If you’re looking for something to do this Independence weekend (between barbecues and World Cup games that I do not authorize you to skip), what could be more appropriate than visiting one of this country’s oldest baseball parks, right here in Connecticut? Today kicks off Bristol’s 100th Anniversary Celebration of Muzzy Field, a family event that runs July 4-5 and includes carnival festivities, a benefit motorcycle ride, a homerun derby, baseball and softball clinics, a concert, and a fireworks display.
Muzzy Field officially opened on July 8, 1914. For the past 100 years it has been home to a medley of amateur and professional baseball teams as well as a neutral battleground for youth soccer, football, and baseball programs. I visited the field last weekend and caught the end of an American Legion game between Bristol and West Hartford.
From 1973 to 1982, Muzzy Field was the home of the Bristol Red Sox, the minor league affiliate of the mighty and forever gloriously revered Boston Red Sox. The Bristol team moved to New Britain in 1983, eventually changing its name to the New Britain Rock Cats and affiliating with the mid-western-who-really-cares-Minnesota Twins. According to Douglas S. Malan (Muzzy Field: Tales from a Forgotten Ballpark, 2009), “Financial disputes between [team owner Joe] Buzas and the city regarding the lease and upgrades to Muzzy Field, not to mention the dearth of parking around the ballpark, prompted Buzas to uproot and relocate to New Britain where a brand new facility awaited with easier highway access off of Route 9.” Hmm, upgrades, new ballpark, highway access. Does any of this sound familiar? Perhaps the city of New Britain, as it watches its team leapfrog to Hartford, can find comfort in this quote from a 1983 newspaper editorial (reprinted in Malan’s book): “But the departure of the Brisox will not make a tomb of Muzzy Field. With an energetic effort to attract other types of events, and with the ambitious renovations scheduled to begin this year, athletes will continue to perform—and teams will continue to compete—at Bristol’s Muzzy Field.”
I searched through the CHS collection for images of Muzzy Field, but unfortunately it looks like we don’t have anything. Most of the images that appear in Malan’s book come from the Bristol History Room at the Bristol Public Library, which includes a collection of more than 3,000 photographs. If you’re looking for old photos of the ballpark, I’d suggest visiting the library, or check out Malan’s Muzzy Field Facebook page.
My main goal last weekend was to check out the progress of Muzzy Field’s ongoing renovation. As you can see by the photos, there looks to be a lot of work left to do.
This shouldn’t be a concern for the weekend events. The main entrance to the ballpark is accessible; just the area to the left looks like it may be off-limits to visitors. The festivities will take place in the ballpark and in beautiful Rockwell Park next door, where there is plenty of free parking.
I found these Muzzy Field concepts posted on the wall, giving you an idea of the expected final product:
Ben Gammell is the Coordinator of Interpretive Projects at the Connecticut Historical Society