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Washington Baseball - A Tradition

by Joey Martin, a.k.a. "Papa Joe"

Growing up in Washington, Connecticut, was a great thing for young people. The first thing we did after breakfast was hook our baseball glove onto our belts and run off to school with our dogs following close behind. After school we all gathered at the ball field and played One O'cat or regular baseball if we had enough kids. We played until mom had dinner at 6 o'clock and you had better be there or you got your come uppings.

Every Sunday was a get together for the town at the ball field. I was the bat boy for the Washington Townies.

I remember seeing Fay Vincent play on our field, his son became the Commissioner of Baseball.

I wanted to play ball just like our home town heroes. I played baseball all my years in high school and I mostly remember all the fun we had. The Washington Townies played against all the towns in the area - New Preston, New Milford, Kent, Woodbury, Litchfield, Roxbury and many more too numerous to mention. We would have as many as 300 fans at a game and most of the merchants from each town would bet on the games which made them real exciting.

One game I remember we were playing New Milford and the whole town was there. We didn't have fences in those days so we put up a snow fence in the outfield, just to make it more exciting. Our best hitter was Burt Calhoun but he couldn't play that day because of a real bad headache. It was the last inning and Washington was losing, I believe two to one. We got a runner on, and Charlie McGuiness our coach asked Burt to pinch hit. He was sitting in the crowd. We put a shirt on Burt and guess what? He hit one over the snow fence and we won. The whole town was happy and richer.

I remember a game at Young's Field in New Milford and the first base bank was completely covered with fans. Snuffy Stirnweiss, who later played second base for the Yankees, hit a ball to straight center field and our centerfielder Leo Pickett went all the way back to the Housatonic River bank and caught it. Snuffy shook his head and said that would have been a home run at Yankee Stadium.

Another game I remember . . . we were playing the Kent Townies, who had a great catcher from Roxbury named Don Conway. Don was also the Kent manager and we had a little crafty lefty pitcher named Bob Fray. Those two never saw eye-to-eye and Bob was quite a needler. That day Don was catching and Bob was on him pretty bad. Don had enough and ran over to our dugout, but in those days we kept our bats on the ground in front of the dugout. Don tripped on the bats and fell and we all were able to quiet the melee. Don and Bob were both suspended by the Pomperaug League, but now these things are great memories.

We won the Pomperaug League one year and Waterbury asked us to play a game against the team that won the Waterbury League. Our pitcher was really good, but we only had one, so we asked Steve Blass, who pitched at Housatonic Regional High School and also for the Kent Townies, to be our team mate for the game. We won, I believe two to one, and Bull Swanson had the winning RBI. The funny part is Steve never got in the game. He sat on our bench the whole game. Steve later became a great pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I remember one baseball practice we were having when Ace Anson, our third baseman and a great hitter, came over to me and said, "Joe, I would like to introduce you to our new high school baseball coach, he would like to play townie ball with us and his name is Ted Alex." We welcomed Ted who was a great hitter and center fielder. History was started that year as Ted was the smartest person I've ever met about baseball; and he coached Washington High and Shepaug to all those state championships. The great baseball tradition is still being carried on by Shepaug Coach Dave Werkhoven with many more championships.

Last but not least my happiest memory came when the Town of Washington and Selectman John Marsh honored me by naming the Little League Field, Joe Martin Field. Yes, Washington has great traditions, and what a wonderful town to have been a small part of for all these years. Please carry on the tradition.

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