anderson’s greatest accomplishments came at the Inter-Allied Games. The multi-sport event commenced on June 22, 1919, at the newly constructed Pershing Stadium on the outskirts of Paris, France. Anderson collaborated with YMCA, AEF and French officials to arrange and promote the games. Competitions included track and field, swimming, soccer, baseball, wrestling, hand-grenade throwing and others. The games were open solely to men who served in the war. Around 1,500 athletes participated from 18 different countries. Following the games, Pershing Stadium, a 25,000-seat facility was gifted to the people of France by the United States.

Postcard promoting the Inter-Allied Games, 1919.
An Inter-Allied Games ticket, Pershing Stadium, Paris, France, 1919.
About Inter-Allied Games, Pershing Stadium, Paris, France, 1919.
Pershing Stadium, Joinville-Le-Pont, Paris, France, 1919.

Anderson came home to Hartford in August of 1919. When he resumed civilian life, he gave talks to Hartford audiences about his experiences in Europe. Next, he was invited to Washington D.C. by Congressman Augustine Lonergan where Anderson advocated for and witnessed the passage of a bill incorporating the American Legion. Then, he was offered a position in Poland by the YMCA, but Anderson had other plans. An affection for Hartford and a fervor for sports promotion led him to establish the Anderson Sporting Goods Company at 721 Main Street—a business that would last until the 1940’s.

Congressman Augustine Lonergan, Connecticut, 1919.
Harry N. Anderson returns to Hartford after the war, 1919.

On New Years Day of 1920, the Hartford Exiles commemorated their Paris dinner with the same four-course meal at Hotel Garde on Asylum Street. Anderson was affectionately appointed “Commandant” of the Exiles and Governor of Connecticut Everett J. Lake was initiated as an honorary member. Around that time, Anderson also served as business manager of the Christ Church newsletter, the “Evangelist” and was vice president of the Inter-church Basketball League. He then introduced the Hartford County Baseball League in the springtime. The new loop fielded teams from Hartford, Bloomfield, Glastonbury, Wethersfield, Windsor and Simsbury, who won the inaugural title.

Hartford Exiles at Hotel Garde, Hartford, Connecticut – L to R: Fred B. Innes, James E. Rhodes, Harry N. Anderson, Michael J. Morkan, William H. Vennart and Daniel D. Bidwell, 1920.
Simsbury, Hartford County Baseball League champions, 1920.

At the end of the summer of 1920, Anderson plotted a best-of-three charity baseball series at Trinity College. He persuaded the Hartford Police Department and the Hartford Fire Department to matchup against each other. The municipal bodies played to benefit Camp Courant, Times Farm and the Home for Crippled Children in Newington, Connecticut. Sergeant John M. Henry, a former outfielder for John McGraw’s New York Giants, was player-manager for the Hartford Police. Hartford Fire earned two wins to take the series. In the winter of 1920, Anderson also experimented with a short-lived roller polo league (similar to hockey) based in Hartford.

A cartoon depicting Anderson sparking a rivalry between Hartford Police and Hartford Fire, 1920.
Hartford Fire Department baseball club, 1920.

In 1921, Anderson opted for regional sports as head of the Hartford County Basketball League and the Hartford County Baseball League. He also became president of the Municipal Service Baseball League while assisting other amateur loops like the City Independent League and the Allied Insurance and Bankers League. In November, Anderson was invited back to Washington D.C. to represent Hartford at the burial of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Around the holidays, he attended a Christmas dinner at the State Armory dressed as Santa Claus, amusing over seven hundred military veterans.

Burial of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, 1921.
Harry N. Anderson (center, dressed as Santa Claus) at Christmas Dinner at Connecticut State Armory, 1921.

The following year, Anderson once again played a critical part in Hartford’s Independence Day celebrations. This time, he helped to organize a relay race dubbed the Courant Marathon. The footrace started at Duke of Cumberland Inn (John Robbins House) on Old Main Street in Rocky Hill where George Washington had stayed during the American Revolution. The finish line was set in front of Connecticut’s Old State House. Anderson and Mayor Richard J. Kinsella were judges of Hartford’s first large-scale footrace.

Mayor Richard J. Kinsella issues special permit for Hartford Courant Marathon, 1922.
Mayor Richard J. Kinsella and Harry N. Anderson present Hartford Courant Marathon trophies at the Old State House, 1922.

In 1923, Anderson served as general chairman of Hartford’s annual Bowling Carnival, an event he had begun two years prior. Hundreds of bowlers competed from morning to midnight at Casino Alley on Asylum Street. The carnival honored George Washington’s birthday and amassed $420 for Camp Courant, Times Farm and the Newington Home for Crippled Children. In May, Anderson appeared in city court only to lose a lawsuit against the Connecticut Boulevard Amusement Company over a complete set of baseball equipment worth $187. When summer arrived, he presided over the Insurance-Bankers League and sat on the committee of the next Courant Marathon.

Hartford Courant Marathon, 1923.

Harry Anderson’s Danish-born father, Jeef H. “Dave” Anderson passed away at 80 years old on August 1, 1923. Perhaps to remember his father, Anderson invited to Hartford a renowned gymnastics instructor from Denmark named Niels Bukh and his team of athletes. Once referred to as the “Walter Camp of Europe” Bukh was a Danish national hero for his advancements in physical education. Anderson oversaw Bukh’s performance at the State Armory featuring thirty gymnasts stretching and contorting in unison. He praised Bukh for, “…producing a remarkable type of athlete from the most unpromising material as was evidenced at the Antwerp Olympic Games.”

Niel Bukh’s Danish Gymnasts at State Armory, Hartford, Connecticut, 1923

Then, in recognition of Armistice Day, Anderson recited an original poem on the radio entitled “We’ve Come Back to You.” On New Year’s Day, 1924, he was toastmaster of the Hartford Exiles’ sixth reunion at Hotel Garde. After organizing another profitable Bowling Carnival, Anderson learned of his appointment to the United States Olympic Committee. He graciously accepted and planned to attend the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Anderson witnessed the United States achieve a medal count of 32, nearly twice that of the next country, Finland. While in France, Anderson revisited Dinard, where he received a royal welcome and was awarded the Legion of Honor; France’s highest distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.

Harry N. Anderson (right) and the Hartford Exiles, 1924.
Stade Olympique de Colombes, Paris, 1924.

When he returned home, Anderson reported that 45 nations competed with sportsmanship. He predicted international amity among nations would arise from the Olympics. In 1925, Anderson’s experience earned him a new role as Hartford County commissioner of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). He sent Hartford’s Dixie basketball team to a national tournament in Kansas City. However, Anderson was discovered to have broken AAU gifting rules and was fired. His ousting was a rare public embarrassment, but he quickly bounced back as President of the Farmington Valley Baseball League and the Farmington Valley Basketball League.

Anderson Sporting Goods Co advertisement, 1924.

In 1926, a former member of the Bermuda Invaders and associate editor of the Terre Haute Star, Frank A. Hollis offered Anderson a change of scenery as recreation director in Terre Haute, Indiana. However, Anderson stayed loyal to Hartford and dove into recreating the City Independent League. He leaned on league secretary and chief umpire, Walter Elliot to conduct administrative duties. Eight baseball clubs manned by Hartford’s top amateurs took to the diamonds in Colt Park. Mayor Norman Stevens tossed the ceremonial first pitch at Opening Day and by the end of the season, the New Departure Endees of Elmwood had won their second straight championship.

Hartford Exiles at Hotel Garde, Hartford, Connecticut, 1926.