Happy Birthday, Bruce Hartford!

What follows is an article that appeared in the Shreveport (LA) Times back in 1921 that does a pretty good of breaking down the life and times of shortstop Bruce Hartford, who appeared in about eight games with Cleveland in 1914.

Bruce Hartford 1921 Shreveport Gassers.png

Bruce Hartford, the boy who went up into thin air Sunday and pulled down a beeline drive is a Chicago youngster. The Windy City means the same to him as a picture of home-made pies. It was up there that he used his first slingshot on panes of glass and in his back yard shot holes through the family checker-board with his cat and rat rifle.

Hartford was not one of those bellowing young chaps who went up and down Dearborn Street with a chip on their shoulders. He believes in letting trouble come his way and when it does he usually handles it with red-hot tongs.

The early days of Hartford were free of baseball. He would rather go out swimming to one of the beaches than play ball on the sand lots. Even when he went to high school in the big city later he never felt the craving to have the girls draw his picture on their text books.  He put his mind to his studies for he wanted to go out into the world and give Edison the keys to science.

Newton, so the old rags tell us, was one day sleeping under a tree and an acorn stabbed him in the nose. This set him to thinking and he propounded the famous laws of motion. That was years ago, long before they ever thought of using rhubarb as pie filler. In like manner Bruce Hartford was awakened to big possibilities by being shoved into a game one day by slippery chance. He set the fans oogle-eyed. He played so brilliantly that the school paper wrote him up under fat headlines.

When ever a ball came near him he gobbled it quicker than a bass does a crawfish. He was quick with the pellet, too. He always got it away from him in time to make the runner to first look like as if he were pulling sand bags. Some fielders fight the ball just as a fat woman does a wasp. Tain’t right.  Watch Hartford. He shows ’em.

Well to cut off the current and burrow back into the time when Williams Jennings Bryan was still fresh and primeval, Hartford played amateur ball around Chicago and attracted so much attention that Terre Haute heard of his doings and in 1910 he packed his duds for the Central League. He stayed with them until Bloomington waved a pretty cheque in front of Hartford’s face. It maddened him to think that he was getting more of the golden mazuma at Terre Haute so he burnt his bridges in that fair city and went to Illinois.

In the early part of spring, before dealers could force straw hats on the populace Hartford went to the Cleveland Americans.  He played shortstop with them and made a good fielding record.  But it was decided by the generals of the Lake Erie hamlet that Hartford was a youngster and needed more hot suns and a deeper coat of tan. So he was sent to Des Moines.  But the powers that be at Des Moines so fixed it up with Cleveland that the fast sprinter remained in Iowa wheat fields for three years. (My note: It was six years. Back to the article.)

At the end of this time the Germans were shooting the arc lights into bits on the outer Parisian boulevards and Hartford thought khaki would agree with his complexion and went into the military game of chess. He made a few moves, mainly on the advice of the war department, and the latest one pleased his folks at home immensely. He was released from service with honors.

Last year two cities saw him play. In the beginning of the year he went away up to Seattle, where once can play ball and look at the wind freezing icicles up in the mountains. Down into Kansas City he came next. That was about the middle of last year, when Billy Smith’s team was struggling. But he remained in Kansas City for the rest of the year and this spring crossed the Red River full of hope. He is setting up tees here in baseball and spreading fame all over the landscape. The way he has played of late has the fans all worked up like young wine. He can hit, run like a fawn, and play spectacularly and dependably. “Watch Hartford,” is what Billy Smith says. We are watching him. Anybody that sees Gasser Park games cannot help but watch Hartford. He is a phenom, and when he gets up again his ability is going to keep him on an upper roost. Hartford is giving his best to Shreveport and the fans know it.

Quinn, Joseph J. “Vest Pocket Sketches of the Gassers: Bruce Hartford”, Shreveport Times, 05 April 1921, Page 14.

Hartford stayed at Shreveport another season, then spent time with Birmingham, and then moved east to the New York-Penn League through 1929. Baseball-Reference says he played in more than 2200 games at the minor league level. He was never really a GREAT hitter – little power, not always over .260, but he could play enough. 2200 games is a very full career.

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