Tag: senators

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.

Leo Durocher Got His Start in Hartford

Leo Ernest Durocher was born in 1905 in West Springfield, Massachusetts, as the youngest of four sons. His parents with French Canadian parents were George and Clarinda (Provost) Durocher and often spoke French at home. George Durocher worked on the railroad, for the Boston & Albany Railroad. At 5-feet-10, he grew to be the tallest of his brothers. His French-Canadian parents. Durocher dropped out of Springfield Technical High School after being suspended and never went back. Instead, he became a prominent semi-professional athlete and several employers competed to have him play for their company teams.

According to baseball historian Paul Dickson, Durocher was convinced to try for a professional club, the Hartford Senators:

“There’s a guy named David Redd, who’s a black man, who pushes and pushes and pushes Durocher to go try out for the Hartford team, which in those days was a semi-Yankee farm club,” Dickson says. “And Durocher does. Tries, fails once.”

Paul Dickson – WBUR, Robinson And Durocher’s Complicated — And Changing — Relationship

Having failed, Durocher was again encouraged to try out for the 1925 season again by his friend, David Redd. This time, he made the team and batted for an average of .220 in 536 at bats that season. As an infielder for Hartford, Durocher learned and grew his game under Manager Paddy O’Connor, a baseball lifer and former catcher of the 1909 World Series winning Pittsburgh Pirates. Durocher showed promise in Hartford under the lights at Clarkin Field and was called up to the New York Yankees lineup for 2 game appearances.

Leo Durocher is sold to the Yankees, 1925.

It would take two seasons in the Yankees farm system – Atlanta, Georgia and St. Paul, Minnesota – before his permanent call-up to the big leagues in 1928. He won his first World Series that same year as a teammate of Babe Ruth and another Hartford Senators alumnus, Lou Gehrig. Durocher would become known as one of baseball’s fiercest players and would achieve team and individual success.

As a captain of the St. Louis Cardinals “Gashouse Gang” in 1934, Durocher started shortstop and won another World Series. He also collected three National League All-Star game appearances. After the 1938 season with the Cardinals, Durocher became the Dodgers’ player-manager. In 1939, Durocher was named player-manager for the Dodgers and quickly became known for his dirt-kicking tirades against umpires. He also clashed with Brooklyn’s front office and claimed that he was fired and rehired by general manager Larry McPhail dozens of times.

In 24 years as a skipper for the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, Durocher won 2,009 games, three pennants and a World Series. However, Durocher also became famous for his arguments with umpires, executives and players earned him a reputation as “The Lip.” His nickname was thought to have stemmed from his relationship with another diminutive Hall of Famer: Rabbit Maranville. While not an imposing hitter, Durocher’s scrappy play and maximum effort led Babe Ruth to call him “The All-American out.”

Leo Durocher, Manager, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1941.

Despite his antics, there was no doubt about Durocher’s record. In 1941, Durocher led the Dodgers, who were affectionately named “the Bums” by their own fans, to the franchise’s first pennant in 21 years.

“As long as I’ve got a chance to beat you, I’m going to take it.”

Leo Durocher, 1941.

In 1947, Commissioner Happy Chandler suspended Durocher for a year due to his “accumulation of unpleasant incidents” which included his accused association with gamblers. Led by Jackie Robinson, who Durocher staunchly supported when he broke the color barrier, the Dodgers captured the ’47 National League pennant.

In 1948, Durocher shocked the baseball world when he became manager of the Dodgers’ crosstown rival New York Giants – who he had famously referred to when he remarked that “nice guys finish last.” It was at the Polo Grounds where Durocher found his greatest success. In 1951, his Giants capped off an incredible 13½ game comeback on the Dodgers with Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ’Round the World” homer to win the pennant. Three years later, Durocher and the Giants swept the heavily favored Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series.

Durocher with his wife, Laraine, Day, 1950.

Durocher left New York after the 1955 season and became a color commentator for NBC’s baseball broadcasts. He returned to the manager’s office with the Cubs in 1966 and served his final nine seasons in Chicago and Houston. Durocher retired in 1973 as the fifth-winningest manager in history, and second only to Hall of Famer John McGraw in the National League.

Casey Stengel, Manager, New York Yankees and Leo Durocher, Manager, New York Giants, 1951 World Series.

Upon his retirement, he ranked fifth all-time among managers with 2,009 career victories, second only to John McGraw in National League history. In 1965, Durocher co-authored an autobiography entitled, Nice Guys Finish Last. He lived a long life but passed away on October 7, 1991. Leo Durocher was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.

Leo Durocher

Sources

  1. WBUR, Robinson And Durocher’s Complicated — And Changing — Relationship.
  2. Hartford Courant Database, Newspapers.com.
  3. Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Reference.com.
  4. Durocher, Leo, Baseball Hall of Fame, Baseballhall.org/Hall-of-Famers/Durocher-Leo.

Jim Thorpe, Olympian and Hartford Ballplayer

James Francis Thorpe was the greatest all-around athlete of the Deadball Era and perhaps of all time. In addition to playing five Major League seasons, he was a superstar football player as well as an Olympic gold medalist. Battling bigotry and discrimination, Jim Thorpe rose to stardom with perseverance and defiance. Unknown to many locals of today, the 6’1” 185 lbs sportsman brought his talents to Hartford, Connecticut, on multiple occasions.

Born on May 28, 1887, Thorpe was a member of the Sauk and Fox Nation of the Oklahoma Territory. His Native American name was Wa-Tho-Huck (Bright Path or Path Lit by Lightning). As a youngster, he attended Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas, and then Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. He played halfback on the Carlisle football team under coach Pop Warner and was selected by Walter Camp to the 1911 and 1912 All-American teams.

Jim Thorpe at Stockholm Olympics, 1912.

At the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, Jim Thorpe won the decathlon and pentathlon by wide margins. Sweden’s King Gustav told him, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” However in 1913 an investigation by the Amateur Athletic Union claimed Thorpe to be ineligible for playing professional baseball in 1909 and 1910. During those years, Thorpe did earn $2 per game in the Eastern Carolina League as an outfielder and pitcher. He was subsequently stripped of his gold medals.

Thereafter, Thorpe signed a three-year contract for $6,000 per season to play baseball with John McGraw’s New York Giants. As a rookie, Thorpe recorded 19 games, a home run and stole two bases as the club won the 1913 National League pennant. He was a bench player for the Giants who loaned him to the Cincinnati Reds in April of 1917. Thorpe was recalled to New York in August, and the Giants won another league title. Manager McGraw allowed Thorpe a larger role in 1918 when he hit .248 in 58 games.

1913 New York Giants with Jim Thorpe (3rd row, middle).
Jack Meyers and Jim Thorpe (right), 1915.
1915 New York Giants with Jim Thorpe (3rd from right).

After complaining about playing time and refusing to be mistreated, Thorpe was traded to the Boston Braves in 1919. The 32 year old began to hit his stride, batting .327 with 25 RBI and 7 stolen bases for the Braves. He continued to pursue organized baseball with five different minor league clubs including Hartford. All the while, Thorpe played professional football in the fall and winter months. From 1920 to 1921, Thorpe was nominally appointed as first President of the American Professional Football Association, later becoming the National Football League.

Jim Thorpe, Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds, 1917.

That same year, Thorpe was released from the Portland, Oregon, baseball club of the Pacific Coast League. Then he was signed in June of 1922 by James H. Clarkin, owner of the Hartford Senators. Thorpe immediately traveled to Connecticut with his family who settled at 34 Lancaster Road, West Hartford. As a Senator, Thorpe crushed Eastern League pitching, however his stint in Hartford would only last about six weeks.

Hartford Courant, June 6, 1922.
Thorpe’s Hartford Senators debut, June 15, 1922.

On July 12, 1922, Thorpe played centerfield in a doubleheader at New Haven’s Weiss Park where he had a bad day: “Thorpe was plain awful. He had dropped a fly ball, muffed a grounder and failed to hustle after a ball hit in the gap. New Haven’s fans were all over him, abusing him mercilessly with racist taunts. News accounts were equally childish and bigoted in context. One report cited Thorpe’s performance as ‘an imitation of a wooden Indian chasing flies.’

He was benched by Hartford manager Jack Coffey. Seething with anger, ”Thorpe promptly changed out of his baseball uniform into his street clothes. He emerged from the clubhouse and charged into the grandstand to confront the New Haven hecklers, saying he wasn’t ‘going to stand for the impertinence of the fans.‘ Thorpe never threw a punch. Teammates persuaded him to return to the clubhouse before any fighting broke out. Police were called to the scene, though no arrests were made.”*

Thorpe was fined $50 by the Eastern League and $50 by the Hartford club. In early August, he was released by owner Clarkin. Thorpe finished the year with the Fitchburg-Worcester club, and his .344 batting average was second in the Eastern League. He also hit 9 home runs in 96 total games played, but 1922 marked Thorpe’s final season in professional baseball.

Thorpe’s athletic fame did not translate into a lasting fortune. He drifted from one public relations exploit to the next and wrestled with alcoholism. The sports hero worked part-time as a painter, bouncer and ditch digger. Thorpe’s football career kept him afloat. He often came back to Connecticut to face professional football squads such as the short-lived Hartford Blues. He retired from football in 1928, but continued to make baseball appearances throughout the country.

Jim Thorpe in football uniform, c. 1925.

In 1933, Thorpe came back to Hartford as a player-manager of the Oklahoma Indians, a barnstorming team also dubbed Harjo’s Indians. At the time, many athletes of color embellished their racial characteristics and adopted stereotypes in order to maximize profits. During the month of August, thousands of paid fans witnessed a five game series at Hartford’s Bulkeley Stadium between the Oklahoma Indians and the Savitt Gems, a local independent team.

Thorpe began the first of five games as third base coach. He then manned right field midway through the game. On a drive by Jackie Cronin of the Gems, Thorpe made contact with the ball near the foul line. Umpire John Muldoon called the ball fair but Thorpe vehemently disagreed. Dejected over losing the argument, Thorpe pulled his team off the field and demanded the umpires to be dismissed before resuming play. The umpires were replaced by players from each team and the game continued.

Hartford Courant, August 6, 1933.
Jim Thorpe, Manager, Harjo’s Indians, 1933.

The Savitt Gems eventually won the series 3 games to 2, and Hartford baseball fans earned a good show. Later, Savitt Gems owner Bill Savitt would question whether or not Thorpe’s antics were intentional. Perhaps he overreacted to rile up the crowd, thereby attracting more fans to Bulkeley Stadium. After all, the crowd did double in size from about 3,000 to about 6,000 at their next matchup. Thorpe, ever the showman, led the Indians in staged war dances between games.

1933 Oklahoma Indians (Harjo’s Indians)

In 1950, Thorpe was named America’s top athlete of the half century by the Associated Press, beating out Babe Ruth. By then Thorpe had appeared in more than 70 Hollywood films. A biographical film entitled Jim Thorpe – All-American produced by Warner Bros. and starring Burt Lancaster was released in 1951. On March 28, 1953, Jim Thorpe died of a heart attack in Lomita, California at the age of 65. 

Jim Thorpe (1887-1953)

In 1982, the International Olympic Committee restored Thorpe’s two gold medals and they were presented to survived family. Thorpe’s widow, his third wife, Patricia sold his remains to the cities of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania. The two towns combined to form Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, where he is laid to rest, though he never visited the place during his lifetime. Thorpe’s children led an effort to return their father to the Sauk and Fox Nation in Oklahoma but lost the lawsuit in 2014.

Jim Thorpe’s tomb and statue in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Sources

  1. New Haven Register Article on Thorpe*
  2. SABR – Jim Thorpe
  3. Hartford Courant Database


Current Causes

  1. Restore Jim Thorpe as sole gold medal winner.
  2. Bright Path movie

Hartford’s Minor League Club Part II: The Senators (1902-1915)

The Hartford Senators are Connecticut’s most enduring professional baseball franchise of all time. For more than three decades (1902-1934) the Senators were Hartford’s headliner 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 during their early years (1902-1915) when minor league championships were a significant source of local pride. Thus far, since entering the minor leagues in 1878, the City of Hartford had been deprived of a pennant.

Minor Leagues

Championship Seasons

  • 1909
  • 1913
  • 1915

Notable Hartford Senators of the early years

The nickname “Senators” was bestowed upon the club in 1902 by the Hartford Times newspaper. That year, Hartford became a member of the Connecticut League. Home games were hosted at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds also called Hartford Baseball Park. The organization was headed by Charles A. Soby. Team meetings were held at Soby’s cigar store at 867 Main Street. Catcher Ira Thomas played his rookie season for the Senators of 1902 and later won two World Series championships with the Philadelphia Phillies. Frank Reisling was Hartford’s player-manager who later sued the club over unpaid wages after being fired for allegedly recruiting players to a team in Toledo, Ohio. Hartford ended the season in fourth place.

Charles A. Soby, Proprietor, Hartford Senators, 1902.
Ira Thomas, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1902.
Doc Reisling, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1902.
Doc Reisling, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1902.

By next season the Hartford franchise was purchased by baseball magnates William J. Tracy of Bristol and Thomas Reilly of Meriden. Reilly acted as manager and the Senators rejoined the Connecticut League of 1903. Hartford’s team consisted of an entirely new roster with the exception of Ira Thomas who returned as catcher. Fresh signees included Walter Ahearn of New Haven, Bill Luby of Meriden and Billy Derwin of Waterbury. A talented infield featured Larry Battam at third base and captain Bert Daly at second base. However the Senators struggled mightily and finished last in the league.

Thomas Reilly, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1903.
Walter Ahearn, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1903.
Dr. Bert Daly, Second Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1903.
Bill Luby, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1903.

Before the 1904 season, Thomas Reilly was elected Mayor of Meriden and sold his shares of the Hartford club to William J. Tracy. As sole owner of the Senators (and later President of the Connecticut League), Tracy appointed his friend and Bristol barbershop owner John E. Kennedy as manager. The only man to return from the previous season was second baseman Bert Daly. New players like Bill Foxen, Bill Karns and Tom Bannon entered the fold. The Senators had a below average season record (53-61), and Hartford’s decades-long championship drought continued.

William Tracy, Owner, Hartford Senators, 1904.
Thomas O’Hare, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1904.
John E. Kennedy, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1904.
1904 Hartford Senators

In September of 1904, Hartford was introduced to James H. Clarkin, proprietor of the Senators for the next 24 years. When Tracy decided to sell the club, Clarkin and Daly stepped in as owners. Clarkin leased Wethersfield Avenue Grounds for the next six years at a rate of $600 per year. Hartford fans took special trolleys to the highly regarded and well-kept baseball grounds. Starring for the club were pitching prospect, Pete Wilson of Springfield, Massachussetts, and shortstop Harry Noyes of New Haven. In Clarkin’s first season as proprietor, the Senators of 1905 won a majority of their games (58-55).

Hartford Courant excerpt, 1905.
James Clarkin, Owner, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Lajoie’s Base Ball Guide excerpt, 1905.
Peter Wilson, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Harry Noyes, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Neal Doherty, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1905.
Frank Doran, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1905.
1905 Hartford Senators
Hartford trolley assigned for ball games, 1905.

After the 1905 season, Clarkin sold the club’s top pitcher William Foxen to Providence for $250. The sale of Foxen was the first of many transacted by Clarkin who acquired a frugal reputation for selling off players. In 1906, Bert Daly served as player-manager until midway through the season, when he returned to his home in Bayonne, New Jersey to practice medicine. Harry Noyes was named player-manager and Clarkin became sole owner of the Senators. He signed Herman Bronkie of Manchester, Connecticut, a rookie third baseman who later matriculated to the Cleveland Naps. When the season concluded Hartford stood fourth in the Connecticut League.

Group of Three Hartford Players, 1906.
New players on the Hartford Senators, 1906.
Bert Daly, Player-Manager, Hartford, 1906.
1906 Hartford Senators
1906 Hartford Senators
1906 Hartford Senators
1906 Hartford Senators

Despite another lackluster season, Hartford retained its core players for the following year. Harry Noyes remained as player-manager and Pete Wilson as ace pitcher. Other returners for 1907 were outfielder, Charlie Fallon, a steady batsman from New York City as well as career minor leaguers Ed Justice, Billy Luyster and Edward Gastmeyer. Newcomers included first baseman Jack Rothfuss and outfielder Izzy Hoffman. Philadelphia manager Connie Mack tipped off proprietor Clarkin to recruit Jack Lelivelt, a Dutch immigrant who became one of baseball’s greatest minor league hitters. As incentive to win, Clarkin offered his Senators a bonus of $100 if they won five games in a week. While popular with players, Hartford’s bonus scheme failed and the Senators finished fifth in the Connecticut League of 1907.

Three New Hartford Players, 1907.
Jack Lelivelt, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1907.
Izzy Hoffman, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1907.
John Dalgarn, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1907.
Billy Luyster, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1907.

Proprietor Clarkin sought to retool the Senators by hiring veteran leadership for 1908. During the offseason, Thomas Dowd, a former major league journeyman was named manager and assumed all baseball operations. Dowd lured players to Hartford such as Ray Fisher, a pitching phenom, Hank Schumann, a sturdy moundsman, Bob Connery, a muscle bound first baseman, Earle Gardner, a second basemen destined for the New York Yankees and Chick Evans, an 18 year old who threw a perfect game for the Senators on July 21,1908. They were Hartford’s finest team to date, and yet they lost the championship to Springfield by a mere half game.

New Hartford Senators, 1908.
1908 Hartford Senators
Thomas Dowd, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1908.
1908 Hartford Senators
Hartford Senators at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, 1908.

A disappointing conclusion to Hartford’s 1908 season lit a fire under the Senators in 1909. Clarkin appointed Bob Connery player-manager in place of Thomas Dowd who reportedly struggled with alcoholism. New additions Jimmy Hart and Jack Wanner led the squad in batting. With masterful pitching and defense, Connery’s crew captured first place and remained there for the majority of the season. Hartford finally won their first Connecticut League championship by outlasting the runner-ups of Holyoke. On September 13, 1909, the Senators were honored with a parade on Main Street, a ceremony in front of Connecticut’s Old State House, a musical performance at Hartford Theater and a late night banquet at Hotel Garde.

1909 Hartford Senators, Connecticut League Champions.
1909 Hartford Senators
Johnny Wanner, Second Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1909.
Quartet of players, Hartford Senators, 1909.
Ballplayers of the Hartford Senators, 1909.
Mike Wadleigh, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1909.
New players for the Hartford Senators, 1909.
George Metzger, Third Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1909.
1909 Hartford Senators, Connecticut League Champions.

In 1910, Hartford was the envy of minor league baseball as the Connecticut League pennant was flown on over Hartford Baseball Park. The facility was the prettiest in the circuit with a smooth playing surface, clubhouse and refreshment booth. Meanwhile Clarkin further delegated his duties as owner and created the Hartford Baseball Club Board of Strategy to scout ballplayers. Roster additions included mound men Buck O’Brien and Carl Lundgren as well as infielders John Vann and Gus Soffel. Incumbent player-manager Bob Connery brought aboard fellow St. Louis native Wally Rehg, a rookie utility man later dubbed the world’s sassiest player. Amongst high expectations, the Senators underachieved to fourth place, six games behind the title winners of Waterbury.

First day’s workout, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Senators at Hartford Baseball Park, 1910.
1910 Hartford Senators
John Vann, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Walter Rehg, Utility, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Buck O’Brien, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Board of Strategy, Hartford Senators, 1910.
Carl Lundgren, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1910.
William Moore, Groundskeeper, Hartford Baseball Park, 1910.

Before the 1911 season, Connecticut League officials increased the championship purse from $25 to $100. That year, rookie outfielder Hugh High rose to local stardom by posting a .302 batting average in 431 at bats. Former Boston Doves pitcher Tom McCarthy only played half of the season, yet he twirled his way to 15 wins. Hartford welcomed back Harry Noyes and Pete Wilson after playing elsewhere, but both underperformed. A low point of the season came when arrest warrants were issued for nine Hartford players including manager Connery, when they were found drinking alcohol on a Sunday at a hotel party on Lighthouse Point, New Haven. The Senators would fall short of the ultimate league prize but finished in a respectable third place.

1911 Hartford Senators
Clint Ford, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Hugh High, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Robert Henry Ray, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Nick Lakoff, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Nick Lakoff, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
John Hickey, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1911.
Herman Shincel, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1911.
1911 Hartford Senators

As winter descended on Hartford, proprietor Clarkin renewed his lease of the Wethersfield Avenue Grounds for ten more years and built a big league caliber grandstand. When the 1912 season began, Bob Connery suited up for his final managerial campaign. He would later discover Rogers Hornsby as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. Before departing, Connery signed Benny Kauff to a one-year deal who batted .321 in 53 games played. Hugh High led the Connecticut League in hits with 145, 5 of them homers, over 121 games. Si McDonald served as primary catcher in his second year with the club and captained the Senators to second place.

A new grandstand at Hartford Baseball Park, 1912.
New Players of the Hartford Senators, 1912.
Bob “Tom” J. Connery, Player-Manager, Hartford Senators, 1912.
Hugh High, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1912.
New Haven vs. Hartford, 1912.
Members of the Hartford Senators, 1912.
Waterbury vs. Hartford, 1912.
Si McDonald, Catcher, Hartford Senators, 1912.
Bill Powers, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1912

At an offseason meeting President Jim O’Rourke and loop officials renamed the Connecticut League to the Eastern Association, reflecting the inclusion of three Massachussetts clubs. In preparation for the 1913 season, the Senators announced Si McDonald as Hartford’s new player-manager. Important acquisitions were shortstop, Bill Morley, second baseman, Jim Curry and first baseman, Mickey Keliher. Centerfielder Benny Kauff had one of the best seasons in Hartford baseball history, leading the league with 176 hits and a .345 batting average. Behind superior pitching, the Senators dominated their way to 83 wins and another triumphant league championship.

1913 Hartford Senators
Benny Kauff, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1913.
Gus Gardella, Shortstop, Hartford Senators, 1913.
1913 Hartford Senators
Eastern Association final standings, 1913.

Most of Hartford’s championship players were resigned for the 1914 season. Si McDonald became full-time manager while Hartford born Jack Muldoon was promoted to starting catcher. McDonald was eventually deposed midyear by proprietor Clarkin, who assigned the job to Dan O’Neil, a veteran manager from Holyoke. New arrivals Ed Barney and Jack Hoey were the club’s most productive hitters. Pitchers Clyde Geist and Fred Rieger carved out brilliant seasons and were among the league leaders in wins. When the Eastern Association wrapped, Hartford had achieved their tenth consecutive winning season, but ultimately finished in fifth place.

1914 Hartford Senators
Dan O’Neil, Manager, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Maurice Kennedy, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Jimmy Curry, Second Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Jack Hoey, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Roger Salmon, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Ed Goeb, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Mickey Keliher, First Baseman, Hartford Senators, 1914.
Murray Parker, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.
James Crowley, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1914.

In 1915, proprietor Clarkin decided to abandon the Eastern Association. Instead he enrolled the Senators in the Colonial League; a minor league loosely affiliated with the infamous Federal League. Shortly before the season, 36 year old infielder Jim Delahanty was named Hartford’s player-manager. Delahanty mashed a .379 batting average, was the league’s most valuable player and led the Senators to the Colonial League title. Also on the squad were Federal League players who previously performed for the Brooklyn Tip Tops and the Newark Pepper clubs. A mix of outcast big leaguers won Hartford its third minor league baseball championship and the Senators ended their early years on a high note.

1915 Hartford Senators, L to R: Back Row – Mike Simon, George Textor, Dennis Gillooly, Gus Helfrich, Gil Whitehouse, Aime Proulx and Fred Trautman. Front Row – Blondie Sherman, Henry Demoe, Jim Delahanty, Jack Murray and Ray Werre.
Gil Whitehouse, Outfielder, Hartford Senators, 1915.
Clyde Geist, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1915.
Bill Jensen, Pitcher, Hartford Senators, 1915.
Hartford Senators on the New York Yankees, 1915.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant via Newspapers.com
  2. Hartford Times microfilm collection at Hartford Public Library
  3. Baseball-Reference.com
  4. Statscrew.com
  5. Bob Connery SABR Bio by Steve Steinberg

Hartford’s Minor League Club, Part I: The Hartfords (1878-1901)

Hartford in Minor Leagues:

  • International League (1878)
  • Connecticut State League (1884-1885)
  • Southern New England League (1885)
  • Eastern League (1886-1887)
  • Atlantic Association (1889-1890)
  • Connecticut State League (1891, 1895)
  • Atlantic League (1896-1898)
  • Eastern League (1899-1901)

Notable Players:

Hartford, Connecticut, has been represented by 71 affiliated and unaffiliated minor league baseball clubs. It began when the Hartford Dark Blues of the National League moved to Brooklyn in 1877, and the city was left without a professional club. In an era when teams traveled by train or steamboat, Hartford was an ideal location for organized baseball. A prime mover in forming the Dark Blues, Ben Douglas Jr. raised $4,000 from shareholders to establish Hartford’s first minor league team in 1878. Initially, Douglas organized the club in Providence, Rhode Island, then he moved operations to New Haven, but ultimately selected Hartford.

Hartford Base Ball Grounds, 1877.
Hartford Courant excerpt, March 5, 1878.

The Hartford Courant referred to the club as The Hartfords. They held games at the Base Ball Grounds on Wyllys Avenue. The club joined the International Association after being denied entry into the National League due to the city’s small population (about 40,000). However, major League caliber players appeared for Hartford in 1878 such as Candy Cummings, Everett Mills, Jack Lynch and Joe Battin. Yet, the team was a short-lived entity. The Hartfords were expelled from the league after failing to pay a mandatory guarantee to the Buffalo club.

Jack Lynch, Pitcher, Hartford, 1878.
Jack Lynch, Pitcher, Hartford, 1878.
Everett Mills, First Baseman, Hartford, 1878.
Joe Battin, Third Baseman, Hartford, 1878.
Candy Cummings, Pitcher, Hartford, 1878.
Hartford Courant excerpt, July 19, 1878.

Hartford’s first foray into minor league baseball ended on an embarrassing note. Consequently, the city was without a professional club for the next five years. Finally in February of 1884, Hartford Base Ball Park Association, a joint stock corporation founded a new team in the Connecticut State League. The Hartfords of 1884 played at a new ballpark on Ward Street. Baseball enthusiast and cigar magnate, Charles A. Soby was team manager as well as President of the Connecticut State League. He directed affairs from the Hartford Base Ball Headquarters on Main Street, a leftover base of operations from the days of the Hartford Dark Blues.

Charles Soby, Manager, Hartford, 1884.
Hartford Base Ball Headquarters, 258 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut, 1884.

In 1885, the Hartfords competed in the Southern New England League of which Soby was again appointed President. Former Dark Bluesoutfielder, Jack Remsen took over as player-manager. Before becoming a Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack was Hartford’s wiry catcher at 22 years old. Backup catcher, Tony Murphy was one of the first baseball players to wear a chest protector. Henry Gruber, from Hamden, Connecticut, and Frank Gilmore from Webster, Massachussetts, did most of the pitching. Hartford natives Bill Tobin and Jack Farrell rounded out an underachieving roster who fell short of a championship title.

Jack Farrell, Second Baseman, Hartford, 1885.
Henry Gruber, Pitcher, Hartford, 1885.
Jack Remsen, Player-Manager, Hartford, 1885.
Connie Mack, Catcher, Hartford, 1885.

The Hartford Base Ball Club of 1886 contended in the first iteration of the Eastern League. The club dealt Connie Mack to the Washington Nationals midseason. Another Hall of Fame inductee, Hugh Duffy spent his first professional year in Hartford. After an lackluster season, a new joint stock company assumed ownership of the club. Among investors of the Harford Amusement Association were the Mayor of Hartford, Morgan G. Bulkeley and famed author, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). The association hired Charles E. Daniels, a professional umpire from Colchester, Connecticut, as manager for the 1887 season.

Investors like Bulkeley and Twain back base ball in Hartford, 1887.
Investors like Bulkeley and Twain back the Hartford club, 1887.

Under Charlie Daniels the Hartfords of 1887 fielded their best lineup yet. That year, “General” James Stafford began his career with Hartford. Steve Brady, former captain of the New York Metropolitans and hometown hero of Hartford, batted .350. Ed Beecher led the league in doubles and Henry Gruber was one of the league’s top pitching aces. At season’s end, the Hartfords placed third in the standings. The Eastern League disbanded and Hartford was forced to forgo organized baseball throughout the year of 1888.

Steve Brady, First Baseman, Hartford, 1887.
General Stafford, Second Baseman, Hartford, 1887.
Ed Beecher, Outfielder, Hartford, 1887.

The Hartfords reappeared on the minor league scene in 1889 as part of the Atlantic Association. Hartford man and first time player-manager, John M. Henry recruited Phenomenal Smith and Joe Gerhardtto contend for a title. However they finished in third place behind Worcester and Newark. Then Hartford failed to retain top tier players in 1890 and sunk to last place. Third baseman Ezra Sutton and catcher George Stallings of Boston fame were the team’s lone bright spots. A game of particular note came on July 23, 1890, when Hartford’s first game illuminated by “electric light” took place at the Ward Street Grounds.

Phenomenal Smith, Pitcher, Hartford, 1889.
Joe Gerhardt, Second Baseman, Hartford, 1889.
George Stallings, Catcher, Hartford, 1890.
Baltimore vs. Hartford, 1890.

After another mediocre season in the 1891 Connecticut State League, the Hartfords lost favor with fans and investors. The club disbanded and the Panic of 1893 prolonged their absence. Eventually, a new team surfaced in the summer of 1894. John Henry, Charlie Daniels, Steve Brady and his brother Jackson Brady formed the Hartford Elks. They were a semi-professional team backed by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (Lodge #19). Though the team featured minor league players, the club operated independently from the Connecticut State League.

John M. Henry, Player-Manager, Hartford, 1894.
John M. Henry, Player-Manager, Hartford, 1894.
Hartford Courant excerpt, July 10, 1894.

In 1895, Hartford reentered the Connecticut State League and operated under the auspices of the Hartford Base Ball and Amusement Association. John Henry returned as player-manager one last time. Ed Beecher, a revolving outfielder from Guilford, Connecticut, suited up for his fourth and final season. Both men later became police officers in Hartford. Another local man, John Gunshanan was one of the club’s best hitters. Future major leaguers Jack Cronin and Bill Gannon had brief stints with the Hartfords of 1895. Despite big league prospects, a pennant continued to elude the city of Hartford.

John Gunshanan, Outfielder, Hartford, 1895.
Hartford Courant excerpt, February 7, 1895.
Jack Cronin, Pitcher, Hartford, 1895.

The Hartfords came close to a championship when they entered the Atlantic League in its inaugural season of 1896. Former Hartford player and famed baseball manager, Billy Barnie purchased the club with a group of investors. He served as Hartford’s manager and garnered enough support to build a new ballpark on the west side of Wethersfield Avenue (later becoming Clarkin Field and then Bulkeley Stadium). Also nicknamed the Hartford Bluebirds, the club was captained by Bob Pettit, a utility man from Williamstown, Massachusetts. Everyday players like John Thornton and Reddy Mack lifted Hartford atop the standings in a tight race with Newark.

Billy Barnie, Manager, Harford, 1896.
Reddy Mack, Second Baseman, Hartford, 1896.
Site plan of Hartford Base Ball Park, 1896.
Hartford Ball Park Ad, 1896.

When Newark finished in first place, Hartford protested their victory. Manager Barnie argued that Newark’s record was unfairly inflated due to a dozen extra games played. Newark also used a suspended pitcher named Joseph Frye who had left Hartford midway through the season. As a result, the second place Hartfords challenged Newark to a 7-game series; the Soby Cup sponsored by Hartford’s own Charles Soby. Newark declined the invitation but the third place Paterson club accepted and prevailed over Hartford for the Soby Cup. By November of 1896, the matter was put to rest by Sam Crane, President of the Atlantic League who declared Newark as champions.

The Soby Cup, 1896.
Soby Cup Series, 1896.
Sam Crane, President of the Atlantic League, 1896.

Hartford returned to the Atlantic League in 1897. Former Brooklyn Bridegrooms standout, Thomas “Oyster” Burns became player-manager when Billy Barnie left Hartford to manage Brooklyn. Tom Vickery, Cy Bowen and Hank Gastright were moundmen for Hartford. Veteran major leaguers Lefty Marr and Paul Radford manned center field and shortstop. The club won 78 games but finished third in the standings yet again. On the final day of the season, Hartford players presented a commemorative diamond ring to their beloved leader, Oyster Burns.

The Hartfords of 1897.
Cy Bowen, Pitcher, Hartford, 1897.
Oyster Burns, Outfielder, Hartford, 1897.

In 1898, executives of the Hartford baseball club hired veteran major leaguer Bill Traffley as manager. Traffley was unpopular with players, he was accused of pocketing gate receipts and he relinquished the manager role halfway through the season to the team’s catcher, Mike Roach. The Hartfords adopted a cooperative system to evenly disperse gate earnings amongst the players. Therefore the team became known as the Hartford Cooperatives. Arlie Latham, 1886 World Series champion and baseball’s first showman comedian, guarded third base for the Cooperatives who descended to sixth place in the Atlantic League.

Bill Traffley, Manager, Hartford, 1898.
Arlie Latham, Third Baseman, Hartford, 1898.
Hartford Courant excerpt, 1898.

Towards the end of the 1898 season, Billy Barnie purchased ownership of the Hartfords once again. Even though Barnie was manager of the Springfields at the time, Hartford fans were delighted to have him back. With Barnie as manager, Hartford enrolled in the Eastern League of 1899. He signed several players from the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, including William Shindle who led the team in hitting. Tuck Turner was the team’s star right fielder. For a 24 game stretch, Hartford featured Louis Sockalexis, the first Native American to play professional baseball. The club compiled 50 wins and 56 losses thereby finishing seventh place in the Eastern League.

Biff Sheehan, Outfielder, Hartford, 1899.
William Shindle, Player-Manager, Hartford, 1899.
`Louis Sockalexis, Outfielder, Hartford, 1899.

At the turn of the century, Charles Soby reprised his role as Hartford’s preeminent baseball magnate. On May 21, 1900, Soby led a group of 44 shareholders who raised $3,250 to establish the Hartford Baseball Corporation. The club partnered with New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company to create special rates and train schedules on game days. The team secured two pitchers destined for stardom, “Wild” Bill Donovan and George Hemming. Tragically, Manager Billy Barnie died of pneumonia on July 15, 1900. Barnie was revered in Hartford as baseball’s most tenured manager, as catcher for the Hartford Dark Blues of 1874 and the Hartfords of 1878.

Billy Barnie, Manager, Hartford, 1900.
Billy Barnie, Manager, Hartford, 1900.
Hartford Baseball Club, 1900.
George Hemming, Pitcher, Hartford, 1900.
“Wild” Bill Donovan, Pitcher, Hartford, 1900.

In place of Barnie, William Shindle assumed managerial duties for the remainder of the 1900 season. The team’s performance was respectable. “Wild” Bill Donovan achieved league highs in wins and strikeouts. Though it would not be enough for a pennant, and the Hartfords settled for third in the Eastern League. The next season Shindle stayed on as manager. George Shoch, a veteran pitcher ended his 20-year career with Hartford. In fact, most of the 1901 club was made up of players on the last leg of their careers. The club fell to sixth out of eight teams in the final standings.

Hartford vs. Brockton, 1901.
George Shoch, Pitcher, Hartford, 1901.

After more than 20 years in the minor leagues without a championship, Hartford’s proud baseball community refused to be discouraged. A minor league team would represent Hartford off and on for the next 5 decades. On August 17, 1925, Hartford players of yore were celebrated at Bulkeley Stadium. Connie Mack, Frank Gilmore, John Henry and Ed Beecher attended an exhibition game between Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics and a Hartford All-Star team featuring local pitching ace, Lem Owen. In a ceremony before the game, Gilmore gifted Mack a new set of golf clubs and the Hartfords of old received their last ovation from a crowd of 6,000 fans.

Connie Mack, Frank Gilmore, John Henry and Ed Beecher at Wethersfield Avenue Grounds, Hartford, August 17, 1925.

Sources

  1. Hartford Courant database on Newspapers.com
  2. StatsCrew.com

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