Before I forget, I must commend you on the tremendous job that you have done with the Tri-State League. As someone who goes back with the league to 1973, I can certainly appreciate all the effort that you as well as many other people have put in to make it as successful as it is today. I was amazed at the ‘atmosphere’ to be able to play the Championship games at Fuessenich Park. What a venue…
Now with regard to the history of the Cowboys in the league, I was involved with the Cowboys from their inception in 1973 and was with them through 1979 before I moved to Maryland for a new job. My last year, 1978, I was the manager of the team, taking over from Don Rhynhart, who was a player-coach in 1976-77. That year we picked up some new “younger blood” and we transformed the team into a very good team who could play with anyone in the league. We added Kirk and Keith Bennett from Southbury, Ed Hatfield from Bethlehem, R.J. Poniatoski, Jim Considine and Frank Cantadore from Torrington as well as having Mark Murphy, Tony Iovine, Joe Simoncelli, Ed Freimuth and other players from the Litchfield area. (Our area was defined as Litchfield, Torrington, Warren, Morris, Goshen, Washington and Bethlehem) We played very well throughout the season advancing in the playoff format to the final game against George Simmons’ Winsted team. We had to play our final “home” game in Sharon as the Community Field in Litchfield was not available to us.
We led until the eighth inning when a bad hop grounder changed the game. I ended up bringing in R.J. as a relief pitcher to stop the bleeding, but it didn’t work and we lost the game by two runs. I could not come back the following year to manage, even though we played just a Sunday schedule then. I do remember seeing an article as well as a photo of the Cowboys proclaiming their championship in 1979 in the Litchfield Enquirer. I do know Ed Freimuth was a member of that team as well as many others from the previous year.
I also served as the Tri-State League secretary in 1976-77 and part of 1978 as well as being involved with the Cowboys. I also covered the Cowboys for the Enquirer from 1973 through 1978. I hope you will find this information helpful and please contact me if you need anything else. As a little side note, last night’s game between the Cowboys and Trojans was interesting for me personally as no matter who won, I had a rooting interest for both teams. My brother Kim “Smato” Smart is my younger brother and coaches first base for the Cowboys and my nephew Jon Smart, plays first base for the Trojans. If it is possible to feel happy and sad at the same time, then last night was it.
Looking forward to the festivities next year at the Old Timers Game. You may want to try to contact Tony Knox from Litchfield as he was the coach of the “revived” Cowboys of 1973 as well as being a player from both the Cowboys and the “Termites” (ask Bill Neller about the Termites) teams of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Again, I thank you for all your hard work and for remembering the old adage, “Those who don’t understand or know history are doomed to repeat their mistakes.” Again, great job Ed and if you ever need any help with anything, let me know.
Litchfield Cowboys history – Tom Smart