World Series Club of Hartford County
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CONNIE MACK TO MO VAUGHN
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Our next meeting will be Thursday December 18 at the Portuguese Club in Newington, our guests will be UConn coach Jim Penders, Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed, and Dodgers prospect Michael Ahmed.

DIRECTIONS
Meetings are held at the VFW in West Hartford or the Portuguese Club in Newington.

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Tim Brennan - President
timbrennantc
@ gmail.com

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Note: In 1996 Larry Brennan, a WSC board member, researched and wrote an oral history of the World Series Club. Commemorating the Club’s 70th anniversary, his work was a true labor of love. Larry would go on to serve as Club President from 2000 until 2004.

Introduction – By Larry Brennan

This book is about the World Series Club of Hartford County. Written on the Club’s seventieth anniversary, the work is based on oral interviews of fourteen of its members. In essence, they have written this work and therefore, the Club’s history is found in the stories they tell.

It must be made clear that as is the case with most history, it is incomplete. The research of the author does not reveal any previously written history. All that is available is photographs and newspaper clippings of guest speakers and most of them do not go further back than the 1960s. For that reason, the interview method was used to uncover the Club’s past.

These interviews reveal that the Club’s popularity is, to a degree, similar to that of baseball. Both have had their peaks and valleys over the years. There have been two instances when the Club’s fortunes were at such a low ebb that its existence was threatened. On each of those occasions, strong leadership and dedicated members came forth to make the necessary changes resulting in a revitalization of the Club.

This book is also the history of many of those leaders and members. These people have been dedicated for years to the preservation and improvement of what has been called the only such organization of its kind in the country. Where else can kids hear a baseball personality speak and get free autographs? To my knowledge, the World Series Club of Hartford County is not only the oldest, it is also the most unique in the history of the Hot Stove League.

It has been said that all sports engender stories, but no sport has spawned so many great stories as baseball. What baseball fan doesn’t know at least one Yogi Berra story? Literally hundreds of stories have been told by the guest speakers at the meetings of the World Series Club. Most of the speakers have proved to be very apt storytellers. Their efforts often times have left their listeners rolling in the aisles with laughter. Some of those stories are found in this book.

Founded in 1926, the World Series Club of Hartford County is alive and well. During the past seventy years, both baseball and the Club have undergone changes. Unfortunately, the recent baseball strike had an adverse effect on the popularity of both the sport and the Club. However, just as fans across the nation are rediscovering the thrill of baseball, local fans are finding their way back to the good times at the World Series Club.

Larry Brennan
November 1, 1996 Newington, Connecticut
This book is dedicated to my family.

Chapter 1 – as told by Larry Howard

Larry is one of the outstanding trivia buffs in the World Series Club. He joined the Club in 1973 and has served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President.

Dick McAuliffe

One of the speakers at the Club that I thought spoke well was Dick McAuliffe, the infielder for both the Tigers and the Red Sox. I remember him because he told a lot of amusing stories. He told that famed story about when Gates Brown was playing with the Tigers back in the late 60’s. I guess that Gates Brown usually didn’t get into the ballgames until the eighth or ninth inning as a pinch hitter. This particular day, he was taking it easy in the dugout and feeling hungry; he bought some hot dogs. He slopped the mustard all over them and was getting ready to eat them when all of a sudden Mayo Smith, who was the manager at that time, said, “Gates, go up and bat.” Gates didn’t want to lose his hot dogs, so he stuffed them under his uniform shirt. He came up and got a base hit. He was on first base when Kaline lined a hit to right center. Brown lumbered around second and did a belly slide into third base. The hot dogs and mustard went flying all over the place. When he got up, everyone knew what had happened. McAuliffe witnessed the whole thing from the bench and stated that he was rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Bill Campbell

Questions that kids have asked our speakers at our meetings have often resulted in amusing responses from the ball players. Bill Campbell, former Red Sox and Twins relief pitcher, was asked by a young fan, “What do you guys do on your road trips?” Bill just stood there for a few minutes as everybody in the audience died laughing. All our minds were working overtime at that point. Bill came back with a very humorous story that happened back in the late 70’s right after the Jays had entered the league. Boston had gone up there for a doubleheader and there were all kinds of plane and bus problems. At one point, Campbell and some other players were hitching rides because their rental car had broken down. While they were standing around, not knowing what to do, some other Sox players approached in a car. They just waved and drove on by. But somehow the team got back together and went in there and swept a doubleheader. That’s one of the wildest stories that you’ll ever hear about a road trip.

Tug McGraw

I remember the time we had Tug McGraw as a speaker. I guess we were doing a lot of relief pitchers back then. McGraw was delayed in New York and showed up late. He handled his late arrival in an amusing way by stating that relief pitchers are never needed at the beginning and for that reason he thought he’d wait until about the eighth inning before he arrived. Later, during his speech, he was making gestures with a spoon in his hand. One of the kids asked him, “Why are you shaking that spoon?” McGraw, for once in his life, was speechless.

Chapter 2 – as told by Joe Mandeville

Joe joined the Club in 1967 and has served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President.

Johnny Pesky

Johnny Pesky was one of the better speakers we have had. We had him a couple of times and even made him an honorary member. He was great for telling stories about the days of Ted Williams with the Red Sox. He told about one time when Ted was giving him some hints on batting. Pesky was so hung up on his own ways of hitting that he wasn’t paying Ted much attention. Finally, he said, “Ted, I’m stuck on this way of hitting. This is my way.” Williams replied, “Well the hell with you. If all you want to be is a .300 hitter, do it your way.”

Tom Gorman

Now I’d like to speak about what the Club means to me personally. My son George started coming to the meetings when he was about nine years old. This is when the meetings were at the Hedges Restaurant. I believe we may have left the Hedges in about 1976. There were a lot of fathers taking their sons in those days. It was great going with your son to those meetings. My next door neighbor had a son about the same age as my boy George. This man was a member too and for several years, the four of us would make a monthly trip to the World Series Club. At one of those meetings, we had the National League umpire Tom Gorman as a speaker. We were sitting at the middle table, right in front of him, not five feet away. Tom Gorman began speaking while we were having dessert. My neighbor’s little son was eating his ice cream when Gorman pointed at him and in a loud voice shouted, “Hey you, quit eating while I’m talking.” The kid was terrified and quickly put his spoon down. We all laughed and gave the kid a big hand. It’s the kids who have said and done some of the funniest things at the meetings.

Chapter 4 – as told by John Reardon

John is a long time member of the Club and has served on the Board of Directors.

Al Nipper

The first speaker at the Club that I would talk about would be Al Nipper. He is a close friend of the family and at one time lived with us. When my son was in kindergarten, he brought Al to school and used him for show and tell. This shows what type of person Al is. Al Nipper was probably the best student of the game that I ever knew. He wanted to study it all the way through. He read all the books he could on the subject. His real hero was Tom Seaver. Another outstanding thing about Al is that he loves to talk to kids about the game, especially pitching.

Dock Ellis

Our last speaker of the ’95 – ’96 season was Dock Ellis. On the day he spoke to the Club he came over to my school, Mountain View. When he spoke there, it was wonderful. He was an excellent speaker and a very well dressed man. After he spoke to the fifth graders for several minutes about his playing days, he told them, “I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.” Later he added that he hadn’t been into substance abuse of any kind for seventeen years. You should have seen those kids perk up and listen to Dock talk about drug abuse. He had a message. Dock also talked a lot of how he had put his life together after drugs. Just a great speaker.

Chapter 5 – as told by Rich Cottone

Rich joined the World Series Club in 1976 and began serving on the Board of Directors the following year. He was President of the Club from 1978 to 1985.

Don Mattingly

Then we had Don Mattingly, who was coming off part of a season with the Yankees. He made the comment that if he ever won the batting title, he would return to speak at the Club and that he would speak for the same fee. He appreciated the fact that we’d invited him to speak when he was a mere rookie. The next season, he won the batting title and was voted MVP. He kept his word and returned as a guest to the Club. Once again, we had to turn people away. But what a gentleman to keep his word!

Bill Buckner

Bill Buckner was our first speaker for the ’85 – ’86 season. The baseball season had ended the day before he spoke. The team had gone out and partied the night before and Bill was a “wounded puppy” when he appeared that night. The Red Sox had a lackluster year, but Buckner had finished the year with 201 hits. He brought with him the ball from hit number 201. He put it in our raffle. I remember talking to him earlier when we were a couple of hundred dollars apart on the appearance fee. Buckner said, “Well you know what I do sometimes is that I’ll bring a ball or a bat or something.” Believe it or not, that is what got us started on the type of raffle that we have today at the meetings.

Bobby Valentine

Bobby Valentine was our next guest speaker. This was his second appearance at the Club. This time he came as the Texas Rangers manager. This person has an incredible memory. When people would approach him at the meeting to shake his hand, Valentine called a couple of them by their first name. I asked him, “Do you know that man?” I knew that Valentine grew up in Stanford, Connecticut. He replied, “No, I remember meeting him when I was here three years ago.” I looked at him and asked if he was serious. He said, “Absolutely, I don’t forget names. Why should I?”

Chapter 6 – as told by Tom Zocco

Tom joined the World Series Club in 1974 and has served on the Board of Directors. He was President of the Club from 1993 to 1995.

Wade Boggs

The thing I remember most about the second time that Wade Boggs spoke was that at the end of the evening, we had some left over chicken from the buffet. Knowing his love of fried chicken, we said, “Wade, you can have all of the left over chicken.” Someone gave him a bag and he took it all home with him.

Chapter 8 – as told by Hank Carlson

Hank’s involvement with the World Series Club began in 1978. He has been on the Board of Directors and was President from 1986 to 1992.

Mike Torrez

Over the years, we have had many, many great speakers. One of my favorites happened to be Mike Torrez, who came to speak at the Club at the drop of a hat. We were supposed to have someone else and he cancelled. Rich Cottone, who was absolutely great at getting speakers, made an eleventh hour plea and got Mike Torrez. Mike didn’t know where the Club was meeting. So I had him come over to my house beforehand. He was a very tall, dashing, handsome guy. You may have heard that there was a lot of arrogance about him and that he didn’t like to talk to people after he gave up the home run to Bucky Dent. Well, listen to this. He arrived early at my house in his Mercedes. We sat and talked to Mike for about an hour before we went to the meeting. He gave me a ball for our raffle signed by the 1985 Mets. He gave another ball to my son Jeff. Then he invited Jeff to ride in his Mercedes to the World Series Club. Mike was a great guy. He sat and chatted by the hour and the people loved him. He left us all kinds of pictures and signed autographs without hesitating.

Roy White

We had Roy White in 1991. He was a true gentleman. I invited a couple of my friends who are Yankee fans to my house to meet White before the meeting. They couldn’t believe that I, being a Red Sox fan, would ever invite a Yankee player to my house. My friends came to my house, met Roy White, and were just absolutely dumbfounded. He sat and talked to them about the ’78 playoffs. Then he talked about Mickey Mantle and all the other great Yankees that he had played with. I always hated the Yankees, but there was one of them that I always admired and that was Roy White.

Dana Kiecker

Another really classy player we had was Dana Kiecker, who had a short career with the Red Sox. We had a big crowd the night he spoke. Dana spent over an hour after the meeting signing autographs. Later, he did something really special. A few weeks after the meeting, he sent us a letter in which he thanked us for having him and stating what a great time he had with us. It’s those kind of experiences with the real class acts that really stick with you.

Chapter 10 – as told by Tony Cavallaro

Tony has been a member of the World Series Club since 1976. He has been on the Board of Directors and served as Vice President for three years.

Joe Pepitone

When we had Joe Pepitone as a speaker, he spoke about the time in 1968- and I remember this incident vividly- when Mickey Mantle was in his last year as a player. The Yanks were playing a late season game in Detroit and the Tigers had a big lead late in the game. Up comes Mickey to bat with two out and nobody on. Denny McLain, the Detroit pitcher, motions out to Bill Freehan, the catcher, that he wanted to talk to him. Bill went out to the mound. McLain says, “Listen, this is probably his last year. We’ve got a big lead. I’m going to groove one and let him hit it.” Freehan gets back behind the plate and whispers to Mickey, “McLain is going to groove it.” Mantle didn’t believe it. McLain kept his word and threw it right over the plate. Then he realized that Denny was kidding and he motioned for him to just bring the next pitch down a little bit in the strike zone. Mickey hit the next pitch out of the ballpark. Mantle circled the bases and waved at McLain. Everybody knew what was going on. Joe Pepitone was the next batter. He gets up there and motions to McLain exactly where he wants the pitch. McLain promptly plunked him in the head. What made the story even funnier when Pepitone told it at the meeting, was that I actually remembered seeing the whole incident on television.

Chapter 11 – as told by Mort Dunn

Mort has been a member of the World Series Club since the early 1970’s. He has been on the Board of Directors and was President from 1975 to 1978. All veteran members agree that Mort was the one most instrumental in saving the Club in the early 1970’s.

Ralph Kiner

Often I would invite the players to stay with me. That way we could save the Club some money for hotel rooms and I would have the pleasure of sitting down and talking to them. Ralph Kiner agreed to that. At about one-thirty in the morning, Kiner finally turned to me and said, “Would you mind if I went to bed?”

Terry Tata

When we had the National League Umpire Terry Tata speak, he also accepted my invitation. Another fellow by the name of John Daley, who used to be my assistant coach in Legion ball, was spending the night in my house. The three of us were having a marvelous time talking baseball. John and I were getting Tata’s impressions about who were the good hitters and pitchers. Then around midnight, my wife, not knowing that Tata had come back to the house, shouted from upstairs, “Aren’t the two of you going to go to bed?” John, who knew my wife well, shouted back, “Sylvia, it’s not the two of us, it’s the three of us.”

A few years later, Sylvia and I were down in Florida. We had gone there so that I could take in a few spring training games. One morning, we were having breakfast in Vero Beach when I heard someone yell, “Hey, Mort Dunn.” It was Terry Tata. He was in town because he was umpiring later in the day. It’s fun to make these connections, especially in baseball or anything you love as much as I do that sport.

Tug McGraw

Let me speak about a fellow who gave one of the best talks, Tug McGraw. After McGraw arrived, I showed him a baseball program that I had saved from a Mets-Dodgers game some years before. That was McGraw’s first game in the majors and obviously the first time his name had appeared in a major league program. When I showed it to Tug, he couldn’t get over the fact that there it was, his name for the first time in a major league program. Later at the meeting, while we were sitting together at the head table, he turned to me and in a low voice said, “Can I see that program again?”

When I opened that meeting up for questions, there was this youngster sitting in the front row. I would say he was probably fourteen. The boy started, in a nice way, to harass McGraw. And Tug, also in a nice way, gave it back to him. You could feel the electricity in the air. They hit it off so perfectly. Back and forth they went. If I’d had a video camera, I would have been able to retire because it would have meant a million-dollar movie. It was better than anything that Hollywood could produce.

McGraw told the story about how his father would go to the ballgames when he was pitching in the majors. When McGraw would get in a tough spot on the mound, he’d look up in the stands and see his father to get the inspiration he needed to finish the job. These are the types of stories that have made our speakers so great.

Chapter 13 – as told by Dick Thurston

Dick joined the World Series Club in 1965 and was a member until 1978. He was on the Board of Directors and served as Club President as well.

Roy Campanella

We had Roy Campanella at one of our meetings after he was paralyzed. As everyone knows, he was confined to a wheelchair. He had an attendant who traveled with him. It was interesting what happened when kids asked Campy for an autograph. The attendant would take the ball and put it in the former catcher’s hands. Then the attendant would take the ball and write Campy’s autograph on it. It didn’t bother the kids that it wasn’t Campy who had signed it. The fact that the great Dodger catcher had held it was a thrill for them.

Brooks Robinson

In the ’68 – ’69 season of the Club, we had Brooks Robinson. Walter Lawrence, my oldest son, and I went to WTIC to pick him up and bring him to the meeting. They had interviewed him there for television. When we got to The Hedges, he immediately began signing autographs for everybody. He was most personable in his approach. I don’t think I ever met any player at the Club who was so down to earth.

After the meeting, Brooks asked for a ride to his hotel at the airport. Walt Lawrence said, “Come to Manchester and spend the night with my wife and me and I’ll get you to the airport on time for that early flight.” On the way to Manchester, Brooks sat in the back seat with my youngest son Rick, and I sat in the front seat with Walt. When we stopped at my house to drop Rick and me off, Brooks got out and stood on our sidewalk for a minute to say goodbye. When Brooks had that great World Series two years later, all the neighborhood kids were knocking on the door and asking my wife, “Is it true what Rick is saying? Did Brooks Robinson really stand right there on your sidewalk?”

Walter Lawrence got up early and took Brooks to the airport. As he was saying goodbye he said, “Brooks, take it easy on our Red Sox. And if the Orioles make it to the World Series, I’d sure like to get tickets.” “You got them”, was the reply. Sure enough, the Orioles played the Mets that year and we had two tremendous seats. There we were, Walt and I, sitting close to Brooks’ wife Connie and their children.

When Brooks came to speak at the Club for the second time, Mort Dunn asked me if I would introduce him. This time, his son had accompanied him. After the meeting, Brooks came up to me and thanked me for the introduction. He especially appreciated the fact that his son had heard me say some kind words about him.

Other times when Brooks spoke in the area, I would go to see him. He would always remember my name. I always had tickets if the Orioles were in the World Series. He never forgot us. It just goes to prove what kind of person he is. We never had another speaker like him.

Chapter 14 – as told by George Mandeville

George is the son of long time member Joe Mandeville. He has been a member of the Club since the early 1970’s. George has served on the Board of Directors and was Club President from 1996 to 2000.

Bill Lee

The speakers we’ve had over the years all have their claim to fame. Bill Lee was by far the most amusing speaker that we’ve had. I’m not even sure that he knows what he’s saying when he is speaking, but that’s part of the fun. I had the opportunity to speak with him after the meeting at a local pub, and his stories are just endless.


PAST SPEAKERS
In the illustrious history of the World Series Club, we've had over 330 baseball professionals as the featured speaker at our meetings.

Find out more in our past speakers section.

HISTORY
Want to know a little more about the history of the club?

Check out our history section.

LITTLE LEAGUE
The World Series Club is a proud sponsor of the Newington Little League and West Hartford Little League

Find out more.

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