Hartford, Connecticut: Landmarks~History~Neighborhoods | City Center: Bushnell Park ~ Base Ball


The Charter Oak Base Ball Club, 1862

Synopsis of the Charter Oak Base Ball Club by Gary "Pops" O'Maxfield

The New York game of base ball came to Hartford in the summer of 1862. The team was actually formed on June 13, 1862 in Bushnell Park west at 6:30 p.m. when interested men came together to play the game by the New York rules. On June 30, 1862, the team was formerly organized and called the “Charter Oak Base Ball Club.” Officers elected were: Gershom B. Hubbell, President; James B. Burbank, Vice President; Charles A. Jewell, Secretary and Treasurer; Thomas Hollister, G. F. Hills and E. H. Lane, Directors. The club limited its membership to 40. The mission of the Charter Oak nine was to “establish on a scientific basis the health-giving and scientific game of base ball, and to promote good fellowship among its players.” The regular playing days in the park were Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The club was inspired by its president, Gershom B. Hubbell, a native Bridgeport boy who was employed as a telegrapher at the American Telegraph office on Main Street. James Burbank was a clerk; Charles Jewell, aged 21, was a clerk at his father’s hide and leather business, Pliny Jewell & Sons; Enos A. Lane was a 20 year old clerk at George S. Lincoln Company, iron founders of Hartford; George F. Hills, aged 25, a teller at the State Bank; and Thomas A. Hollister, aged 30, who was just returned from New York as an apprentice bookbinder. All of these founders, except Burbank, lived out their lives in Hartford.

On July 17, 1862 the first nine were temporarily appointed. They were Messrs. Branch, the Bunce twins—Frederick and Henry Lee—Henry Yergason, Dickinson, Burbank, Hills, Hollister and Gershon Hubbell. By 1867, Hubbell and the Bunce twins played in every game the Oaks ever played. Subsequent years brought in new first nine appointments including Trinity College student and hurler Si Blackwell and Ed Jewell.

By the end of 1862 and throughout 1863, the team petered out due to the war and picked up only slightly in 1864. On August 18 the Oaks defeated the Collinsville club 28-7. November 3rd saw the Oaks defeat Yale 44-32. A return game that year was cancelled due to the weather and made the Courant comment “guess they won’t go unless the game is played with snowballs.”

By the end of the war in 1865, the game picked up popularity as soldiers returned home. The Oaks won most of their games that year. Spectators gathered to watch the games along the banks of the Hog River in the park. On July 31, 1865, the oaks played Harvard in Worcester. Harvard throughly defeated the Oaks 35-13. Even though they lost, the Oaks were presented a miniature silver bat by J. G. Belden in a rosewood case. An attached note exclaimed that the bat was made from the original charter oak wood and was to represent the championship of the State of Connecticut. The club was to keep the bat unless they lost a challenge from another Connecticut team.

The Oaks had a first nine, a second nine and a “muffin team,” as was the custom in the era for base ball clubs. Many friendly games were held in Bushnell Park by this historic team including the Atlantics of Brooklyn, The Unions of Morrisania (the Bronx), the Philadelphia Athletics, The Eons of Portland (Maine), the Lowells (Massachusetts), Harvard, Yale and Trinity. The Pequots of New London finally defeated the Oaks after three years to take the Championship of the State of Connecticut.

After 1870, the Oaks were all but gone but they put Hartford on the map with as an extraordinary base ball team.

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