Tag: east hartford

Mark Twain the Hartford Baseball Crank

Samuel L. Clemens, also known by his pen name, Mark Twain once boasted about Hartford, “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief.” Twain and his family were proud Hartford residents from 1874 to 1891. When the Hartford Dark Blues joined baseball’s National League in 1874, Twain frequented games at Hartford Base Ball Grounds, a 2,000-seat stadium at the corner of Wyllys Street and Hendricxsen Avenue. Twain later became a shareholder of the Hartford baseball club in 1887.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) regularly attended Hartford ballgames and took notes of the action on personal stationary.

While attending a game between the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Hartford Dark Blues, Twain’s umbrella was went missing. In response, Twain published a classified advertisement in the Hartford Daily Courant on May 20, 1875:

TWO HUNDRED AND FIVE DOLLARS REWARD — At the great base ball match on Tuesday, while I engaged in hurrahing, a small boy walked off with an English-made brown silk UMBRELLA belonging to me and forgot to bring it back. I will pay $5 for the return of the umbrella in good condition to my house on Farmington Avenue. I do not want the boy (in an active state) but will pay two hundred dollars for his remains.

-Samuel L. Clemens
Twain’s advertisement in the Hartford Courant, May 20, 1875.
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

The humorous advertisement led to a local medical student playing a morbid prank on Twain. The imaginative student left one of his case studies — the corpse of a boy — on Twain’s porch, along with a note claiming the reward. A nervous Twain thought he might be suspected of murder, until the janitor of the medical college came to claim the body and clear the author. Despite the controversy, Twain’s support of baseball in Hartford continued for more than a decade.

The Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut.

After a lackluster 1886 season in the Eastern League, in which the Hartford team traded Connie Mack to the Washington Nationals, a new joint stock company assumed ownership of the club. Among investors of the Harford Amusement Association were famed author, Mark Twain and Mayor of Hartford, Morgan G. Bulkeley. The stakeholders hired Charles E. Daniels, a professional umpire from Colchester, Connecticut, as manager. The Hartford club finished in 3rd place as part of the Eastern League. His ownership only lasted that year.

Samuel Clemens, 1907.

On April 8, 1889, Mark Twain dined with the who’s who of baseball at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City. It was the night a Testimonial Banquet held in honor of Albert Spaulding and baseball players of the “Tour Around the World”. Twain was among the guest speakers. He gave a humorous speech to the banquet of ballplayers and dignitaries who supported the world tour. He brought the audience to their feet in applause.

“Tour Around the World” brochure cover at Delmonico’s, New York, April 8, 1889.
“Tour Around the World” brochure at Delmonico’s, New York, April 8, 1889.

“Baseball is the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century.”

-Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), April 8, 1889.
Testimonial Banquet at Delmonico’s, New York, April 8, 1889.
Delmonico’s Menu, New York, 1889.

That same year, Twain completed writing A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The story is of a man from East Hartford who finds himself in 6th-century medieval England. The book’s main character, Hank Morgan meets King Arthur himself and teaches noblemen to play baseball. While living in Hartford, Twain also wrote such works as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

“There was no joy in life for poor Tom. He put away his bat and his ball and dragged himself through each day.”

– Mark Twain, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1885.
A knight in armor playing baseball, 1889
Mark Twain at his 70th birthday celebration, Delmonico’s, New York, 1905

Baseball Bloodlines: The Riemer’s

Over the last 50 years, men of the Riemer family have achieved remarkable baseball success. The story of a father and his two sons begins in New Britain, Connecticut in 1974. A junior at New Britain High School named Mark Riemer was a fleet-footed infielder with a quick bat. Behind Mark, the Hurricanes won the Class AA State Championship. In 1975, New Britain won 30 consecutive games but lost 1-0 to North Haven in the state championship game. Mark was awarded First Team All-State honors. Later that fall, he also earned All-State honors as a linebacker on the football team.

1974 New Britain High School
1974 New Britain High School
1975 New Britain High School

Mark Riemer matriculated to Eastern Connecticut State University where he was a four-year starter on the baseball team under Head Coach Bill Holowaty. Mark helped the Warriors to their first four NCAA Division-III tournaments. He was the first position player in New England Division-III to earn First Team NCAA All-American honors. As a junior right fielder in 1978, he batted .403 with an .803 slugging percentage, led Division-III in hits (73), RBI (59), total bases (146), was second with 14 home runs, and tied for second in doubles (19). Mark holds the Warriors career record for triples (18), is second in total bases (366) and home runs (34), third in RBI (152) and fourth in slugging (.637).

Mark Riemer, GHTBL Batting Champion, 1979.
Hartford Courant excerpt, August 8, 1979.
Mark Riemer, Eastern Connecticut Baseball, 1978.
Mark Riemer, ECSU Hall of Fame

Throughout his baseball career, Mark Riemer also starred in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. At 18 years old, he suited up for the Moriarty Brothers of Manchester, winners of the 1975 league championship. Then he changed teams in 1977 and joined Manager Tom Abbruzzese’s Society for Savings. After winning the GHTBL batting title and another championship season in 1979, Mark signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. As a member of the Carolina League’s Salem Pirates in 1980, he finished second on the team in batting with a .298 average in 416 plate appearances.

Mark Riemer, Marco Polo, GHTBL, 1985.
Hartford Courant, June 24, 1985.

Mark served two years in professional baseball before returning home to Connecticut. He rejoined Society for Savings with whom he won 4 league titles. Afterwards, Mark jumped to the East Hartford Jets franchise from 1985 to 1992. Late in his baseball career he won several National Senior Baseball World Series men’s league tournaments in Phoenix, Arizona alongside GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee, Dave Bidwell. Mark continued to make twilight league appearances until around 2011 as a designated hitter for Tom Abbruzzese’s People’s United Bank franchise. Mark’s nickname is “Trout” because of his love for fishing. He is a father of three children, Matt, Meagan and Mike.

Hartford Courant excerpt, August 19, 1989.
Mark Riemer, East Hartford Jets, GHTBL, 1989.
Mark Riemer breaks up a double play, 1990.

Matt Riemer followed in his father’s footsteps in many respects. After graduating from Ellington High School, Matt took his skills to Eastern Connecticut State University. There he displayed speed and versatility under Head Coach Bill Holowaty, winning a Little East Conference championship in 2007. Matt began his Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League career in 2004 for People’s Bank. He was an effective leadoff hitter who got on base and collected steals at a high rate. Matt led People’s to a league championship in 2006, and regular season titles in 2007, 2008 and 2011. He took the field for the last time in 2013 after eight GHTBL seasons.

Matt Riemer, People’s United Bank, GHTBL, 2009.
People’s Bank wins GHTBL Championship, 2006.
Hartford Courant excerpt, August, 13, 2009.
Matt Riemer People’s United Bank GHTBL, 2011.

Mike Riemer, the youngest of the Riemer men, graduated from the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts, class of 2008. Like his father and older brother, Mike played under Bill Holowaty at Eastern Connecticut State University. He transferred to the Warriors from Division-I Central Connecticut State University. In 2011, Mike was primarily a relief pitcher in his first season. Then he became a two-year starter in center field and a heart-of-the-lineup hitter as a junior and senior. In his final collegiate season, he was one of three players to start all 44 games. Mike batted .329 with three home runs, 30 RBI and committed only one error in center field in 2013.

Mike Riemer, People’s United Bank, 2010.
Riemer’s Reds win at Doubleday Field, 2010.
Mike Riemer, Pitcher/Outfielder, 2011.
Riemer’ Reds win 3rd straight tournament in Cooperstown, New York, 2012.

During summer months, Mike Riemer was a valuable member of People’s United Bank team in the GHTBL. The Riemer men also organized an amateur squad that won three straight tournaments in Cooperstown, New York in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Men’s league experience helped Mike develop into a more complete player and in 2014, he signed to play professional baseball in Germany. The 6-foot-2 and 220 pound, 24 year old joined the Tübingen Hawks of the German Baseball and Softball Association (DBV). He landed in Germany after being recruited by Jason Holowaty, Director of Major League Baseball international development operations in Europe and Africa.

Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2012.
Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2012.
Mark and Mike Riemer, ECSU Baseball, 2013.
Mike Riemer with his mother Ellen in Germany, 2017.
GHTBL East Hartford Jets 2020 Playoff Champions

East Hartford Jets, 2020 Champions

Jets win 1st playoff tournament in franchise history.

After 50 years, the East Hartford Jets finally achieved their first GHTBL Playoff Championship. The Jets have competed in the twilight league since 1970. This year, Player-Manager Taylor Kosakowski led the Jets to the Twi-loop’s ultimate prize at their home turf, McKenna Field in East Hartford.

A walk-off extra base hit from Bryant University outfiedler,  Jarod Dalrymple scored former Eastern Connecticut State University star Jimmy Schult  from first base. The Jets bested the Vernon Orioles 3 to 2. The Orioles were tournament favorites and a veritable dynasty in recent years. Manager Jack Ceppetelli’s O’s previously won 4 consecutive playoff championships. 

Congratulations to all East Hartford Jets players, coaches, fans and family! 

We will see if the Jets could repeat and soar in the summer of 2021.

Corey Plasky, Second Baseman, East Hartford Jets strides to reach base.

Read the full championship recap by the Journal Inquirer:
https://www.journalinquirer.com/sports/dalrymple-provides-hometown-heroics-for-eh-jets-in-twilight-league-title-game/article_9ac5a072-e3b7-11ea-8e5e-7fd2d05f1710.html

Twi-Loop is Off and Running

GHTBL completes first week without a hitch.

Amidst a global pandemic, the GHTBL is playing baseball in 2020. Our 12-game Regular Season schedule is underway and the first week has been completed. Managers, players and fans are excited to be back. Without any unforeseen hiccups or health scares, local amateur baseball looks like it is here to stay.

Most recently, GHTBL was featured by John Pierson of News Channel 8 Sports. He highlighted the league’s history and its prospects for the future. Gabby Lucivero of NBC Connecticut also interviewed Justin Morhardt of People’s United Bank and his family, who have a long baseball tradition in the Twilight League and professional baseball. 

Four notable minor league players have joined the league this season. Willy Yahn for People’s United Bank as well as Matt Cleveland, Jimmy Titus and Jack Patterson for the Vernon Orioles. A mix of young players and veterans will create great matchups all year long. 

Current college athletes in the GHTBL will be earning valuable experience this summer. Hard-throwing pitchers and fast paced games are the repetitions that players need to improve. The Twilight League is flooded with arms who throw over 88 MPH and pitcher’s duels are not uncommon. However, some teams like the Record-Journal Expos and the East Hartford Jets have managed to put up big run totals thus far.

The league, led by President Bill Holowaty, is proud to be playing the game we all love. Come on out and support baseball in Greater Hartford by attending a game. Regular Season admission is free. Our annual double-elimination playoff tournament is scheduled for early-to-mid August and will take place at McKenna Field in East Hartford and Ceppa Field in Meriden, Connecticut.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Hal Lewis, Baseball Star from Hartford’s North End

June 4, 2020

Harold James Lewis was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 4, 1927, son of Lula Randolph Deloach and James Lewis. He grew up in the city’s North End and attended Weaver High School. After school, Lewis joined the Army for eighteen months. He returned to Hartford in 1949 and gained employment as a sheet metal worker at Hamilton Standard in 1949. As an avid sportsman, Lewis became a local baseball star for the Hamilton Standard company team and other local clubs.

Hamilton Standard Propellers win the amateur state championship, 1950.

Hal Lewis led an all-black team called the Nutmeg Dukes as an infielder and outfielder. The Dukes were initially formed in 1942 as an independent club who barnstormed teams throughout Connecticut. Of the Dukes, Lewis said, “We wanted to play competitive baseball. We wanted to be in a league.” They were admitted to Hartford Twilight League in 1950. As the first African-American club in league history, the Dukes dominated the competition and won regular season and playoff championships.

Nutmeg Dukes vs. Courant All Stars, 1950.
Nutmeg Dukes, Twilight League Champions, 1950.

In January of 1951, Hal Lewis became the second African-American from Hartford to sign a professional baseball contract. Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, a childhood friend who grew up on the same street with Lewis, was the first a year earlier. Lewis appeared in 29 minor league games for the Quebec Braves, an affiliate of the Boston Braves. As the only black player on an all-white team based in Canada, Lewis said he was subjected to racial slurs and taunts. Two months into his first season, he packed his bags and returned home to Connecticut. Lewis went back to his job at Hamilton Standard and continued to play baseball for the Windsor Locks based company.

Hartford Courant excerpt, January 21, 1951.
Hamilton Standard Propellers, 1952.
Hamilton Standard Propellers, 1953.
Hamilton Standard travels to Texas, 1953.

Lewis excelled at the amateur level and became one of the best ballplayers in the Greater Hartford area. For about fifteen years, Lewis suited up for the Hamilton Standard Propellers. In his time with the company team, Lewis won 7 championships and set stolen base records in the Hartford Twilight League. In 1953, the “Props” were one of the best club’s in the state. With Lewis at shortstop, the team flew to Dallas, Texas, to play in a national tournament. In 1956, Lewis temporarily switched teams and won another Twi-loop playoff title with the Bloomfield Townies.

Bloomfield A.C. win Hartford Twilight League season title, 1956.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1958.
Hamilton Standard, 1961.

Hal Lewis retired from competitive baseball after 18 amateur seasons in Hartford. The final game of his baseball days came in 1968. A veritable “who’s who” of Hartford Twilight League alumni played in the Old Timers Game at Dillon Stadium. 36 former Hartford Twilight leaguers took part in the game. Lewis took the field alongside local greats like Johnny Taylor, Monk Dubiel, Duffy Lewis and Bob Repass. Famed broadcaster, Bob Steele served as the PA announcer.

Hamilton Standard, 1963.
Hamilton Standard wins Hartford Twilight League playoff title, 1966.
GHTBL Old-Timers Game, 1968.

In 1969, Hal Lewis decided to go into the restaurant business. After 20 years at Hamilton Standard, Lewis changed careers and established “Hal’s Aquarius,” a popular diner on Main Street in Hartford. Visiting celebrities, local politicians, police officers, clergy and area residents congregated at Hal’s. Lewis worked a 16-hour, 7 days a week running the restaurant and a catering business while raising three children with his wife Mary. Hal’s Aquarius operated until Lewis retired in 1989 due to failing health.

Hal Lewis and his wife, Mary, 1982.
Hal Lewis’ son, Hal Lewis Jr., 1987.
Hal’s Aquarius restaurant review in Hartford Courant, 1986.
Hartford Courant features Hal’s Aquarius, 1989.

Hal Lewis was also a talented musician. He sang at many local clubs and performed with the Sam Kimble Band, Jasper Jenkins Trio, Paul Brown and others. After a comeback from heart problems, Lewis performed at a jazz concert in Bushnell Park in 2000. His performance with singer Kitti Kathryn and his solos “Fools Rush In” and “It’s Wonderful,” dazzled a Hartford crowd once more.

“I’m a happy guy, just a real happy guy. I’m having fun and I’m appreciative of everyone around me.”

– Hal Lewis, 2002

Hal Lewis singing at Bushnell Park, 2000.

Former Hartford Fire Chief John B. Stewart Jr. described Hal Lewis as being ahead of his time for having been one the city’s first successful black businessman, a singing talent and a polished second baseman. “He could do it all. He was one of the most talented men I know,” Stewart said. “He’s the last of old Hartford. A member of Union Baptist Church, Hal was a fun loving spirit with quick wits and a compassionate soul. Hal Lewis departed this life on June 15, 2004 at his home in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

The National Pastime at Pratt & Whitney

April 18, 2020

Few companies in the world have made a greater impact on modern technology than Pratt & Whitney Company. From the production of interchangeable machine tools to jet engines, Pratt & Whitney is a global success story originating in Hartford, Connecticut. The business was founded in 1860 when Francis A. Pratt and Amos Whitney combined their mechanical expertise. Pratt & Whitney supplied machine tools for the production of firearms during the American Civil War and became a major source of custom machinery such as drills, mills and lathes. The company perfected the art of machining and its methods of measurement established the standard inch.

Founders of Pratt & Whitney
First reported Pratt & Whitney game, 1866.
The Pratt & Whitney Company Hartford, Connecticut, 1877.

In addition to its technological advancements, Pratt & Whitney also made significant, yet long forgotten contributions to the game of baseball throughout Greater Hartford. Baseball became popular in the mid-19th century as agrarian communities transformed into industrial cities. Workplaces began to form baseball clubs as a means of publicity and community-minded expression. Pratt & Whitney formed a company team as early as the summer of 1866, nearly a decade before professional baseball came to Hartford. The club challenged nines from Hartford and surrounding towns. Pratt & Whitney played their first out-of-state ballgame against Holyoke in 1883.

Pratt & Whitney vs. Willimantics, 1883.

Pratt & Whitney vs. Holyoke, July 19, 1883.
Pratt & Whitney executives Hartford, Connecticut, 1887 (c.)

At the onset of the 20th century, Pratt & Whitney’s company team pioneered an indoor version of baseball. During the fall of 1899 and 1900, Hartford’s Indoor Baseball League played in the Y.M.C.A. gymnasium. During the summer months Pratt & Whitney’s club played in Hartford’s Shop Baseball League which developed into Hartford’s Factory League in 1904. Opposing teams included Colt Armory, Billings & Spencer, Hartford Electric Vehicle, Hartford Rubber Works and Pope Manufacturing. Much to the delight of Hartford cranks, the Factory League convened at Colt Park and Wethersfield Avenue Grounds (later Clarkin Field and then Bulkeley Stadium).

Pratt & Whitney, Hartford, Connecticut, 1900.
Pratt & Whitney plays indoor baseball, 1900.

Pratt & Whitney records triple play, 1904.
A Pratt & Whitney parade float, Hartford, Connecticut, 1908.
Pratt & Whitney, Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut, 1911.
Pratt & Whitney ballplayers, 1913.
Industrial League action at Colt Park, Hartford, 1913.

By 1916, Hartford’s Factory League had evolved into the Hartford Industrial League. Also nicknamed the Dusty League, it was Hartford’s best amateur loop. Pratt & Whitney seized the league’s championship in its inaugural season. Standout Pratt & Whitney players included: Dutch Leonard, a hard-throwing moundsman from Hartford, John Muldoon, a catcher who later signed with the Hartford Senators of the Eastern Association and Sam Hyman a southpaw hurler from Hartford High School who played professionally for more than 11 years. However, most players were local men from Hartford. An amatuer named Rex Islieb was a skillful outfielder named who led Pratt & Whitney to clinch the Hartford Industrial League pennant in 1918.

Pitchers Dutch Leonard and Joe Smith of the Factory League, 1916.
Pratt & Whitney wins Industrial League, 1916.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1917.
John Muldoon, Catcher, Pratt & Whitney, 1918.

Perhaps the most intriguing Pratt & Whitney ballgame took place on Sunday, September 22, 1918, when they squared off against a 23 year old named Babe Ruth. Eleven days after Ruth and the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, he came to Hartford to play in benefit games at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds. The exhibitions raised funds for the Bat and Ball Fund which donated baseball equipment to American soldiers of World War I. Including Ruth, five Major Leaguers made appearances that day. Ruth’s Red Sox teammate, “Bullet” Joe Bush started on the mound for Pratt & Whitney with Herman Bronkie, Shano Collins and Joe Dugan behind him. Ruth pitched for the semi-pro Hartford Poli’s club and hit third in the batting order. Even though he pitched well, Ruth was out dueled by Bush’s 2-hit pitching performance and Pratt & Whitney won the contest by a score of 1 to 0.

1918 Boston Red Sox, World Series Champions.
Babe Ruth and Joe Bush, Boston Red Sox, 1918.
Pratt & Whitney faces Ruth, September 23, 1918.
Herman Bronkie, St. Louis Cardinals, 1918.
Shano Collins, Chicago White Sox, 1918.
Joe Dugan, Philadelphia Athletics, 1918.

When World War I ended, Pratt & Whitney had supplied the war effort with critical machine tools, war and they defeated Babe Ruth. The company team retained their good form the following season and captured the 1919 Industrial League championship. Thousands of spectators turned out at Hartford’s Colt Park to witness amateurs, like local slugger Jack Vannie and his Pratt & Whitney nine. The club’s third consecutive season title made headlines in the Hartford Courant and a celebration was later held at Hotel Bond on Asylum Street. Pratt & Whitney’s company team became known as one of the most prestigious baseball clubs in Connecticut.

Pratt & Whitney Baseball Club, 1919.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1919.

The “Roaring Twenties” prompted more expansion at Pratt & Whitney. In addition to baseball, Pratt & Whitney employees also formed bowling, tennis, basketball and football clubs. The baseball club continued to do battle in Hartford’s Industrial League, though with less success than the previous decade. Employees and local fans continued to lean on baseball while the proliferation of automobiles and advances in air travel altered the future of Pratt & Whitney and Hartford. In 1925,aviation engineer Frederick Rentschler partnered with Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool to build new aircraft engines, thus beginning Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company.

Hartford Industrial Athletic League trophies, 1921.
Johns-Pratt vs. Pratt & Whitney at Colt Park, 1923.
Pratt & Whitney Co. Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut, (c.) 1925.

Rentschler began to produce hundreds of Wasp aircraft engines but soon broke away from Pratt & Whitney. In 1929, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft merged with Boeing to form United Aircraft and Transport Corporation, the predecessor of United Technologies Corporation. As part of the agreement the United Aircraft division in Hartford retained the name Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. While individuals and businesses were stricken by the ill effects of 1929’s Stock Market Crash and the ensuing Great Depression, the aviation industry managed to flourish. Aircraft manufacturers thrived on favorable federal contracts and subsidies. In 1930, the new Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company established a baseball club.

Frederick Rentschler, President of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, 1926.
L to R: Pratt & Whitney Executives George Mead, Fred Rentschler, Don Brown and William Willgoos stand with the 1000th Wasp Engine, 1929.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1930.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1930.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1930.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1930.

Meanwhile Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool pressed on as a separate company with a baseball club of their own. Both Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft each organized teams in Hartford’s amateur leagues and would often go head-to-head on the diamond. Meanwhile, off the field, federal antitrust laws broke up United Aircraft and Transport Corp in 1934. A new company was formed called United Aircraft Corporation, consisting of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Sikorsky, Chance Vought and Hamilton Standard was headquartered in Hartford with Frederick Rentschler as president. By 1935, Rentschler had completed a giant complex in East Hartford, Connecticut, with aims at vertically integrating airplane manufacturing.

Hal Justin, Pitcher, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Co., 1932.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and Chance Vought plants in East Hartford, Connecticut, 1935.
Sikorsky S-42 Clipper with United Aircraft Hornet Engines, 1935.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1936.

Regardless of changes in business, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft remained backers of baseball clubs in Hartford’s Industrial League, the Public Service League and the East Hartford Twilight League. Some of the best company teams were represented in two summer leagues at once. Pratt & Whitney Aircraft entered the East Hartford Twilight League in 1937 after finishing third place in the Industrial League that same summer. The team featured local greats and future GHTBL Hall of Fame inductees Joe Tripp and Bill Calusine. Former professional ballplayer, Hal Justin served as manager and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft won the 1939 Industrial League championship.

Sikorsky S-43 powered by Pratt & Whitney Hornet engines of Pan American Airlines clipper, 1936.
U.S. Marines visit Hartford to play against United Aircraft (Pratt & Whitney Aircraft), 1937.
4United Aircraft (Pratt & Whitney Aircraft), Hartford Industrial League Champions, 1939.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft (United Aircraft), East Hartford, 1940.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft newsletter cover, 1940.
Pratt & Whitney Tool assembly line, 1940.

By 1941, America had gone to war against the Axis powers of World War II. Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool who relocated to West Hartford in 1939 and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft (United Aircraft) made major contributions to the war effort. Pratt & Whitney Aircraft was a key supplier of aircraft engines who helped the United States build more planes than any other warring nation. Its workforce swelled to about 40,000 employees during World War II and its engines powered Navy and Army fighters, bombers and transports. To relieve stress and to retain a sense of normalcy, manufacturing employees played baseball in multiple amateur leagues in Greater Hartford. After winning the Industrial League in 1942, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool joined the East Hartford Twilight League in 1943 and won the pennant once again.

Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1940.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1941
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1942.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool and United Aircraft were two of the best amateur baseball teams in Connecticut. The companies clashed on multiple occasions at Burnside Park in East Hartford. Lineups on both sides featured professionals whose careers were interrupted by World War II. Former minor leaguer John Chomick and brotherly duo Pete Kapura and George Kapura were members of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft club while Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool, fielded a former Boston Braves pitcher, George Woodend and other talented players such as Daniel Zazzaro, Jake Banks and Charlie Wrinn who enjoyed brief minor league careers.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1942.
Joe Tripp, Shortstop, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, 1943.
George Woodend, Pitcher, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool, 1943.
Jake Banks, Outfielder, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool, 1944.
Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool, West Hartford, 1945.
“Iggy” Miller Murawski, Pitcher, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, 1947.
John “Yosh” Kinel, Pitcher, Pratt & Whitney, 1949.
Charlie Wrinn, Pitcher, Pratt & Whitney, 1951.

In 1952, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft won championships in the Hartford Industrial League and the Manchester Twilight League. The following summer, the company team tested their mettle in the Hartford Twilight League and outshined the competition. Led by their manager, Johnny Roser, Aircraft captured the 1953 Hartford Twilight League championship. Professional scouts continued to take notice. In 1954, the New York Giants signed Pratt & Whitney Aircraft pitcher, Bob Kelley to a minor league contract. Aircraft’s company team solidified their amateur baseball dynasty in 1955 when they commandeered another dual championship in the Industrial League and the Hartford Twilight League.

Pratt & Whitney Aircraft advertisement in the Hartford Courant, 1952.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft vs. Puritan Maids, 1953.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft win the Hartford Twilight League, 1953.
New York Giants sign Pratt & Whitney Aircraft pitcher, Bob Kelley, 1954.
Hartford Twilight League Opening Day, 1955.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft wins the Industrial League and the Hartford Twilight League, 1955.
Bill Risley, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, 1955.
Jack Downes of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft accepts the Hartford Courant Trophy, 1955.

In 1957, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft first baseman Dick Pomeroy won the Hartford Twilight League batting title. The club’s ace and freshman at the University of Connecticut, Pete Sala pitched his way to a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pratt & Whitney Aircraft entered the Hartford Twilight League for a final season in 1960. In the coming years, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft began to favor softball teams instead of baseball. When the company opened a new division in North Haven, Connecticut later that year, a baseball field was erected on the premises for the enjoyment of employees and management.

Mayor Cronin’s first pitch at Opening Day of the Hartford Twilight League at Colt Park, Hartford, 1956.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft of the Hartford Industrial League, 1956.
Pete Sala, Pitcher, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, 1957.
Pratt & Whitney ballgame in North Haven, Connecticut, 1957.
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, North Haven Branch, 1957.
Pratt & Whitney first pitch, North Haven, Connecticut, 1957.

In summary, Pratt & Whitney backed baseball clubs competed in Hartford’s amateur leagues for nearly a century. The company was a crucial contributor to Hartford’s earliest baseball era. Employees and fans turned to the game for recreation and entertainment throughout two World Wars and the Great Depression. Amidst decades of change, mergers and acquisitions, baseball was a constant for local manufacturers like Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. Although its impact is now largely forgotten, Pratt & Whitney and its employees must be remembered as major influencers on baseball in the Greater Hartford area.

Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1980.
1930’s Pratt & Whitney baseball uniform at Connecticut Historical Society, 2019.


Sources:

  1. Hartford Courant, available at www.newspapers.com (accessed: 2020).
  2. Pratt & Whitney, available at www.prattandwhitney.com (accessed: 2020).

Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford’s Greatest

A young, talented catcher from East Hartford, Connecticut, named Jimmy Gonzalez caught the eyes of local scouts in his junior year at East Hartford High School. During the summer of 1991, Gonzalez was selected as the 40th player overall in the Major League Baseball Draft – a first round draft pick of the Houston Astros. He went on to play fourteen seasons in professional baseball with the San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos and New York Mets organizations. Gonzalez played with Mike Piazza, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada and Tony Gwynn. He was an understudy of Gary Carter and Dave Engle. He also spent 4 seasons of winter ball in the Dominican Republic, capturing two Caribbean Series championships.

Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, East Hartford High School, 1990.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1991.
Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford High School, 1991.
Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford High School, 1991.
Jimmy Gonzalez, East Hartford High School, 1991.

Gonzalez is a graduate of the Major League Scout School and has worked with the Boson Red Sox as an Associate Scout. He has been a minor league manager in the Chicago Cubs organization for the past 6 seasons and was named Manager of the Year in the Midwest League in 2016. Most recently, Gonzalez was at the helm of the South Bend Cubs in 2018 but has since been promoted. Gonzalez was hired for the 2019 season as the new Manager of the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League – the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

Jimmy Gonzalez Topps Stadium Club card, 1992.
Jimmy Gonzalez Topps Stadium Club card, 1992.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Quad City River Bandits, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Houston Astros, Bowman card, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Houston Astros, Bowman card, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Quad City River Bandits, 1993.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Osceola Astros, 1994.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Catcher, Binghamton Mets, 2000.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, South Bend Cubs, 2016.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, South Bend Cubs, 2016.

Career stats – https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=gonzal001jim

Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, Tennessee Smokies, 2019.
Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, Tennessee Smokies, 2019.

Jimmy Gonzalez, Manager, Tennessee Smokies, 2019.

Dom Amore: East Hartford’s Jimmy Gonzalez Was There At Right Time For Gleyber Torres – https://www.courant.com/sports/baseball/hc-sp-amore-column-gonzalez-0529-story.html

New Management in the Twilight League

3 new managers assume roles in East Hartford, Meriden and Middletown.

Record-Journal Expos – Charlie Hesseltine, Manager
– Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 42nd round of the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft as a left-handed pitcher.
– In 2006, he signed with the Atlantic City Surf of the Atlantic League.
– He pitched for 3 more Atlantic League teams including the Bridgeport Bluefish in 2008.
– Meriden, CT, resident and member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

East Hartford Jets – Taylor Kosakowski, Manager
– Right-handed relief pitcher at Central Connecticut State University (’06-’08) with 72 K’s and 35 walks over 96 innings.
– Veteran of GHTBL and player-manager of the Ulbrich Clippers in 2018.
– Public school psychologist in Hebron, CT.

Middletown Outlaws – Christian Budzik, Manager
– Shortstop at Eastern Connecticut State University (’14-’17) with a .354 OBP and 77 hits in 121 games.
– He was part of the Cromwell High School baseball team who won the 2012 CIAC Class S championship.
– Special education teacher in Cromwell, CT.