Tag: meriden

Bernie Williams Began his Career in the Twilight League

Before achieving stardom with the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams spent a summer in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League. The story started when Williams was 16 years old. He was discovered by Yankees scout Roberto Rivera in Puerto Rico, however the right-handed outfielder was too young to sign a contract. The Yankees decided to stash Williams in Connecticut at Big League Baseball Camp on the campus of Cheshire Academy. His camp instructor, Frank Mohr, recruited Williams to play for GHTBL’s Katz Sports Shop team in the summer of 1985.

Bernie Williams’ signed Katz Sports Shop jersey, 1985.

As a teenaged prospect, Williams saw limited playing time in the twilight league among college-level competition. In 20 at bats for Katz Sports Shop, he had 4 hits. The team’s player-manager, Dave Katz once reminisced of Williams: “He was a really nice kid. He was shy, like he is now. He was so quiet, you didn’t even know he had a Spanish accent. Everybody on the team took to him. One thing does stick out in my mind. I hate to mention this; he dropped a routine fly ball in one game. But I remember my first baseman telling me that people at the camp said Bernie had all the tools.”

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1993.

The Yankees signed Williams as an undrafted free agent by September of 1985. It was the start of a 20-year professional career, solely with the Yankees. Williams played rookie ball in Florida’s Gulf Coast League and spent six years in the minors developing into a switch-hitter. He broke into the majors in 1991 and became a fixture in center field at Yankee Stadium until 2006.

Bernie Williams featured in Record-Journal, 1996.

Williams was a 4-time World Series champion with the second most postseason home runs (22) in major league history behind Manny Ramirez (29). Williams compiled a career .297 batting average, 287 home runs, 1,257 RBI, 1,366 runs scored, 449 doubles and a .990 fielding percentage. He earned five All-Star selections and four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger Award, the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award and the American League (AL) batting title in 1998.

Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 1998.
Bernie Williams, Outfielder, New York Yankees, 2005.

Known for consistency and postseason heroics, Bernie Williams is considered one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. He is also an all-time New York Yankees great. The team honored Williams by retiring his uniform number (#51) and dedicating a plaque to him in Monument Park in 2015. Nowadays, he is an accomplished jazz guitarist. Following his retirement from baseball, Williams released two jazz albums and was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

Record-Journal newspaper excerpt, 2015.

Author’s aside: The baseball world took Bernie Williams for granted. We did not realize the magnitude and depth of his career while he was an active player. What a story and what an interesting character. Much love Bernie!

Sources

  1. Bernie Williams page on Baseball-Reference.com

2. Record-Journal newspaper database on Newspapers.com.

DiPietro to Enter Berlin High School Hall of Fame

Soon-to-be Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Ryan DiPietro attended Eastern Connecticut State University, was drafted by both the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals. He later played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League for five seasons with the Meriden Merchants franchise, now known as the Record-Journal Expos.

Published August 17, 2021 in the Record-Journal

The Berlin High School Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Aqua Turf. Leading up to the event, The Citizen is highlighting the accomplishments of the Hall of Fame Class of 2021. This week: Ryan DiPietro.

A member of the Class of 2002, DiPietro made an immediate impact on the baseball field. As a freshman in 1999, he stepped to the plate in the second round of the CIAC Class L state tournament and homered on the first pitch he saw. That also happened to be his very first varsity at-bat.

The Redcoats went on to claim the Class L crown, and DiPietro was on his way to legend status.

“My baseball roots are right here in Berlin,” DiPietro said. “We took pride in the success in town, Little League on up. And that 1999 state title team continued that tradition.”

Ryan DiPietro, 2001.

While DiPietro was a fine hitter and centerfielder, he is best known for his work on the mound. The lefty set BHS’s seven-inning  strikeout record (17), was 7-0 with a .085 ERA with two one-hitters as a junior and went 6-2 with a .050 ERA and 94 strikeouts as a senior.

DiPietro was an All-State and all-conference performer, and was selected MVP of the 2002 Senior All-Star game held at Fenway Park. Also in 2002, he led Berlin to the American Legion state championship, and was named tournament MVP.

DiPietro was selected by the the New York Mets in the 42nd round of the 2002 MLB draft, but he opted for college.

DiPietro would attend Eastern Connecticut State University, where he compiled a career record of 29-3 and, in 2004, helped propel ECSU to the national title game.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Eastern Connecticut, 2004.

A NCAA Division III All-American and Pitcher of the Year selection, DiPietro set ECSU records for strikeouts in a game (19), strikeouts in a season (162) and consecutive victories (19). He ranks second in career strikeouts (336) and starts in a season (15).

DiPietro was the sixth-round selection of the Kansas City Royals in 2005 and would play minor and independent league ball for seven years.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Burlington Bees, 2006.

DiPietro now works as an environmental inspector. He lives in Wallingford with his wife Rachel, sons Chase and Cal and daughter Hailey.

Also entering the Hall of Fame this year are Katelyn Zarotney (Class of 2010, basketball and volleyball), Max DeLorenzo (Class of 2010, football and basketball) and Cliff Landry (football and basketball coach 1954-61.)

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Merchants, 2016.

The ceremony for the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was called off due to the coronavirus, so it will be inducted along with the Class of 2021. The Class of 2020 includes Steve Baccaro (Class of 1947), Phil Perretta (Class of 1961), John Steurer (Class of 1980), Cynthia Gozzo Dastoli (Class of 1990), Robert Manzo (Class of 1990), Allison Murphy Semenuk (Class of 2002), Matt Carasiti (Class of 2009), and the 1999 and 2000 state championship wrestling teams.

Ryan DiPietro, Pitcher, Meriden Expos, 2016.

Babe Ruth’s Connecticut Car Crash

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

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

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

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

The Legend of Connie Mack Began in Connecticut

When Connie Mack left his hometown of East Brookfield, Massachussetts, to embark on a baseball career, his journey began in Connecticut. The journey would eventually take Cornelius Alexander Mack, born Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy, to the Hall of Fame. He won five World Series and nine American League pennants with the Philadelphia Athletics and earned a plaque in Cooperstown in 1937, the same year as Nap Lajoie, John McGraw, Tris Speaker, George Wright and Cy Young. Nobody has approached his managerial record of 53 seasons.

Connie Mack, Catcher, Washington Nationals, 1887.

Mack’s first baseball stop was Meriden in 1884. He caught for a semi-pro team in the Connecticut State League for $90 a month and was so beloved by fans that he was presented with a gold watch at the end of the season. In 1885, he joined Hartford of the merged Connecticut State League and Southern New England League. He played two seasons in Hartford as the team became a member of the Eastern League.

Connie Mack, Catcher, Washington Nationals, 1887.

Mack hit .251 for Hartford in 1886. Teaming with pitcher Frank Gilmore to form the “bone battery” — both were tall and lanky — Mack, 6 feet 1, 150 pounds, was known for his defense. But when the Washington Nationals attempted to sign Gilmore at the end of the 1886 season, the pitcher insisted they also sign Mack.

Manager Connie Mack, Philadelphia A’s, 1906.

So they did. Mack played three seasons in Washington and 11 in the major leagues, including three seasons as the Pirates’ player-manager. He became manager of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901 and retired after the 1950 season. He won 3,731 games and managed 7,755, both major league records.

Philadelphia Athletics with Connie Mack (tallest) at the Polo Grounds, 1905.

How was Mack remembered in Hartford? In an August 3, 1930, Hartford Courant story about baseball’s early days in the city, former local semi-pro player and National League umpire John Jackson Brady reminisced about Mack, who had won four World Series titles and would win his fifth in 1930.

Connie Mack, Manager, Philadelphia Athletics, 1913.

“Connie was one good fellow,” Brady said enthusiastically, as described by The Courant. “He was one of the most conscientious ballplayers I’ve ever seen. Sometimes his hands would be so sore that every catch nearly killed him, but he was right in there playing every day with hand plastered up in some manner. He never shirked.”

Connie Mack, The Grand Old Man of Baseball, 1930.
Connie Mack, The Optimist, 1932.

Brady, who ran the Hartford-based Brady Brothers Bottling Works and was well-known in the city, described Mack’s difficulty throwing to second base during his early years in Connecticut.

“It was both weak and inaccurate,” said Brady, who died in 1937. “But being a serious fellow, he set out to overcome the weakness. Every morning for more than month he went to the ballpark alone and practiced his throw. Soon he had it perfect, although there was slight curve in the throw. It would start to the right of second base, but when the baseman caught it, it was right on the bag.”

Brady was a National League umpire in 1887, but he worked the Connecticut circuit when Mack was playing.

Connie Mack the Psychologist of Baseball, 1912.

“Mack was a peppy catcher,” Brady said. “I didn’t feel any too comfortable when I was umpiring in front of him. There was but one umpire in those days, you know, and he stood in back of the pitcher. Every time I called a ball, Mack would give me a dirty look. He wouldn’t say a word, just a dirty look.”

Manager Connie Mack

Mack would return to Hartford with his Athletics for an exhibition game against the Senators. Gilmore was living in Hartford and his health was failing, so Mack arranged the game to raise money for his old teammate. When Gilmore died in 1929, Mack sent $500 to his widow.

Connie Mack visits Clarkin Stadium, Hartford, 1925.

In 1940, Mack returned to Meriden for a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of his first season. He also came to New Haven to receive a Gold Key from the Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance in 1940. And in 1951 — five years before his death — Mack came to Hartford once again for a dinner honoring former Boston Braves president Bob Quinn. Mack, according to Courant sports editor Bill Lee, Mack “went to Bulkeley Stadium and sat through the entire Eastern League game between Hartford and Williamsport.”

Fans gather to welcome Connie Mack to Hartford, 1951
Connie Mack attends dinner in Hartford, 1951

Article published March 7, 2014 by Paul Doyle in the Hartford Courant.

Connie Mack monument at Legion Field Meriden, Connecticut.

New Management in the Twilight League

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

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

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

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

Rob Dibble Played Hartford Twilight Ball in ’83

Robert “Rob” Keith Dibble graduated from Southington High School in 1982 and was drafted in the 11th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Instead of going pro, he enrolled at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. During the summer he played in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League on the Katz Sports Shop club of Meriden, Connecticut, during the 1983 season. Shortly thereafter, Dibble was selected 20th overall in the 1st round of the MLB June Draft-Secondary Phase by the Cincinnati Reds.

Dibble became a World Series champion in 1990 with the Reds. He would also go on to earn a pair of MLB All-Star appearances in ‘90 and ‘91 as a closer with the Reds. He was part of a Cincinnati bullpen nicknamed the “Nasty Boys” which included Norm Charlton and Randy Myers. After twelve professional seasons, Dibble finished his career as relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers. Dibble now hosts the Rob Dibble Show on 97.9 ESPN radio at studios in Hartford, Connecticut.

Season to Feature the Top Venues in Connecticut

GHTBL’s 90th anniversary year to open on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

President’s Note – Season Preview:

The GHTBL is set to open at 6 PM, Tuesday, May 29th in Vernon, CT at Frank McCoy Stadium at Henry Park in a matchup between 2017 champs, the Vernon Orioles versus the Playoff Tournament runner-ups, the Record-Journal Expos. An Opening Day ceremony with take place before first pitch. 

2018 marks the 90th year of the GHTBL and to celebrate this milestone, 8 franchises will enter the league to play a pure and fast brand of baseball that our league has been known for. GHTBL plays the game of baseball as it was intended to be played; hitting nine batters, using wood bats, and no video replays or pitch clocks.

Current and former college ballplayers as well as a several future and former professional players will take to the field to compete in 24 Regular Season games followed by our annual double elimination Playoff Tournament.

Throughout the 2018 Regular Season and Playoff Tournament our league has scheduled games to be played at best baseball fields in the Greater Hartford area. On Thursday, July 21 and 22 each GHTBL franchise will play a game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford for a special Charity Series fundraiser for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Then the Ulbrich Clippers will host People’s United Bank at New Britain Stadium on Wednesday, July 25th.

From August 2-11, our Playoff Tournament will be held once again at Trinity College on their new turf ballpark. On Sunday, August 18th, we will host Connecticut Twilight League at New Britain Stadium for an All-Star game between our two leagues. 

Our 90th anniversary is turning out to be a highly anticipated year for the GHTBL and we’re pleased to have you be a part of it as a fan, players, parents, family and friends. 

All the best,

Bill Holowaty 
GHTBL President

R-J Expos Down Ulbrich Clippers in Pitchers’ Duel

GHTBL Playoff Tournament Game #1: Expos 1, Clippers 0.

HARTFORD — It was a battle of the aces Thursday night at the Trinity Baseball Complex as Charlie Hesseltine and the Record-Journal Expos nipped Matt DiNello and the Ulbrich Clippers 1-0 in the opening game of the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League playoffs.

This was an all-local duel. Hesseltine is from Meriden, DiNello from Southington.

Another Meriden product, A.J. Hendrickson, scored the game’s lone run when he tripled in the sixth inning and scored on Hector Gonzalez’s ground-rule double.

The fifth-seeded Expos advance to play the top-seeded Vernon Orioles on Friday night at 8 p.m. The fourth-seeded Clippers drop to the loser’s bracket and will play again Monday night at 6 p.m.

On Thursday, Hesseltine went the full sevening innings. He struck out six, walked three and allowed five hits.

“I started to get tired there around the fourth,” said Hesseltine. “It’s the playoffs; you push through it. This team has relied on its starters this season. I just stayed out there as long as I could and hit my spots.

“My command felt good,” the left-hander added. “My velocity isn’t there, so spotting is the only way I can succeed now.”

Charlie Hesseltine, Pitcher, Record-Journal Expos.

DiNello also went the full seven innings. He struck out four and allowed just three hits.

“He pitched phenomenal too,” said Hesseltine. “It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to be part of. When you’re part of a pitching duel, it brings up the intensity and puts the pressure on each other.”

From the get-go, DiNello and Hesseltine were dealing. Each guy struck out a pair in the first inning to take command of the strike zone and show each team that this one would come down to which ever pitcher made the first mistake.

Ulbrich’s Chris Anselmo did lead off the bottom of the first with a second, but ended up being stranded at second.

DiNello looked to be the commanding pitcher in the battle. His fastball was working well and he owned the strike zone. The Expos didn’t get their first hit until the third inning: a lead-off single from Matt Fusco. Fusco was erased on a fielder’s choice and a runner never left first base in the inning for the Expos.

DiNello also threw just three pitches in the fifth inning. Each R-J hitter grounded out.

“It was unexpected to see zeros on the board until the sixth,” said Hessltine. “Our team has been hitting very well this season and has consistently in past years, which is good for our starting pitchers. Maybe it was playoff jitters for some of the guys.”

Nick Landell, Shortstop, Ulbrich Clippers.

For a while, it really didn’t look like either team was going to score a run. Fortunately for the Expos, whose lack of pitching depth would have probably been their downfall in an extended game, they figured out DiNello in the top of the sixth.

With one out, Hendrickson cranked a sure double out to right-center, where an Ulbrich outfielder struggled to play it off a good hop. Hendrickson slid head-first safely into third.

At third base with just one out, there was a good chance Hendrickson would score if the next batter, Gonzalez, put the ball in play. Gonzalez did one better. He lined a deep drive to left-center that one hopped the wall, bounced off the flag pole and sent Gonzalez to second for a ground-rule double and the only RBI of the game.

From there, some pressure was taken off of Hesseltine’s shoulders. The sixth and seventh innings were no issue for Hesseltine, who allowed just one baserunner the rest of the way.

The Expos were saved thanks to Hesseltine and just two key hits.

“It was a big weight off my shoulder,” said Hesseltine. “Seven is good enough for me.”