Tag: hartford

August 2 – Crush Cancer Night at Dunkin’ Donuts Park

On Monday, August 2, 2021, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League will host a doubleheader at at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford. The event, presented by Cigna, will be the league’s 5th annual charity series. This year, ticket proceeds will be donated to Connecticut Cancer Foundation and the Brian Peer Memorial Scholarship.

  • 6:00 PM, People’s United Bank vs. Bristol Greeners
  • 8:00 PM, East Hartford Jets vs. Hartford Colts

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

RSVP on Facebook at https://fb.me/e/2rXIzjCCg.

Can’t attend? Donate here: givebutter.com/embed/c/ghtbl.


About Connecticut Cancer Foundation

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

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John and Jane Ellis, Founders of Connecticut Cancer Foundation.

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


About the Brian Peer Memorial Scholarship

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

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

GHTBL Gives Back to the Greater Hartford Community

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

Camp Courant Kids Day at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017

August 22 – All-Star Game at Dodd Stadium

The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is pleased announce a new event this summer at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Connecticut.

On August 22, 2021, the GHTBL All-Stars will match up with an All-Star team from the George Donnelly Sunset League out of Narragansett and Newport, Rhode Island.

The Sunset League was established in 1919 and along with the GHTBL, it is one of the oldest baseball leagues in America.

The game will begin at 4 PM at Dodd Stadium. Free admission.

Visit the GDSL website: https://www.gdsunsetleague.com/

Alex Cornell is Lighting Up the Pecos League

Alex Cornell is currently wrecking Pecos League pitching with a .500 batting average. He’s mashed 27 base hits in 54 at bats with two home runs and 14 RBI for the Bakersfield Train Robbers.

Cornell, who hails from Columbia, Connecticut, is in his rookie Pecos League season. He finished up his college career this past spring at Limestone University in Gaffney, South Carolina. As a utility player for the Saints, he hit .386 with 8 home runs and 36 RBI and was 2021 All-South Atlantic Conference Honorable Mention. In the summer of 2018, he played under player-manager, Charlie Hesseltine of the Record-Journal Expos.

Cornell played all four years at E.O. Smith High School where he became the first player in program history to be named All-State as a junior. He posted a .410 batting average with five home runs, led the state in doubles and guided the Panthers to a conference championship. He was named team captain as a senior and batted .400 with seven home runs while earning All-Conference honors.

The GHTBL wishes Alex all the best on his bright future in professional baseball.

Alex Cornell, Bakersfield Train Robbers, Pecos League, 2021.

“The Pecos League is an independent baseball league which operates in cities in desert mountain regions throughout California, New Mexico, Southern Arizona, Kansas, West Texas and Colorado. Pecos Teams play in cities that do not have Major or Minor League Baseball teams and is not affiliated with either. The Pecos League has two divisions which stretch from the plains of Kansas to the Oceans of California to the Mexican Border of Texas. The two divisions with the Mountain Division and the Pacific Division.”

From the Pecos League website, www.pecosleague.com.

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 players on their way to 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.
Heine Wagner, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1916.
Heine Wagner, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1916.
Lefty Goldberg, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1916.
Lefty Goldberg, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 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. Trinity College alumnus and Hartford Public High School baseball coach George Brickley patrolled the outfield.

Members of the Hartford Senators, 1916.

A dismal first half of the 1916 season led to the release of Heine Wagner and 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 would finish out the season in last place with a 38-79 record.

Hartford Senators & Judge Kenesaw Landis (standing, center), Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, Hartford, 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 amateur turned professional named Eddie Goodridge from Bristol, Connecticut. Despite overwhelming local support, the club finished with a horrid .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, Hartford finished 29-28 and no team was awarded the league title.

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

In 1919, the Eastern League advanced 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 a serving in the war effort. The Senators struggled to keep opponents off the basepaths and finished last in the Eastern League.

Management of the Hartford Senators, 1919.
1919 Hartford Senators
Danny Murphy, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1919.
Joe Baker, Pitcher, 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 players in their first year with Hartford. 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 8 games behind the New Haven club.

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.

In 1921, James Clarkin replaced the Wethersfield Avenue Grounds. The stadium 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 was not ready for Opening Day and the Senators played their first two weeks on the road.

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.

Near the end of the year, Connie Mack came to Hartford on a scouting trip and purchased Heinie Scheer. The Philadelphia Athletics offered Clarkin $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 the Senators fifth place finish, owner Clarkin declared his frustration with major league clubs who poached his players without paying higher fees. At the same time, Clarkin would often recruit players from the big leagues himself.

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 to a brief contract with the Senators. Thorpe crushed Eastern League pitching, and yet his stint in Hartford would only last about six weeks. Upon being traded to Worcester, he criticized Clarkin’s methods which included pressuring Thorpe to hit home runs. A few days after being traded, Thorpe led Worcester to two wins over Hartford and ended up with one of the top batting averages in the Eastern League.

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 their 35 year old player-manager Jack Coffey. The club’s left fielder was Leo “Brick” Kane who achieved his third consecutive year with more than 100 Eastern League hits. The team’s right fielder was Sy Rosenthal who began his thirteen year professional career in Hartford. Ted Hauk played third base and was a fixture in Hartford’s lineup. The club failed more often than they succeeded at 73-76, landing in sixth place on the year.

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

In 1923, Hartford’s lone constant, James Clarkin hired a new manager. He signed Paddy O’Connor, a trusted baseball mind and former Senators catcher whose salary exceeded every Eastern League manager. O’Connor was fortunate to welcome back 19 year old Lou Gehrig to Hartford from Columbia University for 59 games. The budding star swatted a league record 24 home runs. All the pieces fell into place as O’Connor, 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 the league. 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. 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 played 151 games in Hartford and reported to the Yankees at the end of the season.

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

Meanwhile, Tom Comiskey and Harry Hesse were 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 was a journeyman outfielder born in Danielson, Connecticut, who batted .306. Hartford almost captured the 1925 league 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. 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 league 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.

In 1927, an accidental fire at Clarkin Stadium torched the grandstand. A new grandstand was erected in less than a month. The Senators played at Trinity College and in Manchester while repairs were made. When renovations were completed, President of the Eastern League, Herman Weisman presented Clarkin with a stickpin and cufflinks encrusted with diamonds to honor his diligent efforts. Longtime big leaguer, Kitty Bransfield spent his final season in baseball as Hartford’s manager. First baseman Jim Keesey proved to be a prospect when he led the Eastern League with 204 hits, while Schinkle was second in the league 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 key cog in the outfield. An infielder from Cuba named Eusebio González played 25 games with the Senators and was the 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 but 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 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 most 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 hitter, earning the league’s home run title with 27 round-trippers. At second base, Scott Slayback demonstrated a capable bat with 10 homers. A southpaw pitcher named Russ Van Atta threw for a marvelous 2.49 earned run average and 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 finished third place 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 .324 average in 593 at bats. Mike Martineck hit .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. Hartford ended the year in last place, much to the disappointment of fan expectations.

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. 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 Hartford 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 under 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. Driscoll sent Earl Mann to run the affiliated operation as Hartford’s business manager. 27 year old Charles Moore was chosen as player-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. The league had operated for sixteen consecutive seasons before owners met in New York City to cancel the circuit. Waning interest and widespread economic woes brought on by the Great Depression hampered revenues.

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 Savitt Gems baseball team 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 but the Senators placed fourth 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

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.

April 28th Ribbon Cutting at Johnny Taylor Field

In Hartford’s newly refurbished Colt Park, the Bulkeley High School Varsity baseball team will take on New Britain High School at Johnny Taylor Field, 3:45 PM on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. The matchup will mark the inaugural game at the field. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place 30 minutes before the first pitch.

The schedule of events will be:
3:15 – Welcome
3:25 – City Councilman John Gale
3:35 – Superintendent of Schools/Diane Callis Bulkeley High School Athletic Director
3:45 – Cut the ribbon – scoreboard revealed
3:50 – Lynette Taylor Grande, Bobby Grande & Taylor family
4:00 – Let the game begin!

RSVP to the event of Facebook. Click here.

In attendance will be members of the Taylor family who still reside in the Greater Hartford area. Local officials, park advocates and members of the press are also expected.

Complete with real grass, a well-manicured Igor of, custom scoreboard, bullpens and dugouts, Johnny Taylor Field is a major improvement for baseball at Colt Park. For more than three decades, the enclosed “Field #9” was in disrepair and unplayable more often than not.

The field is named after Johnny Taylor, perhaps Hartford’s greatest pitcher of all-time. In the 1930’s, Taylor was a graduate of Bulkeley High School and a local star in the Hartford Twilight League. The New York Yankees scouted Taylor, but due to racial discrimination they declined to sign him.

Taylor went on to play for the New York Cubans of the Negro National League. In the 1937 all-star game at the Polo Grounds, Taylor pitched a no-hitter to defeat baseball great, Satchel Paige.

After a long career in various professional leagues, Taylor returned to Hartford. He was signed to pitch by the Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League, the Boston Braves minor league affiliate.

Taylor was Hartford’s first professional black athlete. His legacy of perseverance and athletic dominance still resonates today. Taylor’s story now has a permanent place in Colt Park and in Connecticut’s capital city.

The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League is pleased to have led the effort to commemorate Johnny Taylor. The league partnered with the Friends of Colt Park (now Colt Park Foundation) and local activists to collect signatures to petition for the renaming. The initiative gained full support from the City Council and Mayor Luke Bronin.

The renovation project at Johnny Taylor Field was finished earlier this year. Hartford schools, American Legion and twilight league clubs intend to use the diamond this summer. Two GHTBL teams, Hartford Colts and People’s United Bank, expect to schedule several home dates at Colt Park.

The return to Colt Park is significant for the GHTBL because our summer league was established on the premises in 1929. For about 40 years, the park and its many diamonds served the Greater Hartford area as a veritable baseball playground for youth and adults. During the 1950’s and 1960’s Dillon Stadium, on the easternmost parcel of Colt Park was used for baseball games by various leagues including the twilight league.

As the league returns to Colt Park, we pledge to be good stewards and donors of the park. In 2020, GHTBL raised $2,000 for Johnny Taylor Field in charity games held up the road at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The donation will be used to improve and maintain the diamond.

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 the first iteration of the 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 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 morbid prank. A local medical 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 scare, 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 Hartford club. Among investors of the Hartford Amusement Association were famed author, Mark Twain and Mayor of Hartford, Morgan G. Bulkeley. The stakeholders hired Charles F. Daniels, a professional umpire from Colchester, Connecticut, as manager. The Hartford club finished in 3rd in the Eastern League. Twain’s ownership stake only lasted a year.

Samuel Clemens, 1907.

Later on April 8, 1889, Mark Twain dined with baseball’s “who’s who” at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City. It was the night to remember that drew plenty of publicity. The Testimonial Banquet was held in honor of Albert Spaulding and baseball players of the “Tour Around the World”. Twain was among the guest speakers and gave a humorous speech to the banquet of ballplayers and dignitaries who supported the world tour. His comedic prose garnered a standing ovation.

“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 while living in Hartford. The novel is about a man from East Hartford who time travels to 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

When Ty Cobb Came to Hartford

More than a hundred years ago, Tyrus “Ty” Cobb, center fielder of the Detroit Tigers visited Hartford on three separate occasions. Like many players of baseball’s Golden Age, Cobb made appearances in cities and towns across the United States for additional income. Before Cobb’s first visit to Hartford in the fall of 1916, he was already known as the game’s best player. He had won the batting title a record 9 times in a row and earned the 1911 American League Most Valuable Player. He was nicknamed “The Georgia Peach” by sportswriter, Grantland Rice as an ode to Cobb’s home state. Cobb was a ferocious competitor with a short temper, great speed, hitting ability and a split handed batting style.

Tyrus “Ty” Cobb, 1906.
Tyrus “Ty” Cobb, 1907
Ty Cobb with his children, 1913.
Ty Cobb, 1913.
Ty Cobb, 1913.

Prior to Cobb’s arrival in 1916, the United States were preparing for what would become World War I. Hartford held its largest public gathering to date – a Preparedness Parade in response to heightened conflict in Europe. The city was comprised of 100,000 residents as well as the nation’s top insurance, banking and manufacturing firms. Per capita, Hartford was one of the wealthiest cities in America. Baseball was by far Hartford’s most popular sport. There were more baseball fields in Hartford than any other city in New England. This included Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, where the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League played home games, and where a brand new grandstand was constructed in 1912.

Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, 1912.
WWI Preparedness Parade, Main Street Hartford, Connecticut, 1916.

When a 30 year old Ty Cobb first came to Hartford, it was after a splendid 1916 Major League season. Cobb’s .370 batting average, 68 stolen bases and 113 runs scored led the Majors. The Detroit Tigers won 87 games and lost 67 under manager Hughie Jennings, finishing third in the American League. After the season, Cobb began to barnstorm New England with independent clubs like the New Haven Colonials for a guarantee of $300 per appearance. Alongside Cobb on the Colonials side were former New York Yankees pitcher, Ray Keating and Philadelphia Athletics shortstop and Torrington High School alumnus, Joe Dugan.

New Haven Colonials with Ty Cobb, 1916.
New Haven Colonials vs. Brooklyn Robins at Lighthouse Point, New Haven, September 10, 1916.
1916 New Haven Colonials

On Tuesday, October 24, 1916, Ty Cobb delighted a small crowd of 800 fans at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds. The game was not well publicized in advance but onlookers would not be disappointed. Cobb and the New Haven Colonials faced off against the city’s best semi-professional club, the Hartford Poli’s. He played center field, first base and served as relief pitcher. Cobb had two hits, showed off his speed in a run-down and pitched 3 innings of one-hit ball. He gave up a double to the Poli’s catcher, John Muldoon, a future professional from Hartford who had three hits on the day. Cobb and Colonials shut out the Hartford Poli’s by a score of 7 to 0.

Ty Cobb and the New Haven Colonials defeat Hartford Poli’s, Hartford, October 24, 1916.
1916 Hartford Poli’s Baseball Club

When the United States entered the Great War in April of 1917, baseball clubs began drilling as if they were military units, including Ty Cobb’s Tigers. He became eligible for military service earlier than most professional ballplayers when he applied to the Augusta, Georgia Draft Board on May 23, 1917. Baseball was played throughout the war and Cobb went on to win two more batting titles with the Tigers before being drafted into the United States Army in late 1918. That year, he won his 11th batting title, hitting .382 in a shortened season due to hostilities in Europe between the Allies and the Axis Powers.

Ty Cobb’s draft card, 1917.
Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb in Army uniforms, 1917.
Captain Ty Cobb in his Army uniform, 1918.
Signed portrait of Ty Cobb in Army uniform, 1918.

A week before the 1918 season ended, Cobb made his second cameo in Hartford. On August 25th, the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Browns staged a benefit game to support American Expeditionary Forces who were deployed on the Western Front. The Tigers and the Browns arrived in Hartford by train. The Browns featured their first baseman George Sisler, a gifted batsman and a Hall of Fame player in the making. Sisler was seven years younger than Cobb and he revered the Georgia Peach. “The greatness of Ty Cobb is something that had to be seen,” Sisler said, “and to see him was to remember him forever.”

Cobb and Sisler to play in Hartford, August 11, 1918.
George Sisler and other players of the St. Louis Browns, Hartford, 1918.

The benefit game drew more than 6,000 fans who filled the grandstand and lined the perimeter of Hartford’s Wethersfield Avenue Grounds. Ty Cobb wore a Cornell College baseball uniform because the team’s luggage was accidentally left at Union Station. Cobb’s play on the field was described as resplendent. He cracked two hits and made a one-handed catch in center field to save two runs. George Sisler had a ground rule double to left field and led his team in putouts. By the end of nine innings, Sisler and the Browns beat Cobb and the Tigers, 3 runs to 1.

L to R: Mayor Kinsella, U.S. District Attorney Thomas Spellacy and Ty Cobb, August 25, 1918.

In October of 1918, Cobb was drafted and assigned to the Army’s Chemical Warfare Services division. He simultaneously announced his retirement from baseball even though Cobb continued to play in benefit games. Before shipping out to France for 67 days, he made his final visit to Hartford on October 5, 1918. He returned as a member of the New Haven Colonials to play for the “semi-pro state championship” against Hartford’s top company team from Pratt & Whitney. Before the game, Cobb gave a speech in front of Hartford’s Liberty Loan Cottage encouraging people to buy war bonds. Pratt & Whitney ended up winning the contest 5 to 3 in windy weather over Cobb and the Colonials.

Ty Cobb in Detroit Tigers uniform, 1918.
Hartford Courant excerpt, October 3, 1918.
Ty Cobb featured in the Hartford Courant, October 4, 1918.
Liberty Loan Cottage, Hartford, Connecticut, 1918.

Ty Cobb’s second and third game in Hartford raised over $3,000 for the Bat and Ball Fund headed up by Clark Griffith, Manager of the Washington Senators. The fund supplied active United States soldiers of World War I with baseball uniforms and equipment. Hartford Soldiers Athletic Committee Chair and former professional ballplayer, John F. Gunshanan corresponded with Griffith to organize the Tigers versus Browns matchup. As the end of the war neared, the baseball goods were gifted to American soldiers in France and Italy. When Armistice Day arrived, people flooded Main Street for the greatest parade the city ever saw. As for the veteran Cobb, he returned home from military service wouldn’t officially retire until 10 years later as a member of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics.

Armistice Day parade, Main Street, Hartford, November 11, 1918.
Clark Griffith’s Bat and Ball Fund, 1919.
U.S. Soldiers recieve baseball goods from the Bat and Ball Fund in France, 1918.

After 22 Major League seasons, Ty Cobb set 90 statistical records. These included highest career batting average (.367) and most career batting titles with 12. He held many of these records for almost a half century or more, including most career hits (4,191) until 1985 most career runs (2,246) until 2001, most career games played (3,035), at bats (11,434) until 1974 and the modern record for most career stolen bases (892) until 1977. Not surprisingly, Cobb has retained the career record for stealing home (54 times) and for stealing second base, third base, and home in succession (5 times). He ranks fifth all-time in games played and first in errors committed by an American League outfielder with 271. In 1936, Cobb received the most votes of any player on the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame ballot with 222 out of 226 votes.

Ty Cobb slides home, 1920.
Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1926.
A retired Ty Cobb at his home in Atherton, California, 1957.
Ty Cobb’s National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.

Sources:

  1. Hartford Courant on Newspapers.com
  2. Baseball-Reference.com

Learn more about Cobb from Charles Leerhsen’s
“Ty Cobb’s Character: What We Know That’s Wrong” on YouTube
:

Learn more about Ty Cobb in “Ty Cobb’s Character: What We Know That’s Wrong” by Charles Leerhsen.