By Stan Walker
(c) Connecticut Explored, Spring 2003
In the collection of the Cricket Hall of Fame, located in Hartford, this photo is of Jerine “Jerry” Thompson (1940 – 1994), one of Hartford’s most popular and outstanding cricketers. Thompson came to Connecticut from Trelawny, Jamaica in 1967 to work in the tobacco fields. He was recruited to play for Hartford’s Sportsman Athletic Club team and remained a member of the team until the early 1980s. Thompson became known throughout the northeast for his superb bowling, big hitting, and skill as a fieldsman.
Played in the United States since the early 1700s, cricket has been a mainstay in the Hartford region since the 1940s when ambitious and hardworking West Indians — who came to work in the tobacco fields and in agriculture in general — introduced the game. They initially played a popular version of the game known as “catchy shooby,” on makeshift plots in the farm camps, with improvised bats and balls. With the help of the farm managers they were able to secure gear and play matches between camps. Most matches were played at the Bradley Field camp, a former army camp where tobacco workers were housed.
The West Indian Social Club formed the first team in Hartford in 1947 through the efforts of Jamaicans Reginald Leslie, Noel Elliot, and others. They played teams in Boston and Canada, and in 1951 hosted a team from the British warship HMS Sniper, docked at the New London naval base. With the securing of a cricket field in Keney Park off Ridgefield Street in the early 1950s, the Connecticut Cricket League was formed.
Currently, nine teams in the Hartford area play on cricket fields in Keney Park, Riverside Park, and in Windsor. The Hall of Fame also organizes Hartford’s annual six-a-side cricket tournament which this year will take place June 7th and 8th in Keney Park.
Stan Walker is a former cricket player and officer of the Cricket Hall of Fame. He is also associate editor of the West Indian American newspaper.
For more information visit www.cricketus.com
Grating the Nutmeg Podcast
Episode 51: Greater Hartford’s West Indian Diaspora
Read more stories about African Americans in Connecticut HERE
Read more about Connecticut sports history
African American Greats in Connecticut Baseball, Summer 2018
Walter Camp, the Father of Connecticut Football, Summer 2018