Exploring The Last Green Valley – Big League Baseball & The Last Green Valley
Big League Baseball & The Last Green Valley
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.
From “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
I have to admit that each morning from April through September I check the baseball box scores first before reading the other news of the day. This season the Red Sox (my favorite team) have been in and out of first place in the American League East so I have been keeping a close eye on the standings and scores.
Here in The Last Green Valley we are a two-team region – Red Sox and Yankees in our Connecticut towns (Yankees especially in the southern part of the region closer to New York) and Red Sox in our Massachusetts towns. Since I am originally from the Boston area my team is the Sox, though as a kid one of my prized possessions was a Mickey Mantle baseball card.
The other day I got to thinking about baseball players who have come from the 35 towns that comprise The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. I knew about Connie Mack from East Brookfield and Walt Drapo from Moosup but I sure was surprised when I discovered a total of 24 big leaguers from our region with 17 from our Connecticut towns and 7 from our Massachusetts towns.
Good thing for me that baseball is the most statistics-oriented sport there is. There are websites with “stats” on every ball player who ever played for a major league team. With professional baseball going back into the 19th century – that’s a lot of player information.
In just about an hour of searching the internet I found several interesting players from our region. Perhaps you’ve heard about the exploits of Connie Mack, big league manager who holds the unbeatable record of 3,776 victories, or Walt Drapo, who in 1950 became the first Red Sox player to be named Rookie of the Year. But did you know there are three currently active major league baseball players from Norwich including Rajai Davis with the Cleveland Indians, Eric Campbell with the New York Mets and Dominic Leone with the Arizona Diamondbacks?
Here is a list of the professional baseball players from our region.
- Bruce Boisilair, Killingly, played for the Mets in the 1970s.
- Eric Campbell, Norwich, is an active player with the Mets, starting his career in 2008.
- Scott Chiasson, Norwich, played for the Cubs from 2001-2002.
- Rajai Davis, Norwich, has been an active player since 2001 and is currently with the Indians.
- Bill Dawley, Norwich, played for the Astros, White Sox, Cardinals, Phillies, & Athletics in the 1980s.
- George Derby, Webster, played for the Wolverines from 1881-1883.
- Walt Drapo, Moosup (Plainfield), played from 1949-1961 with the Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox, Reds and Orioles.
- Bill Fox, Sturbridge, played from 1897-1901, finishing his career with the Reds.
- Pete Gilbert, Baltic (Sprague), played for the Orioles in the 1890s.
- Frank Gilmore, Webster, played the Nationals from 1886-1888.
- Paul Johnson, North Grosvenordale (Thompson), played for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1920-1921.
- Candy LaChance, Putnam, played for the Brooklyn Grooms, Orioles, Cleveland Blues, & Boston Americans, from 1893-1905.
- Arthur (Hi) Ladd, Willimantic (Windham), played for the Pirates in 1898.
- Roger LaFrancois, Norwich, played for the Red Sox in 1982.
- Dominic Leone, Norwich, is an active player who started his career in 2014 with the Mariners and is now with the Diamondbacks.
- Connie Mack, East Brookfield, played from 1886 to 1896 for the Washington Nationals, Buffalo Bisons and Pittsburg Pirates before turning to management. He managed the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 till 1951 when he retired at the age of 88.
- Pat Maloney, North Grosvenordale, played for the NY Highlanders in 1912.
- Mike Robertson, Norwich, played for the White Sox in 1996, Phillies in 1997 and Diamondbacks in 1998.
- Henri Rondeau, Danielson (Killingly), played for the Tigers and Senators from 1913-1916.
- Rollie Sheldon, Putnam, played for the Yankees, Kansas City Athletics and Red Sox from 1961-1966.
- General Stafford, Thompson, played for the Buffalo Bison in 1890.
- John Stafford, Dudley, played for the Cleveland Spiders in 1893.
- Mike Sullivan, Webster, played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1888.
- Jerry Turbidy, Dudley, played for the Kansas City Cowboys in 1884.
In the hearts of many Little Leaguers is the desire to someday become a big league baseball player. I have wonderful memories of playing on my hometown Little League team, the Indians. To this day I still have the trophy from winning our town championship in 1967. I wasn’t a good enough player to make my high school team, but that didn’t diminish my love of the game.
As I visit the 35 towns that comprise The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, I drive past many baseball and softball fields. The tradition of playing what has been called our national pastime is alive in our hill towns and mill towns. It was from these small-town baseball fields that players from Connie Mack to Walt Drapo to Dominic Leone began their journey to professional baseball. Perhaps the next major league baseball player from The Last Green Valley is just now starting out in Little League. I guess time will only tell.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the preceding article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.
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