Keene Fitzpatrick - Early Years - Natick Hook and Ladder Company

Natick Hook and Ladder Company

In the late 1870s and 1880s, New England was "the home of the professional athlete." Teams of professional sprinters formed in New England. For a decade, the sport thrived, and Fitzpatrick was one of the leading sprinters. Sprinters took up residence in small towns and competed with the local fire companies that engaged in hose races with other companies. Fitzpatrick "was one of the first to organize the famous hose, hook and ladder teams, when racing of this kind was so popular and the rivalry between Massachusetts towns was keen."

The "Natick Hook and Ladder Company" was the most successful of the New England teams, becoming "the world's championship organization." The Natick team in the 1880s included Fitzpatrick and some of the leading sprinters of the era, including Mike Murphy, William F. Donovan, Sid Peet, Johnny Mack, Steve Farrell, and world champion Piper Donovan. In 1885, the only sweepstake race to determine the national champion of American professional sprinters was held and won by Natick's Piper Donovan. Several members of the Natick Hook and Ladder Cmpany went on to become leading trainers at American universities, leading to Massachusetts being called the "mother of athletic mentors."

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