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  • Writer's pictureDominic Konareski

The Barnstorming Baseball Stories Of Donovan Field And Quigley Stadium

West Haven’s baseball history is rich, but it’s also been overlooked and forgotten about by many. Donovan Field and Quigley Stadium alone could produce an entire book, but for now let's bring a multi-year story into a single article. 

Barnstorming baseball teams were everywhere in the 1940s and were all the rage with thousands of people flocking out to see the offseason games. Despite these being exhibition matches being in small towns, it still attracted stars from both the Majors and Negro Leagues. 

After the regular season ended in 1946, Bob Feller assembled a barnstorming team comprised of Major League All-Stars and set off on a tour around the country with Satchel Paige and the Negro Pro-Stars.

Bob Feller met with Moe Quigley for lunch when the barnstorming teams came to West Haven. Quigley owned the West Haven Sailers, one of the best semi-professional teams in New England, and a team known for winning in barnstorming games. It’s not clear what the two discussed, but it would result in Feller leaving out the back door with Quigley having to play for lunch.

The game was played at Donovan Field, a baseball field that was squeezed inside of a ⅕ mile automobile race track. The game would result in Feller tossing two scoreless innings enroute to the All-Star team winning, 7-3.

Satchel Paige didn’t play, being out due to catching the flu.

Several news outlets criticized the crowd turnout of 3,000 as it was deemed ‘low’.

A year later, Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs came back to West Haven for an exhibition game against the West Haven Sailors. 

Moe Quigley had opened Exhibition Stadium (which was later re-named after him) Just a week before Paige and the Monarchs arrived, making it a perfect place for the Monarchs to play his Sailors. 

Quigley wanted to give the crowd a show, with that he offered Paige $500 (worth about $6,000 in today’s money) which would be rewarded if he went the full distance and picked up the win. 

Paige, who was 41-years-old at the time, accepted the offer. 

At the end of three innings, the Monarchs trailed 1-0. Kansas City would tie it in the 6th off of West Haven’s Bob Barthelson. Paige allowed several hits, but was still as sharp as any 41-year-old pitcher could be – notching 8 strikeouts before West Haven’s Red Sheehan won it with an RBI single up the middle in the 9th. 

Overall, there are no official records of both games as they were lost in time. Eyewitness accounts, along with Sam Rubin's 'Baseball In New Haven' book are what's left of Feller and Paige's time in West Haven.

Donovan Field, along with the speedway were demolished in the 1960s and Quigley Stadium still remains today, but is in a near decrepit state. 

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