Tag: manchester

Hall of Fame Inductee, Doc Bidwell, Ace of the Twilight League

David “Doc” Bidwell is the career wins leader of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. As a tall and imposing right-handed pitcher, he struck out countless twi-loop batters for more than forty years. Bidwell was a journeyman and a longtime pupil of GHTBL legend, Gene Johnson. Doc and Gene won several championships at the helm of Moriarty Brothers, Newman Lincoln-Mercury and the Foss Insurance franchise. Altogether, Bidwell achieved ten season titles, eleven playoff championships and a reputation as an all-time twilight pitcher.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave Bidwell (left) with Gene Johnson, 2014.

Bidwell was born in Manchester, Connecticut, on July 5, 1956, to Ted and Betty Bidwell. He once described his parents as, “My biggest fans, who probably saw ninety percent of our games, only missing some when they went to New Hampshire for vacation.” As a youngster, Bidwell was a standout player for Manchester High School and Manchester Legion. In a Legion game on July 8, 1974, he threw a perfect game against Ellington, highlighted by nine strikeouts.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
1974 Manchester High School Varsity Baseball

In 1975, Bidwell became a freshman pitcher at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Later that summer, he joined player-manager Gene Johnson and the Manchester-based Moriarty Brothers. Bidwell, a rookie, and Pete Sala, a former professional, overpowered the competition. Moriarty Brothers of 1975 proved to be one of the greatest teams in league history. They lost just four games on the year, winning the season title and sweeping the playoff championship.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Moriarty Comets Win Playoff Championship, Hartford Courant, August 29, 1975.

In 1978, Bidwell took his Assumption College team to the NCAA Division-II Regional Tournament. The Greyhounds lost to Porky Viera‘s University of New Haven in Bidwell’s final game at Assumption. He posted a 19-11 win-loss record in four college seasons, ranking among Assumption’s best pitchers across multiple statistical categories. Bidwell became a proud member of the Assumption College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave “Doc” Bidwell, Pitcher, Assumption College, 1978.

Throughout his college career, Bidwell played summer ball in the GHTBL. He had perfect 10-0 record in 1985 and 1988. When the Moriarty Brothers franchise changed their named to Newman Lincoln-Mercury in 1990, Bidwell toed the rubber as their ace. He steered the club to seven championships over the next ten twi-loop seasons. Bidwell was a true baseball junkie, who also pitched on Sundays for the Connecticut Men’s Senior Baseball League. In 1994, his talents were recognized when he became a Manchester Sports Hall of Fame inductee. At the ceremony, Bidwell credited his brother Mel for being his spring training catcher.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Bidwell shuts out Malloves Jewelers, June 14, 1990.
Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave “Doc” Bidwell, Pitcher, Newman Lincoln-Mercury, 1994.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound hurler threw in the high-80 mile per hour range for the first leg of his career. Later, Bidwell developed into a pitcher who confused hitters with various speeds and the occasional knuckleball. He tossed for dozens of winning ball clubs under manager, Gene Johnson and alongside other impact players such as Steve Chotiner, Corky Coughlin and Mike Susi. Veteran players like Bidwell were the backbone of the Newman Lincoln-Mercury franchise, which became Foss Insurance in 2004 when Mark and Jane Foss signed on as sponsors.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Corky Coughlin & Bidwell (right), Newman Lincoln-Mercury, 2001.
Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave Bidwell, Pitcher, Foss Insurance, 2009.

In late 2014, Gene Johnson passed away, leaving a giant baseball legacy. Bidwell and the Foss Insurance team were determined to win a championship in Johnson’s memory the following summer. He promptly stepped into the role of manager and guided Foss Insurance to the 2015 playoff championship. Bidwell finally retired in 2017 after a 43-year twilight league career. He handed the team over to player-manager, Mark DiTommaso who gave way to Tyler Repoli, the current player-manager of the same franchise – now the Manchester-based, Rainbow Graphics.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Bidwell (top, left) with Foss Insurance, Playoff Champions, 2015.

Bidwell, a 12-time All-Star, was inducted into the GHTBL Hall of Fame in 2018 along with former Moriarty’s teammate, Mark Riemer. Bidwell’s career will be remembered as one of the best amateur feats in Greater Hartford baseball history. According to Bidwell, he won, “More than 250 games and lost about 80…a few no-decisions, but not many.” In recent years, he’s been spotted attending GHTBL playoff games as a fan, and he still keeps in touch with the league on a regular basis.

Dave Bidwell Greater Twilight Hartford Baseball League
Dave Bidwell, Pitcher, Marlborough Braves, 2017.

Outside of baseball, Bidwell obtained a political science degree from Assumption College in 1979. Since 1981, he’s an employee at Kaman Aerospace in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Bidwell has been an avid music fan and concert goer for most of his adult life. He now resides in Manchester, Connecticut, and is a father to two daughters. Join us, the GHTBL Executive Committee, in congratulating “Doc” on an incredible baseball career.

A Real Connecticut Yankee’s Baseball Career Cut Short

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

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

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

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

Hoffman an Early Hit with Philadelphia Athletics

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

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

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

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

Once-Promising Talent Sidelined by Injury

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

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

Jon Brandt Joins as Rainbow Graphics GM

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

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

Jon Brandt

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

Cinderella Story Playoffs?

Evan Chamberlin and Rainbow Graphics upset Expos 5-2.

The Rainbow Graphics baseball club of Manchester shook up the first round bracket with a 5-2 win over the 2nd seed Record-Journal Expos. Veteran, 30 year old pitcher, Evan Chamberlain earned the win by throwing a 2 hitter through 6 innings with 1 earned run. Edison Galan went 3 for 4 with 2 runs and an RBI. Ryan Pandolfi went 2 for 4 with an RBI on 2 doubles. Max Quinn went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI’s. Co-Managers, Tyler Repoli and Ryan Pandolfi will lead their team to Playoff Game #6 at Ceppa Field in Meriden, CT on Thursday at 6:30 PM.

Follow the Rainbow Graphics team on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/rainbow_graphics_ghtbl

Check out the team’s sponsor Rainbow Graphics at: https://rainbowgraphicsct.com/

New Britain’s Tom Thibodeau Played Twilight Ball

(Main photo: Tom Thibodeau, Head Coach, Salem State University, 1985.)

A little known fact: when he wasn’t coaching basketball, Tom Thibodeau played baseball in the Hartford Twilight League. The New Britain native manned third base for the Manchester Community College twilight team in 1976 and for the Society for Savings club in 1977.

Tom Thibodeau, Third Baseman, Society for Savings, 1977.
Tom Thibodeau, Assistant Coach, Minnesota Timberwolves, 1989.

Thibodeau went on to become a collegiate and professional basketball coach. He won NBA Coach of the Year Award 2011 with the Chicago Bulls. He served as an Assistant Coach for the United States men’s national basketball team from 2013-2016, and helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. Most recently, Thibodeau was named Head Coach of the New York Knicks.

Tom Thibodeau hired by the New York Knicks, 2020.

Thank You Sponsors: Rainbow Graphics

We are grateful for your support!

GHTBL franchise sponsor Rainbow Graphics is a Manchester-based “one stop and in-house solution for superior service and quality.”

Embroidery • Screenprinting • Team & Spiritwear • Corporate Apparel • Promotional Items

https://rainbowgraphicsct.com/

The Rainbow Graphics club is led by co-managers Ryan Pandolfi and Tyler Repoli. Their home games are played in Mount Nebo Park at Matthew M. Moriarty Field of Manchester, Connecticut.

GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee, Matt Moriarty was sponsor of the same, contiguous Manchester franchise as Rainbow Graphics when they began as Moriarty Brothers in 1964.

The Tober Baseball Manufacturing Company

When the 20th century began, baseball was in high demand throughout urban and rural America. Professionals, amateurs and school children played the “National Game” whenever weather permitted. In Hartford, a professional team nicknamed the Senators was organized in 1902 as part of the Connecticut State League. That same year, a Russian immigrant family named Tober settled in Springfield, Massachusetts. Among the family was a 20 year old man, Meyer Tober (1882-1964) who with his brothers, Israel and Louis, immediately began to capitalize on baseball mania by manufacturing sporting goods, especially by spinning, sewing and stitching baseballs.

Tober’s Connecticut State League baseball, 1910 (c.)

Massachussetts issued Tober a charter in December of 1910, thus founding Tober Brothers Inc. To meet growing demand for baseball goods, the company expanded to Hartford, Connecticut in 1912. The company established a factory in Hartford where Meyer Tober, his brothers and employees stitched baseballs by hand. Communities in and around Hartford became even more gripped by the game of baseball during this time. Aside from the Hartford Senators, almost all surrounding towns fielded ball clubs and amateur leagues competed on baseball diamonds across Connecticut. Public service entities such as police and fire departments, insurance businesses, churches and schools formed teams and played regularly at places like Colt Park in Hartford.

Tober Brothers Inc. bill of sale, 1911.

As baseball grew more popular, Tober gained profits and prestige. The family of baseball industrialists and their company became distinguished for quality workmanship. In 1915, Meyer Tober married a woman named Rae Recker of Hartford. Tober may have been influenced by his wife when in 1920, he published an advertisement in the Hartford Courant seeking 300 women to sew baseball covers at home on either a full-time or part-time basis. That year, Meyer Tober agreed to a business partnership with John A. Peach and the J.A. Peach Sporting Goods Company known for supplying baseball gloves to the Major Leagues. For a short period, the Peach-Tober Sporting Goods company was incorporated and located at 17 Goodman Place in Hartford, Connecticut.

Tober College League Baseball, 1922 (c.)
Tober employment advertisement, 1920.
Meyer Tober leases property on Pleasant Street in Hartford, 1922.
Meyer Tober leases property on Pleasant Street in Hartford, 1922.

The following year, a fire on April 25, 1921 destroyed $15,000 in Peach-Tober merchandise during their busy season. In the aftermath, Tober reorganized the business again and took on the name, Bon-Tober Sporting Goods Co. In 1922, Meyer Tober leased a three-story brick building at “240 Pleasant Street in Hartford for three years at $150 a month.” The Bon-Tober operation employed 150 people and over 1500 women who sewed baseballs from home. By then, Tober manufactured various sporting goods including baseballs, baseball mitts and gloves, baseball bats, footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, punching bags and boxing gloves. Branch offices were operated in New Britain, Meriden, Middletown, Springfield and Westfield.

Bon-Tober Sporting Goods Company advertisement, 1923.
Bon-Tober baseball, 1923.
Bon-Tober Catchers Mitt Box Hartford, Connecticut, 1925 (c.)
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1923.
Bon-Tober bat, 1925 (c.)

Tober baseball goods were used in leagues as far as Georgia where a single Tober baseball was claimed, “to last thirty innings, though it was guaranteed to last for eighteen innings.” In 1927, the company was purchased and operated by the McKinnon Dash Co. of Buffalo, New York, a former manufacturer of dashboards for horse drawn buggies and carriages dating back to 1878. For a short transition period products were sold with the Bon-Tober/McKinnon brand name. In 1930, McKinnon Dash began producing a complete line of leather sporting goods, under the “McKinnon” brand name. After the McKinnon buyout, Meyer Tober began anew by forming the Tober Baseball Manufacturing Company.

Bon-Tober baseball glove, 1925 (c.)

On October 19,1938, the Hartford Courant reported on Tober’s plans to move its main operation to Manchester, Connecticut: “Cheney Brothers has leased the third floor of Mill Four, part of the spinning mill group on Elm Street, to Meyer Tober of Hartford, doing business as Tober Baseball Manufacturing Company. The plant will be used for manufacturing athletic goods and as a warehouse. The silk firm [Cheney Bros.] has already leased several of its vacant factories to small manufacturing concerns.” Meyer Tober leased the mill floor for five years at a rate of $1,500 per year. In Manchester, Tober mainly manufactured baseballs and softballs under the Eagle brand as well as playground balls.

Cheney Brothers “Spinning Mill” Manchester, Connecticut, 1919 (c.)
Cheney Brothers “Spinning Mill” Manchester, Connecticut, 2016.

By the 1940’s, Meyer Tober’s sons, Sidney and Richard joined the family business. The Tober family lived at the corner of Union and Jefferson Streets in the North End of Hartford. In 1945, the Hartford Zoning Board of Appeals gave Tober permission to use 1127 Main Street Hartford to sew covers on the cores of baseballs and softballs; a location that employed about fifty people. Meyer Tober continued to employ “home workers” to stitch balls, but he ran into trouble with the federal Wage & Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor. The Hartford Courant reported on August 24, 1945 that Tober was fined $2,600 for not paying minimum wage to home workers in Vermont.

Tober’s Eastern League baseball signed by Walter Johnson, 1938.
Tober’s International League baseball, 1940 (c.)

In the early 1950’s, an eyewitness described two sisters sewing Tober baseballs from their home: “The sisters were very fast with the red yarn! Their long steel needles would fly as they stitched the baseballs – the holes were already punched in the leather. As they finished each baseball, they put the baseballs in peach baskets.” Around the same time, Tober expanded manufacturing operations to the second floor of Building #2 at Hilliard Mills in Manchester, Connecticut. The Hilliard Mills complex was one of the first places in the United States where softballs were mass-produced.

A Tober advertisement, 1950.
Tober Baseball Manufacturing Company advertisement, 1950 (c.)
Mrs. Rae Recker Tober (right) at Women’s Auxiliary of Mount Sinai Hospital Hartford, 1952.

By 1955, the Tober Baseball Manufacturing Company needed more manufacturing space yet again. The business was relocated to Brooklyn Street in Rockville, Connecticut, at the former National Print building. Tober also boasted sales offices in major U.S. cities including New York, Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco. Tober products were sold throughout the United States and internationally from sales offices in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and across South America. According to an August 10, 1955, Hartford Courant article, “Credit for bringing the company to Rockville was given by Tober to Nat Schwedel, Treasurer of the American Dying Company and Vice President of the Rockville Industrial Association.”

Tober baseball signed by Jackie Robinson, 1955 (c.)
Tober Baseball Manufacturing Company advertisement, 1959.
A dozen Tober baseballs, 1960 (c.)
Tober Baseball Bazooka contest, 1956.
Tober baseball box, 1960 (c.)

On June 16, 1964, the Tober baseball story took a tragic turn. At the age of 82, Meyer Tober, was shot by a “berserk employee” named Carmelo Andino Reyes. Also characterized as “disgruntled,” Reyes had worked at Tober for five years while he was on probation. Reyes fired seven shots that summer day. One bullet passed through a table and struck a 21 year-old co-worker, Arlene Rose of Stafford Springs who suffered a minor gunshot wound. Meyer Tober was shot three times. The gunman was disarmed and restrained by male employees and held until the arrival of Rockville Officer Jack Reichenbach, according to a police account of the case.

Meyer Tober is shot three times by an employee, Carmelo Reyes, 1964.

At his trial, Carmelo Reyes pleaded innocent of intent to kill. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter and assault after an autopsy found Meyer Tober had died of a heart attack as a result of his wounds. Reyes was sentenced to 18 years in prison. After Meyer’s death, his sons, Sidney and Richard Tober operated the company for another five years before a fire caused extensive damage to the Rockville plant. The business closed in the early 1970’s after the Tober sons moved to Florida. By the end their run, Tober baseball left a legacy that spanned more than six decades as Connecticut’s most successful baseball goods manufacturer of all-time.

Tober Baseball Manufacturing Company Inc. in Rockville, Connecticut, 1965 (c.)
The former Rockville, Connecticut, location of the Tober Baseball Company, 2012.

2019 Twilight Season Set to Begin

Opening Day is May 28th, 6 PM, Henry Park, Vernon, CT.

More than 90 years of twilight baseball will continue this summer as our league gets the 2019 GHTBL season underway.  Reigning champions, the Vernon Orioles and their longtime manager, Jack Ceppetelli will face off against last year’s runner-up, Rainbow Graphics of Manchester. 

Rainbow Graphics and the Vernon Orioles have replenished their rosters with newly recruited collegiate athletes to play alongside veteran twilight leaguers.  Co-managers, Tyler Repoli and Ryan Pandolfi will step into leadership roles for Rainbow Graphics this season. 

Meanwhile, the Orioles will field familiar names like the Dan Trubia and Tony Trubia as well as their upstart second baseman, Zach Donahue who has recently committed to play baseball at the University of Connecticut under another GHTBL alum Head Coach, Jim Penders.

Opening Day schedule:
– Tuesday, May 28th
– Henry Park in Vernon, Connecticut, on Frank J. McCoy Field. 
– Opening Day presentation and ceremonial first pitch at 5:55 PM.
– Bill Holowaty, GHTBL President will be master of ceremonies. 
– Game time is scheduled for 6 PM.  

A special thanks goes to the Town of Vernon Parks and Recreation for their continued support and cooperation.  The Vernon Orioles have been proud to represent the Town of Vernon since 1966.

The Moriarty Brothers Franchise & the Legendary Gene Johnson

The most accomplished amateur baseball franchise in Connecticut’s history was a team named Moriarty Brothers. The club hailed from Manchester and its origins could be traced all the way back to the year 1933. The Moriarty nine competed against amateur and semi-pro teams across Connecticut. They were also a part of the Manchester Twilight League for many years before joining the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League in 1962.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1935
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1939
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1941
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1946

The team was sponsored by Matthew Moriarty Sr. (GHTBL Hall of Fame inductee) and his brother, Maurice Moriarty, small business owners in Manchester. Moriarty’s was a full service Lincoln-Mercury car dealership, gas station, auto body shop, towing service and used car lot. Matt Moriarty’s profession may have been cars but his passion was baseball. He was an avid fan and supporter of his summer baseball club in the Hartford Twilight League.

Matthew Moriarty Sr. 1958.
Moriarty Brothers, Manchester, CT, 1958.
Moriarty Brothers, Manchester, CT, 1958.

The Moriarty Brothers were nicknamed the “Comets” in reference to the Mercury Comet sports car and to the team’s fast play on the diamond. Over the years, players like Harold Lewis, Moe Morhardt, Pete Sala, Leverette Spencer, Mike Gerich and many more would sign to play professional baseball. In their early GHTBL years, the franchise was led by a series of player-managers including University of Connecticut star, Wally Widholm. By 1963, Moriarty Brothers appointed their power-hitting third baseman, Gene Johnson as player-manager.

Wally Widholm, University of Connecticut, 1961.

While players like Widholm were local legends in their own right, it was Johnson whose became forever intertwined with the Moriarty Brothers franchise. Born in 1937 in Hartford, Eugene Edward Johnson grew up in the town of Manchester as the son of Raymond and Julia Muller Johnson. At 13 years old, Johnson won his first baseball championship with the St. Augustine School of Hartford. By the age of 15, he was a standout batsman for Manchester High School. Then he became an exceptional third baseman for Manchester’s American Legion Post 104 team.

St. Augustine, Greater Hartford CYO Grammar School Champions, 1950.
Gene Johnson, American Legion Post 102, Manchester, 1953.
1954 Manchester High School Varsity Baseball

Johnson began his Hartford Twilight League career in 1954 on the St. Cyril’s baseball club. He was named to the all-star team in his rookie season. In the summer of 1955, he batted .454 in the twi-loop. The New York Giants organization signed Johnson midseason as a 17 year old. He would go on to smash 36 home runs in his first 3 minor league seasons. Johnson temporarily came back to the Twilight League in 1958 with St. Cyril’s, but was signed by the Milwaukee Braves shortly thereafter.

Gene Johnson, Lake Charles Giants, 1956.
St. Cyril’s baseball club, 1958.

In the Braves organization Johnson was slated behind Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Eddie Matthews on Milwaukee’s depth chart at third base. A determined Johnson hit 19 home runs, had 82 RBI and batted .278 for the 1959 Eau Claire Braves of the Northern League. Then he slammed 18 homers, 92 RBI, and hit .292 for the 1960 Cedar Rapids Braves of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. Johnson was hitting .316 in the Texas League for the 1962 Austin Senators when he decided to step aside from professional baseball. After eight seasons and a total of 91 minor league home runs, Johnson returned home to Connecticut to start a family.

1959 Eau Claire Braves with Gene Johnson (top row, 3rd from left).

Gene and his wife Helen Johnson had six children and made their home in Manchester. He immediately appeared in games for Moriarty Brothers and won the GHTBL batting title in 1962. The following year, Johnson took over as player-manager and eventually led the Comets to 8 Regular Season Titles and 10 Playoff Championships during in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Games took place at Dillon Stadium in Hartford and later at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. More often than not, Johnson and his Moriarty Brothers were top Twilight League contenders in pursuit of the Jack Rose Playoff Championship Trophy.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1962.
Moriarty Brothers Win Twi-Loop, 1965.
Gene Johnson, Moriarty Brothers, 1965
Moriarty Brothers advertisement, 1965
A 1966 Mercury Comet, Matt Moriarty Jr. (right).
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1966
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1967.
The Johnson Family, 1970.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1970
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1970.
1970 Moriarty Brothers
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1971.
1971 Moriarty Brothers
Moriarty Brothers, Manchester, CT, 1973.
Gene Johnson, Moriarty Brothers, 1976.
Leverette Spencer, Moriarty Brothers, 1976.

Comet home games were played at what would become Moriarty Field at Mount Nebo Park in Manchester. Crowds came by the hundreds to watch the best amateur baseball players in the state. Moriarty Brothers’ roster was stacked with professional caliber ballplayers such as Leo Veleas, Jack Taylor and Bob Carlson, though it was Gene Johnson who won MVP year after year. Johnson was a 5-time Batting Title Champion bestowed with the Player of the Half Century Award in 1979 when the league celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Pete Sala (left) and Gene Johnson, 1979.

The 1980’s proved to be another successful decade for the Moriarty Brothers dynasty. Johnson recruited the best collegiate players, pro prospects and local veterans to create a new generation of champions. University of Connecticut first baseman Dave Ford, and Wake Forest University outfielder Bill Masse were mainstays on the team who later signed to play in the minor leagues. Johnson’s sons, Mike Johnson and Jeff Johnson followed in their father’s footsteps by playing for Moriarty Brothers. They were drafted to the minor leagues by the Texas Rangers and the Atlanta Braves respectively.

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.
Gene Johnson and his Moriarty Brothers, 1980.
Gene’s son Mike Johnson, Moriarty Brothers, 1980.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1980.

On December 1, 1985, Matthew Moriarty Sr. passed away at the age of 82. The Moriarty Brothers business reorganized and the car dealership became Newman Lincoln-Mercury in 1990. Matt Moriarty Jr. continued to sponsor the baseball team who took on the new name. Even though his playing days were over and the team was no longer the Comets, Gene Johnson remained manager for Newman Lincoln-Mercury

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1985.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1998.
Newman Lincoln-Mercury, 1998.
Jeff Johnson, Foss Insurance, 2010.

The franchise once known as Moriarty Brothers won a total of 7 more GHTBL titles as Newman Lincoln-Mercury. The club fielded strong lineups thanks to players like Brian Crowley and Chris Peterson from the University of Hartford, Craig Steuernagle of the University of Connecticut and Ray Gilha from Eastern Connecticut State University. Dave Bidwell, an Assumption College graduate and seasoned veteran pitched effectively for the Gene Johnson franchise since 1976. Bidwell pitched until 2015 and currently holds the all-time GHTBL record for games started, wins and innings pitched.

Dave Bidwell, Foss Insurance, 2009.
Moriarty Field at Mount Nebo Park, 2010.

In 2004, Mark and Jane Foss of Foss Insurance stepped in to sponsor the franchise for the league and Gene Johnson. With a mix of young players and seasoned veterans, the team continued to compete at a high level. On November 10, 2014, Gene Johnson passed away at the age of 77. He spent 58 years of his life playing or coaching in the GHTBL. Players such as Mark DiTommaso and Kevin Jefferis of Western New England College, Evan Chamberlain and Mike Susi of ECSU took over the franchise. In 2015, Foss Insurance won the GHTBL Playoff Championship trophy in Gene’s honor.

Gene Johnson, Manager, Foss Insurance, 2011.
Gene Johnson, Manager, Foss Insurance, 2014.
Foss Insurance, 2014.
Dave Bidwell (left) and Gene Johnson, 2014.
Foss Insurance, GHTBL Champions, 2015.

In 2018, the franchise once known as Moriarty Brothers, received a new sponsorship from Rainbow Graphics, a Manchester-based apparel and design company. Mark DiTommaso carried the torch as player-manager until 2018. The following year, Ryan Pandolfi and Tyler Repoli assumed managerial duties for Rainbow Graphics. Gene Johnson’s franchise holds an all-time Greater Hartford Twilight record of a combined 35 Season Titles and 18 Playoff Championships. Rainbow Graphics are seeking their next title and will continue to develop local ballplayers in the Manchester area for years to come.

Mark DiTommaso, Foss Insurance, 2015.
Mark DiTommaso, Marlborough Braves at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, 2017.
John Nollet, Rainbow Graphics, 2018.
Jack Johnson, grandson of Gene Johnson, Rainbow Graphics, 2020.
Matthew M. Moriarty Field, dedicated in 2020.
Matthew M. Moriarty Field, dedicated in 2020.

Dedicated to Gene Johnson, 1937-2014.

Rainbow Graphics to Sponsor Oldest Twi Team

The franchise traces back to 1935, joining GHTBL in 1956.

Manchester, Connecticut – Rainbow Graphics of 118 Adams Street in Manchester owned by Fred Kask has become the sponsor of the former Marlborough Braves team who played their 2017 home games at West Road Memorial Field in Marlborough under the direction of their Player-ManagerMark DiTommaso. Mark will lead the newly named Rainbow Graphics ball club into the 2018 GHTBL Regular Season, carrying on an long held tradition.

Not only is the GHTBL in its 90th year of play this season, but this Manchester-based franchise also has its own extensive history:

Before Rainbow GraphicsMarlborough Braves, and Foss Insurance, heavy-hitting player-manager, Gene Johnson led the Newman Lincoln-Mercury squad of the same franchise during the 90’s winning multiple championships. Gene Johnson’s legendary amateur and pro career, however he began his GHTBL career on a team that preceded Newman Lincoln-Mercury called Moriarty Brothers.

In 1933, two local businessmen and brothers, Matthew and Maurice Moriarty established a gasoline/service station in Manchester on the northeast corner of Center and Broad streets. The family was especially interested in the game of baseball and Matthew was known around town as an avid sportsman and fan of the game. In the summer of 1935, Matt sponsored his own team under the name of his business, “Moriarty Brothers” and entered them into the Manchester Twilight League. His club was the fastest, and had the best hitting lineup, therefore earning the nickname the “Comets” to local fans. The franchise then became a semi-pro team during the 1940’s and the roster was comprised of the best ballplayers in the Manchester area during that time. 

Eventually, Moriarty Brothers evolved into a car dealership and service center and their baseball club joined the GHTBL in 1956. The club was a formidable contender for championship titles year after year thanks to some top talent like former minor leaguers Pete SalaLeo VeleasLev Spencer, and of course the one and only “Godfather of the GHTBL” Gene Johnson. The franchise is now the GHTBL’s longest running after 62 years but it’s also the winningest franchise in league history with a combined total of 35 regular season and playoff championships.

Best of luck to the new Rainbow Graphics team who will now carry the banner for this historic twilight franchise!