Mike Roer

The Mechanics, Bolts, and Americans

On February 2, 1910, Jim O'Rourke sold the Orators to Yankee scout and ex-major league player Gene McCann for an estimated $7500.   A new era began. Bridgeport would see some of the best baseball of the century including the all-time high season winning percentage of .777 in 1918; and new attendance records would be set, too.


Bridgeport industry expanded so rapidly that the City  became one of the fastest growing in the nation. Between 1910 and 1920, the Bridgeport population increased from 102,000 to over 143,000.  


Annual Baseball Highlights



The new owner-manager of the Orators began to reverse the failing fortunes of the Bridgeport team.  Although only 32 when he took over the Orators, McCann had managed the Jersey City team in the Eastern League for seven years, and spent two years playing for the Dodgers (Bridgeport Herald, 2/6/1910).


Gene's first task was to pick a new name for the club.  He wanted something simple and straightforward like the "Bs" or "Bridgeports," but the sportswriters would have none of it.  They dubbed the team the Mechanics.  In one word the press recognized the new team helmsman and Bridgeport as a world leader in manufacturing. 


McCann used contacts at the Yankees to pick up some "fast players."  Bridgeport acted as an informal farm club for the nearby major league team. (Bridgeport Herald 9-17-1911). One of the players sent to McCann for development was pitcher Lefty Clunn. Although The Sporting News (12-11-1919) called Clunn "One of the greatest no-hit artists the game has ever produced," he never made it to the majors.   The Mechanics finished second in a field of eight.

1910 Bridgeport Mechanics

Boxer and Bridgeport first baseman Gentleman Jim Corbett is in civvies, next to Manager McCann (11).  Note, Ladd is number 2, not number 3 as indicated in the above caption. 

Image source:  1912 Reach Guide


Gene McCann sold the Mechanics to John H. Freeman (#12 in 1910 team portrait below),  who had provided financial backing to McCann when he purchased the club from O’Rourke the previous year.  Freeman was a good friend of Yankees owner Frank Farrell, so the relationship between the clubs continued.  (Bridgeport Herald 3-19-1911.)  McCann stayed on as manager and the Mechanics again finished second, with a 71 and 47 (.602) record.



One for the Book


11,211 cash customers attended the pennant-deciding game at Pleasure Beach on 9-11, 1911.

This is the all-time Bridgeport attendance record and represented more than 10% of the City’s population.



Jim O'Rourke played his annual game, as a catcher for New Haven.  It was his forty-first season as a professional ball player.  He was 60 years old.  (As long as a player is signed each year for at least one game, he continues to be listed in the records of organized baseball.)

Forty-two year old Arthur Clifford Hiram "Hi" Ladd completed his eleventh and final season with Bridgeport. This still stands as the record for longevity. 


Because of a close race for the championship, an enterprising lumber yard sold the same "pennant pole" to two Eastern League teams. 



The Pittsfield Electrics replaced the New Britain Aviators in the Connecticut League.  Since the league now had five teams from Connecticut (Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, New London, and Waterbury) and three from Massachusetts (Holyoke, Pittsfield, and Springfield) it was renamed the Eastern Association.


In late June, owner Freeman replaced Manager McCann with veteran major leaguer Monte Cross. The Sporting News speculated on July 10 that an informal farming agreement had been worked out between Cross and Raleigh Manager Earl Mack, Connie Mack's son; with pop serving as an advisor.


The Bridgeport team, under Cross, won a majority of its games, finishing fourth.


In 1913, the Mechanics took on the Pittsburgh Pirates and got ?Wagnerized? 7 to 4.  Five years later the Bridgeport Americans challenged the Pirates to a rematch and won 2 to 1. 

|                                                           EQUAL OPPORTUNITY MILESTONES                                                          |


In 1911, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida became the first Hispanic players in ten years to advance to the Show, the first lapping at American shores of what would become a tidal wave of talent from the Caribbean and South American. 


The first two Latin players in the majors were Cuban Enrique Esteban Bellan, who played for Troy in 1871, the first year of major league ball; and Columbian Luis Castro who played second base for the Athletics in 1902.  


Almeida and Marsans were discovered by  manager Billy Hanna of the Connecticut League New Britain club.  Hanna hired two other Cubans: Alfredo Cabrera, who reported to New Britain in early July of 1908 "after playing with semi-pro teams for some time past" (Bridgeport Herald 7-12-1908) and who would serve the St. Louis Cardinals in 1913 long enough to drink a "cup of coffee"; and  Padron,  who was "part negro" (Bridgeport Herald 8-17-1913). 


Dan O'Neill bought the New Britains in 1910.  The team by then had been nicknamed "Cubanalos."  


O'Neill convinced Cincinnati that Almeida and Marsans were major league material.  But the major league barrier almost was not broken.  After Cincinnati agreed to buy the players from New London, O'Neill discovered his cuban stars had skipped out on their contracts and returned home to Cuba.  Bridgeport Post writer Sid Challenger revealed on June 24, 1911, "Dan O'Neill of New Britain has gone to Cuba to hunt up Marsans and Almeida.  If Dan can get the lively Cubans to return and go to Cincinnati be will he on easy street for many a day to come.  He is to get $2,500 for them right off and $7500 if they make good."  When Dan arrived in Cuba, he found that Almeida and Marsans had already had a change of heart and were on their way to Porkopolis.  They debuted with Cincinnati on July 4, 1911  (Rucker and Bjarkman, Smoke, 1999, p. 14).  


They made good: Almeida at second base for three years (BA .270); and Marsans spending a total of nine years in major league outfields, with Cincinnati, St. Louis Federals, St. Louis Browns, and the Yankees (BA .269)

Rafael Almeida
with Cincinnati.

1912 T207 card #3.

Armando Marsans

with the St. Louis Federal League Club.

1914 Cracker Jack card #134.

|                                                           EQUAL OPPORTUNITY MILESTONES                                                          |


Bridgeport switched managers again, promoting third baseman Jake Boultes from the player ranks.  Jake came to Bridgeport in 1913 with major league experience pitching for the Boston National League team from 1907 to 1909, where he compiled a 2.96 ERA.


The new tean nickname, the Bolts, again honored both its new manager and Bridgeport as the Industrial Capital.


The Bridgeport Bolts finished in third place with a 67 and 56 record, a .545 winning percentage.
Although the Bridgeport team finished on the north side of .500 from 1911 to 1914, owner Freeman lost $10,000 during the same period.

1914 Bridgeport Bolts.


Note the motley collection of uniforms that have been loaned to players for try-outs and practice.  (New uniforms were reserved for opening day.)  The practice of recycling old uniforms has made it difficult to date  photos.  For example, there are three different years represented in this photo:


1910 -  The shirts with “Bridgeport” arcing across the chest; 
1911 - The uniforms featuring a hat with crossed white stripes and two thin white stripes on the socks;

1914 - The uniforms with the modern-looking “B” and socks with broad white band. 


Photo: Corbit Studios.


The Lusitania was sunk during this year and so was the Eastern Association.  So many players were hired away by the booming defense industry that the league was forced to shut down.


The Singer and Remington Industrial League teams represented Bridgeport in intercity competition and, in keeping with Bridgeport tradition, challenged major league opponents.  The Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, and NY Giants all appeared at Newfield Park in 1915.



Freeman sold the franchise to two Norwalk entrepreneurs: Gus Knorr an Harry Cornen, an amusement park operator and former Bridgeport pitcher.   


The new owners went through three managers in one year.   (Bridgeport had only four managers during the previous twenty years.)  The new managers were:


  • NEAL BALL, Bridgeport resident of triple play fame, hired from Toronto in late April.
  • BILLY LUSH, another Bridgeporter, and seven-year veteran of the majors, took the reins for two weeks, beginning July 9.
  • MIKE HEALY finished out the year.

There were eight future or former major leaguers on the 1916 Bridgeport squad, like veteran outfielder Danny Hoffman, but because of management turnover, Bridgeport finished in seventh place.


The importance of owners and managers is often underestimated.  In Bridgeport, most losing seasons were due to owners second-guessing  managers or by managers churning through players, never allowing the team to gel.  There is a lot of "muscle memory" in a  ball club, that needs time and repetition to develop.


During the next two years, new enlightened owners and a brilliant young manager would show how it should be done.


American Chain and Cable (ACCO) bought the Bridgeport team in order to gain access to  Newfield Park.  (Jim O'Rourke still owned the park, which he leased to the ball club.)  Competition in the Industrial League was keen and Newfield Park was  located in the East End near the ACCO site (now the Bridgeport Innovation Center.) Remington had considered purchasing the team in 1916 for the same purpose, but they built their own 6000-seat stadium instead.  Bridgeport is a serious baseball town.


Clark P. Lane, the President of ACCO, hired former big-leaguer Paul Krichell as manager. Krichell also had minor league experience as a player with Hartford and Newark.  Coincidentally, he played against Bridgeport in an exhibition game between Newark and the Orators on April 17, 1908.


Land and Krichell developed an effective working relationship. They discussed all important decisions, and, although Lane was definitely the boss, he stayed out of the locker room. 


The team finished the 1917 season fourth in a field of eight, up from seventh place the year before.


Lane changed the team name to the Bridgeport Americans and ordered flag patches to replace the "B"s on the uniforms.   The new name was appropriate.  It was the first word in ACCO (American Chain and Cable),  it was patriotic and the war in Europe was heating up, and Lane and Krichell were about to test baseball's "color line."


Lane and Krichell employed two Asian-Americans, Billy Lai and Andy Yim.  They were the only Asians playing organized ball; and Krichell admitted to "taking some heat" from other owners and managers. 


The metaphor of breaking barriers is a non sequitur.  Barriers are not broken like a sapling before an axe of reason and goodwill. They are painfully, slowly, climbed over. In 1918, the struggle was in Bridgeport.

A new law required all able-bodied men to join the army or work in the munitions factories.  The deadline to comply was June 24, 1918.  Play stretched to July 7, but then the league suspended activity for the season.  On this date Bridgeport had a remarkable record of 42 wins and only 12 losses (a .777 percentage.)


Even more amazingly, Bridgeport was in second place.  New London was 44 and 12.  Ironically, Krichell took his team off the field during a double header with New London in protest over an umpire's call.  At the time, Bridgeport was ahead in game one.  The umpire awarded both games to New London. 


The league board (composed of all the club owners) also took two wins away from Bridgeport over a procedural infraction.  Krichell thought this was just  politics because Bridgeport was in first place at the time and because they had two Asians on the squad.

On June 24, 1918, in protest, Krichell resigned and Ray Grimes was promoted to replace him. Krichell,  resolved never to have anything to do with baseball ever again, but his resolve lasted only a year. The 1920 season found him coaching for the Boston Red Sox. Later that season, the Yankees hired him away, as they had Babe Ruth two years before. Krichell served the Yankees 37 years as chief scout, putting pin stripes on over 200 players, including Lou Gehrig, Leo Durocher, Whitey Ford, Tony Lazzeri, and Phil Rizzuto.


Owner Clark Lane wrote to the baseball commissioner regarding the team winning its first eighteen games.  Several weeks later he received a reply and ordered medals struck for each of his players.  The front of the metal depicted the seal of the City of Bridgeport with crossed bats.  On the reverse was engraved the name of the player and the following inscription:


Won 18 - Lost 0

World's Record


The Eastern Association was upgraded from "B" to "A" (the highest minor league class at the time).  With this increase in class came a 44% increase in the monthly salary for the roster.   The players should have been happy. They weren't.


Ray Grimes, the new manager, was the star of the team.  His brother, Roy, also played for Bridgeport.  Sibling rivalry, like that between Jim and John O'Rourke, brought out the best in both players.  Ray would be tapped by the Red Sox in 1920 and would rack up an impressive .329 lifetime average in his six years in the majors.


However, the Peter Principle came into play with Ray's turn at the helm in Bridgeport.   Ray was always feuding with the players.  The family spirit and sense of mission that Krichell, the previous manager, had brought to the club was gone.  As a result, the team slipped from second to fourth place.


At the start of the next decade, President Lane would send Grimes back to first base and bring in the best manager money could buy. 

1919 Bridgeport Americans

L-R, standing: Roy Grimes, Lennon, Loan, Herring, Owner Clark Lane, Manager Ray Grimes, Brackett, Walsh;
sitting: Braun, McKenty, Lai, Skiff, Martin, House. The bat boy is not identified. 

1920 Reach Guide.