Newcombe Pitched in Hartford Before the Bigs

Don Newcombe, 2017.

Born: June 141926

Died: February 192019

At 18 years old, right-handed pitcher, Don Newcombe traveled to Hartford, Connecticut, with his Negro National League club, the Newark Eagles. The Savitt Gems, Hartford’s semi-professional team awaited the Eagles at Bulkeley Stadium where on the night of July 20, 1944, Newcombe showcased his strong throwing arm. The Gems were held to 3 runs on 7 hits by Newcombe who earned a 6 to 3 victory.

Newark Eagles vs. Savitt Gems, 1944.

Newark Eagles vs. Savitt Gems, 1944.

Don Newcombe, Newark Eagles, 1944.

In 1946, Don Newcombe became one of the first African-Americans to break the color barrier when he signed with Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. Newcombe spent 2 seasons in Nashua, New Hampshire, as part of the New England League and then another season with the Montreal Royals of the International League. He was promoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and spent his first Major League season on a team that included Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Ralph Branca. Newcombe earned the Rookie of the Year award after a stellar 1949 season on the mound.

Don Newcombe, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1949.

L to R: Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson, MLB All-Star Game, 1949.

L to R: Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson, MLB All-Star Game, 1949.

In 1952 and 1953, Newcombe served his nation in the United States Army during the Korean War and missed two seasons while in his prime. However, Newcombe returned and went on to win a World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955. He then won the Most Valuable Player and the Cy Young awards in 1956 after a spectacular 27-win season. Over a professional career that spanned 18 years, Newcombe was named to 4 National League All-Star teams, he won 149 pitching decisions and he hit 15 major league home runs.

Don Newcombe, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1955.

Don Newcombe, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1955.

In June of 1958, Newcombe was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers (shortly after the move from Brooklyn) to the Cincinnati Redlegs. After a stint with the Cleveland Indians, he finished his playing career as a member of the 1962 Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Central League. As the only player to have won the Rookie of the Year, MVP and Cy Young awards in his career, Newcombe will be remembered as one of baseball’s best pitchers who helped break racial barrier. Don Newcombe died at 92 years of age.

Don Newcombe, Cincinatti Reds, 1960.

Don Newcombe, Cincinatti Reds, 1961.



Watch the clip below to learn more about the Newark Eagles:

The Philadelphia Athletics and Jimmy Foxx Played in Hartford


Jimmy Foxx and Connie Mack in 1933 (regenerated image)

In the summer of 1933 and 1935 the Major League powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics led by their Manager, Connie Mack and a young slugger named Jimmie 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 1920's and other local amateurs and legends in their own right such as Jigger Farrell and Bob Cronin.

James Jimmie 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. Massive crowds turned out at Bulkeley Stadium even though Connie Mack was unable to attend on both occasions in 1933 and 1935. To his credit, Mack accepted the invitations to play in Hartford and he telegraphed his lineup to the Hartford Courant in advance. 

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. 

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 brotherly 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 reaching base. By the 2nd inning the score was 5-0 after a barrage of hits from Jigger Farrell and a triple from Johnny Michaels.

The well-attended contest ended under the lights as 27 year old Jimmy Foxx pitching the last two innings for the Philadelphia side. Since Connie Mack was absent due to an illness, Foxx also assumed the manager's role for the A's that evening in Hartford.

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

June 16, 1933 Hartford Courant excerpt.

Johnny Michaels, Boston Red Sox, 1932

1933 Hartford Courant news clipping.

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.

Hartford Courant excerpt from 1935.

Hartford Courant excerpt from 1935.