Category: News

Recent league updates and stories.

June 13 – Hardball For Heroes at Palmer Field

4 games to benefit the American Legion on Sunday, June 13, 2021.

  • 8 GHTBL teams* will play 4 games in a single day at Palmer Field to benefit the American Legion. 
     
  • $10 tickets are being sold at Malloves Jewelers at 404 Main Street Middletown, CT and will be available at the main gate on the day of the event.
     
  • Free for all veterans, military service members and kids 14 and under.

*On the same day, the Vernon Orioles will take on the South Windsor Phillies at Henry Park in Vernon at 5 PM, where fans will be asked to donate to the cause.

July 7 – Crush Cancer Night at Dunkin’ Donuts Park

On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League will host a doubleheader at at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford. The event will be the league’s 5th annual charity series. This year, ticket proceeds will be donated to Connecticut Cancer Foundation and the Brian Peer Memorial Scholarship.

At 6:00 PM, People’s United Bank will match up against the Bristol Greeners and at 8:00 PM, the East Hartford Jets will face the Hartford Colts.

Tickets will be available at the Main Gate for $10 per adult and free for kids 14 and under.

Read more about these charitable causes below:


About Connecticut Cancer Foundation

Connecticut Cancer Foundation was founded in 1987 by Connecticut native John C. Ellis, a former catcher for the New York Yankees, who played Major League Baseball for 13 years. John lost his sister, brother and sister-in-law to lymphoma. He is a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma that was diagnosed before John reached 40.  Fortunately, John survived and CCF was born with the idea of raising funds through sports with the help of sports celebrities. CCF has flourished under the guidance of John’s wife, Jane G. Ellis, President and Executive Director of CCF.

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John and Jane Ellis, Founders of Connecticut Cancer Foundation.

Through the CT Cancer Patient Assistance Program, CCF helps Connecticut families requesting assistance through referrals from oncology social workers from hospitals, cancer treatment centers and hospices throughout the state. For the past 34 years, CCF has quietly granted over $6.4 million to more than 7,000 Connecticut families dealing with the financial hardship that often follows a cancer diagnosis. In addition, the Foundation has donated over $2.4 million to support ongoing cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


About Brian Peer Memorial Scholarship

This college scholarship is in the memory of Brian Peer who played and loved baseball in Windsor. He was a Windsor varsity player from 1996 until 1998, earning All-Conference honors as a senior. He also played American Legion Baseball in Windsor earning All-Zone Honors in 1998.  He continued on to Manchester Community College earning All-New England Junior College All Star recognition then on to Rhode Island College, being named Co-Captain his Senior Year. He continued to play in area adult leagues through 2018. The scholarship is awarded annually to a Windsor High School baseball player who will be attending college.

Brian Peer played in the GHTBL from 2004 to 2018 and is remembered as a good teammate and team leader.

Giving Back to the Greater Hartford Community

On Sunday, July, 9, 2017 the GHTBL hosted the first charity series at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Four games were played and $5,641 in ticket proceeds were donated to Hartford’s Camp Courant. On June 21st and 22nd of 2018 the league hosted a pair of doubleheaders that raised $4,500 for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. In 2019, the Twilight League held another day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park and raised $7,000 for a Multiple Sclerosis charity named MS4MS. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the league managed to play a shortened season in 2020, including a doubleheader at Dunkin’ Donuts Park that raised $2,000 for the new Johnny Taylor Field in Hartford’s Colt Park.

Camp Courant Kids Day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017

August 20 – GHTBL All-Stars vs. CTL All-Stars

Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League and Connecticut Twilight League will play a postseason interleague All-Star game at 7 PM on Friday, August 20, 2021. This year, GHTBL will host the exhibition at McKenna Field on Remington Road in East Hartford, Connecticut. The game will mark the sixth contest between GHTBL and CTL in which GHTBL has remained undefeated.

Both leagues are happy to be back in 2021 in this post-pandemic time. Aside from a few rainouts, both regular seasons are going as planned. After a champion is crowned in both leagues, managers will decide on all-star selections. These all-star matchups allow each league to showcase many of our best players. Participants, parents and fans are welcomed to attend the exhibition at no charge. As always, we thank you for your continued support.

We will see you at the ballpark!

4th Annual Buzzy Levin Golf Tournament

On September 19, 2021, the 4th Annual Buzzy Levin Golf Tournament will take place at Blackledge Country Club in Hebron, Connecticut. GHTBL players, former players, friends, family and league officials will hit the links to fundraise for next season.

Golfers will receive a complimentary t-shirt, lunch, dinner, 1st and 2nd place gifts, longest drive/closest to the pin awards and chances to win raffle prizes.a

This event is open to the public. Your support helps the GHTBL carry on as a premier amateur baseball league.

Back! Jets Take Aim at Orioles in Championship Rematch

On June 2, 2021, the East Hartford Jets, Twi-loop playoff champions of 2020 will battle the Vernon Orioles at McKenna Field, East Hartford at 7 PM.

The Jets will feature many of the same players from last season such as shortstop Jeff Criscuolo, pitcher/outfielder Jimmy Schult and player-manager Taylor Kosakowski. Some new faces will include Cole Lalli and Jack Blake who hail from Eastern Connecticut State University.

The Orioles have a trusted core of veteran players who are expected to return in 2021. Manager Jack Ceppetelli has also recruited a handful of new players. Without disclosing specific names, Vernon’s roster will likely be one of the best in Connecticut’s amateur ranks.

Each GHTBL franchise will play 18 Regular Season games this year. A 10-team double-elimination tournament (maximum of 19 league-wide playoff games) is scheduled to begin on August 3, 2021.

Ten Twi-loop franchises will compete this summer: Bristol Greeners, East Hartford Jets, Hartford Colts, Malloves Jewelers (Middletown), People’s United Bank (Wethersfield), Rainbow Graphics (Manchester), Record-Journal Expos (Meriden), South Windsor Phillies, Ulbrich Steel (Cheshire) and the Vernon Orioles.

The GHTBL allows players to apply for a roster spot until July 15th by filling out a Player Application at www.GHTBL.org/Join.

2021 Season to Feature Top Ballparks

The GHTBL is pleased to announce a full schedule for the 2021 Regular Season.

The first games of the year will take place at Muzzy Field on May 25th. Three teams will get a head start on the season in a doubleheader; the Bristol Greeners will host the Hartford Colts at 6 PM and then the South Windsor Phillies at 8 PM.

Nick Hock, starting pitcher of the expansion Hartford Colts will look to mow down batters while the Greeners, led by player-manager AJ Lorenzetti, will seek to defend their home turf.

Manager Ron Pizzanello of the 2020 Regular Season title winning South Windsor Phillies are hoping for continued success in 2021. Returning Phillies like Jake Petrozza, Trevor Moulton and Dorian Tanasi are eager for another title.

Last year’s Playoff Championship matchup will rematch on June 2nd at McKenna Field. The East Hartford jets in the Vernon orioles will do battle for early-season bragging rights. Both teams have a significant number of new players who will be sure to make an impact on the league in 2021.

Games will also be held at Palmer Field in Middletown for the second edition of Hardball For Heroes. The league will host five matchups on June 13th, four of which at Palmer. $10 tickets will be available at the main gate (free for kids 14 and under).

Then, on July 8th another charity series is planned at Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The event is being dubbed Crush Cancer Night, raising funds for Connecticut Cancer foundation. $10 tickets will be available at the main gate (free for kids 14 and under).

This year‘s playoff tournament will take place beginning August 3rd at Palmer Field in Middletown and McKenna Field in East Hartford. $10 tickets for the entire tournament will be available at the main gate (free for kids 14 and under).

See this years full schedule at GHTBL.org/schedule.

Krajewski & Powell Return to the Vernon Orioles

The GHTBL Executive Committee has recently welcomed Steve Krajewski and Kevin Powell back to league. They will support Manager Jack Ceppetelli with club operations serving as General Manager and Assistant General Manager.

Steve Krajewski grew up in Rockville, Connecticut, and attended Rockville High School. Before his freshman year at the age of 13 years old Krajewski played for the Vernon Orioles in a GHTBL game.  More than likely, he was the youngest player in league history. Krajewski also played American Legion and eventually suited up for Eastern Connecticut State University for head baseball coach Bill Holowaty. He restarted his twilight career in 1974 after finishing the American Legion program. As a Vernon Oriole, he had 333 RBI, a .331 batting average and 55 home runs. He was selected to the GHTBL All-Star team 10 times. He led the league in hits and average in 1988.

Steve Krajewski of the Vernon Orioles (right), 1990.

Krajewski enjoyed playing for long time friend, coach, sponsor and GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee Frank J. McCoy. Krajewski also took great pride in representing his hometown of Vernon. He coached Vernon’s American Legion program for three years and then managed the Vernon Orioles for two years, winning the 1999 GHTBL Playoff Championship. Krajewski spent nearly 30 years with the Vernon Orioles and now returns as General Manager. He was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame 1995 and the Rockville High School Hall of Fame in 2014. He is now retired after working for the Town of Vernon as the Vernon Parks and Recreation Assistant Director for 42 years.

Steve Krajewski, General Manager, Vernon Orioles, 2021.

Born on December 14, 1959, Kevin Powell grew up in Brooklyn, New York and attended St. Francis Prep. There he earned a City Championship and was recruited to play at Iona College. He later became player-manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers Baseball Club in the New York City Baseball League. Powell was the 1985 recipient of the league’s Walter Alston Memorial Award given for dedication to the game, on and off the field. He moved north to Connecticut and was a member of the Vernon Orioles under Frank McCoy (1990-1994). He has returned in 2021 to work with Orioles Manager Jack Ceppetelli as Assistant General Manager. Kevin currently resides in Coventry, CT with wife Karen and daughter Kristen.

Kevin Powell, Assistant General Manager, Vernon Orioles, 2021.

The Vernon Orioles look forward to the 2021 Regular Season. Vernon’s twilight team, loyal baseball fans and proud community will be hard to beat this summer. As for the Orioles roster, veteran players like the Trubia brothers, Tyler Pogmore and Jordan English will welcome newer, younger players to the franchise this season. Vernon has won a total of 9 Regular Season titles and 6 Playoff Championships since entering the GHTBL in 1966. The Vernon Orioles start the 2021 regular season against the East Hartford Jets on June 2nd at 7 PM, McKenna Field, Remington Road, East Hartford.

Jordan English, OF/P, Vernon Orioles.

Baseball Bloodlines: The Morhardt’s

In the Morhardt family, professional baseball has become a genetic trend. Three generations have ascended from the amateur ranks to the professional level. The Morhardt’s have been a staple of Connecticut baseball for more than sixty years. The patriarch of the Winsted-based family, Moe, is the father of Darryl, Greg, Kyle and grandfather of current GHTBL player, Justin Morhardt. From the Twilight League to the big leagues, the men of the Morhardt family have positively impacted the game and have garnered a reputation for leadership.

L to R: Moe, Justin, Greg and Darryl Morhardt, 2012.
L to R: Moe, Justin, Greg and Darryl Morhardt, 2012.

Meredith Moe” Morhardt

Meredith “Moe” Goodwin Morhardt was born on January 16, 1937 in Manchester, Connecticut. He excelled in three sports; baseball, basketball and soccer at Manchester High School. On the diamond, he threw and hit lefty with all five tools. Morhardt first attracted the attention of major league scouts in high school where he was a teammate of GHTBL legend, Gene Johnson. As a center fielder, Morhardt batted a combined .452 in his junior and senior seasons.

1954 Manchester High School Varsity Baseball Team.

Morhardt was a 6’1″ multi-sport athlete who attended the University of Connecticut and excelled as an All-American in baseball and soccer. While at UConn, Morhardt helped the Huskies win two NCAA District titles. He was appointed UConn co-captain, batted .365 and was considered the finest collegiate prospect in New England. During the summer months, Morhardt played for St. Cyril’s baseball club in the Hartford Twilight League. After 4 seasons in GHTBL and 3 seasons at UConn, Moe Morhardt signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1959 as a free agent.

1957 University of Connecticut Baseball
Moe Morhardt, First Baseman, University of Connecticut, 1959.

Twelve major league clubs scouted Moe Morhardt but Cubs chief scout, Lennie Merullo was first in line. Morhardt agreed to a contract with a $50,000 bonus. The newest Cubs prospect was assigned to Fort Worth, Texas, and would find himself at three different minor league levels that year including the Class D Paris Lakers in Paris, Illinois. In 1960, he was first baseman for the Class A Lancaster Red Roses of the Eastern League and was assigned to the Class B Wenatchee Chiefs in 1961.

Moe Morhardt, First Baseman, Chicago Cubs, 1961.

Morhardt was called up to Chicago and made his major league debut on September 7, 1961. He appeared in 7 games for Cubs, hit for a .278 batting average and was the first Manchester native in 40 years to reach the major leagues. The following year he played 18 games as a pinch-hitter. His last major league at bat ended in a swinging strike out against Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Morhardt was sent down to the minors and split the season between Wenatchee, Washington and Class AA San Antonio, Texas. He spent 1963 and 1964 in the Cubs farm system and retired from professional baseball thereafter.

Moe Morhardt, First Baseman, Chicago Cubs, 1962.
Moe Morhardt (right) slides, Chicago Cubs, 1952.

In the summer of 1965, Moe Morhardt rejoined the Hartford Twilight League with the Moriarty Brothers franchise and won the league title. After his playing career, Morhardt became head baseball coach at The Gilbert School in Winsted, Connecticut, from 1967 to 1987, and also served as athletic director. At Gilbert, he recorded 299 wins, 134 losses, 8 league titles and 4 Class M state championships. Morhardt was elected to the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.

Moe Morhardt and his three sons – Hartford Courant excerpt, 1979.

In 1988, Moe Morhardt took a job coaching University of Hartford where he would teach baseball for seven seasons; serving as an assistant from 1988 to 1992 and as head coach from 1993 to 1994. From 1997 to 1999, he was head coach of the Western Connecticut State University baseball team. Morhardt was also head coach of the Danbury Westerners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, coaching the team from 1998 to 2004.

Moe Morhardt, Head Coach, University of Hartford Baseball, 1989.

Moe Morhardt had three sons, Darry, Greg and Kyle who were raised in Winsted. Most recently, a semi-retired Morhardt and his son Darryl established a summer youth team, the Torrington Copperheads who compete in the Pete Kokinis Baseball League (formerly Jaycee-Courant League). Morhardt also continues to support his grandson, Justin Morhardt of the People’s United Bank franchise by attending at twilight league games.

Moe Morhardt, Manager, Torrington Copperheads, Pete Kokinis Baseball League, 2019.

“You should value every at bat. The biggest regret a hitter should have is that he gave away an at bat.”

Moe Morhardt

“Moe Morhardt was a wonderful as a hitting coach. He kept it very simple. He’s just a great baseball mind in so many different ways. Every time I hear ‘Moe Morhardt,’ I smile.”

Jeff Bagwell, former University of Hartford player and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.

Darryl H. Morhardt

Darryl Morhardt was born on October 23, 1962, as the oldest of his siblings. As a 1980 graduate of The Gilbert School in Winsted, Connecticut, Morhardt was a standout catcher and utility man. He was also a top basketball player for Manchester Community College in 1982. Morhardt went on to play college baseball at Coastal Carolina University for three years. Upon graduation he signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves and enjoyed an undistinguished professional career.

Darryl Morhardt, Catcher, The Gilbert School, 1983.

After suffering a shattered wrist on a fastball from reliever John Wetteland, Morhardt returned home to coach. He was an assistant coach at the University of Hartford (1991-1995), Gateway Junior College, Western Connecticut State College, Marietta College and George Washington University. In his time at Marietta, Morhardt aided legendary coach Don Schaly in achieving five Ohio Athletic Conference titles and three Division III World Series appearances. Morhardt eventually went on to work for the Baltimore Orioles organization as scout.

Darryl Morhardt featured in the Baltimore Sun for collecting baseball equipment for U.S. Troops in Iraq, 2007.

During the summer months Morhardt was also a pitching coach in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the Torrington Twisters for eight seasons, winning two division titles during his tenure. He then served as head coach of the Holyoke Blue Sox in the NECBL (2008-2012). Then in 2016, he was tapped as pitching coach for the Newport Gulls. When he found time, Morhardt also played on teams in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, Tri-State League and the Waterbury Twi-Met League.

Darryl Morhardt (left), Head Coach, Holyoke Blue Sox, NECBL, 2009.

Darryl Morhardt is an unsung hero of amateur baseball. For a span of nearly 40 years, Morhardt has competed in summer leagues throughout Connecticut and nationally. He played his first Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League season for Middletown’s Bordiere Travel team in 1982. He returned to the league in 1991 to join the Society for Savings team led by Manager Tom Abbruzzese. At catcher, pitcher and first base, Morhardt suited up for Abbruzzese’s bankers franchise until 2007 and captured five leagues titles with People’s United Bank.

Darryl Morhardt, Catcher, Bank of Boston, GHTBL, 1995.
2000 People’s United Bank

In 2013, Darryl Morhardt became head baseball coach at Housatonic High School. He has also coached several AAU teams, including his current club, the Torrington Copperheads. Recently, he won a Men’s Senior Baseball League 50-over national championship as a member of the Salty Dogs, a Rhode Island-based team. In a 55-over MSBL national championship against a team form Florida, Morhardt played against Dante Bichette and Mark Whiten. Darryl continues to play amateur ball on a 38-over team in the Northeast Baseball Association; a league Morhardt has won four straight years.

Darryl Morhardt, Head Coach, Housatonic HIgh School, 2018.
Darryl Morhardt (left), Head Coach, Housatonic HIgh School, with former player, Willy Yahn, 2019.
Darryl Morhardt (right), Head Coach, Torrington Copperheads, 2019.
2019 Salty Dogs, 50+ MSBL Champions

Gregory R. Morhardt

Greg Morhardt was born on October 25, 1963. He learned to play baseball from his father Moe and alongside his two brothers, Darryl and Kyle. Greg was a star athlete at The Gilbert School in multiple sports. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 14th round of the 1981 MLB June Amateur Draft but instead decided to attend college at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. In his junior season he batted .346 with 17 homers and 57 RBIs and was picked by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round of the 1984 MLB June Amateur Draft. 

Greg Morhardt, Center Fielder, The Gilbert School, 1981.
Greg Morhardt, First Baseman, Orlando Twins, 1985
Greg Morhardt, First Baseman, Portland Beavers, 1987.
Greg Morhardt, First Baseman, Glens Falls Tigers, 1988.

Greg Mohardt’s professional career began in Orlando, Florida, as first baseman for the 1984 Orlando Twins of the Class AA Southern League. By 1986, he was called up to the Toledo Mud Hens, the Twins AAA affiliate. He ended the season with a career best .263 batting average, 13 home runs and 70 RBI. Morhardt was well-traveled during the 1987 season as a member of the Portland Beavers in Oregon and the Orlando Twins. After a tough year at the plate, the Twins released Morhardt but the Detroit Tigers picked him up. His brief stint as a Tiger ended in 1989, and Greg returned home to Connecticut.

Greg Morhardt, MLB Scout, 2014.

In twilight of his playing career, Greg Morhardt was a star in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. He played for Tom Abbruzzese’s Society for Savings franchise from 1992 to 1996. He continued his career in baseball as an area scout for the Los Angeles Angels. Most notably, Morhardt scouted Mike Trout at 16 years old and insisted the Angels take Trout in the 2009 MLB Draft. Greg had been a minor league teammate of Mike Trout’s father Jeff Trout. In 2010, Morhardt earned a lifetime achievement in athletics award from The Gilbert School. Greg now works for the Boston Red Sox as a professional scout and resides in Winsted, Connecticut.

Mike Trout, Outfielder, Los Angeles Angels, 2012.

“He had speed and strength. It was a perfect storm of athleticism.”

Greg Morhardt, on scouting Mike Trout.

Justin J. Morhardt

Justin Morhardt was born on March 3, 1994. Like his father, uncle and grandfather, Justin attended The Gilbert School and was a highly scouted baseball player. Then he became a veritable slugger at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee. During college, Morhardt overcame a serious health concern called Graves Disease causing thyroid problems. In his return to Bryan as a junior he was selected as a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American. That year, Morhardt helped the Lions to a 35-16 overall record and 17-10 record in Appalachian Athletic Conference play, earning Bryan their first-ever at-large NAIA National Tournament bid.

Justin Morhardt drafted by the Atlanta Braves, 2017.

A week after being named an NAIA All-American, Morhardt was drafted by Braves in the 22nd round in the 2017 MLB Draft. At rookie ball with the Braves in the Gulf Coast League, Morhardt appeared in 26 games at catcher. A series of concussions led Morhardt to call it quits on his professional career. Nowadays, Justin continues to play baseball as an amatuer in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. Morhardt is a key two-way player for People’s United Bank. In his day job, Justin works as Staff Accountant at King, King & Associates CPA in Winsted, Connecticut.

Justin Morhardt, Catcher, Gulf Coast League Braves, 2017.
Justin Morhardt, Pitcher, People’s United Bank, GHTBL, 2019.

Mike Morhardt
Mike Morhardt is the uncle of Justin and first cousin to Darryl and Greg. He was a gifted baseball and basketball player from Stafford, Connecticut, and contributed to the Morhardt sports legacy. He attended the University of Hartford and pitched under the tutelage of his uncle, Moe Morhardt. In 1994, Mike pitched for the East Hartford Jets in the GHTBL. After finishing his playing career in 1994, Mike became varsity pitching coach for the Hawks at the University of Hartford. He later became coach at Windsor Locks High School for baseball and girl’s basketball. Then Mike coached Stafford High School basketball in 2009 but has since returned to Windsor Locks as baseball coach and a physical education teacher.

Mike Morhardt, Pitcher, Stafford High School, 1990.

Johnny Taylor Field Opens at Colt Park

A Colt Park field now holds the name of Hartford baseball legend Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, the first Black professional athlete to come out of the city.

The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, Hartford Public Schools and members of the community gathered to honor Taylor’s legacy and dedicate the newly renovated Field #9 to him before its inaugural game — Bulkeley High School against Rocky Hill. A fitting first match, since Taylor started his baseball career as a senior at Bulkeley.

“The icing in on the cake will be for Hartford youth to embrace the American game of baseball and move Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor’s legacy far into the future,” said Lynne Taylor-Grande, Johnny’s daughter.

Wes Ulbrich of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League (left) and Lynne Taylor-Grande, the daughter of Johnny Taylor, hug at home base Field #9 at Colt Field was dedicated and renamed for Johnny Taylor.
Wes Ulbrich of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League (left) and Lynne Taylor-Grande, the daughter of Johnny Taylor, hug at home base Field #9 at Colt Field was dedicated and renamed for Johnny Taylor. (Mark Mirko/Mark Mirko)

“This is absolutely like being in Walt Disney World.”

Lynette Taylor-Grand, Johnny Taylor’s Daughter
Wearing a COVID-19 mask and a Johnny "Schoolboy" Taylor ceremonial jersey that all members of his team wore, Gilberto Carrion of the Bulkeley/Hartford Public High School baseball team, looks out over Taylor Field before the dedication ceremonies Wednesday afternoon.
Wearing a COVID-19 mask and a Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor ceremonial jersey that all members of his team wore, Gilberto Carrion of the Bulkeley/Hartford Public High School baseball team, looks out over Taylor Field before the dedication ceremonies Wednesday afternoon. (Mark Mirko/Mark Mirko)

The high school baseball teams shared the excitement, as they returned to the field after a pandemic, wearing ceremonial jerseys with Taylor’s picture on them.

“Enjoy the moment. Make Johnny proud,” said Alex Mercado, Hartford head coach. “Focus on the moment.”

Robert Grande, the grandson of Johnny Taylor, throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Colt Park's Field #9 after it was dedicated and renamed for Johnny Taylor.
Robert Grande, the grandson of Johnny Taylor, throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Colt Park’s Field #9 after it was dedicated and renamed for Johnny Taylor. (Mark Mirko/Mark Mirko)

Negro Leagues star Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor may be Hartford’s greatest baseball player; with enough signatures, a city ballfield may be named for him »

Despite the racial discrimination that kept him out of the major leagues, Taylor made a name for himself with his high leg kick and legendary fastball. He is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players to come out of Connecticut.

Hartford's Johnny 'Schoolboy' Taylor circa 1936 when he played for the New York Cubans.
Hartford’s Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor circa 1936 when he played for the New York Cubans. (Handout)

Taylor played for the Negro League from 1935 to 1945. He pitched eight career no-hitters and was a standout player in leagues in New York, Cuba and Mexico. Though he retired from the game before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, it was players like Taylor who left the United States to play in other countries that helped pressure Major League Baseball and the American League to integrate.

Taylor couldn’t stay away for long. He returned two years after his retirement to become the first Black athlete to sign with the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League for his final season in 1949, keeping the nickname he earned in Cuba — “El Rey de Hartford” (or the King of Hartford).

Johnny 'Schoolboy' Taylor, left, in a Hartford Chiefs uniform, and Satchel Paige, right, circa 1950.
Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor, left, in a Hartford Chiefs uniform, and Satchel Paige, right, circa 1950. (Photo courtesy of Estelle Taylor)

“He’s probably the most worthy figure in Hartford’s baseball history,” GHTBL secretary Weston Ulbrich told the Courant when he started the effort to name the field after Taylor in 2019.

Johnny Taylor was born in Hartford in 1916 and raised in the South End, where he played pickup games at Colt Park as a kid. He ran track at Bulkeley High School before joining the baseball team his senior year. More on the life and legacy of Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor »

Beyond baseball, he worked at Pratt & Whitney and in construction with his father. Taylor helped build Hartford Hospital. His wife Estelle, who was the first Black nurse at New Britain General Hospital, later became one of the first Black nurses at Hartford Hospital, too.

Johnny enjoyed taking his four children to the Hartford Public Library Campfield Avenue branch to exchange books. Estelle loved bringing the kids shopping at local department stores and to the Wadsworth Atheneum.

In 1982, Taylor was inducted into the Twilight League Hall of Fame. He died in 1987 at the age of 71. Taylor was posthumously inducted into the Bulkeley High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.

This article was written by Sabrina Herrera who can be reached at sherrera@courant.com. Sabrina is a visual journalist. She joined the Hartford Courant in 2018, after working as a video editor in broadcast news at NBC Connecticut. She studied journalism and French language at UConn. She grew up in Greenwich and now calls the Hartford area home. Sabrina is passionate about the arts, education, language, and people.

May 25th Opening Day at Muzzy Field

On Tuesday, May 25th, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League will host Opening Day of the 2021 Regular Season at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut. A doubleheader will be played hosted by the Bristol Greeners, the GHTBL’s newest expansion franchise.

At 6 PM, the Greeners will take on the Hartford Colts, the other expansion franchise to join the league this summer. Then at 8 PM, the Greeners will welcome the 2020 Regular Season title winning South Windsor Phillies. Fans will be allowed to attend the games.

The league’s full schedule will be published in early May. More announcements are forthcoming regarding our 2021 fundraising events. The GHTBL invites you to support our mission, to promote and preserve the game of baseball, while giving back to the local community.