HARTFORD — — Norm Hausmann thought his obsession with the old Morgan G. Bulkeley Stadium was satisfied in 1998 when he was able to get a monument placed on the grounds where the city's last professional baseball park stood from 1921 to 1960.
But then, 10 years later, Hausmann, who went to Hartford Chiefs baseball games at the South Hartford ballpark with his father in the 1940s, began collecting enough memorabilia from the stadium's colorful history to create an exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society.
Still, that wasn't enough.
Wouldn't it be great, he thought, if they could find where home plate was and mark the spot with a replica? With the help of a mathematician, Gary and Karen O'Maxfield of the Friends of Vintage Base Ball, and an aerial photograph of the stadium overlaid on a Google map of the neighborhood today, Hausmann did just that.
Hausmann and a group of others with connections to the stadium celebrated the effort recently with a ceremony at Ellis Manor, a rehabilitation and health care facility that stands where the ballpark once did and where Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Hank Greenberg once played.
A home plate-shaped Vermont granite plaque engraved with the stadium's name and years of existence is now nestled in the grass just east of the facility's main entrance.
"To me there's a presence here," Hausmann said. "It's a sense of trying to visualize my boyhood."
Hausmann, a retired insurance executive, is thankful for the support he has received from the staff at Ellis Manor and S.L. Zocco, the Bloomfield monument company that provided its services on both plaques at a discount and the Friends of Vintage Base Ball, who helped sponsor the purchase of the home plate.
And Hausmann is especially grateful for the connections he's made along the way with others who share his love and memories for Bulkeley Stadium, named after a former Hartford mayor, governor and the first president of the National League.
"These folks have become dear friends of mine," Hausmann said.
Among them are Shirley Damato, whose late husband, George, was a batboy for the Chiefs when he was in high school.
"Other than me, baseball was his first love," said Damato, who remembered that the stadium also hosted other events. "They had motorcycle races, and I went to a rodeo here."
There's also Bill Glynn, who did odd jobs at the stadium in the late 1930s and early 1940s, including dragging the infield between innings, in order to get to see the game.
"That would get me in. Then in the second or third inning I'd go to the top row and imagine broadcasting games," said Glynn, who would go on to become a professional announcer spending time with the Bristol Red Sox and the New Britain Rock Cats.
Robert J. Farrell was a young boy when his father owned the team from 1928 to 1930. Greenberg played for the team then.
"They had no lights in those days, and it seemed like it rained every weekend," Farrell said. "They lost their shirts. That didn't make my mother too happy."
The late Johnny "Schoolboy" Taylor, a Negro and Mexican League star who only began playing baseball during his senior year at Bulkeley High School, also played for the Chiefs in the 1940s.
"He was a real drawing card," said his widow, Estelle.
As the group got a look at the granite home plate recently, Hausmann remarked that the latest effort probably would be the last. But Glynn wasn't so sure.
"Now they have to find the pitcher's mound, and I'll come back," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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