Of course, we all know that baseball has always been a major pastime in Mason County, W.Va., as it has across the country. However, a century of storytelling has turned a particular match-up into a local legend.
In 1910, during their annual pre-season “barnstorming,” the Cincinnati Reds stopped in Hartford, W.Va. This was a common occurrence in the early 1900s, providing the major-league teams with a good way to practice and gain local support. The game, likely in October, was held at the town’s baseball field. This field was behind the school, now the community center, and is now completely covered in forest. All that we know for sure about outcome of the game is that the Hartford City Blues beat the Cincinnati Reds. Yes, for all of you currently scoffing at the paper, it is true.
A newspaper article from Oct. 25 of the next year reads, “The Cincinnati Reds were here again last week and contested with the Hartford Team, and the story is somewhat different from last year. Hartford won last year, but were easily defeated this year by a score of 5-1.” This proves the story, though it doesn’t give much detail about that legendary game.
Now don’t get me wrong. Hartford was not the only local team that the Reds played. They are just the only team that is known to have won.
Both the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates traveled through the Bend Area multiple times, playing teams such as Syracuse, Pomeroy, Hartford, and Mason. For example, on October 2nd, 1899, the Mason team played Cincinnati. They lost, but they played well, for it is said that received considerable complements from their opponents.
Sadly, sports history throughout Mason County has never been fully recorded, so we do not know whether there were other similar occurrences.
Based upon a photo obtained from Mildred Gibbs’ “Founding and Development of New Haven,” Hartford team members included Lem Ruttencutter, George Lerner (manager), Pat Rea, Harry Gibbs, Charles Kell, Joe Pierce, Avalene “Lee” Moore, Frank “Fat” Chapman, Mitt Wayland, Ira Fields, and Charles “Ricky-Ticky” Fields.
Chris Rizer directs the Mason County Historic Preservation Society which can be found on Facebook.