I took the opportunity to visit the Fairfield Museum and History Center special baseball exhibit, “It’s a Hit! A Hometown View of Our National Pastime” the other day. It was an interesting look into local Fairfield/Bridgeport baseball. I really enjoyed the visit, however, I was disappointed that photography was not allowed and therefore, I have no photos to show. The exhibit centered around area professional and amateur baseball as well as local connections to the MLB. It contains artifacts on loan from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Library of Congress, the Bridgeport Bluefish and some of the players themselves. The players with local connections included Hall of Famers James O’Rourke and Roger Connor, Neal Ball, Charles Nagy, Angel Echevarria, Phil Nastu and others. I have special interest in two of the players: O’Rourke and Ball.
Besides the exhibit itself, there are several upcoming events associated with this exhibit that should be of interest to baseball fans:
Town Ball Picnic – August 18th at 6pm
Local Heroes Guided Tours with Michael Bielewa – Thursday, August 19 at 10am
It’s Not Baseball without the Fans! with Dana Brand – Thursday, August 26 at 7pm
Baseball in Japan with Mr. Sakamaki, President of the Japan Society of Fairfield County, and Bobby Valentine – Thursday, September 23 at 7pm
Baseball Breaking Barriers with Craig Davidson, filmmaker and baseball historian – Tuesday, October 5 at 7pm
Local Heroes Guided Tours with Don Harrison – Thursday, October 14 at 10am
Haunted Baseball & Field of Screams with Dan Gordon – Wednesday, October 20 at 7pm
An Evening with Frank DeFord – Tuesday, November 16 at 7pm
“Base Ball” as Mark Twain Knew It – Thursday, December 2 at 7pm
All in all, it is an interesting special exhibit and I would encourage anyone interested in the history of baseball in the Fairfield and Bridgeport area to stop down and check it out. Check out some of the special events as well. It runs through January 2011. More details can be found on the museum’s website.
The following are some personal thoughts on a couple of special area baseball favorites of mine.
James O’Rourke, one of the dozens of figures celebrated in the exhibit, lived in Bridgeport, CT. He is a member of the baseball Hall of Fame and holds the distinctions of having been the first player to get a base hit in the National League and the oldest player, at 54 years-old, to hit safely in a major league game. Recently, his house, located south of I-95, near the location of the former Carpenter Steel plant was demolished after a prolonged attempt to find someone to move and restore it was unsuccessful. The house would be given away with the proviso that the new owner would move the house to a new location. My friend, Dave and I toyed with the idea of acquiring the house, buying some property, moving the house, restoring it and turning into a museum/sports bar. But then reality set in and the rest is history. The house is now gone, but I collected a brick from the foundation to remember it. Mr. O’Rourke is buried nearby in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Stratford, however, there are no markings on his grave indicating his baseball nor Hall of Fame status.
Neal Ball was friends with my grandparents, a fellow trap and skeet shooter with my grandfather, Dewey Simmons. There is a long and interesting family story here, maybe I’ll detail it in a future post. For now, suffice it to say that Neal Ball completed the 1st unassisted triple play in Major League History. The glove that he used to accomplish the feat is enshrined in Cooperstown and he is buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport.