It was 15 years ago. My column was appearing twice a week in The Evening News when I was asked by a reader to solve a local baseball mystery for him.
At the time, he was looking back 40 years to the 1962 season in the Twilight Senior Baseball League. He said he couldn’t find out — from any of several sources — who won the league championship that year. “So I’m turning to you,” he wrote. “I know you were involved in some capacity with the league.”
I couldn’t answer the man because I couldn’t find the necessary information in old newspapers. I even baffled the league president when I asked him about it.
Another decade and a half have passed since I first investigated — and I still haven’t got an answer.
There was one thing I was reminded about as I did my research: that 1962 season was a strange one. You could call it weird, ridiculous, unbelievable. You could call it whatever you want.
Now 55 years since it happened — or didn’t happen — I’ll once again relate the developments that almost needed a royal commission.
Entering 1962, the New Glasgow Bombers were returning to defend their championship against the North End Cardinals, Stellarton Albions, Westville Miners and Antigonish Bulldogs.
By mid-August, the five-team regular schedule was about three-quarters finished. But it never went further. Instead, the remaining action was cancelled by league officials so the playoffs could begin.
The foolishness was starting.
I didn’t trust my own memory on this one, so I went to an always-reliable source — the Nova Scotia Provincial Archives in Halifax. That would solve the whole thing quickly — or so I thought. The Archives, it turned out, didn’t have that particular year for The Evening News. It was the only year that was missing.
I turned to The Chronicle Herald microfilm files at the Archives, a process that always worked anytime I needed background information on a topic. I spent another full day going through microfiche. It gave me some of the details I was seeking.
The last weeks of the schedule had been cancelled so the New Glasgow and Antigonish teams could meet in the first series of provincial intermediate playdowns.
There was nothing normal about it. There were protests. There were counter-protests. On-field squabbling delayed a simple best-of-three series until early September. The third and deciding game had been played — but was thrown out by the Nova Scotia Baseball Association.
The Bombers travelled back to Antigonish, not once, not twice, but three times before the teams actually got on the field. The Bulldogs won it and were given a bye to the league finals so the provincials could continue.
League playoffs didn’t get started until after Labour Day.
Quarter-finals were best-of-five rounds, New Glasgow and North End in one set, Stellarton and Westville in the other.
I warned you that this was going to get strange.
Neither quarter-final was decided on the diamond. The Bombers were awarded their series when the Cardinals didn’t show up for the deciding game. The Miners were named winners of their set after the Albions, trailing 2-1 in games, didn’t appear for the fourth game.
New Glasgow and Westville were then ordered to play a league semi-final. It was booked initially as a best-of-five round. But because the league was fighting the advancing calendar, the set was later reduced to a best-of-three showdown.
The first game was scheduled for Oct. 3 — the same day the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants were playing the opener in the World Series.
Bad weather cancelled the Twilight contest that night. Continued poor weather conditions postponed the opening tilt two more times.
By the time the Yankees had won another championship, the series in Pictou County still hadn’t started.
That’s when the mystery of 1962 hit another brick wall — or outfield fence.
The microfilm at the Archives had delivered the facts to then. So what could possibly stop my research?
I continued checking every page of The Chronicle Herald’s sports section, issue after issue, from those early October weather woes right through to Halloween.
There was nothing about the Twilight league. Absolutely nothing.
Did Westville and New Glasgow ever play that series? If they did, there was no mention of it in the Herald.
Did Antigonish ever get back to league action? Again, no sign of it in the provincial paper.
I was dumbfounded.
Next I turned to Doug Hoare, who was president of the league that year. He remembered the two quarter-finals being decided off the field. He remembered the delays caused by the weather.
But, like myself, he couldn’t recall what happened with the Miners-Bombers series. He reminded me, “It was 40 years ago.”
I knew how he felt.
As I wrote in my column in 2002, maybe more games were played; maybe they weren’t. Maybe a coin was tossed to name a winner. Maybe the Bulldogs did get back to league business. Then again, maybe they didn’t.
Did anyone have an answer? To this day, nobody has ever solved the matter.
What I do remember, when the league returned the next year, I had become president of the renamed Stellarton Keiths and Doug Hoare was named our team manager.
In 1965, our club won the league championship, then captured the Nova Scotia title against the Springhill Fencebusters in what was — you guessed it — a wild series that even involved the police.
But what happened in 1962?
The Yankees beat the Giants 4-3 in games in a series in which the teams took turns winning decisions. Ralph Terry won two contests, Whitey Ford and Bill Stafford one each. The offence was sparked by Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Tony Kubek, Tom Tresh and Clete Boyer.
As for the Twilight league — who knows? I don’t