In The Beginning
Just down the hill from Trinity College, the now-buried Park River - formerly known as the Little River of the Hog - used to flow through the neighborhood known as Frog Hollow, eventually meandering past the state capitol and through Bushnell Park before its rendezvous with the Connecticut River. In 1825, a year after the opening of Washington College, which would eventually become Trinity, students in our first classes were swimming and boating on the Hog. Those early athletes established a tradition that has remained a vibrant fact of life at Trinity College ever since.
Louis Fenn Wadsworth, who graduated in 1844, is speculated to be one of the inventors of the game of baseball. He is responsible for nine innings and nine players, at a time when sentiment leaned toward seven and seven. It is likely that he was responsible for much more, as the history of baseball continues to unfold.
By 1856, student interest in aquatic sports had become formalized with the creation of the Minnehaha Club, the first sports club of any kind at Trinity, and the first rowing club in the Hartford area. Two years later, Trinity collaborated with Dartmouth, Yale, Brown, and Harvard to organize one of the country's first regattas, which was held in Springfield, Massachusetts.
In 1872, the College joined the Rowing Association of American Colleges. By that point, other sports had long since caught on at Trinity. An early version of football became popular in 1857, and for several years teams made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores competed among themselves and against local Hartford teams. In 1868, Trinity played its first baseball game with another organized team, the Americus Club of Hartford, winning by the lopsided score of 54-17. And in 1871, the College constructed a new gymnasium, which served several generations of students until it was destroyed by fire in 1896. In 1877, Trinity became the 12th college in the nation to play football, though we didn't claim our first victory until 1887, when we dominated Massachusetts Agricultural College - the predecessor of UMass - by a score of 32-4. Trinity had, by that point, joined the Northeast Intercollegiate Athletic Association and, along with Amherst, Brown, Dartmouth, MIT, and Stevens Institute, the Eastern Football Association. And Trinity football - its glory years still in the future - was here to stay.
Nineteenth-century Trinity students loved the wide world of sports just as much as their counterparts do today. In 1881, Trinity had also become a charter member of the Intercollegiate Cricket Association, after students formed a cricket club that survived for several seasons. By then they had also formed the Lawn Tennis Club, which remained in place until 1897. And in 1883, the College participated in the creation of the Intercollegiate Lawn Tennis Association. The first Division I intercollegiate tennis championships, more than two decades before the creation of the NCAA, was held in Hartford, hosted by Trinity. Participating teams included Trinity, Amherst, Brown, Harvard, and Yale.
Trinity joined Amherst, Dartmouth, and Williams in the Intercollegiate Baseball Association, in 1888. Two years later, the College completed construction of a grandstand and fence at the Broad Street athletic field. In 1894, Trinity undergraduates introduced basketball at the College and played their first game against Hartford Public High School. They would play their first game against Wesleyan, a perennial rival, three years later, winning by a score of 26-5. A year earlier, in 1896, Trinity had played its first tennis match against Wesleyan. We won that one, too!
In 1899, Judge Joseph Buffington '75 - speaking at a Princeton Alumni Association meeting in Pittsburgh - introduced the Bantam mascot as a way of symbolizing Trinity's gritty, take-no-prisoners approach to athletic competition. Undergraduates enthusiastically adopted it and the tough little rooster has remained our mascot ever since. Judge Buffington's gift was timely. The debut of the Bantam was a fitting exclamation point at the close of the 19th century and a dynamic symbol to launch the 20th. Over the next hundred years, our sports teams and individual athletes would become emissaries for Trinity wherever they went. With poise, athleticism, and boundless spirit, they affirmed that Trinity College was here to stay; that its students could compete with the best, not just on courts of athletic competition, but in all walks of life.
One year after Judge Buffington let the Bantam loose, Trinity alumnus Irving Knott Baxter '99, competed in the second modern Olympic Games, held in Paris. On September 24, 1900, he showed the world how it's done at Trinity, establishing new Olympic records in the high jump and pole vault.
The modern history of Trinity athletics is filled with outstanding achievements by men and women playing a wide range of sports. Here are some of the highlights.
On May 10, 1956, pitchers Myron "Moe" Drabowski '57, whose college ERA was a slender 2.27, struck out 16 batters, the most by any Trinity pitcher in more than 40 years, on his way to a 2-0 no-hit victory over Wesleyan. The following year, Drabowsky was signed by the Chicago Cubs and began 16 years in the major leagues, eventually distinguishing himself as one of the game's greatest relief pitchers. By the late 1960's he was playing for the Baltimore Orioles. In the first game of the 1966 World Series, Baltimore starter Dave McNally was in trouble in the third inning. Drabowsky came out of the bullpen and struck out 11 Dodgers (a World Series record) on his way to a victory that set the tone for the O's, who proceeded to sweep the series.
Swimmer Bill Bacon '68 and David Tyler '67 were the winners of, respectively, the 100-yard backstroke and 500-yard freestyle events in the 1968 national championship competition. But they competed in many other events, as well. Indeed, between them, Bacon and Tyler scored enough points to ensure that Trinity's swim team was ranked 16th in the nation that year.
Olivia Brown Paine '78, Lanier Drew-Gibbs '80, Eleanor "Ellie" Pierce '88, and Kathy Ennis Young '90 exemplified the all-round student athlete. Each participated in multiple sports and each was a leader. They set a high standard for those who followed. Paine, who played field hockey and lacrosse, was Trinity's first female scholar-athlete. Drew-Gibbs excelled at cross-country, swimming, basketball, and track. Pierce was All-American in field hockey, squash, and lacrosse, earning a total of 12 varsity letter during her four years at Trinity. And Young, captain of three Trinity teams, was part of championship teams in soccer (ECAC title) and softball (NESCAC title) before graduating as a Phi Beta Kappa.
An outstanding baseball catcher, Roger LeClerc '60 was also a fine football linebacker. On the College's football teams from 1957 to 1959, he and tackle Bill de Coligny '60 were the backbone of Trinity's teams. LeClerc was in line to be drafted by major league baseball's Braves organization, but instead he and de Coligny were signed by the Chicago Bears football team. In addition to backing up the legendary Dick Butkus at linebacker, LeClerc flourished as a kicker for the Bears. He led the team in scoring in 1966 with 78 points, and shared an NFL record with five field goals in one game before finishing his career with the Denver Broncos. LeClerc later returned to Hartford and coached the Hartford Knights professional football team. De Coligny went on to play for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League.
Trinity's Jessee/Miller Field is named after two successful coaches who headed Trinity football throughout nearly all of the 20th century. Dan Jessee, who coached both football and baseball during his years at Trinity, became head coach of Trinity football in 1929 and was the only Division III coach to become president of the American Football Coaches Association. In what many alumni still think of as the "Golden Age" of sports at Trinity, the years immediately after World War II, Coach Jessee's teams were built of battle-toughened young veterans, many of whom were in their 20's. His 1949 team went undefeated. By the time he retired in 1966, his teams had racked up a record of 150 wins against only 76 losses. In his final season, the Football Writers of America named him Football Coach of the Year. Coach Jessee was followed by Donald G. Miller, who had joined his coaching staff in 1965. Four years before his 1998 retirement, Coach Miller's record surpassed that of his renowned predecessor. During the nearly 70 years when they ran Trinity football, the teams of Jessee and Miller won nearly 70 percent of the games they played. Alex Guild '61 was Trinity's first All-American in soccer. In his junior year, he earned his way onto the U.S. Olympic soccer team. Guild is proof that exceptional athleticism sometimes runs in families - his daughter, Alyson Guild '97, distinguished herself in soccer, swimming, and track at Trinity.
Coach Raymond Oosting's basketball teams in the early 1950s were among the toughest in their league. From 1950 through 1952, they racked up a record of 43 wins against just 14 losses. In the 1952-53 season, Trinity basketball star Charles Wrinn '53 was the leading rebounder in the nation. Wrinn was also a talented baseball player who later played for the Boston Braves organization.
During the mid 1960's, Trinity men's soccer benefitted from the presence of Ousman Sallah '65, the first citizen from Gambia to receive a college education in the United States. After graduation, Sallah joined the Gambian diplomatic corps and eventually rose to the rank of ambassador.
In 2008, the Trinity baseball team, under the direction of Head Coach Bill Decker, put together one of the finest seasons in baseball history, at any level. Trinity finished the season with a 45-1 mark en route the school's first-ever NCAA Division III National Title. After finishing the regular season undefeated, the Bantams ran their record streak to 44 games, which is the longest winning-streak in Division III history. Their .978 winning percentage set a new NCAA record in any division in any sport.
From 1998-2011, the Trinity men’s squash program established themselves as one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. The Bantams won 252 straight victories, spanning nearly 14 years without a single loss, and capturing 13 National Championships along the way. “The Streak,” as it is referred at Trinity, was followed and featured prominently by major national and international media outlets. It is a record that is sure to stand the test of time. Coached by Team USA National Coach Paul Assaiante since 1994, the Bantams also won College Squash Association (CSA) National crowns in 2013 and 2015.
The Trinity football team enjoyed undefeated seasons in in both 2008 and 2012 going 8-0 and winning the conference crown each year. Since the league adopted a league-only schedule in 1992, the Bantams have finished atop the NESCAC standings eight times. Also in 2012, the women’s lacrosse team won the college’s first NCAA title in any sport, finishing the season with a best-ever 21-1 final record. Over the past five years, the team has gone an amazing 100-8 with four straight appearances in the NCAA Championship game and NESCAC titles each spring.
In 2013-14, the women's squash team had a fantastic season, capturing its third CSA National Team Championship (Howe Cup). The Bantams topped Harvard, 5-4, to win their first national title since claiming back-to-back in 2002 and 2003. The Bantams have finished as the Howe Cup Runner-Up in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2013, and 2015. In the spring, the women's rowing team capped the most successful season in program history by capturing its first-ever NCAA Division III National Championship in Indianapolis.
2014-15 was another banner year for the Bantams, as the men's squash and men's ice hockey both won winter national titles. Trinity downed St. Lawrence to take the first Potter Trophy to be held in its own Kellner Squash Center and its 15th in the last 17 seasons, while the Bantams made history on the ice with their NCAA Division III Finals triumph in Minneapolis over Wisc.-Stevens Point for their first national title. The Bantam men's basketball and women's ice hockey squads added NCAA Elite Eight appearances and the women's squash team played in their eighth Howe Cup Finals. In the spring, the Bantams won 21 women's lacrosse games in a row to reach the NCAA Finals in Philadelphia, and came within a single point of repeating as NCAA Women's Rowing Champions despite winning its fourth Varsity Eight title as the fastest boat in Division III rowing (2005, 2008, 20014, 2015).