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For 250 Years, Our Readers Have Been Very Good Sports

Over the past month we have written about 30 stories looking back at various teams, athletes, moments as part of the Courant's 250th anniversary.

We got lost for hours at a time in the Courant's electronic archives and we found many reasons to dwell there, whether it be the subject matter or the writing.

Once our stories reached you, we got feedback/ideas/memories sent our way, and we thank you for that.

Our story revisiting the Whalers' last game in Hartford brought back memories for John Scheib, who sent along a photo of a T-shirt launching crew he was a part of that final year with Dave Mourad and Joe DeSimone. They were rooming together in Hartford's West End at the time and each was a season ticket holder.

"It was just incredible to be out on the ice during intermission that final season — a truly unique perspective as a fan," Scheib said.

Maureen Taylor Hicks, speaking for the Taylor family, wrote of Tom Yantz's story on Johnny Taylor, who many think would have been a Major League Baseball player if not for the color barrier at the time: "We were delighted to see John Taylor included in The Courant's 250 Years – Moments In History series. Your article masterfully featured this historical chapter in sports not only for Hartford and the State of Connecticut but for our nation and the national pastime.

"Thank you for putting "Schoolboy" Taylor back on the mound in front of his hometown crowd."

John S. Piurek wrote of Dom Amore's baseball story of March 2 that largely focused on the rich history of the sport in Hartford: "My dad [John "Whitey" Piurek] grew up in Hartford, lived behind the Colt factory so he was always playing ball there. He graduated Bulkeley in 1935 or so and someone helped him get into Holy Cross Class of '39 where he played for Coach Barry. ... I still have a picture of my dad in his West Haven Sailors uni playing with the Joe DiMaggio All-Stars around 1948 or so. They needed some extra guys on the team that had Spec Shea, Carl Furillo, Yogi Berra, Snuffy Stirnweiss."

It has been more than 50 years since Hartford had a minor league baseball team and that was not lost on Mike Agranoff of Ellington.

"I have so many wonderful memories of Bulkeley Stadium as a child in the '50s. What a pity that Hartford lost baseball, and that today's kids have no idea what they are missing. Those were the days ..."

Bill Hofferth wrote of Dom Amore's story on the Hartford Dixies basketball team: "I am incredibly proud to be a descendant of a Hartford Dixie. Facebook is abuzz with the story! I can't imagine that many of those 'boys' even thought about the year 2014, let along having their story appear in The Hartford Courant."

And, Bill, we're sure they never thought there would be Facebook, either.

Desmond Conner's story on the death of UConn football player Jasper Howard, killed on campus after a big win at home vs. Louisville, brought plenty of reaction on Twitter and Facebook. Daneisha Freeman, 24, Howard's fiancée and mother of their daughter, Ja'Miya Tia Howard, spoke to The Courant at length about the death and how they have coped since. A tweet might have best summed up the felling of that story: "Thanks for that update today on Jazz's family. Still so crazy to think about."

Jim Teagle Jr., whose father coached the Meriden Insilco girls basketball team, mailed letters that had been written by Adrian Brennan, coach of the Aetna Life girls team, to his father, after the Insilcos beat Aetna in 1930. Wrote Brennan in his letter dated Feb. 6, 1930: "I just want to send on once more my sincere and warm congratulations to you for your fine victory. Your girls certainly deserved it and there is not the slightest bit of doubt in my mind as to the superiority of the Insilcos last night. Your girls are splendid and I feel certain that you, personally, are quite happy over the result of the game.

"Kindly accept my sincere good wishes for continued success, Jimmy. You deserve it and I hope you get it."

The Courant had reported on that victory that "a crowd that jammed every available inch of space in Insilco Hall watched the downfall of the proud team from Hartford, proud because it had not lost to a Connecticut team in three years, because it had never been beaten by an Insilco five and because it reached tonight's game without having previously suffered a setback this season."

Insilco coach Jimmy Treagle wrote back to Brennan in a letter dated Feb. 10: "Thank you for your letter of Feb. 6. I was pleased, no doubt, on the outcome of the game, but it was indeed gratifying (after all the difference the Insilcos and the Aetna have had) to witness such a good clean basket ball game.

"It is hoped that this clean sportsmanship which I have always advocated as a player and coach might continue and be endorsed by the various teams of Conn. and Mass.

"Please then accept my good wished for success thru out the remainder of the year."

Some others who weighed in.

Dennis Brennan of Enfield: "Jeff, first off, thank you for your very nice article about the Aetna and Travelers 'girls' basketball teams. Adrian [Brennan, Aetna coach] was my grandfather, and we heard many stories growing up about 'Pop' and his girls. He told us of his rules, his rituals, his demands, and his love for his teams. He was passionate about the sport, and truly missed coaching his girls when the team ceased to exist. He did some additional coaching at St. Thomas Seminary in later years, and from what I understand, was a competent referee.

"I remember being at Molloy Funeral home for his wake, and I was amazed at the number of women that came through the line and told us how much Pop meant to them. They truly loved him, and they loved playing for him. Years after he stopped coaching, I coached the boys at Kingswood-Oxford school for 12 years. He came to a few of my games, and would ask questions about why I did certain things. Though the game had certainly changed, many of the things he believed were important, still were, and still are today.

"You were nice to highlight the women who worked so hard back in the '20s, and my grandfather was certainly the recipient of some great women who did not let gender get in the way of something they loved to do."

Ron Fanelli, Newington: Your article on women's sports brought back memories of my mother, who played on the 1934 Aetna team. ... My mother also had saved Hartford Courant newspapers of the flood in September 1955, The Hartford Times paper of April 1945 with the front page of President Roosevelt's funeral and the Hartford Courant front page of November 11, 1918 "Armistice Signed! World War ends Today."

Thomas G. Ganley: "I was very interested in the piece appearing in The Courant [A1, March 2] about the old baseball stadium down on Franklin Ave. bounded by Hamner, Chester and George. My older brother brought me there on occasion to help him sell peanuts in the stands. That is when I first saw Gene Conley. While in high school I happened to be watching a Celtics game and, once again, Gene Conley. When I was a Hartford policeman [retired a long time], I used to work the private duty at the University of Hartford gym where the Capitols played their games. Once again Gene Conley."

J.P. Vitkus, Berlin: "Just sent a letter to D. Amore about baseball @ Bulkeley stadium. I was reminded of my uncle (Frank Tassone) who was the groundskeeper for the stadium. I also recalled the stadium sometimes having a circus, which was so exciting for the neighborhood kids. Thank you for this trip to Memory Lane.

Tom Asher: "Jay [Spiegel], thanks for writing the most complete history ever of the Savitt Gems. Bill Savitt was my father-in-law. I'm in Atlanta, but I listened to countless stories of baseball, basketball and WCCC radio in Hartford for many years. My wife, Rosalie Spring, Bill's oldest daughter, ended up with the Babe's jersey, baseball and bat, and you can't imagine how many people just want to touch it, put their hands where Ruth's hands once resided. Such was and is the legend of an athlete who may never have a peer. But he had a connection with Hartford that you helped to recall."

Jim Luken, Nashua, N.H.: "Thanks for publishing this article! My family and friends from Central Connecticut have been singing the [Savitt Jewelers] song for what must be close to 50 years. We loved the barbershop quartet and memorized the song, singing it on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even while "caroling" in Kensington in the sixties and seventies as I recall. We even recorded our own version a few years back. ... Driving down to visit my mother in Kensington over the years, my wife and I always chuckle as we drive through Hartford on I-84 – she has learned most of the song and sometimes I sing it for her amusement as we pass Constitution Plaza and old Bill Savitt's former jewelry store.

Lou Sanzaro, Wethersfield: "Brought a grin this morning. Sang [the Savitt Jewelers song] all the time to my kids and now grandkids. Bill and his diamond studded putter at the ICOs, too!"

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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