In Joe Gray’s second instalment of Curveballs and Sliders, he looks at the surprising history of baseball in Hetfordshire.
The 2013 season represents a high-water mark for adult baseball in Hertfordshire.
The five senior teams entered in the British baseball league – all playing at Grovehill Ballpark, Hemel Hempstead – is a record for the county.
A previous zenith came in the late 1980s, when there were three Hemel teams and one over in nearby Hoddesdon.
Stevenage entered the baseball scene in the early 1990s, with the Knights enjoying some success before folding after the end of the 1997 season.
By that point, the Herts baseball torch had been handed over – the current Herts Falcons were formed in 1996 as were the Bushey Falcons of south Watford.
And Watford is important in Hertfordshire’s baseball history for another reason.
In 1969, the Watford Sun-Rockets – combining the name of their affiliate firm Sun Printers with the Rockets on the jerseys donated to them by a US Air Force base at Ruislip – were playing in the second-tier Southern Senior League but claimed a famous scalp by stunning a strong Liverpool Trojans squad in the national final.
The championship game, played in Nottingham, was one of the all-time classics of British baseball. The game entered the top of the eighth with the Trojans holding a 6–3 lead.
In that frame, Watford managed to load the bases with two outs, and Don Spencer, who had entered the game in the sixth, tripled to tie up the game, and the game went into extra innings.
In the 10th inning, Don Brock scored a run for Watford but the Trojans responded with a run of their own.
In the 11th inning, Watford were able once more to score a run in the top half of the inning on a hit by Brock. This time the Trojans could not keep the game alive and fell 8–7.
Before the Sun-Rockets’ brief but highly successful period of existence, only two other teams are known to have existed in Herts.
Back in 1954, the De Havilland Comets played South Eastern Baseball League games in Leavesden, while in 1961 a non-affiliated team known as BSP Industries were registered at the Borehamwood Football Club ground.
> Next week, Curveballs and Sliders will explore the structure of the modern British Baseball Federation.
Joe Gray is the founder and co-ordinator of Project COBB, the home of the chronicling of British Baseball. To visit the website, click here