The Charter Oak Base Ball Club, founded in the summer of 1862, was one of the the first baseball teams 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. At first, the team’s home games were usually played in Bushnell Park. As baseball continued to gain popularity, Colt Park became a popular venue for games as well.
Today in 1865, three years after forming, the Charter Oak Base Ball Club celebrated the conclusion of a championship season with a one-of-a-kind team trophy. The day after their final game of the year – played in Worcester Massachusetts. – the returning team was presented with a miniature bat adorned 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, the state’s most cherished cultural symbol, which had fallen in a storm nine years before. The unique trophy was housed in a protective rosewood box labeled “Emblem of the Championship of Connecticut.” Its presentation marked the start of what was intended to become a lasting tradition: the iconic Charter Oak bat trophy was to be the possession of each season’s most successful Connecticut baseball team.
By the turn of the century, however, the Charter Oak Base Ball Club had dissolved, and the iconic trophy it received today in 1865 had disappeared with it . Baseball in Connecticut, however, was more popular than ever. Hartford’s first professional baseball team, the Hartford Dark Blues, became a charter member of baseball’s National League in 1876. Team owner and future governor Morgan G. Buckley was the National League’s 1st President.
A century and a half after the founding of the Charter Oak Base Ball Club, minor league professional baseball teams thrive (pandemic lockdowns aside) all across Connecticut. And somewhere out there, the Charter Oak bat, “Emblem of the Championship of Connecticut,” is undoubtedly sitting on some trophy bench, waiting for another chance to celebrate the state’s favorite pastime.
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