(WTNH)– Here’s what I love about history: if you scratch any city, any old building, any neighborhood, HISTORY just comes spilling out like a waterfall. Everything that’s been around for awhile has old, often forgotten stories to tell, to anyone curious enough to listen. Today’s topic, inspired by the afternoon groundbreaking of a new baseball stadium as part of the Hartford Downtown North project — or DONO — is our national pastime’s history in the capitol city…a story that includes a short spell in The Bigs! Read on:
1) Professional baseball began in Hartford in 1874. The team, the Hartford Dark Blues (so-named because they wore socks–sorry, stockings–of that color, played in a league quaintly known as the National Association of Base Ball Players.
2) It was just two years later that the team went major league. As in National League. That’s right, the Hartford Dark Blues (pictured above) were a founding franchise of the same National League that exists today, along with other cities that didn’t manage to hang on to their big league status long-term — Louisville — and others that did — Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Boston, Chicago.
3) The Dark Blues came in 3rd in the National League’s inaugural season. The roster had a total of 12-players. Pitchers — both of them — were therefore workhorses; Tommy Bond went 31-and-13, Candy Cummings 16-and-8. But what’s really amazing:
4) The team played 69 games. Its two pitchers pitched a total of 69 complete games. You read that right: there were no relief pitchers. You started, you finished. Then again, it’s not like they were getting hammered, because:
5) They didn’t call it the “dead ball era” for nothing. Home runs, to say the least, were rare. The Dark Blues themselves hit a grand total of two dingers for the entire season. A 19th Century “SportsCenter” would have been a sorry, sad spectacle (“Remsen swings….back back back back back! What just happened?”)
6) Pitcher Candy Cummings is credited with inventing the curveball! He said he discovered it while studying the movement sea shells made when thrown. For his innovation, he was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.
7) After just two years, the team left and moved to Brooklyn, perhaps hoping nobody would notice by naming the team the Brooklyn Hartfords. Didn’t help; the team disbanded after the 1877 season.
8) But minor league baseball lived on in Hartford for many decades, in various leagues under various names: the Wooden Nutmegs, the Laurels, the Cooperatives, and — I kid you not — the Hartford Babies.
Summer after next, a new Hartford team, Class Double-A, will take the field in the new stadium, after moving from New Britain. It’s unlikely they’ll still be called the Rock Cats, So let’s get some ideas for a new name. Or should we just agree on Babies and leave it at that?