Colonial League (1947-1950)
Born: 1947 – Colonial League founding franchise.
Folded: July 16, 1950
Stadium: Municipal Stadium
Owners: Joe Lombard, et al.
Governor’s Cup Championships: None
The Waterbury Timers were a minor league baseball club that play for three seasons and part of a fourth in the small Western Connecticut city in the years immediately after World War II. The Timers were founding members of the Colonial League, a Class B loop that included teams from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
On August 7th, 1947 the New York Yankees played a mid-season exhibition against the Timers . 9,000 fans turned out at Municipal Stadium to see the eventual World Champions manhandle the Timers 8.-0.
During their four-year run, the Timers fielded only two players with Major League experience. One was outfielder Hank Lamanna who slugged 21 homers for the 1947 Timers and hit .340 that summer. Lamanna was a converted pitcher who pitched parts of three seasons for the National League’s Boston Braves from 1940 to 1942.
More notable was war hero Bert Shepard. Shepard was a minor leaguer in the early 40’s before joining the armed services for the war. Trained as a P-38 fighter pilot, he was shot down over Germany in 1944. In the aftermath of the crash, his life was saved by a German doctor who amputated his mangled left leg below the knee. A Canadian doctor fitted Shepard with a crude prosthesis in a Nazi POW camp and he was repatriated to the United States in February 1945. Shepard attended spring training with the Washington Senators a few weeks later and managed to latch on as a batting practice pitcher and coach. On August 4, 1945, Senators manager Ossie Bluege, facing a depleted staff and a 14-2 deficit against the Boston Red Sox, put Shepard on the mound. Shepard would scatter three hits and one-run over five-and-a-third innings, becoming the first amputee to play Major League Baseball. Shepard would never play in the Majors again. Four weeks later he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism in the war.
Shepard signed on with the Timers in 1949 as player-manager at a reported salary of $4,000 to $4,500. Shepard pitched and player first base for the club. When Shepard’s notoriety failed to produce the expected bump in attendance, the Timers cash-strapped board of directors cut him loose in August 1949. Shepard’s players first threatened a strike. When the strike effort foundered, Timers players formed a fundraising committee and raised money for Waterbury merchants to underwrite Shepard’s salary. The manager was reinstated, but bad blood remained and Shepard would fight with Timers management over unpaid salary into the offseason.
Needless to say, Shepard didn’t return in 1950. The return of the Timers and the Colonial League was in doubt too. Red ink flowed and tax liens loomed in cities around the circuit. A fourth season got underway in April, but the hobbled Colonial League collapsed midway through its schedule in July of 1950. Pro baseball was absent from Waterbury for the next 15 summers until the arrival of the Waterbury Giants of the Eastern League in 1966.
Timers player-manager Bert Shepard passed away on June 16, 2008 at age 87. New York Times obit.
“Once Upon A Time There Were The Timers“, George G. Pawluch, Society for American Baseball Research
Colonial League Programs