Bill Holowaty, Local Sports Legend

May 26, 2020

Bill Holowaty is the current President of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League and former head baseball coach at Eastern Connecticut State University. Holowaty coached for 45 years (1967-2012) at ECSU and became one of the most successful coaches in the history of New England intercollegiate athletics. He led the Warriors to the postseason 39 out of 45 times, appearing 14 times in the Division-III College World Series and winning 4 championships (1982, 1990, 1998 and 2002). He was named Division-III National Coach of the Year 4 times. Coach Holowaty ended his career record with 1,412 wins, 528 losses and 7 ties – a winning percentage of .725, and has the third most all-time wins by a Division-III coach.

Coach Bill Holowaty, 2010.

William P. Holowaty was born on March 6, 1945 in Little Falls, New York. He was a gifted athlete with good size. Holowaty starred in football, basketball and baseball at Mohawk High School in Mohawk, New York. He became a top basketball recruit and visited Dean Smith’s University of North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest before deciding on the University of Connecticut. Coach Fred Shabel’s Huskies included UConn greats like Toby Kimball, Wes Bialosuknia and Tom Penders. Holowaty played basketball at UConn from 1964 to 1967, winning 3 season titles in the Yankee Conference. He was later recognized as a member of the UConn Basketball All-Century Ballot.

Bill Holowaty (center), UConn Basketball, 1965.
1965 UConn Basketball Team
1967 UConn Basketball Team
Bill Holowaty (left), UConn Basketball, 1967.

During college, Holowaty played baseball in the Hartford Twilight League with the Hamilton Standard team. Great local players like Wally Widholm and Hal Lewis were Bill’s teammates and mentors. Immediately after his basketball career, Holowaty became head baseball coach at Eastern Connecticut State College (renamed Eastern Connecticut State University in 1983) and quickly turned the program around. In 1973, he was the assistant coach for the Chatham A’s of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Holowaty was a guiding force for instituting the NCAA Division-III baseball championship in the mid-1970s. While coaching, he also served as ECSU Athletic Director for 15 years.

Bill Holowaty, ECSU Baseball Coach, 1969.
1970 Eastern Connecticut Baseball Team
Bill Holowaty (right), ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 1970.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Basketball Assistant, 1971.
Holowaty earns 300 wins, 1979.
New England All-Star Game at Fenway Park, 1979.

1980 ECSU Baseball Team
Coach Holowaty celebrating the holidays at home plate, 1980.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 1982.
Holowaty featured in Hartford Courant, 1983.
Bill Holowaty and Jason Holowaty, 1984.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 1985.
Bill Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1986.
Coach Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1987.
Coach Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1987.
Holowaty receives Gold Key, 1988.
Coach Holowaty, Eastern Connecticut, 1989.
Coach Holowaty, 1990.
1993 Eastern Baseball Team
1993 Eastern Baseball Team

Bill Holowaty built his coaching legacy upon competitiveness, consistency and fundraising. His vision for success included a Varsity and Junior Varsity team, Spring Training trips to Florida and a state-of-the-art ballpark in Willimantic, Connecticut. The ECSU Warriors posted at least 30 wins in 28 seasons under Holowaty leading to four national championships. In 2003, the Warriors lost the Division-III College World Series championship game in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded. Afterwards Holowaty was quoted saying,

Coach Bill Holowaty, 1998.
Nick Tempesta and Bill Holowaty, 2000.
Coach Holowaty wins 1000th game, 2002.
Eastern Connecticut wins D-III College World Series, 2002.
The Holowaty Family at National College Baseball Hall of Fame Induction, 2002.
Coach Bill Holowaty, 2003.
Coach Bill Holowaty, 2008.
Bill Holowaty, ECSU Head Baseball Coach, 2012.

“We’ll be back again. It’s like putting on a Red Sox uniform; you are hoping to win a World Series. You put on a Yankee uniform and you are expected to win. You put on an Eastern uniform and you’re expected to win.”

– Bill Holowaty
Holowaty Baseball Camp, Pomfret, Connecticut, 2014.
Holowaty speaks to Connecticut Mustangs AAU program, 2016.

In the final stage of his career, Holowaty continued to win. His Warriors had a streak of 11 consecutive 30-win seasons into 2012. The team fell one win shy of extending that streak in 2013. As a result of his success, Coach Holowaty earned several accolades and was inducted into the following Hall of Fame organizations: ABCA, Greater Utica Sports, National College Baseball, NEIBA and the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a co-founder of the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA). He served as ABCA President, was a long-time member of the ABCA All-America committee and is currently a member of the ABCA Board of Directors.

Coach Holowaty playing golf, 2016.
The Holowaty Family, 2017.
Evan Chamberlain and Bill Holowaty at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, Hartford, 2017.
Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President, 2017.
Andy Baylock and Bill Holowaty, 2017.

Bill Holowaty remains a fierce competitor to this day. He enjoys playing golf regularly with friends and family. He spends much of his time with his wife Jan Holowaty, his children Jason, Jennifer, Jared and his grandchildren. Jason and Jared Holowaty played professional baseball in Australia after college and carved out their own careers in baseball. Bill attributes much of his family’s success to his wife Jan and often mentions their shared love of sports.

Bill and Jan Holowaty, 2018.
GHTBL donates to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, 2018.
Jan, Bill and Jennifer Holowaty at the 2018 NEIBA Hall of Fame induction, 2018.
Coach Holowaty (right) with other college coaches at the annual American Baseball Coaches Association conference, 2019.
Bill DePascale and Bill Holowaty, 2019.

Coach Holowaty inducted into the National Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame

Lou Gehrig Used Fake Name as a Rookie on the Hartford Senators

This article was written by Norton Chellgren and published in the 1975 Baseball Research Journal

On April 5, 1921, the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League in their first exhibition game of the season beat Columbia University 4-3. The big story was a Columbia player, Lefty Gehrig, who hit Hartford pitcher Alton Durgin for two long home runs in his only two trips to the plate. A. B. McGinley of the Hartford Times described the second home run like this: “When he came up again in the 3rd inning, Durgin the lofty Maine boy who was pitching for Hartford was all set for revenge. He got a strike on Gehrig but the next one he threw Gehrig leaned on and it went sailing out of the enclosure past a big sundial and almost into the School of Mines. It was a mighty clout and worthy of Babe Ruth’s best handiwork.”

Lou Gehrig, First Baseman, Columbia University, 1922.

The young player greatly impressed Hartford Manager, Arthur Irwin, a former major league player and manager. The two home runs would have cleared the center field fence at Clarkin Field, Hartford’s home park, and Irwin saw a promising future for the young baseball player.

Clarkin Field, Hartford, Connecticut, 1921.

The big first baseman, it was later reported, had promised Irwin that he would play under him if he decided to enter professional baseball. Several big league teams had been trying to sign him but all indications were he would stay at Columbia University. Subsequently, on June 2, announcement was made by Manager Irwin in the local newspapers that the hard hitting semi-pro from Brooklyn, Lefty Gehrig, had been signed to play first base for the Senators. It was assumed by some that he had decided to quit school.

Arthur Irwin, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1921.

The next day the newspapers were apparently requested or advised not to call further attention to the Columbia athlete’s real name and from that day on they referred only to that young player from New York, “Lewis” or “Lou Lewis.” On June 3 (1921) the Hartford Senators beat the Pittsfield Hillies 2-1. Lou Lewis played the full game at first base. In his O. B. debut, he was 0 for 3 with one sacrifice hit against Pittsfield hurler Al Pierotti, who later went up to the Braves.

Lou Gehrig batting for Columbia University, 1921.

After that initial game the Hartford Courant wrote “Lou Lewis, Arthur Irwin’s latest discovery was planted on the initial sack. The youngster who is only 18 years old (actually he was still 17) appeared to be a bit nervous. After he gets used to surroundings he may develop. They seldom fail to make the grade with Irwin teaching the ways of baseball.”

Lewis’ first hit and first run scored came in his second game as Hartford beat the Waterbury Brasscos 5-3 at Hartford before 5,000 fans on June 4. In the second inning the youthful first sacker hit the first ball pitched by Fred Rawley to right field for three bases. He scored shortly after when the next batter Phil Neher singled to center. On the following day, June 5, Lewis went two for five as Hartford beat Albany 10-2 at Albany; the first baseman was beginning to impress and was being touted as a “Babe Ruth.”

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1922
Lou Gehrig, Punter, Columbia University, 1922.

Hartford beat Pittsfield 10-6 on June 8, and the Times wrote: “Lewis caught hold of a fast one in the third inning and sent it against the “B” in the Buick sign on the right field fence for a double. Lewis probably won’t get a Buick for his clout but he may get a ride in one before the season runs its course.” Lou went two for five that day. One of the times he made an out he slammed a terrific drive that traveled at the proverbial mile-a-minute clip into right fielder Bill McCorry’s gloved hand. It was described as the hardest hit of the game.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 8, 1921.

While Lewis at the young age of 17 was demonstrating his ability to knock the cover off the ball there were some indications that he lacked experience. On June 10 the Senators were trailing the Bridgeport “Brown Derbies” in the last of the ninth when with one out Heinie Scheer singled. Lewis then hit one to the box carrying a lot of smoke and it bounded off pitcher Ed Lepard’s glove for a single. Lewis a moment later was trapped off first by catcher Joe Smith on a pitchout. The rally was effectively stopped and the game was lost by Hartford, 4 to 2.

The Times wrote on June 11, “Lewis the youngster just breaking into organized ball with the local club is doing as well as one can expect and his present work gives fans here hopes that he will add to the Hartford hitting average which at present is the weakest link in the pennant-winning chain. The young first sacker is a slugger.” Lefty Lewis unexplainedly did not play in the Bridgeport game on June 13 but the next day against the Springfield Ponies he hit the second triple of his early professional experience.

In his last Eastern League game that year, on June 15, 1921, against Springfield, he showed his power even though his only hit was an infield one. In the first inning he crashed one against third baseman Jack Flynn’s shins and the ball caromed off with such force that it bounced across the diamond and the runner on third base, Harry Hesse, scored without any trouble.

Lou Gehrig “Lewis” plays his last game of 1921.
Harry Hesse, Hartford Senators, 1922.

No game was played on June 16 and at that point the young first baseman’s name, without explanation, ceased to appear in the Hartford papers for the remainder of the season. During his stay Hartford, winning 8 games and losing 5, had climbed into first place with a 28-17 record. Before the season was to end the Hartford Senators would drop to fifth place and its Manager, Art Irwin who had been successful in luring the young first baseman into professional baseball, if only for a short 12 games, would meet an untimely death. On July 16, 1921, he fell or jumped from the steamer Calvin Austin during a voyage from New York to Boston.

Lou Gehrig, Hartford Senators, 1923.

Even with a mediocre batting average of .261, Lewis had given Hartford fans an indication of things to come. The name “Lou Lewis” would not again appear in a Hartford or other professional baseball game box score! “Lou,” however, would return to the Eastern League in 1923 (as of August 2) and hit home runs at a pace which still has not been surpassed in the Eastern League, 24 home runs in only 59 games.

1923 Hartford Senators

What the Hartford newspapers did not report was that Columbia athletic officials had learned that Gehrig was playing pro ball under an assumed name. After being advised of the possible implications of playing for money, an unhappy Lou Gehrig returned promptly to New York City. As a result of this escapade Lou had to wait an extra year, until the fall of 1922, before he could participate in Columbia inter-collegiate sports. The experience might have hurt the New York Giants as well because had it never taken place, who knows, McGraw might have been able to sign up Lou Gehrig in 1923 instead.

Lou Gehrig and Mayor Norman Stevens of Hartford, 1924.

Source: Chellgren, Norton. “The Short Career of Lou Lewis.” Society for American Baseball Research, 1975 Baseball Research Journal, 1975, sabr.org/journal/article/the-short-career-of-lou-lewis.

Leo Durocher Got His Start in Hartford

Leo Ernest Durocher was born in 1905 in West Springfield, Massachusetts, as the youngest of four sons. His parents with French Canadian parents were George and Clarinda (Provost) Durocher and often spoke French at home. George Durocher worked on the railroad, for the Boston & Albany Railroad. At 5-feet-10, he grew to be the tallest of his brothers. His French-Canadian parents. Durocher dropped out of Springfield Technical High School after being suspended and never went back. Instead, he became a prominent semi-professional athlete and several employers competed to have him play for their company teams.

According to baseball historian Paul Dickson, Durocher was convinced to try for a professional club, the Hartford Senators:

“There’s a guy named David Redd, who’s a black man, who pushes and pushes and pushes Durocher to go try out for the Hartford team, which in those days was a semi-Yankee farm club,” Dickson says. “And Durocher does. Tries, fails once.”

Paul Dickson – WBUR, Robinson And Durocher’s Complicated — And Changing — Relationship

Having failed, Durocher was again encouraged to try out for the 1925 season again by his friend, David Redd. This time, he made the team and batted for an average of .220 in 536 at bats that season. As an infielder for Hartford, Durocher learned and grew his game under Manager Paddy O’Connor, a baseball lifer and former catcher of the 1909 World Series winning Pittsburgh Pirates. Durocher showed promise in Hartford under the lights at Clarkin Field and was called up to the New York Yankees lineup for 2 game appearances.

Leo Durocher is sold to the Yankees, 1925.

It would take two seasons in the Yankees farm system – Atlanta, Georgia and St. Paul, Minnesota – before his permanent call-up to the big leagues in 1928. He won his first World Series that same year as a teammate of Babe Ruth and another Hartford Senators alumnus, Lou Gehrig. Durocher would become known as one of baseball’s fiercest players and would achieve team and individual success.

As a captain of the St. Louis Cardinals “Gashouse Gang” in 1934, Durocher started shortstop and won another World Series. He also collected three National League All-Star game appearances. After the 1938 season with the Cardinals, Durocher became the Dodgers’ player-manager. In 1939, Durocher was named player-manager for the Dodgers and quickly became known for his dirt-kicking tirades against umpires. He also clashed with Brooklyn’s front office and claimed that he was fired and rehired by general manager Larry McPhail dozens of times.

In 24 years as a skipper for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, Durocher won 2,009 games, three pennants and a World Series. However, Durocher also became famous for his arguments with umpires, executives and players earned him a reputation as “The Lip.” His nickname was thought to have stemmed from his relationship with another diminutive Hall of Famer: Rabbit Maranville. While not an imposing hitter, Durocher’s scrappy play and maximum effort led Babe Ruth to call him “The All-American out.”

Leo Durocher, Manager, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1941.

Despite his antics, there was no doubt about Durocher’s record. In 1941, Durocher led the Dodgers, who were affectionately named “the Bums” by their own fans, to the franchise’s first pennant in 21 years.

“As long as I’ve got a chance to beat you, I’m going to take it.”

Leo Durocher, 1941.

In 1947, Commissioner Happy Chandler suspended Durocher for a year due to his “accumulation of unpleasant incidents” which included his accused association with gamblers. Led by Jackie Robinson, who Durocher staunchly supported when he broke the color barrier, the Dodgers captured the ’47 National League pennant.

In 1948, Durocher shocked the baseball world when he became manager of the Dodgers’ crosstown rival New York Giants – who he had famously referred to when he remarked that “nice guys finish last.” It was at the Polo Grounds where Durocher found his greatest success. In 1951, his Giants capped off an incredible 13½ game comeback on the Dodgers with Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ’Round the World” homer to win the pennant. Three years later, Durocher and the Giants swept the heavily favored Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series.

Durocher with his wife, Laraine, Day, 1950.

Durocher left New York after the 1955 season and became a color commentator for NBC’s baseball broadcasts. He returned to the manager’s office with the Cubs in 1966 and served his final nine seasons in Chicago and Houston. Durocher retired in 1973 as the fifth-winningest manager in history, and second only to Hall of Famer John McGraw in the National League.

Casey Stengel, Manager, New York Yankees and Leo Durocher, Manager, New York Giants, 1951 World Series.

Upon his retirement, he ranked fifth all-time among managers with 2,009 career victories, second only to John McGraw in National League history. In 1965, Durocher co-authored an autobiography entitled, Nice Guys Finish Last. He lived a long life but passed away on October 7, 1991. Leo Durocher was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.

Leo Durocher

Sources

  1. WBUR, Robinson And Durocher’s Complicated — And Changing — Relationship.
  2. Hartford Courant Database, Newspapers.com.
  3. Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Reference.com.
  4. Durocher, Leo, Baseball Hall of Fame, Baseballhall.org/Hall-of-Famers/Durocher-Leo.

Willy Yahn’s Baseball Blog

Yahn, a professional infielder in the Baltimore Orioles organization has written a great blog on recent baseball experiences in amateur and professional leagues. Here’s what he wrote about his time on People’s United Bank:

“Back on June 25th, the day of our first game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, a man approached me after the contest and asked if I wanted to play for his team in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League (GHTBL). The GHTBL was established in 1929 and is one of the oldest baseball leagues in the U.S. That man turned out to be Tom Abbruzzese, the manager of the People’s United Bank team out of Wethersfield. Tom and I stayed in contact and I was also in touch with Justin Morhardt, former Atlanta Braves minor leaguer and two-way player for People’s United Bank. I hashed out dates that I could work around Gator games and sent them to Tom. On July 21, Lindsey made the trek over with me to Riverfront Park in Glastonbury as I made my Banker debut.”

“I did not make a glowing first impression with the bat, as I went 0 for 4. But Justin started that game on the mound and I remember converting on about a dozen plays at shortstop en route to a close victory over Rainbow Graphics out of Manchester. I quickly began to enjoy playing for People’s Bank for a few reasons. For starters, I always find it fun getting to know a new group of teammates and showing proving that no matter who I played for I wanted to win badly and that I had my eye on two league rings that summer. 

Between the People’s United Bank team and his Great Falls Gators, Yahn was just shy of playing 30 games last summer.

Second, I was a touch more anonymous in the GHTBL, or at least I felt like that was the case (correct me if I’m wrong people). But with the Gators everyone generally knew ‘that’s Willy’s team that he made’, I would do the coaches meetings a lot of games, I stuck out like a sore thumb. But with People’s Bank I could sneak into our dugout with a plain t-shirt and the team hat that resembled that of the Philadelphia Phillies, and I could surprise the opponent at least for my first at-bat from the leadoff spot. I say that because after my first game as a Banker, many of my first at-bats I received fastballs that caught a lot of plate early in the count, as pitchers were trying to establish their fastball early in the game to the leadoff hitter. AB number one would go: knock, swipe second base, then third, another Banker drives me in for an early lead. It was at this point I felt like teams thought “oooooh it’s that long hair schmuck from UConn who belly flops everywhere” and they remember for the next at-bat. 

It was about to be playoff time for the GHTBL as well, as I needed to get into one more regular season game to qualify myself for the playoffs with People United Bank. We were playing the East Hartford Jets at Wethersfield High School after I had finally received my custom Dove Tail Bat in the mail earlier in the day. It had a natural finish with the DTB and Willy Yahn in Gator green. She was beautiful. I wanted to use her that day because she was fresh out of the box in which it was shipped. I was the lead off hitter and the first pitch of the bottom of the first with the new weapon, I smashed a line drive into center for a single. A good sign for the new bat headed into the playoffs. Then a new pitcher came in for the Jets in the 3rd innings, throwing pretty hard from a funky angle. I learned after the game that it was Lief Bigelow, former UConn sidearmer who transferred to University of Maine. I faced off against him my second at bat, first pitch was a hard runner fastball on the corner inside. I took a hack at it and the barrel of my brand new bat explodes off the handle. I watched the beautiful green label saucer away in disgust. My running so fast in anger and the infielders being distracted by a flying wooden knife allowed me to reach on an infield single. But at what cost, folks? I jokingly called out to Lief (at this point was still trying to remember who he was) saying he owed me a new Dove Tail.”

“I finished the game with three knocks and three swiped bags, the Bankers came out on top 4-2. We were able to win all five regular season games for which I made the trip, as we had a pretty solid team. About the same average age as the Gators, with a lot of solid hitters throughout the line up and a few college pitchers who knew what they were doing. Justin Morhardt contributed highly on both sides of the ball. On top of hitting some bombs out of the clean-up spot, he is a competitive pitcher who induces a lot of ground balls, which as a shortstop makes him a guy that is fun to play behind. People’s United Bank finished 6-6 as we would face off against the GHTBL powerhouse the Vernon Orioles.”

Stay tuned to Willy Yahn’s baseball blog – Chapter 6: The Gator was also a Banker

Yahn is expected to play for the Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League in 2021.

Jon Brandt Joins as Rainbow Graphics GM

At a recent league meeting in March of 2021, the GHTBL Executive Committee welcomed a local baseball dignitary, Jon Brandt as General Manager of Manchester-based Rainbow Graphics. Brandt will be a voting member of the Executive Committee as each team privilege allows per GHTBL By-laws.

He was born in Hartford, Connecticut on July 23, 1962. Brandt was an infielder for Manchester Senior Legion and Manchester High School until graduation in 1980. He matriculated to Eastern Connecticut State University where he played under Coach Bill Holowaty for the Warriors baseball program. Brandt also played summer baseball in the Norwich City League during this time. After earning a bachelor’s degree, he coached Manchester’s Junior Legion program in 1984.

Jon Brandt

Brandt began a career with Connecticut’s State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services in 1986, where he currently works as an Information Technology Analyst II.  However he remained active in sports and was named CT USSSA Softball State Director in 2000. Brandt was inducted into the New England Softball Hall of Fame in 2006 and earned USSSA National Director of the Year honors in 2007. He founded a sporting goods supply company in 2013 named Two Guys Sports Solutions for which he represents Easton, Rawlings and Dudley brands. Brandt resides in Manchester, Connecticut and has three children, Hillary, Adam and Angela.

Back! Opening Day Scheduled for Early June

In the first week of June, the GHTBL reigning champions East Hartford Jets will take on the Vernon Orioles at McKenna Field, East Hartford at 7 PM. A specific date has yet to be determined.

Each franchise will play 18 Regular Season games followed by a 10-team double-elimination tournament. More details on the league’s complete schedule are forthcoming.

Scheduling the GHTBL Regular Season generally takes place during the month of April and published in May of each year. Playoffs, as always, are held in early to mid-August.

10 franchises will compete this summer for the league crown. They include: Bristol Greeners, East Hartford Jets, Hartford Colts, Malloves Jewelers (Middletown), People’s United Bank (Wethersfield), Rainbow Graphics (Manchester), Record-Journal Expos (Meriden), South Windsor Phillies, Ulbrich Steel (Wallingford), and Vernon Orioles.

The GHTBL looks forward to this summer and we invite new players to apply for a roster spot on any one of our teams by going to www.GHTBL.org/Join and filling out the application. Have a great spring!

League Expands to 10 Teams

HARTFORD COLTS AND BRISTOL GREENERS TO PLAY BALL IN 2021.

The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is pleased to announce expansion for the 2021 season. The Hartford Colts and Bristol Greeners will join as new franchises. The Colts will be led by General Manager, Weston Ulbrich and will play home games at the new Johnny Taylor Field in Hartford’s Colt Park.

The Bristol Greeners, who played in the Tri-State League will be managed by A.J. Lorenzetti and will play home games at Muzzy Field and Page Park. Meanwhile, the Middletown-based Malloves Jewelers franchise will return this season after opting out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other franchises include: East Hartford Jets, People’s United Bank (Wethersfield), Rainbow Graphics (Manchester), Record-Journal Expos (Meriden), South Windsor Phillies, Ulbrich Steel (Wallingford), and Vernon Orioles.

The GHTBL looks forward to this summer and we invite new players to apply for a roster spot on any one of our teams by going to www.GHTBL.org/Join and filling out the application.

Babe Ruth’s Connecticut Car Crash

After setting a new major league home run record in his first year with the Yankees, Babe Ruth bought a brand new Packard roadster for $12,000. On September 30, 1920, Ruth was driving from New York City to Springfield, Massachusetts to play in an exhibition game. Halfway through his trip, Ruth crashed into a heavy Mack Truck while speeding through a tunnel, the Yalesville Culvert in Wallingford, Connecticut near the Meriden city line.

The Meriden Daily Journal, October 1, 1920.
The Meriden Daily Journal, October 1, 1920.

He was thrown from the car but luckily walked away from the accident with only a few scratches. His roadster was totaled, but the Great Bambino refused to miss his appearance and hitchhiked his way to Springfield. The very next day Ruth appeared in another exhibition game at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut, for the Hartford Poli’s, played every position except pitcher and went 4 for 4 at the plate. The 24 year old Ruth escaped a potential disaster and went on to hit another 611 homers.

Yalesville culvert where Ruth crashed, Wallingford, Connecticut, 2020.

Andy Baylock, Local Coaching Legend

Andy Baylock is a teacher, mentor and role model for athletes throughout Connecticut and beyond. He is best known for his prolific career as the former head coach of University of Connecticut’s baseball program. Baylock’s story began in New Britain where he was born on June 22, 1938. As a native of the Hardware City, he played catcher for New Britain High School’s 1955 state championship team. Baylock graduated from Central Connecticut State University where he was a 4-year letterwinner and captain for the baseball and football teams.

1972 UConn Baseball Team
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1973.
Andy Baylock named Head Coach of UConn Baseball, 1973.

During his college years, Baylock played summer ball in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, earning league titles with the Hamilton Standard and Riley Redlegs teams. Then he attended the University of Michigan where he earned a Master’s degree in 1962. Baylock served as a graduate assistant coach with the Michigan Wolverines baseball and football teams. Next, he returned home to Connecticut to East Catholic of Manchester as a schoolteacher and football coach. During this time, Baylock also played professional football for the Springfield Acorns in the Atlantic Coast Football League.

1973 UConn Baseball Team

In 1963, Baylock was hired as UConn’s freshman baseball coach. He joined the Husky staff on a full-time basis a year later as assistant football and baseball coach. During the summer of 1971, Baylock also became assistant coach of the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod Baseball League. By 1973, he was appointed head coach of the Commodores, taking over from Bill Livesey. Baylock was UConn’s assistant baseball coach for 15 years under the tutelage of head coach Larry Panciera. From 1964 to 1979, Baylock helped the Huskies to the College World Series in 1965, 1972 and 1979. He has also sat on the faculty of the department of kinesiology at UConn.

Andy Baylock, UConn Baseball Head Coach, 1978.

Baylock became head coach of UConn Baseball in 1980, a post he held for 24 years. He compiled a 556-492-8 record, won two Big East championships and earned three NCAA tournament berths. He also had an active international coaching career as a pitching coach for the 1985 and 1989 U.S. Senior National Teams. In 1992, Coach Baylock was named Big East Coach of the Year. Under Baylock, players such as Charles Nagy, Pete Walker, Jesse Carlson, Jason Grabowski, Jeff Fulchino, Brian Esposito, Scott Burrell, Brian Specyalski and Brett Burnham matriculated to professional baseball.

1989 UConn Baseball Team
1989 UConn Baseball Team

In 1996, Baylock was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, 1 of 8 Hall of Fames in which he has been enshrined. Others inductions included the New Britain Sports Hall of Fame and New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association Hall of Fame. Baylock retired as UConn’s head baseball coach in May 2003. The University of Connecticut retired his uniform number (28) at a banquet in 2004. Nearly 600 attended the event at the Aqua Turf in Southington, Connecticut.

Brian Specyalski and Andy Baylock, Team USA Baseball, 1989.
Baylock interviewed by the Hartford Courant, 1990.

“If you took part in athletics, you know how it taught you to discipline yourself, to operate under a pre-arranged system of rules and regulations. You know athletics taught you democratic principles of equality, team spirit, the willingness to work in order to win and sacrifice for the same purpose. You will know that athletics taught you decision making, humility and that they gave you someone extra to talk to—your coach.”

-Andy Baylock

Andy Baylock, Head Coach, UConn Huskies Baseball, 1998.
Andy Baylock, Head Coach, UConn Huskies Baseball, 1998.

Coach Baylock has served as UConn’s Director of Football Alumni and Community Affairs since 2002. In his role, he cultivates relationships with Husky football alumni and various members of the national football community. Baylock serves as the team’s liaison both to professional scouts and Connecticut high school coaches. He also assists the team’s departing seniors with career networking, represents UConn at various speaking engagements and organizes community service projects.

2001 UConn Baseball Team

Coach Baylock rejoined the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League as Vice President in 2016. He’s been a source of steady wisdom and encouragement for the league. Up until the the COVID-19 pandemic, he was a perennial batting practice pitcher for the Connecticut Tigers of the New York–Penn League. Coach Baylock is said to have a rubber arm and as recently as 2019, at the age of 81 years old, he was throwing batting practice to hitters at Dodd Stadium in Norwich.

Baylock interviewed by the Hartford Courant, 2005.
Baylock pitching at Dodd Stadium for the Connecticut Tigers, 2016.
Andy Baylock and Bill Holowaty, 2018.
Andy Baylock with Jim Penders after surpassing Baylock for most wins, 2019.

A few months ago, Andy Baylock appeared in a documentary film, Far From Home: The Steve Dalkowski Story by Thomas Chiapetta. Baylock was Dalkowski’s catcher and friend while growing up in New Britain. Baylock now resides in Mansfield, Connecticut. He and his late wife, Barbara, are the parents of three children, Jennifer, Jeffrey and Andrea, all of whom attended UConn. He also has six grandchildren. Here’s to Coach Baylock; a local sports legend who’s spent a lifetime teaching student student-athletes, guiding young adults and selflessly serving others.

At 80, Andy Baylock is still throwing batting practice.

Hartford Base Ball Park of 1896

Long before the Yard Goats roamed Dunkin’ Donuts Park, there was a place named Hartford Base Ball Park. Also called Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, the park was constructed in 1896. Hartford’s minor league team Manager William “Bald Billy” Barnie led the effort to build the minor league venue. That season, grandstand tickets were 15 cents and Newark finished in first place in the Atlantic League. However, Hartford protested their victory.

City planning map showing Hartford Base Ball Park, 1896.

Manager Barnie argued that Newark’s record was unfairly inflated due to a dozen extra games played. Newark also used a suspended pitcher named Joseph Frye who had left Hartford mid year. As a result, the 2nd place Hartfords challenged Newark to a 7-game series. Newark declined the invitation but the 3rd place Paterson club accepted and prevailed over Hartford.

Hartford Base Ball Park, (c.) 1900.

By November of 1896, the matter was put to rest by Sam Crane, President of the Atlantic League who declared Newark as champions. Manager Barnie passed away in Hartford in 1900 beloved by local fans. He was buried alongside many other baseball greats in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York. Hartford finally won a minor league pennant in 1909 at Hartford Base Ball Park.

Bill Barnie, Manager, Hartford, 1900.
Hartford vs. Brockton at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds (Hartford Base Ball Park), 1901.