Blogs > New Haven 200 at 200

The New Haven Register sports department is celebrating our 200th birthday by sharing 200 of the most interesting stories relating to sports in Greater New Haven over the past 200 years. Check back daily for historical updates.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Derby's John Pagliaro takes his place as one of Yale's all-time great runners

Trying to bring down Derby’s John Pagliaro might have been a little like attempting to tackle a wind mill. His unforgettable running style resembled that of a drum major gone amok, churning knees seemingly scraping his chin strap.

It was a nightmare for high school linebackers, awoken, perhaps, in a cold sweat, by visions of Pagliaro charging full speed and knee-first. College defenders were equally strained. Just 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Pagliaro’s high leg action made him nearly impossible to tackle below the waist.
“If you tried to arm tackle him, you got a face full of cleats,” Yale coach Carm Cozza wrote in his autobiography. “And with his wild hair, thick black mustache, grease paint under his eyes, he was a fearsome sight to opponents.”

Cozza noted that Pagliaro’s decision to stay close to home and play at Yale rekindled local interest in the team, especially in the Naugatuck River Valley. For “Pags” wasn’t just a member of the team or a run-of-the-mill starter. He was a superstar.
Read Chip Malafronte's complete story

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Columbus Auto Body amateur sports teams become big-ticket attraction in city

In the days before cable television, the Internet and Xbox, amateur sports were a major source of entertainment. And in New Haven, in the years after World War II into the 1970s, the Columbus Bears were a big ticket attraction. Today, it’s hard to imagine thousands packing in to a neighborhood field for a softball game. But it was commonplace back in the day.

John DiLauro, second-generation owner of Columbus Auto Body, began sponsoring fast-pitch softball teams in 1948. The Columbus empire soon expanded to basketball, baseball and bowling. He did it for no other reason than a basic love for local sports. Joe Ciaburri hooked on as manager and coach, recruiting top athletes in the area. Columbus was the team to beat in a thriving, local sports scene. Fans began flocking to watch it compete.
“Everyone wanted to play the Bears,” said Ciaburri, 82, a prominent local banker who once served on President Ronald Reagan’s economic advisory board. “But no one could come close to beating us.”

Vin DiLauro, present owner of Columbus Auto, keeps the tradition begun by his father alive today, most notably with an entry in the West Haven Twilight League. It’s his passion. Still, nothing compares to the glory days os Columbus sports.
Read Chip Malafronte's complete story

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Bubby Natowich was Ansonia's first football star

In an era when high school football looked more like rugby, and the odds of a game ending in a scoreless tie were better than average, Andrew “Bubby” Natowich was decades ahead of his time.

Natowich, Ansonia’s first football superstar, was considered a radical because he carried the ball with one hand — coaches of the day preached using both to protect the football from swarms of tacklers.

Few utilized the forward pass, defensive schemes centering around loading the line of scrimmage to stop the run. But tackling Natowich, speedy and elusive at 170 pounds, proved to be darn near impossible. He racked up yardage and touchdowns at a pace that, even for today’s high-octane offenses, are almost unheard of. His 451 yards rushing against Naugatuck on Thanksgiving Day in 1936 was a state record that stood for 66 years until Farmington’s Brandon Willard went for 508 in 2002. Alex Thomas brought the record back to Ansonia five years later with a 518-yard day against Woodland.

Natowich, only a junior, scored a state-record seven touchdowns (which stood until 1999) that afternoon in a 79-0 victory he’d been thinking about for eight years.

Read Chip Malafronte's complete story

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adam Greenberg's only major league pitch faced

Adam Greenberg dug into the batter’s box, stared out at left-hander Valerio de los Santos and got into his stance.

De los Santos delivered the pitch, and … Greenberg rapped a base hit, his second of the night.

Not the outcome you were expecting? Well, it’s a real one.

While Greenberg will forever be remembered as the guy who was hit in the head by the first and only pitch he ever saw as a major leaguer — a pitch delivered by de los Santos in 2005 — the above-mentioned sequence did happen in April 2011 when Greenberg was a member of the Bridgeport Bluefish in a game against de los Santos and the Long Island Ducks.

The hit provided a certain amount of closure for Greenberg, a three-sport star at Guilford High who went on to the University of North Carolina.

“I’m way more at peace with everything now,” Greenberg said. “Even though it was an independent league game … we could have been playing on a Little League field, it didn’t matter. I faced the guy who hit me, six years later, in a random situation and got a hit off him. That was the greatest experience and hit of my career.”

As the well-chronicled story goes, Greenberg had just received a surprise call-up from Double-A West Tennessee in mid-July 2005. Before he knew it, he was facing de los Santos on a warm night in Miami.

Then came the ill-fated, wayward fastball that hit Greenberg in the head, knocking him to the ground, out of the game and, to this point, out of the major leagues. He suffered terrible headaches and a bout with vertigo in the ensuing weeks, months and years.

Read Dave Borges' complete story.

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Ted Williams plays at Yale just days before Boston debut

Ted Williams was still three days away from his first major league baseball game when he came to Yale Field with the Boston Red Sox for an exhibition against Yale on April 17, 1939.

“The Kid” was very much still a kid.

But expectations were sky high for Williams, a sweet-swinging lefty who, at 19, won the Triple Crown as a minor leaguer the previous season. Boston’s lineup was already loaded with veteran stars like player-manager Joe Cronin, Jimmie Foxx and ace Lefty Grove as well as rising stars like second baseman Bobby Doerr. The Red Sox cleared room in right field so Williams could be the opening-day starter, and his debut was anticipated around baseball.

Boston, swimming in talent, was expected to give the Yankees a run for the American League pennant. Register sports editor Dan Mulvey, previewing the exhibition, wrote, “The 1939 world champions (that’s what they think up in Boston) will play the Yale varsity nine at Yale Field this afternoon and the Red Sox will use all of their regulars with the exception of the top ranking hurlers.”

Boston, in fact, wanted to pitch Grove, and asked Yale to move the game up from 4 p.m. to 1. Cronin, who played minor league ball in New Haven, didn’t want his top pitchers working in the late afternoon chill. Yale wouldn’t budge. But not because it was looking for a competitive advantage.

Yale had dropped four straight games on a trip to the South. “Smoky” Joe Wood, star of Boston’s 1912 World Series championship team then in his 17th season as Yale’s coach, was unhappy with his team. He decided to start seven sophomores against the Red Sox, the lone upperclassmen being second baseman Al Alter and outfielder Eddie Collins Jr. — son of Hall of Fame infielder Eddie Collins, the Red Sox general manager at the time.

Read Chip Malafronte's complete story.

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Brad Ausmus outlasts entire 1987 Draft class for MLB

After a standout career at Cheshire High, Brad Ausmus was selected in the 1987 Major League Baseball draft by the New York Yankees with the 1,152nd overall pick — sandwiched between luminaries Troy Mentzer and Manny Cervantes, and long after Ken Griffey, Jr. (No. 1 overall), Mike Mussina, Craig Biggio and Albert Belle were off the board.

But by June 2010, when Griffey announced his retirement, Ausmus was the last player from that draft class still standing.

“You take pride in showing up for work, being able to show up for work for almost two decades, in an occupation where it’s tough to stick around,” Ausmus told the Register in October 2010.

Ausmus, born in New Haven, finally retired after the 2010 season. He wound up logging 1,971 career major-league games — 1,938 of them as a catcher, good for seventh all-time — five trips to the postseason, one to the World Series, one to the All-Star Game and none — zero, zip, nada — to the disabled list.

Read Dave Borges' complete story.

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New Haven's Major League season: 1875

When it comes to fan allegiance these days, New Haven is caught smack in the middle of a turf war between New York and Boston.

But for one season in the summer of 1875, New Haven was home to its own major league franchise — the New Haven Elm Citys. And on the corner of Howard and Spring Avenue, just a few blocks from the New Haven Register building on Long Wharf, sat the city’s major league ballpark.

Nowadays, acquiring a major league franchise, if one can get through the political red tape, requires roughly a billion dollars. Yet in 1875, if a team had a suitable field and could muster $3,000 for expenses, you were in.

New Haven’s brief foray into the world of major league sports was rather inglorious.

Read Chip Malafronte's complete story.

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