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Hantsport’s rich baseball history: New book chronicles the story of The Shamrocks

Brian Bishop signs copies of his book at the Churchill House in Hantsport. Proceeds from sales will go to the Friends of the Hantsport Library Society and the Hantsport Historical Society Memorial Garden Project.
Brian Bishop signs copies of his book at the Churchill House in Hantsport. Proceeds from sales will go to the Friends of the Hantsport Library Society and the Hantsport Historical Society Memorial Garden Project.

HANTSPORT - The Haven of Hospitality is famous for many things: shipbuilding, William Hall and, of course, the community’s legendary baseball team, the Hantsport Shamrocks.

Brian Bishop, a longtime resident of the community, recently published a book called Barbershop Baseball, which details the rich history of baseball in the region.   

“It’s not just the Hantsport Shamrocks, it’s the history of baseball in Hantsport,” he said. “But a big part of it is, of course, the Hantsport Shamrocks.”

It’s a story Bishop has wanted to tell for a long time. He launched the book at Hantsport’s historic Churchill House to a packed crowd recently.

“It came from several areas, I’ve always had an interest in history,” he said. “The most motivating factor for me was that my father was a founding member of the Shamrocks, way back in the early 1920s.”

At the time, the team wasn’t called The Shamrocks; that began in the 1930s, but Bishop says he always wanted to know more about the history of the team.

“(My father) always used to tell me how good they were back in the ’30s but I never had any substantiating evidence to say so,” he said. “So I started searching it out, and that began three years ago.”

Brian Bishop, a longtime resident of the community, recently published a book called Barbershop Baseball, which details the rich history of baseball in the region.   

“It’s not just the Hantsport Shamrocks, it’s the history of baseball in Hantsport,” he said. “But a big part of it is, of course, the Hantsport Shamrocks.”

It’s a story Bishop has wanted to tell for a long time. He launched the book at Hantsport’s historic Churchill House to a packed crowd recently.

“It came from several areas, I’ve always had an interest in history,” he said. “The most motivating factor for me was that my father was a founding member of the Shamrocks, way back in the early 1920s.”

At the time, the team wasn’t called The Shamrocks; that began in the 1930s, but Bishop says he always wanted to know more about the history of the team.

“(My father) always used to tell me how good they were back in the ’30s but I never had any substantiating evidence to say so,” he said. “So I started searching it out, and that began three years ago.”

Getting the facts

Bishop said he read every newspaper from the area that he could get his hands on from the late 1800s until the 1960s.

He also researched town hall records, information from the West Hants Historical Society and other sources.

But, perhaps the best source of material for the book were his interviews with the players themselves.

“I interviewed almost every Shamrock player that’s still alive, some of them going back to the 1930s,” he said. “They would tell me stories, some of them were quite humorous, when the teams would play away games, some I couldn’t tell.”

Laurie Johnston, who was a Hantsport Shamrock from 1965–1967, said he was proud to be a part of the team’s long history.

“We played ball all through the years, little league and up, and the Shamrocks were like our heroes,” Johnston said. “Then we became members of that team and we were playing with some of the people who coached us, it was quite a thrill.”

Dave MacInnis played with the Hantsport Shamrocks from 1965–1967 as well.

“I grew up watching the Shamrock’s play and wanting to be a Shamrock and it just sort of happened,” he said. “It was the best, it really was.”

Keith Bridgeo, a Shamrock from 1966 to 1967, sported a Shamrock t-shirt at the book launch.

“It’s awesome, it’s quite an honour,” Bridgeo said of participating in the book. “Once you’re in the baseball fraternity, it’s very special. We’re going to see a lot of old friends here tonight, which makes it all the more special.”

Bridgeo was just a teenager at the time, only 16 or 17 when he began playing senior baseball.

“I was on the top of the world,” he said.

 

A little history

The book features photos and illustrations of baseball players, memorabilia and moments from years gone by. Bishop’s granddaughter Hannah MacCormack worked on the illustrations.

“I almost call it a children’s book, it’s a book for the children of the Shamrocks of this era and days gone by, and also for the future children of generations of ball players to come,” he said.

Baseball reached its height in the Haven of Hospitality around the 1930s, following the stock market crash.

“In the Dirty ‘30s, people weren’t working and had nothing to do,” said MacCormack. “One gentleman told me, ‘we had nothing to do, so we played baseball’.”

There were over a dozen teams from Hants County alone playing almost every day of the week during a championship, Bishop said.

“There was almost an epidemic of baseball throughout the whole province, it was huge,” he said. “They had no work, so they had to have something to do.”

Marle Carvey, a Hantsport Shamrock from 1958 – 1961, came to the launch of Barbershop Baseball. Carvey was interviewed by Bishop for the book

More than an obsession

A lot of that has changed, although still a major sport in Nova Scotia, it’s not nearly as big or as popular as it once was.

“As new highways opened up and people could travel easily by themselves, they could go golf or to other sports, there’s many more sporting activities that opened up to people,” MacCormack said. “The advent of television, where you could stay home and watch a game, rather than out in the cold. There’s always nice-weather sports fans, but the true die-hards are there for every game rain or shine.”

In a lot of the “old baseball communities,” he said, there are still very active baseball teams. But, back in the ‘60s Hantsport would sometimes draw 1,500 people to a game.

Bishop self-published this book, saying he was told he could have easily sold the book through a publisher.

“I knew that (a publisher) would want to cut out things that were important for me to stay in the book,” he said. “So I’ve taken the risk of publishing it myself.”

The book highlights more than Hantsport’s baseball obsession - it also shows how the town grew - culturally, economically and socially.

Bishop says baseball was like a thread, woven through the Hantsport tapestry.

“I likely could have written this book to appeal to a wider audience, but I purposefully chose to make this Hantsport’s book,” he said. “But it touches all of the communities the teams played with.”

This is the first book Bishop has published. He became interested in writing a book after taking a children’s literature course in Connecticut after retiring.

Proceeds of book sales are going towards to non-profit organizations, including Friends of the Hantsport Public Library and the Hantsport Historical Society Memorial Garden Project.

 

“As a former teacher and school administrator, reading is something I’ve always supported and libraries are educational institutions in their own way,” Bishop said. “The new library is being named after Roy and Isabel Jodrey and they were both very important people, contributed a lot to this community, and when I wrote my book I show how Mr. Jodrey was so important to sports development, particularly baseball.”

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