Category: The Bat and Ball

A Greater Hartford baseball blog.

A Real Connecticut Yankee’s Baseball Career Cut Short

This article was published on ConnetcticutHistory.org on April 20, 2020.

Danny Hoffman’s story reminds sports fans of the fragile nature of a professional athlete’s career. An up-and-coming baseball star discovered playing on the lots of Collinsville, Connecticut, Hoffman played in the majors under legendary manager Connie Mack before joining the New York Yankees (before they were even known as the “Yankees”); but one pitch dramatically changed his career trajectory.

Hoffman was a native of Canton, Connecticut, attended local schools, and frequently played ball in the Collinsville section of town. There, a scout from the Connecticut League’s Springfield, Massachusetts, franchise discovered Hoffman and offered him a contract. Once in Springfield, it did not take long for major league teams to take an interest in him and Hoffman eventually signed with the Philadelphia Athletics to play for Hall-of-Fame manager Connie Mack in 1903.

Daniel J. Hoffman in a Philadelphia Athletics baseball uniform, 1906 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Hoffman an Early Hit with Philadelphia Athletics

As the Athletics headed up to Boston to play the Red Sox in the summer of 1904, baseball experts considered Hoffman one of the more promising young players in the majors. When Hoffman (hitting a career-high .299 with three home runs) stepped to the plate against Red Sox left-hander Jesse Tannehill, however, an errant pitch struck Hoffman in the right eye, ending his season.

Back with the A’s in 1905, Hoffman’s statistics dropped off precipitously. He utilized his great speed to steal 46 bases that year, but he struggled against left-handed pitching—causing Mack to regularly pull Hoffman out of the lineup against lefties.

Hoffman lasted one more year with the A’s before joining the New York Highlanders (who later changed their name to the New York Yankees). He spent two relatively unproductive years in New York before joining the St. Louis Browns in 1908 and then ending his major league career 3 years later. Hoffman tried to make it back to the majors by playing for St. Paul of the American Association and then Wilkes-Barre of the New York State League, but his comeback ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Daniel J. Hoffman, St. Louis Browns, American Tobacco Company baseball card portrait, 1911 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Once-Promising Talent Sidelined by Injury

Life after baseball saw Hoffman become a resident of Bridgeport. Having invested his baseball earnings wisely, Hoffman resided in a beautiful home on Stratford Avenue in the city’s east end. He became a very popular figure in Bridgeport and at one point local residents and civic leaders encouraged him to purchase the city’s struggling Eastern-League baseball team, but Hoffman slowly began retreating from public life.

In 1921, he left Bridgeport to move in with his parents in Manchester. Local residents reported rarely seeing Hoffman in public after that. Seven months after the move, in March of 1922, the Hartford Courant reported that Hoffman had passed away at his parents’ home due to “a general breaking down in health.” He was just 42 years old.

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 local 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 Church 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 affiliations. He often directed and starred in musical performances in Hartford and East Hartford. He gave singing performances for local audiences and could play the cornet. 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. In 1909, Anderson was nominated for City Council of Hartford’s Ninth Ward by Republican electors, but he declined to run for public office.

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 spring of 1909, he formed Hartford’s Military Baseball League. Delegates from the First Infantry, Second Division, Naval Militia and Connecticut National Guard attended. Lieutenant R. J. Goodman was elected league president and Romie B. Kuehns was chosen as 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 remained 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 a letter to the Hartford Courant demanding the formation of a league to determine a city champion amongst the many amateur clubs. 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 to watch City Amateur League games. At the season’s end, Anderson planned a grand banquet at Hotel Vendome featuring local dignitaries like Mayor Edward L. Smith. The 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 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 local 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 local radio entitled “We’ve Come Back to You.” On New Years 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.
Walter Elliot and Harry N. Anderson of the City Independent League, 1926.

Harry Anderson, a true jack-of-all-trades, was re-elected president of the Syria Grotto Band in 1927. The band was comprised of some of the best jazz musicians in Hartford. Anderson’s artistic pursuits, athletic promotions and sporting goods store made him one of the city’s most publicized figures. In many respects, Hartford relied on Anderson for his skillful leadership. He was a busy man, but always found time for annual gatherings like the fifteenth anniversary banquet of the Bermuda Invaders and the seventh annual Charity Bowling Carnival at the Hartford YMCA.

YMCA Bowling Alley, Hartford, 1927.
Charity Bowling Carnival, Hartford, 1927.

In late May of 1927, Anderson arranged a parade down Main Street to celebrate the national game. The event was known as Hartford Boys’ Baseball Day and featured a special guest: Commissioner of Major League Baseball Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis attended the parade, sat near the finish line at the Hartford Times Building and watched 5,000 marching youngsters. Landis wished the Hartford boys, “…all the luck in the world, but bear in mind, that a good sport plays according to the rules, and to some extent, makes his own luck.” Also on hand for the festivities were Mayor Norman Stevens, former ace of the Cincinnati Reds Stockings, George Wright, owner of the Hartford Senators, James H. Clarkin and President of the Eastern League, Herman J. Weisman. 

Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, 1925 (c.)
G. Fox advertisement in the Hartford Courant, 1927.

Later that year, Harry Anderson founded the World Series Club, an organization still in operation today. Anderson was an avid attendee of the World Series since 1917. While attending the 1927 series, Anderson and nineteen other Hartford men formed the club at Hotel Knickerbocker in New York City. Membership was open to Hartford residents who had attended at least one World Series. Club members included Mayor Norman Stevens, Art B. McGinley, Hartford Times sports editor, Albert W. Keane, Hartford Courant sports editor and Raymond Rutledge, a former pitcher of the Cleveland Indians. As for the outcome of the World Series, Babe Ruth and Lou Gerhig of “Murderer’s Row” swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four games to propel the Yankees to a world championship.

Hotel Knickerbocker, New York, New
York, 1927.
Paul Waner, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Lloyd Waner at the 1927 World Series.

Anderson then became president and part-time referee of the Farmington Valley Basketball League in early 1928. He chaired a committee to bring two hundred track and field athletes to the State Armory in mid-March, for the Massasoit Athletic Club Track Meet. At the event, Olympic sprinter Frank Hussey cracked the World Record for the 70-yard dash. By April, Anderson announced his intentions to direct Hartford’s Bankers Baseball League with Walter Elliot as his right-hand man. Arrangements were made at Anderson Sporting Goods and disseminated to local newspapers.

Knights of Lithuania, Farmington Valley Basketball League champions, 1928.
Indoor Track Meet at State Armory, Hartford, 1928.
State Armory, Hartford, Connecticut, 1928 (c.)

Before baseball season got underway, Anderson and members of the World Series Club welcomed to the city, new owners of the Hartford Senators. On Opening Day, April 18, 1928 at Bulkeley Stadium, Anderson presented the Eastern League club with a horseshoe-shaped floral bouquet. The flowers were thought to have given the Senators good fortune in their win over the Bridgeport Bears. A few weeks later, Anderson arranged the Farmington Valley Baseball League consisting of teams from Simsbury, New Britain, Windsor, East Hartford, East Glastonbury and Thompsonville.

In July of 1928, Harry Anderson was given a post on the American Olympic Committee. Anderson was a key member of the United States team’s statistical staff. He traveled from Hoboken, New Jersey aboard the Steam Ship Veendam of the Holland-American line to Amsterdam, Netherlands. He represented Hartford overseas for 16 days at the Summer Games. The 1928 Amsterdam Olympics marked the first continuous lighting of the Olympic Flame. On his return, Anderson received a testimonial dinner at Hotel Garde put on by local luminaries. Mayor Walter E. Batterson presided as toastmaster and lauded Anderson for his 25 years of service to Hartford sports.

Summer Olympics, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1928.
Betty Robinson, a 16-year-old American high school student, wins the 100-meter Dash at Summer Olympics, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1928.

On New Years Day, 1929, Anderson and the Hartford Exiles marked their tenth anniversary at The Hartford Club on Prospect Street. It was the first Exiles dinner at which wives of members were allowed to attend. Perhaps Anderson’s most notable accomplishment of 1929 was his participation at the fourteenth National Convention of Disabled American Veterans of War, a cause for which he cared deeply. He also remained chairman of the charity Bowling Carnival benefitting Camp Courant, a day camp for Hartford children.

City Bank Baseball, Hartford, Connecticut, 1929.
Hartford Delegates at the National Convention of Disabled American Veterans of World War, 1929.

Harry Anderson, Hartford’s unofficial patriarch of amateur baseball, took charge of Hartford’s Public Service Baseball League in 1929. At the start of July, he formed a new iteration of the City Independent Twilight League in a meeting at Anderson’s Sporting Goods. Teams competed at Colt Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays using “Spalding official rules” to govern the league. Hartford’s best teams participated such as: the Wolverines, McKinley Athletics, Holy Name, Economy Grocery, Bill Battey’s Spartans and Cardinal Athletic Club. Anderson was first president of the loop that eventually evolved into today’s Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League.

Harry N. Anderson, President of Public Service Baseball League, 1929.

At 45 years old, Anderson was a loyal patriot with enthusiasm for serving his community. In return for his 25 years of dedication to athletics in Hartford, city officials and dignitaries threw Anderson a testimonial dinner at Hotel Garde. On November 18, 1929, seven organized baseball leagues made up for most of the 175 dinner guests. Mayor Walter Batterson acted as toastmaster and famous football official Ed Thorp was keynote speaker. Other attendees included boxing star, Bat Battalino and Hartford Senators outfielder, Skee Watson. Anderson made an address of appreciation, and then handed out official Spalding trophies to the winners of each amateur league.

Harry N. Anderson’s 25 Years of Hartford Sports Anniversary Jubilee, 1929.

In 1930, Anderson became director of the Camp Courant Fund. Along with athletics and entertainment, fundraising for Camp Courant was Anderson’s life’s work. Nearly every year from 1920 until his passing in 1954, Anderson served as chairman of the annual Charity Bowling Carnival, directly benefiting the children at Camp Courant. Afterwards, he resumed responsibilities for the United States Olympic Committee. Anderson and committee members convened on Washington D.C. to devise plans for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, California.

Hartford Exiles banquet at Hotel Garde, 1930.
Charity Bowling Carnival, Hartford, Connecticut, 1930.
Syria Grotto Band, 1930.
Industrial League Opening Day, John Borrup General Superintendent of Pratt & Whitney Co. and Harry N. Anderson (right), Colt Park, Hartford, May 22, 1930.
Harry N. Anderson (third from left), United States Olympic Committee, Washington D.C. 1930.

An increasingly busy Anderson turned over president duties role of the Hartford Twilight League to John A. Barrett after one year. The Savitt Gems became city champions of 1930 by defeating Holy Name at Bulkeley Stadium. At the Gems victory banquet, players listened to a congratulatory speech from Anderson while enjoying a lobster dinner. Bill Savitt was awarded with the championship trophy while each player received championship rings. The Gems would go on to become Hartford’s most revered semi-professional team until 1945.

1930 Savitt Gems

That same summer, Anderson had made arrangements with a previous contact: Washington’s owner Clark Griffith. They scheduled a benefit game between the Washington Senators and a team of Eastern League All-Stars on September 23, 1930. Prices were 75 cents for grandstand seating, 50 cents for bleachers and 25 cents for children. Ticket proceeds were donated to the Hartford Chapter of Disabled American Veterans. Famous showmen Al Schacht and Nick Altrock were also on hand to perform comedy routines between innings.

1930 Washington Senators

Amid the Great Depression, Anderson’ philanthropic attitude persisted in Hartford and beyond. In February of 1931, over 700 bowlers entered Anderson’s Charity Blowing Carnival. The biggest attraction of the event was the women’s team from Albany, New York, who defeated a picked team of men from the Hartford Big Pin League. The proceeds of the carnival went to the care of underprivileged children of Camp Courant and Time Farm. A few months later, Anderson took part in the Connecticut Delegation at the 11th National Convention of Disabled Veterans of World War in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

23rd Annual Charity Bowling Carnival, 1931.
Connecticut Delegation to National Convention of Disabled Veterans of World War, 1931.

In August of 1931, Anderson showcased two former Olympic swimmers, Aileen Riggin and Helen Wainwright in Hartford. They competed at the pool at Capitol Park, an amusement park off of Wethersfield Avenue. One week later, Anderson accompanied two world champion boxers to meet the kids at Camp Courant; Christopher “Bat” Battalino, reigning world featherweight champion and Sammy Mandell, former lightweight champion. Anderson knew Battalino particularly well because it was Bat’s seventh consecutive visit to Camp Courant. The boxing pair awed campers with a boxing demonstration and their words of encouragement were met with loud three cheers.

Harry N. Anderson (second from left) at Camp Courant, 1931.
Bat Battalino Day at Camp Courant with Harry N. Anderson (center), 1931.

Next, Anderson was selected by former World Series champion Leslie Mann to the board of directors of the new United States Amateur Baseball Association, known today as the American Amateur Baseball Congress. Anderson was charged with determining Connecticut’s top amateur team of 1931 for a regional tournament at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He directed a four team playoff at Bulkeley Stadium wherein the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church baseball club of Hartford were the victors. St. Paul’s, led by the Dixon brothers Robert, George and John, then beat an opponent from Stafford Springs to win the state title, but they would lose in the regional tournament.

Leslie Mann, United States Amateur Baseball Association. 1931.
St. Paul’s Luthern Church baseball team, Hartford, Connecticut, 1931.

On New Years Day, 1932, the Hartford Exiles celebrated their 13th reunion banquet at Hotel Garde. Soon thereafter, Anderson was planning for the 12th annual Bowling Carnival. In a progressive move, he invited women bowlers to join in on the action. Crack women teams from Albany, New York and Allentown, Pennsylvania, impressed the men. Anderson then named a woman to the Bowling Carnival committee; Mary E. J. Lally of the Hartford Courant. $214 was donated to Camp Courant on behalf of Anderson’s Bowling Carnival.

Hartford Exiles at Hotel Garde, Hartford, Connecticut, 1932.
Harry N. Anderson (center), Chairman of the 24th annual Bowling Carnival, Hartford, Connecticut, 1932.

In March of 1932, Anderson and the Bermuda Invaders toasted to their 20th anniversary. Most of the team attended the occasion and Lewis R. Cheney, Mayor of Hartford at the time of the trip, was guest of honor. Then in April, Anderson arranged basketball benefit games, bringing in $164 to the Mayor’s Unemployment Relief Fund. In May, Anderson leaned on his contacts with the United States Olympic Committee to expose Hartford to track and field stars of the day. He tapped Paul de Bruyn, a German athlete and the first international winner of the Boston Marathon to make a public appearance for the Travelers Men’s Club at “Sports Night” at Foot Guard Hall.

Charity Bowling Carnival Committee entertain as band at Camp Courant, 1932.

Then, in preparation of the 1932 Summer Games in Los Angeles, Anderson promoted the “Olympic Games Benefit Night” at Capitol Park. The event fundraised for the United States Olympic team and featured multiple state championship boxing matches. Governor of Connecticut Wilbur L. Cross attended as the guest of honor. On July 24, 1932, Anderson left for Los Angeles by train. After departing, he was followed by a contingent of young men traveling in a dilapidated truck. In Anderson, Hartford fans had a direct link to the Olympics.

American athletes of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, 1932.

When Harry Anderson returned from Los Angeles, he told various gatherings about his Olympic experiences. He remarked that unexpected victories were the most thrilling of contests. Unanticipated outcomes of came when Helene Madison won three gold medals in swimming, Eddie Tolan earned two gold medals in sprinting and Babe Didrikson wrested two gold medals in javelin and hurdles. Also known as “Games of the X Olympiad” the 1932 Games marked the first Olympic Village built for athletes, which became a model for the future.

Babe Didrikson throwing javelin, Summer Olympics, Los Angeles, 1932.

The Summer Games were held from July 30 to August 15, 1932. Motion pictures from the games were distributed throughout the world. Anderson brought one of the films home to Hartford and screened it to local audiences and fraternal organizations. Among the scenes depicted in the film was Tolan’s photo finish victory. Anderson recounted that the Olympiad turned a profit for the first time since Athens in 1896. During his presentations he also noted that Germany would host the Olympics in 1936, then Japan would bear the torch in 1940.

Americans, Ed Tolan (left) and Ralph Metcalfe (right) finish first and second in 100 meter dash, 1932.

In April of 1933, Anderson served as a pallbearer for his friend Ted WInis who passed away in a tragic automobile accident. Winis was a well-liked 3 year old Assistant Sports Editor of the Hartford Times. On a lighter note, Anderson was assigned a new task by the mayor a few weeks later. He headed Hartford’s welcome committee of an American aviator, Wiley Post; the first pilot to fly solo around the world. Anderson and a few thousand spectators enthusiastically welcomed Post and his plane the “Winnie Mae” at Brainard Field. Before the year’s end, Anderson presided over the largest assembly of the World Series Club to date at Hotel Wellington in New York City.

World Series Club annual banquet at Hotel Wellington, New York, New York, 1933.
Hotel Wellington, New York, New York, 1933.
Harry N. Anderson (third from right) delivers Christmas gifts to veterans, 1933.

Next, in 1934, Anderson traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas for spring training. He accompanied Mickey Lambert, a scout from Unionville, Connecticut who often visited Hot Springs with the St. Paul Saints of the American Association owned by former Hartford Senators manager, Bob “Tom” Connery. Lambert was a personal friend of Babe Ruth, who began the concept of Spring Training in Hot Springs. No known record exists of Ruth meeting Anderson, though he would later represent Hartford at Ruth’s funeral. That summer, Anderson rallied a new City Independent League and recruited former mayor, Walter Batterson to be honorary president.

Ed Brown, Bill Savitt, Max Savitt & Harry N. Anderson award silver baseballs to Camp Courant All-Star team, 1934.
L to R: Mickey Lambert, Tom Connery and Harry N. Anderson Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1935.

While head of the City Independent League, Anderson acted as part-time umpire for old-timer games put on by Albert G. Kamm and his Yesteryear Stars. Meanwhile, Anderson also pursued improvements at Colt Park including a new baseball stadium. The City of Hartford approved park improvements at the behest of Anderson, police captain John Henry and umpire chief, John A. DeRidder. Construction of the stadium was funded by the New Deal’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration and overseen by Recreation Supervisor James H. Dillon. Municipal Stadium was completed in June of 1935 and later became known as Dillon Stadium after renovations in 1956.

John A. DeRidder, Hartford Umpire Chief, 1935.
Opening Day at Municipal Stadium, Colt Park, Hartford, Connecticut, 1935.

Anderson attended Opening Day at Municipal Stadium on June 29, 1935. Pregame ceremonies began with a parade led by Mayor Joseph W. Beach and Superintendent of Parks, George H. Hollister. Marching bands and ballplayers walked in formation from the new swimming pool to the new stadium where officials hoisted an American flag up a flagpole. Spectators witnessed the first Hartford Twilight League game of the season between the Tuckel Rhymers and Check Bread. The stadium had aprofessional caliber playing surface, large bleachers lining foul territory and high board fencing surrounding the outfield. In addition to baseball, the 5,000-person venue accommodated football games and track and field competitions.

Harry N. Anderson and volunteers deliver gifts to veterans, Hartford, Connecticut, 1935.

On March 11, 1936, the Connecticut River flooded, devastating Municipal Stadium and the city of Hartford. Anderson, the dean of Hartford sports, sprang into action. He headed a charity basketball tournament backed by Mayor Thomas J. Spellacy to collect donations for the Red Cross. In May, Anderson was named director of the Hartford County YMCA athletic organization. Then in June, he announced a $100 donation to Camp Courant from his annual Charity Bowling Carnival. Anderson fulfilled his many obligations while preparing for his role with the United States Olympic Committee at the upcoming games in Berlin, Germany.

Flooding of Connecticut River in Hartford, 1936.

Alongside the United States Olympic team, Anderson headed to Germany aboard the steamship Manhattan in New York City on July 15, 1936. The head of the United States Olympic Committee was the notorious Avery Brundage. During the voyage to Germany, some of the athletes engaged in drinking on board. The American favorite for the 100-meter backstroke, Eleanor Holm Jarrett was dismissed for excessive drinking, though she later accused Brundage of partiality. When the ship arrived in Hamburg, Anderson sent postcards to friends in Hartford, including a card to 600 kids at Camp Courant.

Harry N. Anderson (top, right), American Olympic Committee, Berlin, Germany, 1936.

The Berlin-based XI Olympiad began on August 1, 1936, and lasted fifteen days. Nazi Germany hosted the iconic Olympic Games where the world came to know Jesse Owens. The American track star won four gold medals and helped his relay team set a 400-meter world record. Harry Anderson endorsed Owens and the United States team as “the best ever.” He had positive words for Berlin as a hospitable and clean city. Unbeknownst to Anderson and attendees at the Berlin Games, Adolph Hitler and fascists in Europe would cause the catastrophe of World War II.

Jesse Owens, wins 4 gold medals at Berlin Olympics, 1936.
Harry N. Anderson (seated, left) at YMCA Olympic Dinner, Hartford, Connecticut, 1936.
United States team who earned 400-meter relay gold medal, 1936.

When he made it back to the United States, Anderson had motion pictures sent to Hartford so he could share his fourth Olympic Games. Now in his fifties, Anderson stayed busy by keeping up with friends, conducting annual and showing footage from the Berlin Olympics. Towards the end of 1936, he stepped down as president of the World Series Club. Shortly thereafter, he closed his sporting goods business and eyed retirement. He continued his charitable work with the Charity Bowling Carnival in 1937. The event was called the largest duckpin bowling tournament in the country. Weeks later, Anderson marked the twenty-fifth anniversary banquet of the Bermuda Invaders.

Harry N. Anderson (standing, center) at the annual Charity Bowling Carnival, Hartford, Connecticut, 1937.
Camp Courant baseball champions banqueting with Harry N. Anderson (seated, far right), 1937.

In the fall of 1937, Anderson assisted in the establishment a new organization dubbed Veteran Baseball Players Association. The group of players, managers, umpires and officials was created to promote and preserve the game while supporting aged baseball men experiencing poverty or illness. Members were required to be at least forty years of age. Former Hartford ballplayer Albert G. Kamm was elected president while Anderson was second in command. The Veteran Baseball Players Association hosted old-timers games, charitable events, banquets and conventions.

Harry N. Anderson, 1938.
L to R: Rudy C. Hansen, A.J. Clements and Harry N. Anderson discuss upcoming 1940 Olympics, Clarkhurst Ranch East Hampton, Connecticut, 1938.

By 1938, the veterans association had about 300 members in 14 different states. To promote the association, Anderson and Kamm assembled old-timer games. On one occasion, Anderson dressed up as Abner Doubleday, alleged founder of baseball, and umpired an old-timer game played in the nineteenth century style of the New York Knickerbockers. At another contest, former big leaguer “Big Ed” Walsh of Meriden, Connecticut, appeared with the Yesteryear Stars at Bulkeley Stadium. Eventually, the Wives and Daughters of Veteran Baseball Players Association was established to support women.

Harry N. Anderson, 1938.
Courant Championship Baseball Team at Hotel Bond with Bill Savitt and Harry N. Anderson, 1938.
“Big Ed” Walsh, 1938.

As part of baseball’s hundredth birthday of celebration in 1939, the ultimate distinction was bestowed upon Harry Anderson and the Bermuda Invaders. Bob Quinn, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame invited them to a special ceremony in Cooperstown, New York. At the Hall of Fame, Quinn unveiled a citation declaring the Invaders the first amateur team to compete on foreign soil. Anderson handed over a team photograph taken in 1912 to curator William Beattie, who hung it on the wall. They were officially the first amateurs recognized by the Hall of Fame in baseball history.

Bob Quinn, Director, National Baseball Hall of Fame, 1939.
L to R: Rex Islieb, Charles Palmberg, William Beattie, Harry N. Anderson, Ted Marenholtz (captain), Mortimer Bacon and Adam Purves, Jr. – The Bermuda Invaders give team photograph to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York, 1939.

Anderson’s Hall of Fame glory was a fitting capstone on his prolific baseball career. Even still, he sought out new objectives, impactful projects and timely crusades. Ever the humble and faithful servant to Hartford’s Christ Church Cathedral, he served on the Christ Church Cathedral campaign. Later, during the Christmas season of 1939, Anderson and other volunteers distributed gifts and food to Hartford’s war veterans. Throughout his adult life, he set aside time nearly every Christmas to deliver yule tidings, most often in a Santa Claus costume.

Harry N. Anderson (standing, right) part of the Christ Church Cathedral Campaign, 1939.
Harry N. Anderson (center) at Washington’s Birthday Charity Bowling Carnival at Capitol Alleys, Hartford, Connecticut, 1939.

Anderson began 1940 as toastmaster of the Hartford Exiles reunion. He welcomed Congressman William J. Miller of Connecticut’s First Congressional district to the Exiles. Miller was eligible to join the Exiles due to his service with the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. during World War I. About a month later, Anderson and the Charity Bowling Carnival committee awarded gold watches to youngsters at Camp Courant for good citizenship. Later that year, Anderson assumed the role of Chairman for the Veteran Baseball Players Association. He delegated responsibility of the annual convention to association members in Torrington, Connecticut.

Congressman William J. Miller, 1939.
Hartford Exiles annual banquet, 1940.
Harry N. Anderson of the Hartford Exiles, 1940.
Mayor Spellacy and Harry N. Anderson visit Camp Courant, 1940.

Ongoing Nazi aggression abroad caused American communities like Hartford to react with shock and concern. Anderson and the Hartford Exiles were eerily reminded of the German menace of World War I. The Exiles initiated sitting Governor Raymond E. Baldwin into the order on New Years Day, 1941. Governor Baldwin gave an eloquent speech exclaiming, “America now needs our loyalty, our energy and our courage more than ever before; let us all go forward with courage, united.” The banquet drew a record number of attendees whom Anderson invited back to feast around the “H” shaped table for the ensuing year.

Hartford Exiles, 1941.
Raymond E. Baldwin, Governor of Connecticut, 1941.

During the fall of 1941, Anderson made renowned first baseman Johnny Evers, Governor Robert A. Hurley and United States Representative James A. Shanley of New Haven honorary vice presidents of the Veteran Baseball Players Association. Two years prior, Anderson had lobbied Congressman Shanley to submit a resolution to the United States House of Representatives outlining the concept of National Baseball Day. With the full backing of Anderson and the veterans association, Congressman Shanley took up the crusade once again in 1941, but no legislation was passed. Anderson intended National Baseball Day to be an observance honoring the game and its supposed Civil War era forefather, Major General Abner Doubleday.

Congressman James A. Shanley, with his son James A. Shanley Jr., 1939 (c.)

Because Doubleday’s parents once lived in Lebanon, Connecticut, before relocating to Ballston Spa, New York, Anderson surmised a direct link between Doubleday and Connecticut. Therefore, Anderson thought it fitting for a congressmen from Connecticut to introduce a resolution for National Baseball Day. He chose Doubleday’s birthday, June 26, as the date of observance. Anderson conspired with politicians to get National Baseball Day enacted into law and spent his final fifteen years advocating for the cause.

Major General Abner Doubleday, 1865 (c.)

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 22, 1941, Hartford’s young men prepared for military service. Meanwhile, Anderson provided Hartford residents with a diversion at the lanes. As president of the Greater Hartford Big Pin Bowling League in 1942, he was tasked with organizing one of the most competitive bowling leagues in Connecticut. Colt Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing and United Aircraft Corporation entered teams into the big pin league. That year, Anderson also volunteered as a committee member of the 61st Republican precinct.

Hartford Exiles, 1942.

Anderson soon made significant headway towards implementing National Baseball Day. On March 20, 1943, a letter and a copy of Anderson’s resolution and was received by the White House. Congressman William J. Miller of the Hartford Exiles had sent the letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of Anderson and the Veteran Baseball Players Association. Miller highlighted the potential war chest benefits of establishing National Baseball Day:

William J. Miller, U.S. Representative from Connecticut, 1943.

“It might be possible to tie this observance in with the sale of war bonds and stamps. I believe it would be possible to secure the cooperation of the Commissioner of baseball, officials of the major and minor leagues, along with a couple of thousand of men who are interested in sandlot baseball throughout the country. If the Treasury Department, through the offices of those engage in promoting the sale of war bonds and stamps, would cooperate in the effort, I believe that the baseball fans of the United States would purchase substantially over $1 billion worth of bonds and stamps on that one day.”

William J. Miller, U.S. Representative
Letter to President Roosevelt about National Baseball Day from Congressman Miller, 1943.

No written response came from President Roosevelt, who was busy commanding American forces in World War II. When Congressman Miller presented National Baseball Day to Congress, the bill died on the House floor. However, Harry Anderson persevered. After marking the 30th anniversary of the Bermuda Invaders, Anderson and Hartford’s Chapter No. 1 of the Veteran Baseball Players Association planned a trip to Lebanon, Connecticut. They sought to promote National Baseball Day at home of Doubleday’s parents but strict wartime limits on gasoline during the war forced Anderson to cancel the pilgrimage.

Harry N. Anderson, 1943.

A few months after the invasion of D-Day, Harry Anderson made an appearance at a Camp Courant award ceremony with Private Tony DeMaio of the Marine Corps. They were also joined by members of the Hartford baseball club: Business Manager Charlie Blossfield, Manager Del Bissonette, and a pitcher, Merle Settlemire. They presented the Bert Keane Trophy for sportsmanship to Angelo Perone of 54 Charter Oak Avenue. Then, in October of 1944, Anderson was in an automobile accident. He sustained minor injuries and checked into Hartford Hospital. Anderson made a full recovery and details of his injuries were not disclosed.

Harry N. Anderson visits Camp Courant, 1944.

In his latter years, Anderson was a frequent contributor to the opinion pages of the Hartford Courant. When Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis died on November 25, 1944, Anderson composed a tribute to baseball’s “greatest leader” who restored confidence in the game. He shared a personal anecdote of meeting Landis who jumped at the opportunity to attend Hartford Boys’ Baseball Day in 1927. Anderson’s next editorial called for the continuation of athletics during World War II. He touted the physical, mental and social benefits of sports. Baseball in particular, he argued, was an important facet of daily life and served as an inspiration to young people.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis playing golf with Hartford Mayor Walter Batterson, 1930.

Anderson was behind another public address when the Hartford Exiles broadcasted their 1945 reunion on the radio. Remarks were made by Congressman Miller who endorsed the Universal Service Act—requiring military service for American citizens. At the dinner, Commandant Anderson wore his YMCA uniform from his days in France. Later that year, Anderson was appointed to Hartford’s Medallion Commission, an official committee that voted on military service awards given on behalf of the city. War heroes such as Major General Leonard F. Wing and General Jonathan M. Wainwright were presented medals while making appearances in Hartford.

Hartford Exiles, 1945.

Then in August, Anderson showed his appreciation for a late friend, Mary E. J. Lally. She had been general supervisor of Camp Courant since 1924. After her sudden passing in 1934, Lally was remembered each year at the camp on “Mary E. J. Lally Day” and Anderson was a regular attendee. Like his friend Mary Lally, Anderson was a champion of youth organizations and physical education. His attachment to these causes led him publish more editorials on the topics of athletics, politics and all things Hartford.

Anderson attends Mary E. J. Lally Day at Camp Courant, Hartford, 1945.

In two columns during 1945, Anderson expressed the need for an indoor arena in Hartford capable of hosting various cold weather sports. The Greater Hartford community had become more interested in cold weather sports such as basketball and hockey. He recommended dedicating the arena to veterans of both world wars and suggested a design similar to the Hershey Sports Arena in Pennsylvania. However, it would be another thirty years until the Hartford Civic Center was built in 1974.

Hershey Sports Arena, Hershey, Pennsylvania, 1940 (c.)

On New Years night in 1946, Harry Anderson and his exclusive club of Exiles dined around an “H” shaped table at Hotel Garde. Commandant Anderson presided as master of ceremonies which included the induction of Major Kenneth G. Collins into the order. Colonel Elmer S. Watson, state motor vehicles commissioner gave the keynote speech about the cost of world peace. He praised the valorous acts carried out by 43rd Infantry Division, made up of men from Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Former Staff Sargent Donald C. Millen of Rocky Hill, Connecticut, exhibited his collection of souvenirs from a raid of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

Hartford Exiles, 1946.

The Bermuda Invaders reunion of 1946 took place at Marble Pillar, a German restaurant in downtown Hartford. At the dinner, Anderson screened a short film of the 1945 World Series featuring the American League Champion Detroit Tigers defeating the National League Champion Chicago Cubs in seven games. Anderson had become a regular customer at Marble Pillar and a friend of the restaurant owner, Carl Struve. When Struve turned 72 years old, Anderson and the Veteran Baseball Players Association threw a him a birthday party.

Carl Struve, owner of Marble Pillar, 1946.
Marble Pillar advertisement, 1965.

In spring of 1946, Anderson donated unboxed baseball gloves to a contest run by the Hartford Chiefs and a group known as the Lady Fans of Hartford. The women’s fan club selected two Hartford High School baseball players, Bob Andrews and Arnold Lewis as recipients of the gloves and a Spring Training tryout with the Hartford Chiefs in Greenwood, Mississippi. Towards the end of the baseball season, Anderson made his annual visit to Camp Courant accompanied by Charlie Blossfield of the Hartford Chiefs and William J. Lee of the Hartford Courant. The trio the camp’s highest honor to Kenneth Jerome for sportsmanship, citizenship and athletic ability. 

Lady Fans of Hartford gift baseball gloves donated by Harry N. Anderson to Hartford students, 1946.
Harry Anderson looks on (right) as Kenneth Jerome receives Bert Keane Trophy at Camp Courant, 1946.

The following year, Anderson revisited the push for National Baseball Day. He wrote another editorial in the newspaper on April 20, 1947, endorsing the creation of National Baseball Day and exclaiming the importance of Abner Doubleday:

“For if he had not conceived the idea of the game, there would be no baseball game and no Babe Ruth to take part. Congressman William J. Miller of Connecticut had presented a resolution to side aside [Major] General Abner Doubleday’s birthday as a National Baseball Day and will bring it before the President and Congress again. A certain percentage of the receipts from the games in the major and minor baseball leagues on the National Baseball Day could be devoted to taking care of veteran baseball players in need and the youth program in the development of baseball among sandlot players as a National Baseball Fund.”

Harry N. Anderson
Harry N. Anderson, 1947.

Anderson’s calls for National Baseball Day were heard, but the levers of government had failed to deliver results. Yet, he remained engaged in the Veteran Baseball Player’s Association. Anderson was chosen as president at the annual convention of 1948 at Craig Loch Manor in Meriden, Connecticut. His bygone friends, Luke Crowe of West Haven and Mickey Lambert of Unionville, served as officers. Former professional players, Harry Noyes of West Haven and James. J. Burns of Hartford, were each named vice presidents.

Craig Loch Manor, Meriden, Connecticut, 1948 (c.)

On August 17, 1948, Anderson attended the funeral of baseball’s biggest superstar, Babe Ruth. He was selected by Mayor Cyril Coleman to represent the City of Hartford. Ruth’s memorial was held at Universal Funeral Chapel on 52nd Street in Manhattan. About a month later, Anderson accepted an appointment to Hartford’s Rent Advisory Board. He had been personally recommended to the position by Governor James C. Shannon.

Hartford Exiles at 29th annual reunion, 1948.
Harry N. Anderson named as Hartford’s delegate for Babe Ruth’s funeral, 1948.
Governor James C. Shannon, 1948.

The Hartford Exiles gathered for their thirtieth anniversary on January 3, 1949. The milestone was held at the University Club situated at 30 Lewis Street. Twenty-five members heard Superior Court Judge Edward J. Daly deliver the keynote speech. Daly, one of three American judges at the Nuremberg Trials, spoke about the ruthless and criminal conduct of the Nazi regime. The Hartford Exiles inducted two new members, who were announced as the final additions to the order. Even though new membership had ended, Anderson promised that the reunions would go on.

Hartford Exiles at the University Club, 1949.
Judge Edward J. Daly, 1949.

In the spring of 1949, Anderson gave a commencement speech to the graduating class at his alma mater, Brown School. By summertime, he made an obligatory visit and donation to Camp Courant on behalf of the Charity Bowling Carnival. Then, ten years after being honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Anderson and the Bermuda Invaders were invited back to Cooperstown. Director of the Hall Fame, Bob Quinn recognized their feat in Bermuda, and he signed a draft of Anderson’s National Baseball Day resolution.

Harry N. Anderson (center) at Camp Courant, 1949.
Harry N. Anderson (left) at graduation of the Brown School on Market Street in Hartford, 1949.

In 1950, Anderson coaxed Congressman Abraham Ribicoff into backing National Baseball Day. Ribicoff, a Democrat, crafted legislation for the observance, but again, the bill was rejected in committee. Back in Hartford, Anderson wrote short column endorsing fellow Exile, William A. Purtell for Governor of Connecticut. Purtell lost the 1950 Republican primary to Congressman John Davis Lodge. Later that year, the Exiles mourned the passing of three members: Rev. Raymond Cunningham, Congressman William J. Miller and former managing editor of the Hartford Courant, George B. Armstead.

Hartford Exiles, 1950.
Congressman Abraham Ribicoff introduces legislation for National Baseball Day, 1950.

Anderson and Hartford Exiles began 1951 at the University Club for their thirty-second annual reunion. Hartford Attorney Thomas J. Dodd, distinguished for his work as prosector at the Nuremberg Trials, was guest speaker. Anderson and others listened to the aspiring politician declare communist Russia as America’s next greatest threat. Dinner guests enjoyed the same four course meal served in Paris in 1919. The Exiles ended the night by singing the national anthems of the United States and of France.

An architectural drawing of the University Club, Hartford, Connecticut, 1936.
Thomas J. Dodd, 1946.

The Charity Bowling Carnival in February of 1951 was wildly popular. Anderson’s annual event for Camp Courant attracted seventy-two bowling teams who competed until a half hour until midnight. At 65 years old, Anderson’s philanthropic ways never ceased. On August 24, 1951, he arranged a special night at Bulkeley Stadium for young patients of the Newington Crippled Home for Children, who were greeted by members of the Hartford Chiefs and given autographed baseballs. At the end of the year, Anderson received a national honor when he was handpicked by the Amateur Athletic Union to vote on finalists for the James E. Sullivan Award.

Harry N. Anderson (seated, center) visits Camp Courant, 1951.
The Hartford Chiefs meet a patient from Newington Home for Crippled Children at Bulkeley Stadium, 1951.

In 1952, Anderson and the Bermuda Invaders celebrated the fortieth anniversary since their groundbreaking trip. Some members of the close-knit team brought their wives to the banquet including Theodore J. Marenholtz, Harry E. Rau and Carl Palmberg. Anderson never married. Instead, he reveled in camaraderie within fraternal, athletic and nonprofit organizations, many of which he had founded. He had few family relations, but he had dozens of close friends and admiring acquaintances.

Bermuda Invaders celebrate 40th Anniversary in Hartford, 1952.
The Bert Keane Trophy awarded by management of the Hartford Chiefs and Harry N. Anderson (right) at Camp Courant, 1952.

As a self-proclaimed “friend of pets,” Anderson owned a cocker spaniel named Princess. On a few occasions, Anderson contributed articles to the newspaper concerning the treatment dogs in Hartford. He advocated for a new shelter where stray or abandoned pets could remain until adopted by residents. Each Christmas Eve, from 1950 to 1953, Anderson went door-to-door gifting juicy bones to local dogs. One reporter called him the “Santa Claus of Canines.”

Harry N. Anderson gives bones to dogs on Christmas Eve, 1952

Anderson carried on his humanitarian habits in 1953. The Charity Bowling Carnival raised $75 for the Newington Home and Hospital for Crippled Children. During the check presentation, Anderson gifted a baseball autographed by Milwaukee Braves to Thomas Julian of West Hartford, a patient at the Newington facility. In another baseball matter, Anderson penned a glowing tribute to Hall of Fame Bob Quinn upon his passing in 1954: “He brought to the game the spirit of clean and honorable sportsmanship in all his dealings.”

Harry N. Anderson (second from right) hands autographed ball to Thomas Julian at the Newington Home and Hospital for Crippled Children, 1953.

Towards the end of his life, Harry Anderson lived at 21 Montrose Street, Hartford. After an extended illness, he passed away on Christmas Day, 1954, at New Britain Hospital at the age of 69. Anderson died leaving many lifelong friends behind. They were saddened to lose him before his seventies. He was remembered as head of the Charity Bowling Carnival, Commandant of the Hartford Exiles and leader of the Bermuda Invaders. Anderson served others and in the process, he rubbed elbows with America’s greatest sports figures and politicians.

Harry N. Anderson at Camp Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, 1954.

A few days after Anderson’s passing, a friend from South Norwalk, Connecticut, and former track athlete, Harold Cutbill wrote a touching “A Tribute to Harry N. Anderson” in the Hartford Courant. In his last will and testament, Anderson left savings to Hartford causes and organizations. He bequeathed $16,000 in all. Camp Courant and Times Farm received $500 each. Other beneficiaries were Christ Church Cathedral, YMCA of Hartford, Newington Home for Crippled Children, Masonic Charity Foundation of Wallingford and the Hartford Chapter of the Yankee Division. Surviving members of the Hartford Exiles were left $500 to defray costs at future reunions.

Hartford Courant excerpt, December 29, 1954.

Anderson’s pursuit of National Baseball Day did not go in vain. He had convinced Congressman Thomas J. Dodd to take up the resolution, but it failed to pass the committee stage yet again. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an ardent baseball fan, saw merit in the observance day. In 1957, President Eisenhower declared the first National Baseball Polio Day on Flag Day, June 14, 1957, at stadiums and sandlots across America. Professional and amateur teams throughout the United States collected donations to combat the polio epidemic.

National Baseball Polo Day is established, 1957.

With great vigor and influence, Harry N. Anderson was a sports promoter, a philanthropist and a founding father of amateur baseball in Hartford. He acted admirably as a conduit between the city and charitable organizations. Thousands of men, women and children benefited from his life’s work. He was a man of strong traditions, varied interests, charity, service and faith who devised athletic leagues and blazed baseball’s trail, from Hartford to Bermuda to Cooperstown.

The Harry Anderson Memorial Bowling Carnival at Capitol Alleys, Hartford, Connecticut, 1955.

Gentlemen:—

Permit me to comment on the part you have taken in the interest of the poor children of this city that they might enjoy the recreational privileges that others of better circumstances have benefited for their physical welfare. It is a most worthy object that should have the support of all whose means will allow. I feel that the sporting fraternity of this city is in sympathy with any movement that will aid in the betterment of the physical development of our community life and should have a part this cause.

I therefore have arranged for a benefit baseball game to be played at a later date for which the proceeds will be turned over to this work. It is through the spirited co-operation of the Hartford police and firemen together with the services of the Hartford Grays and Simsbury teams of the County League that this is made possible.

I feel sure the sporting fraternity of this city will lend its patronage as it has all times in the past so that the event may be a big success in the upkeep of this worthy work. Assuring you my co-operation and best wishes for its continued success. I remain—

Sincerely yours,

Harry N. Anderson
July 31, 1920

¹A similar National Baseball Day resolution was presented to Congress in 1996 by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey however this time, Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. was named as the founding father of baseball, not Abner Doubleday.

Sources

1. Hartford Courant database accessed through Newspapers.com
2. Player profiles on Baseball-Reference.com
3. Media content from Connecticuthistoryillustrated.org
4. Boston Globe database accessed through Newspapers.com
5. SABR Bio Project, Les Mann: sabr.org/bioproj/person/les-mann/
6. Baseball Prospectus: baseballprospectus.com/
7. Martin, Brian. Baseball’s Creation Myth: Adam Ford, Abner Graves and the Cooperstown Story. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers, 2013.

Hartford, Connecticut, A Pioneer Baseball Town

In February of 1938, news broke of a “Class A” Eastern League team relocating to Hartford. The Hartford Bees (also called Hartford Laurels and Hartford Senators) were established when Boston Braves owner, Bob Quinn moved his top farm team from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to the Charter Oak City. Hartford had been deprived of a professional team since the end of 1934. Reacting to the announcement, Hartford Times sports columnist Dan Parker contextualized the moment amidst the city’s baseball history:

Bob Quinn, Boston Bees owner (left) signs lease of Bulkeley Stadium, 1938.

Hartford, one of baseball’s pioneer towns, is back in the game after being outside the pale for a half dozen years. True, it is a far cry and a big drop from one of the original franchises in the National League to membership in the Eastern, but Hartford folk while glorifying in the past, also want to do a bit of glorifying in the present, and, therefore welcome a Class A club without a trace of condescension.

Not only did Hartford furnish the National League with one of the charter clubs but it also gave the league its first president, the late Morgan G. Bulkeley. But that isn’t the 50 per cent of it, my little horned toads. Bob Ferguson, who managed the Hartford club and steered it into second place in its first season in baseball and finished third in its second and last year in the National, would have made the first unassisted triple play in history, were it not for the annoying circumstance that one man already had been retired when Bob made his “triple killing.”

It was Hartford, too, that was the victim of the first no-hit game in the National League. Not only that, but Hartford also invented the double header as a means of stimulating attendance. When it failed to work, the franchise was surrendered. But, in those days, Hartford was just a struggling small town and not the bustling metropolis it is today, with a toe-hold on most of the insurance business in America.

If there is a better city in its particular class than Hartford, I have yet to encounter it. The population is currently estimated at 175,000, but towns within easy driving distance swell the ball club’s potential customer list to close to a half million. The town is really in the International League class.

Hartford’s return to organized baseball is a happy home and for those other New England cities, rich in baseball history but now unhappily out of procession. It is almost unbelievable that good baseball towns like Providence, Wooster, New Haven, Springfield and—yes—dear old Waterbury, should be without representation and organized baseball for a decade, when they used to constitute the best minor league territory until the depression wrecked industrial New England.

Dan Parker, Hartford Times
Dan Parker, Hartford Times, 1938.

DiPietro to Enter Berlin High School Hall of Fame

Soon-to-be Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Ryan DiPietro attended Eastern Connecticut State University, was drafted by both the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals and later played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for five seasons with the Meriden Merchants franchise, now known as the Record-Journal Expos.

Published August 17, 2021 in the Record-Journal

The Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Aqua Turf. Leading up to the event, The Citizen is highlighting the accomplishments of the Hall of Fame Class of 2021. This week: Ryan DiPietro.

A member of the Class of 2002, DiPietro made an immediate impact on the baseball field. As a freshman in 1999, he stepped to the plate in the second round of the CIAC Class L state tournament and homered on the first pitch he saw. That also happened to be his very first varsity at-bat.

The Redcoats went on to claim the Class L crown, and DiPietro was on his way to legend status.

“My baseball roots are right here in Berlin,” DiPietro said. “We took pride in the success in town, Little League on up. And that 1999 state title team continued that tradition.”

Ryan DiPietro, 2001.

While DiPietro was a fine hitter and centerfielder, he is best known for his work on the mound. The lefty set BHS’s seven-inning  strikeout record (17), was 7-0 with a .085 ERA with two one-hitters as a junior and went 6-2 with a .050 ERA and 94 strikeouts as a senior.

DiPietro was an All-State and all-conference performer, and was selected MVP of the 2002 Senior All-Star game held at Fenway Park. Also in 2002, he led Berlin to the American Legion state championship, and was named tournament MVP.

DiPietro was selected by the the New York Mets in the 42nd round of the 2002 MLB draft, but he opted for college.

DiPietro would attend Eastern Connecticut State University, where he compiled a career record of 29-3 and, in 2004, helped propel ECSU to the national title game.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Eastern Connecticut, 2004.

A NCAA Division III All-American and Pitcher of the Year selection, DiPietro set ECSU records for strikeouts in a game (19), strikeouts in a season (162) and consecutive victories (19). He ranks second in career strikeouts (336) and starts in a season (15).

DiPietro was the sixth-round selection of the Kansas City Royals in 2005 and would play minor and independent league ball for seven years.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Burlington Bees, 2006.

DiPietro now works as an environmental inspector. He lives in Wallingford with his wife Rachel, sons Chase and Cal and daughter Hailey.

Also entering the Hall of Fame this year are Katelyn Zarotney (Class of 2010, basketball and volleyball), Max DeLorenzo (Class of 2010, football and basketball) and Cliff Landry (football and basketball coach 1954-61.)

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Merchants, 2016.

The ceremony for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was called off due to the coronavirus, so it will be inducted along with the Class of 2021. The Class of 2020 includes Steve Baccaro (Class of 1947), Phil Perretta (Class of 1961), John Steurer (Class of 1980), Cynthia Gozzo Dastoli (Class of 1990), Robert Manzo (Class of 1990), Allison Murphy Semenuk (Class of 2002), Matt Carasiti (Class of 2009), and the 1999 and 2000 state championship wrestling teams.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Expos, 2016.

When the Washington Senators Came to Hartford

On September 23, 1930, the Washington Senators stepped off the train at Hartford’s Union Station. The Senators were on their way to play the Boston Red Sox in a four game series but not before making a stop in Hartford. The team was led by Hall of Fame inductee, Walter Johnson who had become manager after twenty years as Washington’s consummate pitching ace. The club rested up at Hotel Garde that Tuesday morning before their afternoon game at Bulkeley Stadium.

Opposing the Senators was a team comprised of Eastern League All-Stars. The minor league team was led by player-manager, Billy Gleason, a veteran second basemen from the Springfield club. Gleason invited his teammate Bill “Whitey” Dreesen, the Eastern League leader in hits to Hartford. Other players in the Eastern League lineup included corner outfielder John “Bunny” Roser and pitcher Fred “Cy” Waterman.

Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut, looking south, 1930.

Local sporting goods store owner and the founder of the Hartford Twilight League, Harry N. Anderson was responsible for scheduling the game. Anderson made arrangements with Washington’s owner Clark Griffith. Prices were 75 cents for grandstand seating, 50 cents for bleachers and 25 cents for children. Ticket proceeds would be donated to the Hartford Chapter of Disabled American Veterans. Famous showmen Al Schacht and Nick Altrock were also on hand to perform comedy routines between innings.

However, well-known names and newspaper publicity only brought 800 fans to the stadium. Tuesday afternoon was not a convenient time for fans, and there were economic reasons for the low attendance. Hartford, like most places in America at that time, were in the grips of the Great Depression. When poverty and unemployment skyrocketed, benefit games featuring baseball stars were popular events, but unaffordable for many.

Hartford Courant excerpt, September 21, 1930.

Longtime Hartford umpires, Walter Elliot and John “Boggy” Muldoon worked the exhibition at Bulkeley Stadium. First pitch was set for 4:15 PM. In the heart of the batting order for Washington were: right fielder Sam Rice, left fielder Heinie Manush and shortstop Joe Cronin (all of which later inducted into the Hall of Fame). The Senators were one of the most revered hitting clubs in all of baseball.

Although it was the minor leaguers who took an early lead. Whitey Dreesen connected for a grand slam in the fourth inning. The game only lasted eight innings to allow the Senators to catch a train to Boston. Neil Dougherty and Billy Gleason each had two knocks on the day. The Eastern Leaguers won the game 9-8 thanks to a smoky RBI single by Jonathan “Mandy” Brooks.

Unfortunately, Walter Johnson did not make an appearance at the game. The reason for his absence remains unknown. Perhaps Johnson was sick or maybe he was focused on Washington’s remaining American League schedule. By the end of September, the Washington Senators had finished second in the American League with 94 wins and 60 losses, eight games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1931.

Source: Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com.

Umpire Charlie Daniels, Baseball Pioneer from Hartford

Charles F. Daniels was born in Colchester, Connecticut, on March 13, 1849. He moved to Hartford as a young adult and became a pitcher for the Hartford Amateurs, a club comprised of the city’s best talent. However, the 25 year old Daniels discovered his place to be behind the plate. He began his umpiring career in Hartford officiating minor league, college and amateur games.His professional debut on September 7, 1874, was in a National Association matchup between Hartford and Brooklyn.

Daniels was reported in the newspaper as “Umpire Daniels of Hartford Amateurs.” He would go on to serve 13 seasons as a highly regarded figure in the National Association (1874-1875), the National League (1876, 1878-1880, 1887-1888), and the American Association (1883-1885, 1889). In the early days of professional baseball, Daniels was a top rated umpire. He was popular with most players and fans. He presided over multiple historically significant games. He called two no-hitters; the first in major league history, and the other a perfect game. In 1875, Daniels officially umpired 22 games, all but one as the lone arbiter on the field.

Charles F. Daniels, Umpire of 1888 World Series.

Around midseason, Daniels had a personal dispute with bar owner Matthew M. Coughlin. He once used to work as a barkeeper at Coughlin’s bar on Front Street and rumors spread about Daniels having an affair with Coughlin’s wife. After returning from umpiring a game in New York, Daniels was threatened and chased around downtown Hartford by an enraged Coughlin. In response, Daniels drew a weapon and fired three times in Coughlin’s direction but missed. Daniels was charged for assault with intent to kill but later proven innocent on the grounds of self-defense.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1875.

When the American Association dissolved in 1876, Daniels latched onto the newly formed National League. That season he called 45 games. Daniels supervised the first no-hitter recognized by Major League Baseball: George Bradley of St. Louis Brown Stockings blanked the Hartford Dark Blues, 2-0 on July 15, 1876. Because he adjudicated so many important big league games as compared to his peers, Daniels became a trusted judge of the game. He earned a reputation as a pioneer of the umpiring craft and his services were in demand.

Daniels was the first umpire to run from home plate to another base to get a better angle on close call. He revolutionized the role of umpire by setting new norms. He was one of the first umpires to wear protective equipment such as shin guards. His expertise was known throughout baseball circles and by the end of 1876, Daniels was summoned to preside over a championship series between Chicago and St. Louis. A special train was sent to collect Daniels and deliver him to St. Louis where he earned $400 with travel expenses paid.

Daniels did not appear as umpire on the major league level in 1877. He then umpired 9 games in 1878 and another 46 games in 1879. He called 28 games in 1880, including the second perfect game in major league history by John Montgomery Ward. Daniels did not umpire once again during 1881 or 1882. He returned for the 1883 season with the American Association, often earning $10 per game.

His game totals increased significantly in the next few years. Daniels umpired 91 games in 1884 and stayed with the American Association until 1885. While in the midst of a famous umpiring career, Daniels opted for a change of roles. In 1886 and 1887, he became manager of the Hartford Base Ball Club in the Eastern League. During this time, Daniels was credited with scouting a young catcher named Connie Mack but later sold him to Washington.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1890.

In 1888, Daniels resumed umpiring and compiled a career high of 110 games. During his final season as a professional umpire in 1889, he officiated 19 contests for the American Association. His career totals equaled 504 games over 13 seasons. Without official baseball duties, Daniels seemed to lose hope. He suffered from a serious case of alcoholism and in 1890, Daniels checked into the Hartford Retreat and made a recovery. In 1897, Daniels made a comeback as Hartford’s alternate umpire in the Atlantic League.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1896.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1896.

At the time of the 1930 U.S. Census, Daniels was living in a rented home on Parham Road in Colchester with his brother Robert. His occupation was noted as a farmer. Then he moved in with his brother Eugene on a farm in Colchester off of New London-Hartford Road. On March 21, 1932, Daniels was found lying unconscious in a ditch where he had apparently fallen during a snowstorm. A head wound and exposure to the elements resulted in his death two days later. Umpire Charlie Daniels died at Backus Hospital in Norwich, Connecticut, at the age of 83.

Hartford Courant column about Umpire Daniels, 1923.

“Don’t spring a book of rules on me and expose your ignorance. You know you can’t read.”

Umpire Charlie Daniels to Kid Gleason in 1894.
Gravestone of Charles F. Daniels in Linwood Cemetery, Colchester, Connecticut.

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

Hartford’s Minor League Club, Part III: The Senators (1916-1934)

Minor Leagues

  • Eastern League (1916-1932)
  • Northeastern League (1934)

Championship Seasons

  • 1923 & 1931

Hartford Senators in the Baseball Hall of Fame


The Hartford Senators remain Connecticut’s most enduring professional sports franchise of all-time. For more than three decades (1902-1934) the Senators were Hartford’s headliner baseball club. The minor league team became an elite training ground for the Major Leagues. Legends like Lou Gehrig, Jim Thorpe, Leo Durocher and Hank Greenberg honed their skills in Hartford. The following chronology recounts the Senators franchise during their later years (1916-1934).

Hartford holds a practice at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, 1916.

By 1916, James H. Clarkin had owned the Hartford Senators for more than a decade. Clarkin’s club became a member of the Eastern League, a new Class B circuit. Former Boston Red Sox champion and 15-year veteran, Heine Wagner signed as Hartford’s nascent player-manager. The Senators recruited Paddy O’Connor, a catcher with experience in the majors. Meanwhile, Trinity College alumnus and Hartford Public High School baseball coach George Brickley patrolled the outfield.

Heine Wagner, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1916.
Heine Wagner, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1916.
Members of the Hartford Senators, 1916.

A dismal first half of the 1916 season led to the release of Heine Wagner. Veteran baseball guru, Jesse Burkett was appointed player-manager. One day at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, the Hartford club was visited by Judge Kenesaw Landis who had become famous for presiding over and eventually settling a lawsuit between the Federal League and Major League Baseball. Also on hand for the occasion was former Hartford manager Dan O’Neil, who had been appointed President of the Eastern League. The Senators finished out the season in last place with a 38-79 record.

Hartford Senators & Judge Kenesaw Landis (standing, center), Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, Hartford, 1916.
Jesse Burkett, Hartford Senators, 1916.
Lefty Goldberg, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1916.
Lefty Goldberg, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1916.

In 1917, the Senators were managed by Boston native Louis Pieper who oversaw one of Hartford’s worst seasons. His pitching staff included a journeyman pitcher Dave Keefe, later picked up by Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, as well as workhorses Ralph Head and Fred Trautman. Their catcher, Bill Skaff was in his second season with Hartford. The team’s best hitters were shortstop, Roy Grimes and an Amhest College graduatel named Eddie Goodridge from Bristol, Connecticut. Despite overwhelming local support, the club suffered a .359 winning percentage.

Fred Trautman, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1917.
“Stuffy” Carroll, Catcher & Roy Grimes, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1917.
Emil Liston & Tencate, Hartford Senators, 1917.

The following year, another forgettable Eastern League season awaited the Hartford Senators. Owner Clarkin’s squad was headed by captain and player-manager, Gus Gardella and veteran catcher, Joe Briger who hit .308 as a Senator. The club relied on pitchers Orlie Weaver, Andy Meyerjack and Glenn Cook. However, the season was cut short when the United States was pulled into World War I. Every man in the nation was ordered to work or fight. As a result, the Eastern League disbanded in mid-July of 1918. The Senators ended with a 29-28 record and no team was awarded the title.

Infielders of the Hartford Senators, 1918.
Andy Meyerjack, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1918.

In 1919, the Eastern League was upgraded to Class A status, a step below the Major Leagues. Two-time World Series champion, Danny Murphy was hired as Hartford’s field manager. Yet, James Clarkin abruptly fired Murphy a month into the season and appointed shortstop Roy Grimes as player-manager. Frank Brazill was the club’s big bat corner infielder who hit .360 in 225 at bats. Local star Eddie Goodridge returned to man first base for Hartford after serving in the war effort. However, the Senators struggled to keep opponents off the base paths, and the club landed in last place.

Management of the Hartford Senators, 1919.
George Casazza, Pitcher and Mickey Flaherty, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1919.
1919 Hartford Senators
Mayor Richard J. Kinsella tosses first pitch, 1919.
Danny Murphy, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1919.
Joe Baker, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1919.
L to R: Warren Adams, Roy Grimes, Frank Brazill (kneeling), Eddie Goodridge and Urban S. Williams of the Hartford Senators, 1919.

In response to another bungled season, James Clarkin turned the club upside down. With the exception of Ralph Head and Willie Adams, the entire roster consisted of new players. Dan Howley was hired as manager and emergency catcher. Fred Bailey, a 24 year old outfielder and former Boston Braves prospect hit .303. George “Kewpie” Pennington had a 2.54 earned run average and pitched the Senators to 16 of their 70 wins. Hartford rose to fourth place in 1920, finishing only eight games behind the club from New Haven.

James H. Clarkin, Owner, Hartford Senators, 1920.
Rex Cox, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1920.
Clarence Pickup, Outfielder and Ralph Head, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1920.
George “Kewpie” Pennington, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1920.

James Clarkin replaced the Wethersfield Avenue Grounds in 1921. The field became known as Clarkin Stadium and was an elite venue of the minor leagues; with a grandstand made of steel and concrete, clubhouses and modern amenities. After fifteen years as owner, Clarkin doubled-down on his Hartford baseball investment. Even though winning was in short supply, he foresaw more opportunity. Along with Providence, Hartford was the most coveted franchise in the Eastern League because of its location, fanbase and facility. However, Hartford’s new stadium would not be ready for Opening Day and the Senators played their first two weeks on the road.

Clarkin Stadium, 1921.

Clarkin Stadium produced a higher level of baseball in Hartford. Legendary old-timer and 1884 World Series winner, Arthur Irwin accepted managerial duties and changed the franchise forever. Irwin scouted a 17 year old first baseman from Columbia University. Lou Gehrig was a rookie phenom who played a dozen games for Hartford in 1921. He assumed two different names, “Lefty Gehrig” and “Lou Lewis” presumably in an attempt to retain amateur status on his return to college. Gehrig would be back in Hartford but unfortunately the man who lured him to Connecticut would meet an untimely demise.

Players of the Hartford Senators, 1921.
Lou Gehrig, Hartford Senators, 1921.

On July 16, 1921, Hartford’s ailing manager, Arthur Irwin, jumped from the steamship Calvin Austin on a voyage from New York to Boston and perished. Former Hartford manager Thomas Dowd of the near-championship 1908 club was Irwin’s replacement. Dowd’s recurring role only lasted a month, and the team’s veteran catcher and 3-time World Series champion, Chester “Pinch” Thomas was appointed player-manager by August. One of the top performing Senators of 1921 was outfielder Hinkey Haines, who played a minor role on the New York Yankees during their 1923 World Series championship run.

Thomas J. Dowd, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1921.
Arthur Irwin (left) photographed in 1913.
L to R: James Crowley, Albert House, James Clarkin and Samuel Doty at Clarkin Stadium, 1921.

Connie Mack came to Hartford on a scouting trip and purchased Heinie Scheer near the end of the 1921 season. Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics offered Clarkin and the Senators $5,000 for Scheer, a sure-handed, fleet of foot infielder. Scheer refused to go to Philadelphia unless Clarkin gave him a percentage of his transfer fee. Following a fifth place finish, owner Clarkin declared his frustration with major league clubs who poached his players without paying higher fees.

Fred Bailey, Outfielder and Phil Neher, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1921.
Hinkey Haines, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1921.

In 1922, owner Clarkin signed world-famous Native American olympian, Jim Thorpe. In his brief time with the Senators, Thorpe crushed Eastern League pitching. His stint in Hartford would only last about six weeks. Upon being traded to Worcester, Thorpe criticized Clarkin’s methods, saying that he was pressured by Clarkin to more hit home runs. A few days after being traded, Thorpe led Worcester to two wins in a doubleheader over Hartford.

Hartford Courant pictorial of the Hartford Senators, 1922.
Jim Thorpe, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1922.

At the helm of the Senators during the Thorpe fiasco was a 35 year old player-manager, Jack Coffey. The club’s left fielder was Leo “Brick” Kane who would achieve a third consecutive Eastern League season with 100 hits. The team’s rookie right fielder, Sy Rosenthal, went on to play for 13 years in organized baseball. At third base was Ted Hauk, a fixture in Hartford’s lineup. The club failed more often than they succeeded (73-76) and placed sixth in the standings.

Leo “Brick” Kane, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1922.
1922 Hartford Senators
Jack Coffey, Player-Manager, Hartford Senators, 1922.

Hartford’s lone constant, James Clarkin hired a new manager in 1923. He signed Paddy O’Connor, a trusted baseball mind and former Senators catcher whose salary exceeded every other Eastern League manager. O’Connor was fortunate to welcome back 19 year old Lou Gehrig from Columbia University for 59 games. The budding star swatted a league record 24 home runs. All the pieces fell into place as Gehrig and Hartford captured the 1923 pennant. The Senators copped their first Eastern League title with a .640 winning percentage and a 98-55 record.

1923 Harford Senators – Owner James Clarkin (standing, center) and Lou Gehrig (seated, center).
Hartford Senators, Eastern League Champions, 1923.
Paddy O’Connor, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1923.

As champions, the Senators entered the 1924 season teeming with confidence. Lou Gehrig’s game continued to mature as he tore up the Eastern League with 37 homers in 504 at bats and a .369 batting average. Gehrig’s days in Hartford ended when the New York Yankees called him up for 10 games in which he went 6 for 12. Another standout Senator was second baseman Henry “Smudge” Demoe who smacked 184 hits, fifth most in 1924. Hartford ended the season in third place, just four games back from the Waterbury Brasscos.

Ted Hauk, Third Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1924.
Carl Schmehl, Utility, Hartford Senators, 1924.
Lou Gehrig, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1924.
Senators Booster Club Membership Card signed by Lou Gehrig, 1924.
Ticket stubs from Hartford Senators game, 1924.
Henry “Smudge” Demoe, Second Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1924.

The next season brought another star player to Hartford. Leo Durocher attended his first tryout with the Senators in early April of 1925. Paddy O’Connor trusted Durocher’s defensive talent and quickness at shortstop. As a rookie, Durocher batted just .220 on the season but compiled a .933 fielding percentage. On August 16, 1925, “Leo the Lip” was purchased by the New York Yankees for $12,000. Durocher had played 151 games in Hartford before reporting to the Yankees.

Leo Durocher (center), Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1925.

Meanwhile, Tom Comiskey and Harry Hesse finished among the league leaders in hits. Lem Owen and Earl Johnson were reliable starting arms. The heart and soul of the team was their catcher, Eddie Kenna who played 144 games. Marty Shay was the Senators second baseman and leadoff man. Henri Rondeau, a journeyman outfielder born in Danielson, Connecticut, batted .306. Hartford almost captured the 1925 title but were outperformed by the Waterbury Brasscos by a game and a half.

Paddy O’Connor, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1925.
Paddy O’Connor shakes hands with Bill McCorry, Manager, Albany, 1925.
Eddie Kenna

In 1926, Clarkin hired former Hartford player and manager Si McDonald to direct the club. Soon thereafter, the relationship quickly went awry, and McDonald was fired in late May. Second baseman Gene Sheriden was appointed manager. The Senators finished towards the bottom of the standings but there were bright spots on the season. Adolph Schinkle, a pitcher converted into an outfielder, led the Eastern League in doubles and slapped 195 hits. George Brown and John Miller were the club’s best pitchers who ranked among leaders in earned run average.

Bob Mitchell Hartford Senators, 1926.
George Krahe, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1926.
Tom Comiskey, Hartford Senators, 1926.
Adolph Schinkle, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1926.
“Cowboy” Ken Jones, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1926.
George Kane, Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1926.
Gene Sheridan, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1926.
Clifford Knox, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1926.

An accidental fire torched the Clarkin Stadium grandstand in early 1927. The Senators played home games at Trinity College and in Manchester while repairs were made. When the new grandstand was completed, President of the Eastern League, Herman Weisman presented owner Clarkin with a gold stickpin and cufflinks encrusted with diamonds to honor his diligent efforts. Hartford’s manager was a longtime big leaguer, Kitty Bransfield, spending his final year in professional baseball. First baseman Jim Keesey proved to be a prospect, leading the Eastern League with 204 hits on the season, while Adolph Schinkle was second with 203 hits.

Opening Day at Clarkin Stadium, Hartford, 1927.
Kitty Bransfield, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1927.
James H. Clarkin (left) listens to President Herman Weisman (center) of the Eastern League and Mayor Norman Stevens throws ceremonial first pitch at Clarkin Stadium, 1927.

Stationed in Hartford’s outfield was Kiddo Davis who hit for a .349 batting average and later won the 1933 World Series with the New York Giants. Jo-Jo Morrissey, in his second season with the Senators, was a cog in the outfield. An infielder from Cuba named Eusebio González played 25 games and was Hartford’s first player of color since Jim Thorpe. Clarence “Lefty” Thomas was the club’s top performing pitcher, but the rest of the pitching staff struggled mightily and the Senators ended up in sixth place.

Jo-Jo Morrissey, Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1927.
Art Butler, Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1927.

In the winter of 1928, James H. Clarkin decided to retire from baseball. He brought three pennants to Hartford as owner. Clarkin was a stern, no nonsense businessman who had drawn the ire of some Hartford fans. Though according to his former manager Jack Coffey, he had “many endearing qualities hidden from those who did not know him intimately.” Subsequently, Clarkin Stadium was renamed Bulkeley Stadium in honor of Morgan G. Bulkeley, a prominent Hartford man, first President of the National League, former U.S. Senator and Governor of Connecticut who had passed away in 1922.

James H. Clarkin retires, 1928.
Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, 1928.
Bulkeley Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, 1928.

Hartford’s new ownership was spearheaded by Robert J. Farrell, a local real estate developer. The purchase price for the franchise and stadium property was reported to be $200,000. Farrell created a private stock company made up of investors who expanded the grandstand at Bulkeley Stadium. John A. Danaher was hired to be the club’s Secretary and handled administrative duties. The buyout reinforced the common opinion of the day – that Hartford was a celebrated baseball city. In preparation for the 1928 season, the team rehired the popular Paddy O’Connor as manager.

Robert J. Farrell, President, Hartford Senators, 1928
Board of Directors, Hartford Baseball Club, 1928.
Opening Day batter for the Hartford Senators, 1928.
Mayor Norman Stevens throws first pitch, 1928.
Mayor Norman Stevens (left) and Bob Farrell, Owner, Hartford Senators, 1928.
Paddy O’Connor, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1928.

John “Bunny” Roser was the team’s newest and most valuable slugger, earning the league’s home run title with 27 round-trippers. At second base, Scott Slayback demonstrated a capable bat with 10 home runs. A southpaw pitcher named Russ Van Atta threw for a marvelous 2.49 earned run average before being called up by the New York Yankees. Carl Schmehl and Tom Comiskey played their final seasons in after several years in Hartford, and the club placed third in the 1928 Eastern League.

William Eisemann, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1928.
Skee Watson, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1928.
Dominique Paiement, Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1928.
Pete Stack, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1928.
Heine Scheer, Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1928.
Jack Levy, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1928.
John Styborski, Pitcher Hartford Senators, 1928.

Going into the 1929 season, the Hartford Senators made a splash in the press when they signed a 2-time World Series champion, Heinie Groh as player-manager. The club then resigned their former second baseman of 1921, Heinie Scheer. Corner outfielder John Roser hit another 25 home runs while his counterpart Bill Hohman mashed 24 long balls. Utility man Skee Watson had a brilliant year at the plate, hitting for a .324 average in 593 at bats. Mike Martineck batted .337 and replaced Groh as player-manager in late August.

Heinie Groh and Robert J. Farrell, Hartford Senators, 1929.

The Senators would struggle to pitch effectively throughout the year. Their best hurler was 5’8″ Dan Woodman who threw 236 innings with a 3.74 earned run average and a record of 13 wins and 14 losses. Local pitchers, Sam Hyman and Johnny Michaels also made appearances on the mound. Their starting catcher, Joe Smith had a solid defensive and offensive season. However, individual performances did not result in a successful 1929 campaign, and Hartford ended the year in last place.

Players of the Hartford Senators, 1929.
Infielders of the Hartford Senators, 1929.
Johnny Roser, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1929.
Gary Fortune, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1929.
Walter Brown, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1929.
Sam Hyman, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1929.
Heinie Groh, Third Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1929.
Joe Smith, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1929.
Shep Cannon, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1929.

While the Great Depression began to ravage the nation’s economy, Hartford’s minor league club sought redemption. On May 23, 1930, fans witnessed an exhibition between the Senators and Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics at Bulkeley Stadium. Because of an illness Mack was not present, but Commissioner Landis attended as a guest of Mayor Walter Batterson. That same season, rookie first baseman and future Hall of Fame inductee Hank Greenberg played 17 games for the Senators. Baseball was a welcome spectacle during tough economic times, though Hartford’s season would be cut short. The club folded on June 30, 1930, due to financial insolvency. New Haven, Pittsfield and Providence also halted operations, reducing the Eastern League to four clubs.

The Hartford Senators with Mayor Batterson and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, 1930.
Judge Kenesaw Landis and Mayor Walter Batterson, 1930.
Oriental Corella, Second Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1930.
Bernie Hewitt, First Baseman and Bill Cooper, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1930.
Hank Greenberg, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1930.
Tom Mullen, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1930.
Raymond J. Utley, Treasurer, Hartford Senators, 1930.
Joe Malay, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1930.
King Bader, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1930.
Skee Watson, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1930.
A view south down Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut, 1930
Bill Hohman, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1930.

By spring of 1931, the Eastern League returned with eight clubs, including Hartford with new ownership. Bob Farrell sold out to the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. Dodgers business manager, Dave Driscoll became president of the Senators from his office in Brooklyn and sent Earl Mann to run the affiliated operation as Hartford’s business manager. 27 year old Charles Moore was chosen as manager and backup catcher. Paul Richards was the starting catcher, team leader in home runs and later became an inventor (patented the “Iron Mike” pitching machine). Hartford’s best overall hitter was Red Howell, who finished fourth in the league in batting average.

Management of the Hartford Senators, 1931.
Future Players of the Hartford Senators, 1931.
Infielders of the Hartford Senators, 1931.
Earl Mattingly, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1931.
Norman Sitts, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1931.
Red Howell, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1931.
Hartford Courant report by Albert W. Keane, 1931.
Max Rosenfeld, Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1931.
Bobby Reis, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1931.
Hartford Senators visit Camp Courant, 1931.

Hartford demolished the Eastern League in 1931 winning 97 of 137 games. They captured the championship with superior pitching and with eleven players who had big league experience. The Senators received seven Eastern League All-Star selections: Bob Parham, Bobby Reis, Paul Richards, Van Mungo, Earl Mattingly Jr. and Phil Gallivan. Most distinguished among them was Van Mungo who later earned five National League All-Star selections. Johnny Mann and Al Cohen were also major contributors to the team’s pennant run. The 1931 Hartford Senators are recognized as one of the 100 greatest minor league teams of all time.

1931 Hartford Senators
Paul Richards, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1931.
Bob Parham, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1931.
Al Cohen, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1931.
1931 Hartford Senators

Hartford’s 1932 season began with a ceremonial unfurling of the Eastern League pennant at Bulkeley Stadium. Business manager Earl Mann did the honors and posed for the cameras. Charles Moore was rehired as field manager but when the Dodgers requested that he manage their Jersey City affiliate, Moore obliged. The Senators named shortstop Bill Marlotte player-manager even though their first baseman and captain Norman Sitts was expected to be promoted to the post. Before the managerial move, the Senators were four games back from first place. After Moore left, Hartford sank to the bottom of the standings.

Earl Mann, Business Manager, Hartford Senators unfurls the pennant, 1932.
Charley Moore, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1932.

Honorable mentions on the Senators of 1932 include: Red Howell who batted .349, Bruce Caldwell, a Yale University graduate, Jim Henry, a rookie pitcher and Byron Topol, a little-known third baseman. Veteran players Johnny Mann, Eddie Kenna and Pinky Pittenger would play their final season in Hartford. On July 18, 1932, the Hartford Courant reported the disbanding of the Eastern League due to poor attendance. Waning interest and widespread economic woes brought on by the Great Depression hampered revenues. The league had operated for sixteen consecutive seasons before owners met in New York City to cancel the circuit.

Bill Marlotte
Al Kimbrel, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1932.
Roy Humphries, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1932.
Phil Gallivan, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1932.
Dave Cochlin, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1932.
Johnny Mann, Utility, Hartford Senators, 1932.
Jim Henry, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1932.
Eddie Kunsberg, Pitcher/First Baseman, Hartford Senators 1932.
Allentown vs. Hartford Senators at Bulkeley Stadium, 1932.

There would be no minor league baseball in Hartford during the year of 1933. Instead, Hartford jeweler Bill Savitt rented Bulkeley Stadium and staged his semi-professional Savitt Gems against professional and independent clubs. The Senators restarted operations in the newly formed Northeastern League in 1934. Johnny Roser settled in again as the club’s power-hitter. A 38 year old first baseman named Snake Henry had a brilliant year at the plate. Hartford had talent but they lacked consistency. Three different managers attempted to steer the team, leading to a fourth place finish in Hartford’s lone season in the Northeastern League.

Mayor Beach tosses the first pitch at Opening Day, Hartford, 1934.
Lee Kulas, Infielder, Hartford Senators, 1934.
Fred Henry, Player-Manager, Hartford Senators, 1934.
Johnny Roser, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1934.
Emil Planeta, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1934.
Pepper Rea, Third Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1934.
Jim Clark, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1934.
Bob Walsh, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1934.
Dr. Edward Baker, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1934.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
  2. SABR Bio Project – Danny Murphy
  3. SABR Bio Project – Lou Gehrig
  4. Statscrew.com

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.