Rutsch Brings BriSox Back to Life
By JOHNNY J. BURNHAM, Bristol Press
Nearly 25 years have passed since the Bristol Red Sox walked off the diamond at Muzzy Field and out of the Mum City altogether.
After 10 successful seasons in Bristol - which included three Eastern League titles (1975, '78 and '81) and five divisional championships ('74, '75, '78, '80 and '81) - seemingly as quickly as they arrived, the Double A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox was gone.
Following the 1982 season the team said goodbye to Bristol and headed East to New Britain and the friendly confines of the brand new Beehive Field.
While their beloved Double A squad was still just a short drive away, for the Bristol faithful the distance didn't matter: Watching the team take the field in New Britain would never be the same as seeing it first hand in the historic setting of Muzzy Field.
Thanks to the likes of legendary major leaguers Fred Lynn, Jim Rice and Wade Boggs among numerous others, too many Muzzy memories were already made to see the team jog onto a home field anywhere else.
Memories that are a big part of the city's storied sports history.
Memories that Chris Rutsch is trying to preserve through a Web site solely devoted to what was once Bristol's hometown team.
After moving to Forestville five years ago, Rutsch became interested in the history of Bristol - everything from the architecture of downtown to the scattered clock and spring factories.
Hearing and reading what seemed like a whirlwind of bad news surrounding the city during the beginning of his history lesson, Rutsch finally stumbled across something he believed the city could take pride in.
Information related to the days of the Bristol Red Sox presented itself.
"With headlines in the news like the problems within the police department or the seemingly endless mall fiasco it just seemed there wasn't much Bristol had to be proud of anymore - at least outwardly," he said. "The Bristol Red Sox were something that I considered semi-recent that folks in town would actually remember, and more importantly something that Bristol should have been proud of and should still be proud of."
The world of Web design is nothing new to Rutsch as he started his own company, "Speedy Green," in 1997. But Bristol's baseball history, Muzzy Field and to a certain extent the game of baseball as a whole was indeed unfamiliar territory when he embarked on his Red Sox project a few years ago.
"I have to be honest. I never went to a Bristol Red Sox game, was never even a baseball fan and only made my first trip to Muzzy Field this past fall for the big Bristol Central-New Britain football game," he added.
Originally hailing from the Toronto area, the 30-year-old multimedia professional said he naturally feels at home within the realm of professional hockey.
Yet even after the hours, days and months of research, the actual formation and uploading of the Web page along with the opportunity to listen to the stories of life in the Sox' farm system from former members of the Muzzy nine, surprisingly, baseball still sparks no interest for Rutsch.
"I'm not sure if it's the Canadian roots or just being employed by an ice hockey team but baseball still really isn't my thing," he said. "I am, however, very interested in local history and while the Bristol Red Sox pale in comparison, historically, to things like Sessions, New Departure or the other spring an clock factories in town, they seemed like a good starting point as first-hand information is still readily available. That, and it's just plain neat to know that Bristol had a professional sports team."
In addition to running "Speedy Green" over the past decade, Rutsch has been intertwined with professional athletics and at least one of Connecticut's minor league teams. Since the 2004-05 American Hockey League season he's served as the official team photographer for the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers' top minor league affiliate.
Similar to how many things take shape, Web site design began as just a hobby. Eventually, for Rutsch, it grew into a profession.
Although he admits the game has yet to grab hold of him, Rutsch knows that doesn't change that professional baseball is and always will be a part of the city's history. Bristol will forever be able to stake claim as a past home of the Red Sox. A home to America's Pastime.
Fan or not, the days when the city was literally a part of Red Sox nation, he said, needs to be kept alive.
With the Web site containing a synopsis of the team's 10 year history, season-by-season team records, rosters, old programs, attendance figures along with ERA, wins, home runs and RBI statistics amongst several others, Rutsch seems to be on the right track to doing exactly that.
He has no plans of stopping there.
Rutsch tentatively plans to embed photos, stats and information on every player who proudly put on a Bristol Red Sox uniform - from Rice to Marty Barrett, Lynn to "Oil Can" Boyd, Boggs to Steve Lyons and everyone in between.
Where it may certainly be a tall task it's something he believes to be possible.
Through the acquisition of team programs from each of its 10 seasons and the purchase of several baseball card sets from the 1980s, he may have acquired the content to make that small dream a reality.
"I have tons of content on hand, now it's just a matter of getting it all organized, prepared and entered or scanned for uploading," he said.
But, while he's happy with the site at this point, Rutsch said the BriSox faithful that remain, or those who may come out of the wood work to recall the memories of over 25 years ago can expect the Web tribute to continue to evolve and further come to life.
"I've received e-mails from former players with some great old stories about their antics during their time in Bristol," the Bristol Red Sox preserver said.
"Unfortunately, I'm not quite old enough to get that warm and fuzzy feeling but just knowing that the former players appreciate it and, hopefully, the people in town who frequented the games do too, makes it all worth it."
To take a trip down memory lane or experience the days of the Eastern League's Bristol Red Sox for the first time, visit www.BristolRedSox.com.