Believe me. Choosing what I consider Pictou County’s three best sports dynasties in our lifetime wasn’t as simple an exercise as it may sound on the surface.
But I’ve done my best.
The toughest challenge I faced was reducing the selections to three as promised. There was a fourth franchise that kept haunting me — even in the dark at three o’clock in the morning — that it belonged somewhere with the others.
I apologize for its absence.
So, with my deadline arriving, I take you back to the late 1950s and early ’60s to offer my number 3 choice.
If you’re old enough to remember, senior softball was in its golden era in the county, the province and the Maritimes in those long-ago summers.
And what a huge pleasure it was to be a young reporter covering the Trenton Scotias during their four-year storybook period from 1958 to 1961.
Their games were thrilling on the diamond in the Steeltown’s north end, the crowds were huge as the locals pitched and batted their way through September and October playoff action and, to a man, the guys proved they were a talented, never-quit group.
It was, indeed, a grand time for softball.
When I recall what they did, I have no hesitation in rating them among the best local sports dynasties I’ve watched in my 65 years in this business.
As those four seasons passed, the club’s achievements became bigger and bigger, against better and better competition.
I was one of those who believed Trenton had the best softball lineup ever assembled in the county, arguably one of the finest in Nova Scotia.
The Scotias were classified senior B in 1958. They proved they were underrated by marching to the provincial championship.
That was only the beginning.
The organization’s eyes were focused on bigger things — the premier clubs in senior A. There was widespread belief the team could move up and be successful. As a senior A franchise, the big prizes seemed within reach.
By 1960, Trenton was ready.
Why not? The roster looked awesome to anyone who understood the softball picture in the Maritimes.
Behind the plate, there were Lonnie Reekie and Doug Brown. In the infield, there was Gun Mason on first, Nelson Wilson at second, Ralph Cameron playing shortstop, and Rab MacDonald on third. The outfield had Jim MacNeil, Dempie Murray and John Ryan. Pitching duties belonged to Barry Semple and Don (Scow) Vincent.
Awesome was the key word.
The chore ahead was obviously greater than in senior B. For instance, the opponents in the provincial final were the Liverpool Cubs, highly-respected everywhere. The road to victory almost always went through the South Shore.
Trenton got a split in Liverpool in what was a best-of-five series. After losing 5-3 despite a pitching gem from Semple, the Scotias shocked the Cubs with a seven-run outburst in the first inning. They coasted to victory on two MacNeil homers and a solo shot by Mason in a 20-hit attack.
It was back to Trenton to finish matters. If necessary, there would be a tripleheader. However, only two games were necessary.
Remember Trenton’s never-quit attitude? Though trailing by seven runs in the seventh inning, by the end of the eighth it was 10-10. Then a Ryan double won it for Vincent. The second game was an 11-1 laugher.
The Scotias were Nova Scotia champions.
The awaiting Minto Miners, New Brunswick champs, scored a 6-1 verdict in the Maritime final before the series shifted to Trenton with the Scotias needing a doubleheader sweep.
They almost did it.
Vincent’s pitching win and Reekie’s two-run homer gave Trenton a 5-3 win. In the second contest, Minto got an 11-3 lead. Though the Scotias lost, it was a thrilling finish, Minto surviving with an 11-10 decision and the Maritime title.
End of story? No way. The mission simply moved to 1961.
The Sydney Combines were the first foes. In Sydney, the Scotias produced a dramatic 11-9 triumph. Back home, the Pictonians got good pitching from Vincent and two-run homers from Wilson and Cameron in an 11-2 victory.
The provincial finals were against Halifax Texaco in Trenton; the locals lost 7-6 in the opener after holding a 6-1 lead into the eighth frame. Matters switched to the Halifax Commons. It had rained so hard, gasoline had to be burned to make the field playable. A tough way to attempt a doubleheader sweep. Action did start and the Scotias fell behind by two runs, facing elimination.
That’s when fate came to bat.
A heavy downpour wiped out that game and the clubs were rescheduled for the next weekend in Halifax. What a game! After nine innings, it was 9-9. Trenton got a run in the 10th on two Texaco errors and the series was even. Trenton came through again in the next contest, taking a 7-6 thriller.
The Scotias were once again Nova Scotia champs.
Next was the Maritime final against the Saint John Metros – the opener at Trenton on Thanksgiving weekend. What a script! What a large crowd! It was play ball!
Losing the opener 6-5 in the fifth, the Scotias managed two tallies to hand Semple a 7-6 decision. It was on to Saint John to finish business. Trenton dropped an 8-2 verdict to see the series tied. Again, fear not. These were the never-quit boys. They proved it emphatically — by a shocking 19-hit attack that produced a 20-2 win.
The Scotias were Maritime senior A champions, finishing their four-season climb to the very peak of the mountain.
In my career, I’ve watched some great Nova Scotia senior softball teams — the Brookfield Elks, the Halifax Dairy Queen, the Liverpool Cubs.
To me, those 1958-61 Trenton Scotias don’t need to take a back seat to any. That’s why I’ve picked them Pictou County’s third best dynasty I’ve witnessed.
Next week: The county’s second best dynasty.