The Morgan G. Bulkeley Stadium, which occupied a 4 acre plot at the intersection of Hamner and George Streets from 1921 to 1955, was home to several minor league baseball teams. The stadium was also the site of circuses, automobile and motorcycle racing, prizefights, political rallies and even – briefly – an NFL team. The stadium saw some of the early at-bats of future Hall of Famers, as well as the very last swing from the Sultan of Swat himself, the great Babe Ruth. The former ballpark is now home to Ellis Manor, but thanks to local resident Norm Hausmann, there is now a small marker with a plaque that commemorates the former ballpark as well as a marker designating the location of home plate.
Bulkeley Stadium began as Clarkin Field, a venue for James H.
Clarkin’s Hartford Senators ball club. The stadium, which was pretty
state-of-the-art for its time, was constructed in 1927. Shortly thereafter it
was renamed for the first National League President, one Morgan Gardner
Bulkeley. When he could tear himself away from the ballpark, Mr. Buckley also managed to serve as Hartford mayor, Connecticut governor and state senator, and long-term president
The first team to play at Bulkeley Stadium was the Senators,
a team that had been around since 1902 and enjoyed their new digs up until 1934.
While they were affiliated with the Brooklyn Dodgers, their most famous alumni,
Lou Gehrig, went on to achieve legendary status in Yankee pinstripes. Other
notable former Senators include Hank Greenberg, Leo Durocher and Olympian Jim
The Senators were succeeded by the Hartford Laurels, Hartford
Bees, and Hartford Chiefs, all of whom were affiliated with the Boston Braves.
Another notable team that called Bulkeley home was the integrated semi-pro
Savitt Gems. In fact, a little-known moment in baseball history took place at
Bulkeley on Sept. 30, 1945 when Babe Ruth, in a Gems uniform, pinch hit in his
very last at-bat. Sadly, instead of hitting one out of the park, the Great
Bambino grounded out to the pitcher.
Bulkeley’s very brief interlude as a football stadium came in
November 1925, when sports promoter George Mulligan relocated his independent Waterbury
Blues to Hartford mid-season. The team was quite successful at Bulkeley,
prompting the NFL to pick them up for the 1926 season. During 1926, however,
the team relocated to the newly-constructed Velodome in East Hartford, where
they went 3-7 on the season. The NFL promptly dropped them again, though they
weren’t quite one and done since they stayed on at the Velodrome for another
year as the Hartford Giants. While they did post a 7-1 record in 1927, the
Blues-turned-Giants never again recaptured that old Bulkeley Stadium magic and
disbanded after their second year at the Velodrome.
Baseball, too, departed Bulkeley in 1952, when the big
league Braves moved to Milwaukee and relocated the Chiefs franchise to
Jacksonville, Florida. The stadium fell into disrepair, and was demolished in
1955. In 1961, a nursing home called Ellis Manor was constructed on the site
where the stadium once stood. In a nod to its storied past, the nursing home
lobby came to house a small collection of Bulkeley memorabilia.
Although the nursing
home itself closed down this year, its grounds still hold a granite plaque
commemorating the spot where home plate once stood. Stadium artifacts are also
on display at the Connecticut Historical Society. Perhaps the most fitting tribute of all,
however, can be found in the giant photo mural of a bygone Hartford Senators
team installed at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, where the Hartford Yard Goats brought
baseball back to town in 2017.