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
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.
1996 Newington, Connecticut
This book is
dedicated to my family.
Chapter 1 – as told by
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.
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.
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.
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
Chapter 2 – as told by Joe
Joe joined the Club in 1967 and has
served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President.
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.”
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
John is a long time member of the
Club and has served on the Board of Directors.
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.
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
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.
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 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 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
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.
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
Chapter 8 – as told by Hank
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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 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.
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?”
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.