Tag: bulkeley stadium

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.

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.