Tag: new york

Lou Gehrig Used Fake Name as a Rookie on the Hartford Senators

This article was written by Norton Chellgren and published in the 1975 Baseball Research Journal

On April 5, 1921, the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League in their first exhibition game of the season beat Columbia University 4-3. The big story was a Columbia player, Lefty Gehrig, who hit Hartford pitcher Alton Durgin for two long home runs in his only two trips to the plate. A. B. McGinley of the Hartford Times described the second home run like this: “When he came up again in the 3rd inning, Durgin the lofty Maine boy who was pitching for Hartford was all set for revenge. He got a strike on Gehrig but the next one he threw Gehrig leaned on and it went sailing out of the enclosure past a big sundial and almost into the School of Mines. It was a mighty clout and worthy of Babe Ruth’s best handiwork.”

Lou Gehrig, First Baseman, Columbia University, 1922.

The young player greatly impressed Hartford Manager, Arthur Irwin, a former major league player and manager. The two home runs would have cleared the center field fence at Clarkin Field, Hartford’s home park, and Irwin saw a promising future for the young baseball player.

Clarkin Field, Hartford, Connecticut, 1921.

The big first baseman, it was later reported, had promised Irwin that he would play under him if he decided to enter professional baseball. Several big league teams had been trying to sign him but all indications were he would stay at Columbia University. Subsequently, on June 2, announcement was made by Manager Irwin in the local newspapers that the hard hitting semi-pro from Brooklyn, Lefty Gehrig, had been signed to play first base for the Senators. It was assumed by some that he had decided to quit school.

Arthur Irwin, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1921.

The next day the newspapers were apparently requested or advised not to call further attention to the Columbia athlete’s real name and from that day on they referred only to that young player from New York, “Lewis” or “Lou Lewis.” On June 3 (1921) the Hartford Senators beat the Pittsfield Hillies 2-1. Lou Lewis played the full game at first base. In his O. B. debut, he was 0 for 3 with one sacrifice hit against Pittsfield hurler Al Pierotti, who later went up to the Braves.

Lou Gehrig batting for Columbia University, 1921.

After that initial game the Hartford Courant wrote “Lou Lewis, Arthur Irwin’s latest discovery was planted on the initial sack. The youngster who is only 18 years old (actually he was still 17) appeared to be a bit nervous. After he gets used to surroundings he may develop. They seldom fail to make the grade with Irwin teaching the ways of baseball.”

Lewis’ first hit and first run scored came in his second game as Hartford beat the Waterbury Brasscos 5-3 at Hartford before 5,000 fans on June 4. In the second inning the youthful first sacker hit the first ball pitched by Fred Rawley to right field for three bases. He scored shortly after when the next batter Phil Neher singled to center. On the following day, June 5, Lewis went two for five as Hartford beat Albany 10-2 at Albany; the first baseman was beginning to impress and was being touted as a “Babe Ruth.”

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1922
Lou Gehrig, Punter, Columbia University, 1922.

Hartford beat Pittsfield 10-6 on June 8, and the Times wrote: “Lewis caught hold of a fast one in the third inning and sent it against the “B” in the Buick sign on the right field fence for a double. Lewis probably won’t get a Buick for his clout but he may get a ride in one before the season runs its course.” Lou went two for five that day. One of the times he made an out he slammed a terrific drive that traveled at the proverbial mile-a-minute clip into right fielder Bill McCorry’s gloved hand. It was described as the hardest hit of the game.

Hartford Courant excerpt, June 8, 1921.

While Lewis at the young age of 17 was demonstrating his ability to knock the cover off the ball there were some indications that he lacked experience. On June 10 the Senators were trailing the Bridgeport “Brown Derbies” in the last of the ninth when with one out Heinie Scheer singled. Lewis then hit one to the box carrying a lot of smoke and it bounded off pitcher Ed Lepard’s glove for a single. Lewis a moment later was trapped off first by catcher Joe Smith on a pitchout. The rally was effectively stopped and the game was lost by Hartford, 4 to 2.

The Times wrote on June 11, “Lewis the youngster just breaking into organized ball with the local club is doing as well as one can expect and his present work gives fans here hopes that he will add to the Hartford hitting average which at present is the weakest link in the pennant-winning chain. The young first sacker is a slugger.” Lefty Lewis unexplainedly did not play in the Bridgeport game on June 13 but the next day against the Springfield Ponies he hit the second triple of his early professional experience.

In his last Eastern League game that year, on June 15, 1921, against Springfield, he showed his power even though his only hit was an infield one. In the first inning he crashed one against third baseman Jack Flynn’s shins and the ball caromed off with such force that it bounced across the diamond and the runner on third base, Harry Hesse, scored without any trouble.

Lou Gehrig “Lewis” plays his last game of 1921.
Harry Hesse, Hartford Senators, 1922.

No game was played on June 16 and at that point the young first baseman’s name, without explanation, ceased to appear in the Hartford papers for the remainder of the season. During his stay Hartford, winning 8 games and losing 5, had climbed into first place with a 28-17 record. Before the season was to end the Hartford Senators would drop to fifth place and its Manager, Art Irwin who had been successful in luring the young first baseman into professional baseball, if only for a short 12 games, would meet an untimely death. On July 16, 1921, he fell or jumped from the steamer Calvin Austin during a voyage from New York to Boston.

Lou Gehrig, Hartford Senators, 1923.

Even with a mediocre batting average of .261, Lewis had given Hartford fans an indication of things to come. The name “Lou Lewis” would not again appear in a Hartford or other professional baseball game box score! “Lou,” however, would return to the Eastern League in 1923 (as of August 2) and hit home runs at a pace which still has not been surpassed in the Eastern League, 24 home runs in only 59 games.

1923 Hartford Senators

What the Hartford newspapers did not report was that Columbia athletic officials had learned that Gehrig was playing pro ball under an assumed name. After being advised of the possible implications of playing for money, an unhappy Lou Gehrig returned promptly to New York City. As a result of this escapade Lou had to wait an extra year, until the fall of 1922, before he could participate in Columbia inter-collegiate sports. The experience might have hurt the New York Giants as well because had it never taken place, who knows, McGraw might have been able to sign up Lou Gehrig in 1923 instead.

Lou Gehrig and Mayor Norman Stevens of Hartford, 1924.

Source: Chellgren, Norton. “The Short Career of Lou Lewis.” Society for American Baseball Research, 1975 Baseball Research Journal, 1975, sabr.org/journal/article/the-short-career-of-lou-lewis.

Steve Brady, From Frog Hollow to the 1st World Series

Born: July 14, 1851, Worcester, MA
Died: November 1, 1917, Hartford, CT
Buried: Mount St. Benedict Cemetery, Bloomfield, CT

Of all the native sons of Hartford, Connecticut, Stephen A. Brady was perhaps the greatest of its 19th century ballplayers. His professional baseball career spanned 16 seasons during America’s Gilded Age. Steve Brady was described as a heavy hitter who delivered in the clutch and a sure-handed utility man.  His primary position was right field, but he also played center field, first, second and third base. Brady was a hometown hero as a member of Hartford’s first Major League club in 1874. He was captain of the New York Metropolitans at the first World Series in 1884 and became as popular as any player of his day.

Steve Brady

Initially, Steve Brady was born in Worcester, Massachusetts to Christopher and Mary McDonald Brady who immigrated from Ireland. Soon after his birth, the Brady family relocated to Hartford, Connecticut and lived at 72 Ward Street in the city’s Frog Hollow neighborhood. He was one of seven children: four brothers and two sisters named Jackson, Thomas, Edward, Christopher, Bridget and Margaret.  Brady and his brothers were gifted athletes and excelled at the budding National Game. When he was a boy, baseball was a nascent outdoor sport spreading like wildfire across America.

The first ball club to organize in Hartford did so in 1860 under the name Independent Base Ball Club, followed by Charter Oak Base Ball Club in 1862. The game grew more popular in the parks and pastures of Hartford amongst fans and amateur players. Steve Brady began his robust playing career as an amateur with the Hylas Base Ball Club of Hartford in the late 1860’s. Then he matriculated to the Jefferson Base Ball Club with whom his brother Jackson served as the team’s catcher. In the summer of 1871, Brady was appointed Vice President of the Jefferson club who played their ballgames at Frog Hollow’s Ward Street Grounds.

Independent Base Ball Club, 1862.
Jefferson Base Ball Club, 1871.
Jeffersons vs. Elms, 1871.
1865 Charter Oak Base Ball Club

A few years later in 1874, Brady captained the Hartford Amateurs, a city-wide team formerly known as the Stars. The Amateurs represented the city in local contests. At 20 years of age, Brady led the Hartford Amateurs against clubs from Yale College, Trinity College, Waterbury, New Britain, Middletown and others. Alongside Brady on the Hartford Amateurs were future Major Leaguers, John “Hartford Jack” Farrell at second base, Bill Tobin at first base and Charlie Daniels on the mound. That same year, the first (and last) major league franchise was formed in Hartford.

Jeffersons vs. Manfields, 1871.

The Hartfords, later known as the Hartford Dark Blues, incorporated on March 21, 1874 when the city boasted a population of about 40,000. The Hartfords were admitted into the National Association and played home contests at the Wyllys Avenue Grounds, also called the Hartford Grounds. The Hartford Base Ball Association officially organized at $25 per share and raised $5,000 in total capital. Among investors, referred to as “subscribers” were: Ben Douglas Jr. the club’s organizer and top shareholder, Morgan G. Bulkeley, famed Connecticut politician, Civil War veteran, Aetna executive and first President of the National League and Gershom B. Hubbell, President of the Hartford Base Ball Club and former captain of Charter Oak Base Ball Club.

The Hartford Dark Blues, 1875 (Steve Brady not pictured).

Meanwhile Steve Brady and the Hartford Amateurs competed for local prestige and distinction. Eventually the Amateurs squared off against the Dark Blues at the Hartford Grounds on July 14, 1874. The Dark Blues trounced the Hartford Amateurs by a score of 15 to 1. A week later, Lip Pike of the Hartford Dark Blues, known as a “championship runner” challenged Steve Brady to a footrace. Though Brady was a gifted runner, Pike outpaced him in the contest. Yet the Hartford professionals were impressed with Brady’s baseball skills and notable athleticism.

Hartford Courant excerpt, July 16, 1874.

When Hartford Dark Blues shortstop Tommy Barlow fell ill due to an apparent morphine addiction, the club secured the services of Steve Brady. On July 22, 1874, Hartford’s hometown hero played his first game with the Dark Blues versus an amateur club, the Clippers of Bristol, Connecticut. Brady was positioned at third base while the team’s President, Gerhsom Hubbell played right field. Hartford walloped Bristol 36 to 0 and Brady secured a roster spot. He ended the 1874 season with 27 games played, 37 hits and a .316 batting average. The following year Brady appeared in only one game with the Hartford Dark Blues before signing with the original Washington Nationals club of 1875.

Tommy Barlow, Hartford Dark Blues, 1874.
Dark Blues vs. Clippers of Bristol, July 23, 1874.
New York Mutuals vs. Dark Blues, July 25, 1874.
Hartford Dark Blues batting averages, 1874.

Unfortunately, Brady would not perform well with Washington. In 21 games played he hit for a dismal .143 batting average. After the season, the Nationals disbanded and Brady was demoted to the minor leagues. In 1876, he starred for Billy Arnold’s Providence club, champions of the New England League. Then Brady was picked up by an International Association nine in Rochester, New York. He was the club’s best player, hitting for a .373 average during the 1877 season. Brady continued to bounce around the professional ranks with Springfield in 1878, the mighty Worcester Grays in 1879 and then the Rochester Hop Bitters in 1880.

Hartford Dark Blues vs. Washington Nationals, May 27, 1875.
Rochester vs. Cincinnati, September 5, 1877.
1879 Worcester Grays

When the Rochester club forfeited their remaining schedule in September of 1880, Brady and many of his teammates were recruited to play for the newly formed Metropolitan Base Ball Club of New York. At 29 years old Brady was a well-respected, veteran ballplayer who was recognized as captain of the Metropolitans. The club was owned by another Connecticut man living in New York named John B. Day who originally hailed from Colchester. Their manager was Hall of Fame inductee Jim Mutrie, the winningest of 19th century managers. Brady’s Metropolitan teammates included two other Connecticut men in Jerry Dorgan of Meriden and Jack Leary of New Haven.

The Metropolitans operated as an independent club from 1880 to 1882. They were the first professional team to play home games in the borough of Manhattan. The “Mets” as they came to be known, hosted opponents at the original Polo Grounds located on the Upper West Side, north of Central Park. On September 29, 1880 at the Polo Grounds inaugural game, Hartford native Steve Brady was the first player to step into the batters box as leadoff man for the Mets. Over 20,000 fans witnessed the opener in which the Mets defeated the Nationals by a score of 4 to 2.

First Polo Grounds game, September 29, 1880.
Stephen A. Brady, 1881.
1882 New York Metropolitans with their Captain Steve Brady (far right).

The Metropolitans became one of the nation’s best teams and eventually joined the American Association in 1883. Steve Brady most often played right field for the Mets who finished fourth place in the standings with 54 wins, 42 losses and 1 tie against the Louisville Eclipse. In 1884, Brady and the New York Metropolitans claimed victory over the American Association with 75 wins, 32 losses and 5 ties. At the end of the season, the first World Series of baseball materialized.  The 3-game series resulted from a challenge issued by Metropolitans manager, Jim Mutrie to Frank Bancroft, manager of the Providence Grays, pennant winners of the National League.  The Grays boasted one of baseball’s top pitchers in Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, who won a major league record 60 games in 1884.

1884 Providence Grays

The first World Series games were played on October 22, 24 and 25 at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Radbourn took the mound every contest for the Grays while Tim Keefe was on the slab for the Metropolitans. Steve Brady manned right field.  Radbourn and the Grays were too much for the Mets, taking three straight games: 6 to 0, 3 to 1 and 11 to 2. In the presence of capacity crowds, the first game went the full nine innings, but the second game was called after seven innings due to darkness. The third game was inconsequential since the series winner was determined, but the Mets hoped to earn more revenue. Only about 300 spectators attended the third game in part because of frigid weather.

Charles Radbourn, Providence Grays, 1884.
Charles Radbourn, Providence Grays, 1884.

Even though the Metropolitans were on the losing end of the first World Series, Brady’s stardom reached an all-time high during the 1884 season. He was a celebrated public figure in Hartford where he spent winters with his family. His brothers, Jackson and Thomas were mainstays for the Jefferson Base Ball Club who remained the class amateur squad in the city. When Steve Brady went back to New York for the 1885 season, he was again named captain of the New York Metropolitans. The Mets finished seventh place in the American Association and Brady hit for a .290 batting average.

The 1886 season would be Brady’s last in the major leagues. He reported to training camp out of shape and the Mets placed seventh out of eight clubs in the standings. Brady returned home to Hartford and accepted a role as first baseman and captain of the 1887 Hartford club of the Eastern League. Hartford’s minor league team reunited Brady with Charlie Daniels who served as manager, Jerry Dorgan im center field, and John “Hartford Jack” Farrell at second base. However, the Hartfords disbanded in August of 1887 and Brady was acquired by a professional club in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Steve Brady, New York Mets, April 11, 1885.
Jackson Brady and Thomas Brady, Jeffersons club of Hartford, 1885.
The Hartford club disbands, 1887.
Stephen A. Brady, Hartfords, 1887.
Stephen A. Brady, Hartfords, 1887.

In a turn of events, Brady became a part owner of an ice skating rink in Brooklyn and head of the Brooklyn Ice Polo Club. He joined former Mets manager Jim Mutrie in an enterprise seeking to form a national ice polo league during the fall of 1887. At that time, ice polo was a form of ice hockey rapidly growing in popularity throughout the northeastern United States. Brady and Mutrie traveled the country in search of ice polo players and supporters, but the venture never panned out. Brady, the entrepreneur and sportsman, resumed baseball activities in 1888 for the Jersey City Skeeters of the Central League.

He captained the Jersey City minor league club and guarded first base at 36 years old. In 1889, Brady finally stepped away from the field as a player and applied to become an umpire in the Atlantic Association. His application was granted and was hired as a regular umpire in June. Less than a month later he was replaced and for a short time Brady worked as a saloon keeper in New York City. In February of 1890, Brady made a comeback to baseball when he was hired as player-manager of the Jersey City club.

Brady applies to become an umpire, Jun 10, 1889.

By 1892, Brady had moved back to Hartford and married a woman from New Britain named Mary A. Begley. He was a member of the Hartford baseball club who competed in the Connecticut State League. The team was comprised of several ex-major league players such as Mickey Welch, Ed Beecher and John M. Henry. After his official retirement from baseball, Brady and his brothers established a successful bottling company in Hartford called Brady Bros. The concern manufactured stone and glass bottles and filled them with mineral water and soda.

Hartford Courant excerpt, April 14, 1892.
Hartford Courant excerpt, March 16, 1894.

Steve Brady made his last recorded appearance on a baseball diamond in the summer of 1898 when his team of wine clerks took on a Hartford Police nine. His fingers were said to be “twisted and knotted” from a lifetime of playing baseball in an era without proper protection. Brady became an active member of the Hartford Elks Lodge and the Ancient Order of Hibernians with whom he conducted various charitable deeds. On November 17, 1917 Stephen A. Brady passed away at the age of 66 in the home where he was born at 72 Ward Street, Hartford. His brother John “Jackson” Brady carried on the family business as President of Brady Brothers.

Hartford Courant excerpt, October 14, 1923.
John “Jackson” Brady, 1937.
Brady Bros. Hartford, Connecticut, 2018.
Brady Bros. Hartford, Connecticut, 2019.
Ward Street, Hartford, Connecticut, 2019.
Brady family gravestone at Mount St. Benedict Cemetery, Bloomfield, Connecticut, 2019.

Sources

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