The Charter Oak Base Ball Club, founded in the summer of 1862, was the first baseball team to be formed in Hartford. Their stated mission was to “establish on a scientific basis the health-giving and scientific game of Base Ball, and to promote good fellowship among its players.” In the age before national professional sports associations, the Charter Oak Club stated it would play by “New York” rules, even though most of the teams it faced hailed from southern New England. Games were frequently played in Bushnell Park; as baseball continued to gain popularity through the latter half of the 19th century, Colt Park became a popular venue as well.
Today in 1865, Hartford’s Charter Oak Base Ball Club celebrated a victorious season after playing their final game of the year in Worcester Massachusetts the night before. In honor of their winning record, the team was presented with a miniature bat with silver embellishments by J. G. Belden of Hartford. The bat came with a certificate certifying that it was made with wood from Connecticut’s famous Charter Oak tree, which had been knocked down in a storm nine years before. The bat was presented in a rosewood box labeled “Emblem of the Championship of Connecticut.” On that day, a new tradition was born: the Charter Oak-derived bat would remain in the possession of the most successful Connecticut baseball team until they lost to another.
By the turn of the century, the Charter Oak Base Ball Club had dissolved, but baseball was as popular as ever in Hartford, home to the state’s first professional baseball team in the 1870s, the Hartford Dark Blues. Today, minor league professional baseball teams are thriving all across Connecticut, thanks in part to the precedent established by amateur teams like the Charter Oak Club over 150 years ago. And the Charter Oak bat, “Emblem of the Championship of Connecticut?” It’s sitting somewhere on someone’s proverbial bench, no doubt, waiting for another chance to be part of the game.
Rebecca Furer, “Baseball’s Back in Hartford,” Connecticut Historical Society
Gary O’Maxfield, “The Charter Oak Base Ball Club,” Hartford, Connecticut: A Photographic Survey blog