Thursday, October 22, 2009

Middlesex County Baseball Champions - 1928

With the World Series looming, I’m reminded of our Town’s own substantial history with baseball. The other day, Jay Hansen lent me a picture of the 1928 East Hampton Baseball Team who played in the Middlesex County League. Only able to identify one of the 12 men pictured, Jay asked me if I could help find the players names. With one glance, I smiled. Sitting at the end of the bench was my grandfather, Percy Markham. I knew my grandfather had played baseball in several leagues but didn’t realize he was still playing at the ripe old age of 30. When in the Army during World War I and in the Marines in the Nicaraguan Campaign from 1918-20, he played on a Marine Corp team and competed against major league players from the Washington Senators hitting against the fabled Walter Johnson.

Intrigued and always up to solve a good mystery, I talked to a few people around town but only found one other name – Paul Garvey – Director of Wall’s Funeral Home located across from St. Patrick’s Church. I'm not sure if Paul was a coach or team sponsor. Considering the fact that the picture was taken 81 years ago, there aren’t many around who saw these “boys of summer” play.

My next stop, Russell Library, provided microfilm copies of the Middletown Press with box scores of the Middlesex County Baseball League. It seems our Bellringers started the season with an amazing 14 straight wins. At one point in July, there was talk by the rest of the teams in the league to award EH the Championship and split the season in two -essentially starting anew. The East Hampton team, which had some tremendously talented players and dominated the league, which apparently was not the first time this occurred. One of the articles referred to East Hampton dominance back to 1884. One of the pitchers, Big Gil Jones, was unbeaten during the season.

Front L to R: Percy Markham, Dutch Longmore, Ray Cassette, Willse Moore, Gil Jones, Martin Flynn; Back row L to R: George Kilray (likely from Hartford), Edward Beyle, Paul Garvey, Ed Payne, Herm Schroder, and Harold Bransfield.

I also found I’m not the only Markham to write Letters to the Editor. It seems that in response to bellyaching by Middletown’s team supporters, my grandfather chided them for the criticism of East Hampton and poor play.

The County Baseball games were also a highlight of Old Home Day. 1928 was the fifteenth celebration of Old Home Day. On that August Saturday afternoon, East Hampton took both sides of a double header. Finishing the season with an amazing 20-3 record, they even beat a team of County League All Stars and a Championship Team from Hartford.

The players that summer included William Bransfield, 3rd base, Harold Bransfield, 2nd base, Irish Moore, 3rd base, George Kilray, SS, Ed Beyl, 1st base, Ed Paine, Left Field, ___ Cosette, Catcher, Percy Markham, Manager and Center Field, ___ Ferrigno, Right Field, Frank Fernald, Center Field, Tom Sipples, Right Field and Charlie Barber Left Field. Marty Flynn, Gil Jones, Chet Nichols, Charlie Commer, (a local policeman), Herbert Kegler, (from Willimantic), ___ Longamore, ___ Mantelli, and Jack Curtis all pitched.

It is likely several players were recruited from other Towns by Percy Markham. He worked for Summit Thread and made contact with players in other thread mills in Connecticut. Also, three of the players, Irish Moore, Ed Paine and George Kilray (from Hartford) were on leave from the Army. They were called back to duty in Panama during the season which is why you see so many players listed but only 11 plus Paul Garvey in the picture.

I would greatly appreciate any help from viewers of this blog if they recognize any family members in the team picture. I’ve identified a few and have listed all the players from box scores. With a bit of luck, maybe we can make this complete and we can have it included in the East Hampton Athletic Hall of Fame.

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