Pictou Advocate sports

An old Albion still going strong

Sports

It was one of those boy-meets-girl stories that can happen anytime in any town. The road travelled wasn’t unusual — the couple meets unexpectedly, they fall in love, they get married, they have children and grandchildren, and they live happily ever after.

The one I’m recalling began in 1958 in downtown New Glasgow — at one of those regular IOOF dances that used to be held above the old Woolworth’s store on Provost Street.

Moe Morhardt was 21 years old then, a two-sport All-American at the University of Connecticut where he was a physical education major, and came to Pictou County that summer to play for the Stellarton Albions in the Halifax and District Baseball League.

The weather was beautiful; he was one of the stars in the Albions’ victory earlier in the evening, so he took a bus to New Glasgow and was strolling through the business district to familiarize himself with the surroundings. He heard music coming from the second floor of the department store, so climbed the stairs to see what was happening.

In a later interview, he put it this way: “There was a dance going on, and I noticed a girl in a black dress, dancing with practically everybody in sight. She seemed to know everybody in the place. I never did a lot of dancing, but I did some this time.”

Moe, meet Georgie Cochrane. Georgie, meet Moe Morhardt.

Georgie, who grew up in the south end of town, was a great athlete, too. She played on the soccer, basketball and tumbling teams at New Glasgow High School, from where she graduated the previous year, then entered the school of nursing at the Aberdeen Hospital. She was 18 going on 19.

The storybook tale began that evening.

“The night I met Georgie,” Moe would say, “was a pretty good day all around. I had three hits and two walks in the game and we won in the last of the ninth inning.”

Though the Albions played six games every week, they found time to get better acquainted. When the ball season ended, they corresponded regularly.

The relationship progressed.

It hadn’t been a good season for the ball club, however. The Albions finished in last place in what had been reduced to a four-team league. They were even worse in the playdowns, getting wiped out by the Kentville Wildcats in five straight games in the semi-finals. Not long after, Stellarton withdrew from the league. A year later, the H&D would become history.

A decade or so ago, Morhardt recalled that disappointing season, despite his own fine play in the outfield and a decent average in the .250s. At one stage, he missed two weeks after being hurt when he crashed into the left field fence in a contest in Stellarton. He returned and resumed his fine play.

When Stellarton brought Morhardt in, the young guy didn’t know about the excellent ball being played in the circuit. It was after he got here that he learned the Albions had once been the league’s kingpins, winning three straight titles in 1951-53.

That history didn’t ease the pain of a losing campaign.

“It’s tough to relive the old nightmares,” he said of the quick exit against Kentville. That was it for Morhardt and Nova Scotia ball.

Meanwhile, away from the field, everything was going in the right direction.

Eighteen months after Moe met Georgie, they got engaged on New Year’s Eve 1959. The next October, they were married at the Kirk Church in New Glasgow.

I remember I was to be the wedding photographer that day, but at the last minute, I got called away to cover a serious highway accident in the county. Like a pinch-hitter in baseball, Wilkie Taylor stepped up to the plate and handled the photo assignment like an all-star.

Having been in high school with Georgie, I wondered how things were going in Connecticut. Then, in 2008, I heard from Moe and passed on their news in my Advocate column.

After Morhardt spent time with the Chicago Cubs during the 1961 and ‘62 seasons, they settled in Connecticut, had three sons, a daughter and seven grandchildren.

Jump forward to 2019.

I received a letter last week from one of Georgie’s sisters, Saundra Cochrane, who lives in Trenton. She reported that “all is well” with the couple who celebrated their 58th anniversary three months ago.

The “boy” is now 81, the “girl” 79.

Included in the letter was a Morhardt update by sports columnist Joe Palladino in the Republican-American, a local newspaper in Waterbury, Conn.

Moe and Georgie, according to him, are both still very physically active and, as the heading on the column says, “Moe still gives it his all.”

He’s still involved in baseball, coaching an under-15 team in Torrington, Conn.

In his column, Palladino called Morhardt “a living diamond legend” in the region and explained the old baseball guy is a member of the Manchester High School sports hall of fame.

The column said “when it comes to baseball, Moe knows a thing or two because he’s seen a thing or two.”

After many years of coaching, Morhardt got away from the game about a decade ago, but returned to coach the minor ball team. Like his other coaching positions, he was happy in the role.

His view: “The game hasn’t changed, and I haven’t changed.”

Though now 81, Morhardt, according to the writer, is “healthy and feels great. He walks 4.2 miles every day. Not four miles, but 4.2 miles. That’s Moe. No detail is unimportant.”

A photo of Moe accompanied the article and, though it’s obvious he looks a bit older than when we watched him playing in the Stellarton outfield, he certainly appears healthy for a fellow of his age.

Moe and Georgie?

In every way, it’s truly been a storybook tale that started on that long-ago night at the IOOF dance.