The Bat and Ball - May 1, 1867


The Bat and Ball sold for 5 cents a copy on the streets of Hartford or delivered for 50 cents for 14 issues. The Bat and Ball was devoted exclusively to ''base ball'' happenings throughout the country (apart from a column on cricket) during the post-Civil War era when the sport, still in its infancy, was booming.

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Johnny Taylor: the Best Homegrown Hartford Pitcher of All-Time


John "Johnny" Arthur Taylor Jr.

Born: 2 / 4 / 1916 at Hartford, CT (US)

Died: 6 / 15 / 1987 at Hartford, CT (US)

 Johnny Taylor (left) after his no-hitter on September 19, 1937 at the Polo Grounds in New York for the Negro National League All Stars against Satchel Paige (right) and the Trujillo All Stars.

Johnny Taylor (left) after his no-hitter on September 19, 1937 at the Polo Grounds in New York for the Negro National League All Stars against Satchel Paige (right) and the Trujillo All Stars.

The year 1933 was one of the low points of the Great Depression. Even Babe Ruth was not immune to economic circumstances, as he took a pay cut of $23,000 from his previous year’s salary of $75,000. The Single-A Eastern League had folded in July of 1932 and with it the Hartford Senators. This was back when baseball was pretty much the only game in town. Fortunately, Bill Savitt, a jewelry store owner, gave the Insurance City some peace of mind. He leased Bulkeley Stadium, erstwhile home of the Senators, and had his semipro outfit, the Savitt Gems, take on all comers; barnstorming outfits like the Georgia Chain Gang, colored teams, other local nines, the Philadelphia Athletics. These were all Gem opponents in 1933. Savitt’s team included some players with Eastern League experience. Many ballplayers in the 1930s found it more lucrative to get a non-baseball job and play for semipro teams. But Savitt’s best player may have been a pitcher who was still in high school on the Gems’ opening day.  Johnny Taylor went on to have success in the Negro Leagues and Latin America. Had he been born a decade later, he might have made it to the majors.

In 1933, Little Johnny Taylor hit the music charts with “Part Time Love.” There was an Irish Johnny Taylor in boxing. There was a Steel-Arm Johnny Taylor who pitched in the Negro Leagues, but he was a generation older. There was even a local racecar driver named Johnny Taylor. This story is about Schoolboy Johnny Taylor. John Arthur Taylor, Jr. was born in Hartford to John and Etta Taylor, on February 4, 1916. Johnny’s father was a lather in the building trades. Johnny grew up in the South End on Douglas Street. The South End was a predominantly white area at the time. The lawyer Edward Bennett Williams and the boxer Willie Pep, younger than Johnny by a few years, grew up in the same area.

When Johnny was a lad, Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg played for Hartford Senators. Johnny outfitted his sandlot team by shagging fouls and collecting the Senators’ cracked bats.  In 1932 he struck out 475 in 26 sandlot games. At Bulkeley High School, he concentrated on track until his senior year. Johnny was a high jumper and pole vaulter. 

But when he became a senior, Taylor pitched for a Bulkeley Maroons team that included future major leaguer Bob Repass and future high-school coach and scout Whitey Piurek. Babe Allen coached the Bulkeley baseball team, as he would from 1926 to 1963. For some reason, the Hartford papers sometimes referred to Taylor as Jackson Taylor. On April 28 he started Bulkeley’s opening game at Goodwin Park, against rival Hartford High School. (They had been rained out before that date.) Taylor was wild in the first inning but settled down; going six innings before being relieved. Three days later he struck out 17 and gave up just two hits against West Hartford High in another home game. A week later he struck out 19 Hartford Hilltoppers at Elizabeth Park to go to 3-0. This topped what was believed to be a Greater Hartford scholastic record. Just the previous spring, future major leaguer Pete “Lefty” Naktenis had struck out 18 in a game.

On May 20 Bulkeley crushed undefeated Weaver High, 18-1, at Bulkeley Park. Taylor hit a home run over the left-field fence that was the longest hit by a high schooler in that ballpark. But his best performance was yet to come. In the season finale against New Britain, Taylor struck out 25 and gave up just one hit as the Maroons won, 13-4. (Taylor was a bit wild. He walked nine.) When all was said and done, Taylor went 8-1 and hit .428 for Bulkeley. He was named to the Greater Hartford Scholastic team. 

 Hartford Courant excerpt

Hartford Courant excerpt

Albert Keane of the Hartford Courant reported that New York Yankee scout Gene McCann was interested in Taylor. (Other reports indicated that the Athletics were interested in him as well.) When McCann found out that Taylor was not white, he tried to get him to pretend he was Cuban. The light-skinned Taylor refused. This was not unheard of. Negro Leaguer and major leaguer Quincy Trouppe (Cleveland, 1952) claimed that around the same time, a scout advised him to hole up for a while south of the border, learn Spanish, and he could come back to the major leagues.

Buck O’Neil on Taylor: “Good ballplayer. Yes I hit against him. Didn’t get much on it.”

Soon after his final high-school game, it was announced that Taylor would pitch for the New England Colored Stars. But he had injured a finger on his right hand earlier that week, so he didn’t pitch, but he did play center field, for the team, the position he usually played when not on the mound. Taylor wound up spending most of the rest of the summer pitching for Home Circle of the Greater Hartford Twilight League, which played most of its games at Colt Park, which had 20 baseball diamonds.[1] On September 10, Taylor and Home Circle had a long anticipated matchup with Mayflower Sales and Pete Natkenis. Taylor and Home Circle lost, 6-2, in front of 5,000 fans at Colt Park.

He joined forces with Mayflower Sales to play in a New England baseball championship sponsored by the United States Amateur Baseball Association. But the highest level of competition he faced that year was with the Savitt Gems. He was with the team in October and was its biggest-drawing pitcher. On the 8th he faced Bridgeport Industrial League power McKesson-Robbins, and lost in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel.

In 1934 Taylor continued pitching on the Connecticut semipro circuit. He pitched for Check Bread of the Twilight League, as well as Yantic in the Norwich City League, as well as the Savitt Gems. On August 31, he had the first no-hitter of his career for the Northwest Athletic Club of Winsted. The Negro Leagues were watching. The lanky (168-pound) right-hander had an overhead curve and a fastball with a hop. On October 14, he faced the Negro League Philadelphia Giants and Will Jackman.

Despite the name, the Giants were actually a Boston-based nine. Jackman was an ancient submariner, probably around 40 at the time, who roamed New England sandlots and ball fields for years. Some, like the late Dick Thompson, thought he was the greatest unknown pitcher in baseball. In a seven-inning affair, Taylor no-hit Philadelphia. He and Jackman would meet again.

There were rumors that Taylor turned down offers from Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh Colored Giants. He signed with the New York Cubans, owned by Alejandro Pompez, after Taylor’s aunt had a chance meeting in NewYork City with Frank Forbes, the business manager of the Cubans. Pompez made his money in the numbers racket, but also dabbled in baseball. He spent $60,000 renovating the Dyckman Oval in Harlem, and the Cubans joined the Negro National League. The Oval sat 10,000 and was in effect Harlem’s community center. The great Martin Dihigo, 30 years old at the time, was the Cubans’ player-manager. (Dihigo was one of the most versatile players ever, playing well at all positions except catcher.) Others on the team were Alejandro Oms, a great Cuban outfielder in the twilight of his career; the pitcher Cocaina Garcia, so-named because he made hitters look like "cokeheads" when he faced them; and Lazaro Salazar, who was Taylor’s best friend on the team. 

 1935 New York Cubans

1935 New York Cubans

Taylor was signed by Frank Forbes for $175 a month and $2 a day meal money. He went 6-4 and struck out 55, second to teammate Luis Tiant, Sr. Taylor pitched as the Cubans played the Savitt Gems in Hartford in late August. He beat the Gems 7-0 and fanned 15. The Cubans returned in September and lost to the Gems. (On the way to Hartford, the team bus was in an accident on the Berlin Turnpike, near Hartford, but it didn’t keep the Giants from playing.) Winning 28 games and losing 24, the Cubans finished in third place in the Negro National League, but they won in the second half of the season to make the playoffs. Their opponent was a great Pittsburgh Crawfords team.

Taylor lost Game 3 of the playoffs. He was pitching in Game Six and the Cubans were winning, but Dihigo pulled Taylor and inserted himself as pitcher, and blew the game. Frank Forbes, the team business manager, was already in the clubhouse counting out the winners’ share. The Cubans lost again in Game 7 of the series.

After the season Taylor faced the Dizzy Dean All-Stars on October 13, at Yankee Stadium, and struck out 14 but lost, 3-0.

In 1936 Taylor received a $10-a-month raise. He went 5-2 for the Cubans and had 58 strikeouts, second to Satchel Paige, who had returned to the Pittsburgh Crawfords after spending 1935 in Bismarck, North Dakota. As in the previous summer, Taylor and the Cubans made a Hartford appearance and he thrilled the hometown fans by striking out 18 and shutting out the Gems. The Washington Elite Giants led the Negro National League in the first half of the ’35 season and Pittsburgh won the second half. 

Roy Campanella on Taylor: “Man, did he have good stuff.”

 Taylor's Negro League Contracts

Taylor's Negro League Contracts

In the fall of 1936 Taylor faced Babe Ruth at Dyckman Oval. During the season New York Giants coach Dolf Luque had encouraged Taylor to spend the winter on his home island of Cuba, and in November Taylor took a train to Miami and hopped on a boat to Havana. He played winter ball for Dihigo’s Marianao club at Tropical Stadium in Havana. (Tropical was a Cuban brand of beer and the brewery had the naming rights to the stadium.) Taylor went 1-6 that winter. It was no help that he was struck by a trolley car in Havana and suffered a ruptured disc. Still, the fans loved him, calling him Escolar Taylor, el Rey (King) de Hartford. Marianao faced the Santa Clara Leopards in a three-game postseason playoff and defeated the Leopards, two games to one.

In 1937 police forces in some US cities were cracking down on the policy rackets. This led to the decline and fall of the Crawfords, one of the best Negro League teams. Hall of Famers Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson, and Satchel Paige left the team. (The New York Cubans had dropped out of the league because of the heat that Pompez was feeling. He had fled the country in the spring of 1936 to avoid a tax evasion indictment.) Many players heard the siren call of the Dominican Republic. The small Caribbean country was baseball-mad and Dictator Rafael Trujillo was determined to have the best team money could buy. Because white major leaguers wouldn’t jump to the island, Trujillo sought out Cubans and Negro Leaguers.

But Taylor came home to Hartford in 1937 and played for the Savitt Gems. While still hobbled by his injuries, he faced Will Jackman and the Philadelphia Colored Giants in a 20-inning marathon. He struck out 22 and went on to beat Jackman twice more that year. He went 13-1 for the Gems before reinjuring his back.

On September 19, 1937, Taylor pitched a no-hitter for the Negro National League All Stars against Satchel Paige and the Trujillo All Stars. The great Biz Mackey was his catcher. According to Johnny, Mackey advised him to keep the ball down that day. Future New York Governor and presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, who had been chasing Pompez, was among the 20,000-plus at the Polo Grounds. Shifty Jim West of the Washington EliteGiants and Chester Williams of the Crawfords had spectacular plays in the field. Going into the eighth, there was no score and Taylor had held the Trujillo All Stars hitless. West homered in the ninth to put the Negro National Leaguers ahead, 2-0. In the bottom of the inning, Taylor retired George Scales, Spoony Palm, and Cool Papa Bell to preserve no-hitter. But he lost rematch a week later, 9-4.

Monte Irvin on Taylor: “A tall good-looking right-hander with the damnedest [overhand] curveball you ever did see.”

The no-hitter made Taylor a hot property. Several teams sought his services in 1938. Initially, he planned on returning to New York, but he wound up signing with the Pittsburgh Crawfords for $400 a month. Crawfords owner Gus Greenlee preferred to keep Taylor and dump Paige, whom he viewed as a prima donna always shuffling off to the Badlands or Hispaniola. Taylor finished his 1938 season with an 11-2 record and made the 1938 East-West Negro League All-Star Game. The Crawfords also used him in a utility role and he hit .368. While in Pittsburgh, Taylor spent time around John Henry Lewis, the light heavyweight champ and the jewel of Greenlee’s boxing stable.

 1938 Negro League All-Star Game

1938 Negro League All-Star Game

 Johnny Taylor, Santa Clara, 1938

Johnny Taylor,
Santa Clara, 1938

In 1939 an eight-team semipro league called the Connecticut State Baseball League was formed. During the Memorial Day weekend, Taylor pitched for the New Britain entry against New London. Because he was black, the New London team protested the use of Taylor in a game, and representatives of the league’s teams wound up voting 6-2 to ban Negro players. Taylor was in the news again, in absentia, when on September 16 the Hartford Courant reported that signatures on petitions to get the Communist Party on the ballot were fraudulently obtained by canvassers who told residents in some black neighborhoods that the petition was on behalf of Taylor’s attempt to play semipro ball. As all of this was happening, Taylor was far away south of the border.

In 1939, Mexico had begun luring Negro Leaguers including Cool Papa Bell and Lazaro Salazar, a friend of Taylor’s from the Dyckman Oval days. Salazar urged Taylor to join him in Mexico. Taylor played for $600 a month at Cordoba. He went 11-1 with a 1.19 ERA. Ballplayers were literally treated like royalty in Mexico. In a Mexico City bar Taylor met King Alfonso XIII of Spain, who had fled his country when a republic was declared. Taylor played in Mexico through 1942. In 1940 he was joined by nearly two dozen more black ballplayers, incluiding Josh Gibson, Willie Wells, and Sam Bankhead. Taylor went 3-1 that season. He also pitched some for the New York Cuban Stars, who were back in the Negro National League.

Taylor had a banner year in 1941, playing for Vera Cruz with Josh Gibson as a teammate. He won 14 games, lost 5, struck out 115, and hit .295. Vera Cruz was perhaps Mexico’s best team ever. Team owner Jorge Pasquel was a teetotaling liquor mogul who could pay more than any Negro League team. He bought Taylor a new suit every time he pitched a shutout. His closet got pretty full. Before that season started, Taylor told Bill Lee of the Hartford Courant that it was tough to pitch in Mexico City because of the altitude. He couldn’t get any hop on his fastball or any curve on his curve. He said games were played in the morning in Mexico. Bullfighting was the most popular sport in the country and when there was a conflict between the bullring and baseball, it was felt at the gate. 

In September 1941 the prodigal son made a visit to Hartford with his Mexican All-Stars. The team included Josh Gibson, Sam Bankhead, Ray Dandridge, and Willie Wells. They played the Saviott Gems, whose starter was hometown rival Pete Naktenis. Taylor and his All-Stars won in ten innings, 7-5, as Johnny fanned 15.

Taylor returned to Connecticut in 1942. He worked in a defense plant for United Aircraft during the week and pitched for the New York Cubans on weekends. (This happened in the white big leagues as well. For example, several Cleveland Indians players worked in war plants and played only in home games.) A back injury (probably the one from the trolley accident) got Taylor a draft deferment. During the war years, Taylor also played for the Savitt Gems, Fred Davey’s team in Waterbury, and the Highland Lake Athletic Club of Winsted. 

In 1945, with the Second World War almost over, Taylor returned to Mexico to play in the Mexican League. This time he had family. Taylor had married the former Estelle Singleton. She was a maternity nurse and the first black nurse at New Britain General Hospital. They had a young son when they flew south of the border. He played for Monterey in 1945. Then, in ’46, he played for Vera Cruz. But he hurt his arm after only a couple of weeks. This was the year that the Mexican League was trying to challenge the majors. White players like Danny Gardella, Sal Maglie, and Mickey Owen were lured south of the border. Commissioner Happy Chandler blacklisted them for five years. The Negro National League gave eight of its players, including Taylor and Ray Dandridge, five-year bans as well. The league must have reconsidered this stance because Dandridge went on to manage the Cubans in 1948. SABR researcher John Holway has written that Taylor faced Babe Ruth again in Mexico in 1944. But if this reunion happened, it more likely took place in 1946. A couple of Ruth’s biographers mention his travels in Mexico that year.

After a two-year layoff, Taylor, by now 33 years old, signed a contract in late May to pitch for the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League in 1949. Perhaps the first black member of the Chiefs, he went 6-7, mainly in relief. He was released by the club in November and hung up his spikes.

After baseball ended, Taylor worked for his father’s construction business. He was a lather for 30 years. He was also a consummate golfer. He did pitch in some Twilight League Old-Timer games along with former big-league hurlers like Pete Naktenis and Walter “Monk” Dubiel.

Taylor was a trailblazer for black golfers in Connecticut. He started as a youth at
the municipal course at Hartford’s Goodwin Park, which was near his neighborhood. He later played at Edgewood in Cromwell, which is the current site of the Tournament Players Club.[2] He was one of the first first black men in Connecticut to have a state handicap card, perhaps the first. “It was a liberal place.” said Doug Pierson, who was the son of Edgewood’s owner. He said Taylor was a member in 1959, when Jackie Robinson couldn’t join a private club in Stamford. Andy Pierson, Edgewood’s owner, liked Taylor and let him stock the club’s pond with bass.  Golfer Lee Trevino, who was married to a Wethersfield woman, once got permission through Taylor to fish in the pond, and caught a fish for a fry.

John Taylor said his father started out as a typical baseball star golfer: a big hitter with an 8 handicap. However, he strove for perfection, studied Ben Hogan’s book The Fundamentals of Modern Golf, and sacrificed a whole season to refine his swing.  His son said this changed Taylor from a hitter to a golfer with a solid 3 handicap.

In 1975 the Boston Red Sox made it to the World Series. In a moment of détente, Cuba let Luis Tiant Sr. and his wife travel to the US to see his son pitch. Taylor went to Fenway Park to see his old teammate and had a tearful reunion.

Johnny Taylor died on June 15, 1987, after an extended battle with cancer. He lives on in a sense as a minor character in Mark Winegardner’s novel The Veracruz Blues. Taylor was the best Negro Leagues player born in the Hartford area and perhaps the best Hartford native to play the game, period.

- This article was written by Jon Daly, a member of SABR in February of 2011.
- Photos are from multiple public sources.

 Johnny Taylor in New York Cubans uniform.

Johnny Taylor in New York Cubans uniform.


Sources

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.

Connie Mack Spent Enjoyable Time in Connecitcut

 

March 07, 2014 | By Paul Doyle, The Hartford Courant

When Connie Mack left his hometown of East Brookfield, Mass., to embark on a baseball career, his journey began in Connecticut.

The journey would take Cornelius Alexander Mack, born Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, to the Hall of Fame. He won five World Series and nine American League pennants with the Philadelphia Athletics and earned a plaque in Cooperstown in 1937, the same year as Nap Lajoie, John McGraw, Tris Speaker, George Wright and Cy Young. Nobody has approached his managerial record of 53 seasons.

Mack’s first baseball stop was Meriden in 1884. He caught for a semi-pro team in the Connecticut State League for $90 a month and was so beloved by fans that he was presented with a gold watch at the end of the season.

In 1885, he joined Hartford of the merged Connecticut State League and Southern New England League. He played two seasons in Hartford as the team became a member of the Eastern League.

Mack hit .251 for Hartford in 1886. Teaming with pitcher Frank Gilmore to form the “bone battery” — both were tall and lanky — Mack, 6 feet 1, 150 pounds, was known for his defense. But when the Washington Nationals attempted to sign Gilmore at the end of the 1886 season, the pitcher insisted they also sign Mack.

Connie Mack and Hartford Business Owner William J. Tracy in 1911 at the New York Baseball Grounds.

So they did. Mack played three seasons in Washington and 11 in the major leagues, including three seasons as the Pirates’ player-manager. He became manager of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901 and retired after the 1950 season. He won 3,731 games and managed 7,755, both major league records.

How was Mack remembered in Hartford? In an August 3, 1930 Courant story about baseball’s early days in the city, former local semipro player and National League umpire John Jackson Brady reminisced about Mack, who had won four World Series titles and would win his fifth in 1930.

“Connie was one good fellow,” Brady said enthusiastically, as described by The Courant. “He was one of the most conscientious ballplayers I’ve ever seen. Sometimes his hands would be so sore that every catch nearly killed him, but he was right in there playing every day with hand plastered up in some manner. He never shirked.”

Brady, who ran the Hartford-based Brady Brothers Bottling Works and was well-known in the city, described Mack’s difficulty throwing to second base during his early years in Connecticut.

“It was both weak and inaccurate,” said Brady, who died in 1937. “But being a serious fellow, he set out to overcome the weakness. Every morning for more than month he went to the ballpark alone and practiced his throw. Soon he had it perfect, although there was slight curve in the throw. It would start to the right of second base, but when the baseman caught it, it was right on the bag.”

Brady was a National League umpire in 1887, but he worked the Connecticut circuit when Mack was playing.

“Mack was a peppy catcher,” Brady said. “I didn’t feel any too comfortable when I was umpiring in front of him. There was but one umpire in those days, you know, and he stood in back of the pitcher. Every time I called a ball, Mack would give me a dirty look. He wouldn’t say a word, just a dirty look.”

Mack would return to Hartford with his Athletics for an exhibition game against the Senators. Gilmore was living in Hartford and his health was failing, so Mack arranged the game to raise money for his old teammate. When Gilmore died in 1929, Mack sent $500 to his widow.

In 1940, Mack returned to Meriden for a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of his first season. He also came to New Haven to receive a Gold Key from the Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance in 1940.

And in 1951 — five years before his death — Mack came to Hartford for a dinner honoring former Boston Braves president Bob Quinn. Mack, according to Courant sports editor Bill Lee, Mack “went to Bulkeley Stadium and sat through the entire Eastern League game between Hartford and Williamsport.”

 Connie Mack (left) managing his 1914 Philadelphia Athletics.

Connie Mack (left) managing his 1914 Philadelphia Athletics.

Ted Williams Blasts Game Winning Home Run in Hartford

On September 29, 1942, a day after beating the New York Yankees in the final game of the 1942 season, Ted Williams drove to Hartford, Connecticut, to make a guest star appearance for Bill Savitt's semi-pro ball club, the Savitt Gems.  The Gems took on the New Britain Cremos who had the battery of the Brooklyn Dodgers as guest stars of their own; pitcher, Hugh Casey and catcher, Mickey Owen.

Ted Williams put on a display during batting practice for a crowd of about 2,500 people under the lights at Bulkeley Stadium. The game would prove to be a pitchers duel. Hartford's own Monk Dubiel and Hugh Casey kept the bats at bay for 5 scoreless innings. The Gems scraped in a run in the 6th inning. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Williams cracked a home run over the centerfield wall off of Casey. The Savitt Gems won 2-1 over the Cremos.

A year before coming to Hartford, Williams famously completed the 1941 season with an amazing .406 batting average. Ted "The Kid" Williams was 23 years old and in his prime at the time of his game with the Gems. He had just finished his fourth season; perhaps his best season with the Boston Red Sox and he dominated the Majors in 1942.  He led the league in home runs, RBI's and batting average earning him his first Triple Crown. Williams finished second place in MVP award voting that year because of his tumultuous relationship with the press. During his visit in Hartford, Williams revealed publicly that he planned to enlist in World War II as Navy flying cadet. Williams served heroically and would be recalled into the Korean War in 1952 and 1953.  

Also nicknamed "The Splendid Splinter", "Teddy Ballgame", "The Thumper", and "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived" Williams is now regarded as one of the greatest players in baseball history. He spent his entire 19-year Major League Baseball career as a left fielder for the Boston Red Sox. Williams was a nineteen-time All-Star, a two-time recipient of the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player Award, a six-time AL batting champion, and a two-time Triple Crown winner. Williams finished his career with a .344 batting average, 521 home runs, and a .482 on-base percentage, the highest of all time. His career batting average is the highest of any MLB player whose career was played primarily in the live-ball era.

 

1942 Sep 28 - Ted Williams Plays for Gems.png
1942 Sep 28 - Ted Williams.png
 Hartford Courant excerpt from 1942

Hartford Courant excerpt from 1942

Rob Dibble played Twilight Ball in '83

 Dibble, RHP, Cincinatti Reds

Dibble, RHP, Cincinatti Reds

Rob Dibble played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for Katz Sports Shop in Meriden, Connecticut, during the 1983 season before he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1st round (20th) of the 1983 MLB June Draft-Secondary Phase. Dibble would go on to earn a pair of MLB All Star appearances in 1990 and 1991 as a closer with the “Big Red Machine” and finished his Major League career with a 2.98 ERA and a rate of 12.2 strikeouts per 9 innings. 

 Hartford Courant excerpt - May 25, 1983

Hartford Courant excerpt - May 25, 1983

 Hartford Courant excerpt - May 25, 1983

Hartford Courant excerpt - May 25, 1983

Philadelphia Athletics and Jimmy Foxx Play in Hartford Versus Savitt Gems

 Jimmy Foxx and Connie Mack in 1933 (regenerated image)

Jimmy Foxx and Connie Mack in 1933 (regenerated image)

1933 Jimmy Foxx at Bulkeley Stadium.png
Connie Mack.png

In summer of 1933 and 1935 the Major League powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics led by their Manager, Connie Mack and the young slugger, Jimmy Foxx visited Hartford to appear in charity baseball games against the Savitt Gems.

Bill Savitt, jewelry store entrepreneur, philanthropist and team owner hosted Connie Mack's Athletics in front of thousands of fans at Bulkeley Stadium. The Gems were made up of a few pros including Johnny Roser who played for the Boston Braves in the 20's and other local amateurs and legends in their own right such as Jigger Farrell and Bob Cronin.

James “Jimmy” Emory Foxx, nicknamed "Double X" and "The Beast" played 20 seasons in Major League Baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies. In the 1933 season, Foxx was leading the home run race for in the Majors and was coming off his third AL MVP Award in 1932. Thanks to his strong bat, the Athletics visit to Hartford was highly anticipated and resulted in massive crowds at Bulkeley Stadium even though his manager, Mack was unable to attend on both occasions in 1933 and 1935 but to his credit, he accepted the invitations to play in Hartford and Mack telegraphed his lineup to the Hartford Courant in advance. 

 Hartford Courant - 1933 May 31 - The game would be rained out but a make up date was rescheduled for two weeks later at Bulkeley Stadium.

Hartford Courant - 1933 May 31 - The game would be rained out but a make up date was rescheduled for two weeks later at Bulkeley Stadium.

 An advertisement for the game published in the Hartford Courant - 1933.

An advertisement for the game published in the Hartford Courant - 1933.

 Hartford Courant news clipping from June 15, 1933 on the day of the game.

Hartford Courant news clipping from June 15, 1933 on the day of the game.

 1933 Hartford Courant news clipping.

1933 Hartford Courant news clipping.

On June 15, 1933, the Philadelphia Athletics had a day off and agreed a few months prior to take part in a charity game vs Hartford's best baseball club, the Gems. Most of the team, minus their Manager traveled to Hartford to beat the Savitt Gems that day by a score of 6-1. The Gems were nearly shutout by the pitching of Big Jim Peterson who pitched a complete 9 inning game. Foxx, the Major League home run leader at the time, was held to a mere base hit single on the day. 

 June 16, 1933 Hartford Courant excerpt.

June 16, 1933 Hartford Courant excerpt.

 1933 Savitt Gems - 1st row, left to right: Johnny Miller, Manager Bill Gleason, Jackie Cronin, Mickey Noonan, Jerry Flood, and Young; 2nd row, left to right: Ray Curry, John Roser, Johnny Michaels, Coyle, Jigger Farrell, Red Munn, and Thomas Campion Sr.

1933 Savitt Gems - 1st row, left to right: Johnny Miller, Manager Bill Gleason, Jackie Cronin, Mickey Noonan, Jerry Flood, and Young; 2nd row, left to right: Ray Curry, John Roser, Johnny Michaels, Coyle, Jigger Farrell, Red Munn, and Thomas Campion Sr.

 Hartford Courant excerpt from 1935.

Hartford Courant excerpt from 1935.

On September 23, 1935 it was the Gems who overtook the Athletics; this time by a score of 6-4. The Gems led early and kept the lead throughout the game. On the mound for the Gems was the former Red Sox hurler Johnny Micheals who pitched the Gems to victory allowing 10 hits and 4 runs over a 9 innings of work - Michaels also gathered 3 hits of his own at the plate and scored the winning run. The Gem's Brother duo Jigger Farrell and Tommy Farrell shined for the Gems, collecting 2 hits each in their win over the Athletics.

Jimmy Foxx was held hitless on the day. It was Foxx's teammate and another AL MVP (1934) Pinky Higgins who had a good day at the plate for the "Mackmen" as they were known, going 2 for 4 on the day with a towering home run. However the Athletics batsmen would not score enough to catch up to the Gems. Starting pitcher, Bill Dietrich struggled mightily to keep the Gems from connecting for base hits. By the 2nd inning the scored was 5-0 after a barrage of hits and triples from Jigger Farrell and Johnny Michaels.

The well-attended contest ended under the lights with the 27 year old Jimmy Foxx pitching the last two innings for the Philadelphia side. Since Connie Mack was absent, Foxx assumed the manager's role for the A's.

 Hartford Courant excerpt from 1935.

Hartford Courant excerpt from 1935.

 Johnny Michaels, LHP

Johnny Michaels, LHP

1970 Moriarty Brothers


In 1964, Moriarty Brothers franchise began their domination of the Greater Hartford Twilight League.  The team was sponsored by a car dealership owner and GTHBL Hall of Famer, Matt Moriarty of Manchester.  Nicknamed the “Comets” for their fast play, Moriarty Brothers was stacked with future and former professional ballplayers.  Moriarty's was steered by pitchers like Pete Sala, Leverette Spencer, John Serafini and Dave Bidwell and the batting of, Bob Carlson, Jim Balesano, Leo Veleas, Rich Riordan and their MVP player-manager, Gene Johnson.  This Manchester-based franchise holds an all-time Hartford Twilight record of 28 total championships and is still active today, playing for a new sponsor as Rainbow Graphics.