One of the pleasures of wandering through a city is coming across historical sites, markers or monuments, and discovering that something interesting or significant happened there. Hartford has a number of such places, but is leaving an important site unmarked.
The grassy field at the corner of Wyllys Street and Hendrixsen Avenue near the Church of the Good Shepherd and close to downtown is the site of the Hartford Base Ball Grounds, home of the Hartford Dark Blues. In 1876, the local nine was one of the original eight teams in the National League.
The land was leased to the team by Elizabeth Colt. The 2,000-seat stadium, with a press box perched above the grandstand and locker rooms, was a model for many later baseball fields. W.A. "Candy" Cummings, the Hall of Fame pitcher credited with inventing the curveball, was on the Dark Blues' roster that year. The team's manager had one of the great nicknames in baseball - Bob "Death to Flying Things" Ferguson.
That much of the land is still open is a rarity for charter teams, and offers a great opportunity for a memorial. Ron Bolin, grants manager for Hartford Stage, heads a campaign to raise funds for a stone marker and plaque for the site, much like the marker at the site of Bulkeley Stadium, the former minor league park in the city's South End. For information about Mr. Bolin's fundraising effort, contact him at baseballhistoryalive.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is another opportunity here. Vintage baseball, in which players dress in old-style uniforms and play competitive games under the old rules, has become a popular niche attraction here and in many parts of the country. Connecticut has eight teams, including one called the Hartford Dark Blues.
Greg Martin, who runs the Vintage Base Ball Co., a manufacturer of uniforms and equipment for the old-style teams, suggests reconfiguring Dillon Stadium so it can be used for both vintage and modern baseball. It could be the home of regular vintage tournaments and college baseball - if the University of Connecticut's football and basketball teams draw well in Hartford, why not the baseball team? - and could provide work experience for students from the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy, a magnet school being built next to the stadium.
Hartford was always a good baseball town. Let's celebrate it.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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