Mike Roer

The End of an Era: TV Enriches the Majors and Impoverishes the Minors

Nothing could stem the slow retreat of baseball from the relentless onslaught of TV.  As the sales of larger and cheaper sets increased, ticket sales for baseball declined.  In 1950, minor league attendance dropped by 17%.  Major league attendance fell by 14%, but the majors were compensated by royalties from the networks.



There may have been a relationship with the Tigers, as the Bridgeport Telegram reported that General Manager Frank Silva had contacted Detroit for some help in filling out the roster (Telegram 5-2-1950).


Owners Brunetto and Sherwood brought Bud Stapleton back to manage.  Ironically, Bud would preside over the demise of Bridgeport baseball in 1950 as he did during the depression in 1932. 


July 4 - The Colonial League team owners met in Bridgeport to vote on continuing or folding in the face of mounting losses due to poor attendance.  The owners decided to tough it out.


July 13 - The Waterbury players struck because the owners would not allow them to stay over in Kingston where they had a game scheduled for the following evening.  Bees Business Manager Frank Silva sold Joe DiMaggio (cousin of the Yankee Clipper) to the Port Arthur (TX) club for an undisclosed sum (New York Times, July 14, 1950).


July 14 - Bridgeport and Torrington withdrew from the League due to heavy losses.  


July 16 - The Colonial League disbanded.  Only Bridgeport mentioned broadcasting of major league games as contributing to the failure of the league. (Bridgeport was the closest to the New York market.) All owners blamed damp and chilly weather.  (Hello, New England.)

The Bridgeport club owners lost $300 per day on baseball ($75,000 in four years).  However, they made money on auto racing, "thrill shows," and other events at the complex which included a track as well as a football and baseball stadium.



Carl Brunetto sponsored the Bears, a semi-pro team in a new state league, but the circuit failed in July.



No professional baseball in Bridgeport.

Financial Panic.

On a rainy night In May, Brunetto and Sherwood (holding hammer) desperately tried to raise attendance.  Prior to this price reduction, tickets were selling for $1.20 for the grandstand and $.65 for bleacher seats. In June the owners appealed to local service clubs to help sell tickets. Nothing worked.


Bridgeport Herald, 5/21/1950.

Was former New York Governor Mario Cuomo a Bridgeport Bee?

There is a statement by Cuomo in Ken Burn's documentary, Baseball, that he was playing for the Bridgeport Bees [in 1949] when he was discovered by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He adds that he had an opportunity to hit against Whitey Ford in a game against Binghamton (NY).  So what's the problem?  Cuomo did not play for Bridgeport in 1949. 


Well, maybe it wasn't 1949.  So we checked every paper for every day in 1947, 1948, and 1950 (the only years Cuomo and Bridgeport baseball were alove). Bupkiss.

What if he played under an assumed name?  Perhaps he planned all along to be the Governor of New York and did not want to leave behind evidence that he had played ball across the border in Connecticut.  So we checked the pedigree of everyone who ever played for Bridgeport: date, place of birth, nationality, etc. to determine if he were Mario playing under another name (as Lou Gehrig did in 1921).  Nope. Strike two.

Who might be able to shed some light on this  mystery?  I listened to the Cuomo segment of Baseball again.  The Pirates!  They must know when they hired Mario and from whom.  We wrote to the Pirates organization and spoke to a Ben Bouma who was very helpful and indicated that Cuomo was indeed signed by the Pirates in the winter of 1949-50.  The Pirate's records do not indicate what team he was purchaed from, if any.  Mario was born June 15, 1932, so he would have been 17 when he signed.  According to Buomo, Cuomo was sent to Spring training in San Bernadino. 


Mario apparently returned to school for the 1950 season. In 1951, he signed with Salisbury (NC) on August 8 as a free agent.  (Bruce Chadwick, Baseball's Hometown Teams, p. 138).  In 1952, "Matt" Cuomo played center field for the Brunswick (GA) Pirates, a Pittsburgh farm club. He was hitting .353  when he injured his wrist in a collision with the outfield fence, and later spent two weeks in the hospital after being hit in the head with a pitch. He finished the season hitting .244 with one home run and 26 RBI in 81 games and retired from professional baseball. (www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/C/Cuomo_Mario.stm)


Now there was only one person left who could unravel this contradiction.  I wrote to Mario Cuomo to ask for clarification but did not receive a reply to my letter.  Perhaps, as governor, he had better things to do.


Was Mario Cuomo a Bridgeport Bee?  Probably not.  My guess is that Mario was confused by all the "Bees."  Binghamton, Brunswick, Bridgeport. 


What we do know for sure about Matt was he was elected New York State's Governor in 1982, 1986 and 1990.


Of course, if you change the "B" to a "C", Buomo becomes Cuomo.  H-m-m-m.