Mike Roer

The Bees

After a hibernation of nine years, the Bridgeport Bears emerged as the Bridgeport Bees.  The club was named for its parent club, the National League Boston Bees, who saw Bridgeport as an ideal location for a farm club.  At the time, Hartford was also affiliated with the Boston club. 


(The Boston owners thought they could improve their seventh place standing of 1940 by changing the team name from the Braves to the Bees.  It did not help; they finished seventh again in 1941, so they changed the name back to the "Braves"in 1942; and finished seventh.  The Bridgeport owners stuck with the Bees.  But I digress.)


Annual Baseball Highlights



No professional baseball in Bridgeport.



The Quinn brothers, who owned the Boston Bees, hired former major league shortstop Rudy Hulswitt to manage the Bridgeport club.  As president of the Boston farm system, John Quinn was also president of the Bridgeport Bees.  Brother Bob was president of the parent Boston Bees organization.


Bridgeport succeeded York (PA) in the Class B Interstate League, inheriting its players.


The Boston club secured a two-year lease of Newfield Park which was still owned and operated by the O'Rourke family.  The proprietor, Ray Hanke, was married to Jim O'Rourke's youngest daughter, Edith.


Bridgeport finished the 1941 season in last place. 


As a result of poor attendance and its financial performance the Boston organization elected not to retain Bridgeport as a farm team for 1942 (Washington Post, January 13, 1942). This soon became a moot point. The December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor rang the death knell for the minor leagues, and almost for the majors. 

The 1941 Bees in Action at Newfield Park. 
The homes visible behind the well-protected umpire were built by John O’Rourke.



Most minor leagues shut down for the duration of the Second World War.  Newfield Park deteriorated from disuse.  In an era of coal rationing, the granstand–that first saw action in 1886 at Atletic Park–was canibalized for firewood by neighborhood residents.  By the Spring thaw of 1944, all remnants of the ball park that had witnessed at least two-dozen promising players on their way to the show, were gone. 


The O'Rourke family abandoned the vandalized ball field and the city took over the property for unpaid taxes. 


Nevertheless, Bees utility player Bobby Sherwood would resurrect baseball in Bridgeport in 1947.


Bobby Sherwood and Carl Brunetto relaunched the Bees as part of the new Class B Colonial League.  However, there were several differences from the 1941 Bees:


  • Instead of Newfield Park, the home of the team would be Candelite Park, formerly Schwarz Field.  
    Sherwood and Brunetto convinced entrepreneur John G. Schwarz to expand the seating at his 
    private baseball park to accommodate the pro team.

  • Although they retained the name "Bees," the new owners teamed up with the Washington Senators instead of the Boston Braves.  According to first baseman Frank Piascik in a 10-8-1999 interview, the 1947 Bees was not a farm club, but instead had "a working agreement" with Washington.  "We got Welterroth and several good Cuban players from the Senators."


  • The owners introduced midget auto racing to supplement the income from baseball. 


Baseball returned to the Park City with a vengeance.  On opening day, Louis Biros stole home, and Jack Burt hit a grand slam over the right field fence.  Then it was all down hill.  Due probably to inexperience and financial anxiety, the co-owners churned through more than fifty players.


On July 15, realizing they needed some professional assistance, Sherwood and Brunetto signed former Cincinnati Reds catcher Tony DePhillips to manage.  Still, the team finished dead last in the six-team league.  (July 15 was too late to start getting organized.)


As George Will points out in Men at Work, the "natural" baseball player is a myth.  Sherwood and Brunetto apparently thought otherwise, as they kept turning over and shifting personnel, looking for a few good Roy Hobbses.


Prior to this time, Bridgeport had sent enough players to the majors to staff an entire league, not because the previous owners and managers stumbled upon great talent, but because they developed great ball players.  This takes time.


The club started over.  Glenn Snyder of Ada, Oklahoma, was brought in to manage.  He lasted only a few months.  In July, the owners hired their fourth manager: Dan "Buddy" Hall.  The team brought its win rate up to .459 (from .377 in 1947) and finished fifth, one place from the cellar.


There was one bit of good news in 1948.  Midget racing really took off.  Four thousand spectators witnessed the opening event of the season.   Profits from auto racing kept the Brunetto-Sherwood enterprise afloat, subsidizing losses on baseball.


John Millo, then a 16-year-old assistant to Manager Snyder, tells of another first in 1948: the home-plate marriage of shortstop Jose Blanco.  Several years later, Millo and his wife, Joyce, held their wedding reception at the stadium.  The Millos owned a building supply company in Bridgeport.