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Group Seeks Memorabilia For Exhibit On Bulkeley Stadium

By STEVEN GOODE | Courant Staff Writer

September 22, 2008

Morgan G. Bulkeley Stadium may not have been the "House that Ruth Built," but it was among the legion of baseball parks where the Babe pounded balls over the wall.

The South Hartford stadium, named after a former Connecticut governor and the National Baseball League's first president, was home to the city's minor-league Senators, Laurels, Bees and Chiefs from 1921 to 1952, when professional baseball left the city for good.

After the 1952 Eastern League season, the neglected stadium quickly fell into disrepair. Its 6-acre site was sold by the Milwaukee Braves for $50,000 in 1955, and in 1960 it was torn down to make room for a shopping center. Today, Ellis Manor, a rehabilitation and health -care facility, stands on the site.

For years, the park was a distant memory of a simpler time. But about 10 years ago, a group of current and former city residents who watched and played games in Bulkeley Stadium led an effort to create a lasting memory.

Led by Norm Hausmann, a retired insurance executive who went to Hartford Chiefs games with his father in the 1940s, the group received permission and financial assistance from the health-care facility's owners to place a stone monument in the area where right field would have been. The group also got funding from then-Mayor Michael P. Peters, had the stone donated by the town of Simsbury and secured the services of the S.L. Zocco monument company at a large discount.

The monument was unveiled on April 1, 1998. On Friday, many of the same people who attended that ceremony were back on George Street to discuss Hausmann's latest plan to collect enough memorabilia related to the stadium and the Hartford Chiefs to create an exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society.

"I see this as a collective effort to preserve the legacy of the stadium," Hausmann said.

Part of that legacy includes the one-time visit in 1945 of George Herman Ruth Jr. Ruth was playing for the Savitt Gems, a semipro team sponsored by Hartford jeweler Bill Savitt. Jimmy Francoline, a utility player for the Hartford Chiefs in the 1940s, recalled pitching batting practice to the Bambino before the game and seeing many of his tosses exit the stadium.

"I said, 'What do you want, fastballs?' He said, 'Anything you want,'" Francoline, 90, remembered Friday. "I had to ask for a lot of balls that day."

Hausmann already has received two baseballs signed by members of the 1939 and 1944 Eastern League championship teams, photographs, scrapbooks and score cards.

"I would kill to get a hold of a seat," Hausmann said.

"I threw mine away," replied Francoline, who regaled the small gathering with stories of his time in the St. Louis Cardinals' minor-league system and his three seasons with the Chiefs.

Richard Malley, director of collections access for the Connecticut Historical Society, said Friday that Savitt donated a large collection of memorabilia from the Savitt Gems in 1990. The historical society would be interested in running an exhibit if Hausmann's effort is successful, Malley said.

"I think [an exhibit] would strike a chord," he said. "Looking back on that element of our social history resonates with people."

For information or to contribute to Hausmann's effort, call 860-653-3821, or e-mail nhausmann@cox.net.

nior Information Specialist Cristina Bachetti contributed to this story.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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