Bristol, Connecticut, is home to Muzzy Field as well as a distinguished baseball history. One the most significant figures in Bristol’s baseball chronicles is William J. Tracy; the man who prompted the construction of Muzzy Field. Also known as Bill Tracy, he was baseball club owner, executive and friend of legendary managers Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics and John McGraw of the New York Giants. A photograph of Tracy and Mack at the 1911 World Series has been curated by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
William J. Tracy was born in Bristol on January 1, 1869. He spent his youth working at the Central Meat Market on North Main Street. Eventually Tracy became sole proprietor of the meat market, later called the Bristol Beef Company. As a respected young man around town he was elected Constable of Bristol in 1894. However, Tracy’s real passion was the national game of baseball. So when the meat business paid off, he decided to finance a top-rate Bristol club in the Connecticut League.
In 1900, Bill Tracy became an of the Bristol Baseball Association. He joined fellow proprietors, State Representative Otto F. Strunz and a barbershop owner named John E. Kennedy who later became the state’s chief umpire. The town was overjoyed to have a team in the Connecticut League with Tracy at the helm. While in charge of the club, he also acted as umpire on multiple occasions. The following season cemented Bristol’s admiration for Tracy when he led Bristol to the 1901 state league championship.
Bristol was the smallest town in the Connecticut League circuit, yet they conquered the competition. Bill Tracy’s club of 1901 won the pennant over second place Bridgeport. Bristol featured player-manager and pitching ace Doc Reisling who went on to play major league ball for the Brooklyn Superbas and Washington Senators. There was also Ted Scheffler an outfielder from New York City, Red Owens an infielder from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and Andy Anderson, a catcher from Detroit, Michigan. Connecticut’s baseball community praised Bristol for winning the league in honorable fashion.
In spite of their first championship, Tracy’s club was not invited back to the Connecticut League in 1902. League officials cited revenue issues due to the small size of Bristol. Tracy wholeheartedly disagreed with the snub of his championship team. Hall of Fame player-manager Jim O’Rourke of the Bridgeport club was reported to have headed the cabal who dismissed Bristol. President of the Connecticut League, Sturges Whitlock upheld the decision. Tracy was only temporarily discouraged and held no grudge against O’Rourke. The next summer Tracy funded a Bristol squad, “The Flats” in the Town Amateur Baseball League.
When presented the opportunity, Bill Tracy returned to the Connecticut League in 1903 by purchasing the Hartford Senators franchise. After two unremarkable seasons as head of the Hartford club, he decided to pursue a position as a league officer. He sold his ownership stake in the Hartford Senators to would-be longtime owner, James H. Clarkin and the team’s captain, Bert Daly for $5,000. In 1905, Tracy was appointed Vice President of the Connecticut League, the forerunner of the Eastern League. By October of 1906, Tracy was voted in as President.
The Connecticut League was a professional association whose teams were unaffiliated with Major League clubs. The minor leagues were classified by playing level on a scale of Class A to Class F. Bill Tracy was president of the Class B Connecticut League until 1912. His role consisted of disciplining players and settled disputes between clubs hailing from cities like Hartford, Meriden, Bridgeport, New Haven, New London, Norwich, Springfield and Holyoke. He was also tasked with managing relationships with big league clubs who often signed state league players known as “contract jumpers”.
Outside of baseball, Bill Tracy was appointed to the Bristol Trust Company Board of Directors in 1907 and to the Bristol National Bank Board of Directors in 1909. Tracy served as a charter member of the Bristol Board of Park Commissioners and as superintendent of Bristol Parks for 15 years until his retirement in 1935. In this position he was instrumental in the acquisition and development of Memorial Boulevard, Rockwell Park and Muzzy Field – named after Adrian J. Muzzy of Bristol, a prominent businessman and State Senator who donated land for the ballpark in memory of his two sons who died young.
Like Adrian Muzzy, Bill Tracy aggressively sought to improve Bristol while capitalizing on business opportunities. He founded a real estate and insurance company that later became Tracy-Driscoll Insurance. At 68 years old, Tracy passed away on December 1, 1937 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He is remembered as a baseball executive, businessman, public servant, philanthropist and family man. Tracy was married 43 years to Ellen Lacey Tracy. They had 4 sons, Paul, Joseph, Francis, and William E. Tracy; all of whom played baseball.
Francis “Tommy” Tracy was a clever pitcher who captained the Dartmouth College ball club. William E. Tracy founded Bristol Sports Promotion who owned and operated the Hartford Bees of the Eastern League in 1947 and 1948. William J. Tracy and his family pioneered for Bristol a lasting reputation as one of the great baseball towns in America. In 2002, Tracy’s many contributions were honored when he was inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame.
- Hartford Courant database (Newspapers.com)