Dominion Hawks History

By Allen McCormick

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When did the Hawks begin baseball? Some sources I found suggested 1911, other sources 1917, then I came across a 1908 picture. We do know that a young man named Abner Doubleday invented the game known as baseball in Cooperstown, New York, during the summer of 1839. Doubleday then went on to become a Civil War hero, while baseball became America's beloved national pastime. Baseball in these parts was being played in New Brunswick in 1888, and an Inter-colonial League in 1891. The Inter-Colonial League tried to start-up in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick but failed to play a single game.

In Dominion, baseball was more than a past time. Baseball has become a generational game, as some players dad’s and grandfathers or great grandfathers played on the original 1908 team. The Hawks played ball on a field just below the Church of the Good Shepard. They played there until 1935.

One of the earliest stars of the game was Hector “Hec” Andrews was born in 1897 in Gardiner Mines, Nova Scotia. He began his baseball career in 1913, playing shortstop for the Dominion Hawks of the Cape Breton Colliery League. During a playoff game in 1921, he recorded the longest home run ever in “Hawks Field” with a distance of 478 feet.

Hec was inducted into both the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame and the Cape Breton Sports hall of fame.

The family of Hec Andrews is still in possession of the baseball bat and Hec’s spirit will live on with our 2019 mascot for the Dream Field…Hecky.

After the Dominion Hawks dispersed in 1922, Andrews decided to continue playing baseball with an amateur team in Cape Breton and remained with them until his retirement in 1930.

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Early History of the Hawks

Much of the following is from the 1997 MA Thesis from D. James Myers: Hard Times - Hard Ball The Cape Breton Colliery League 1936-1939

There has been a strong tradition of baseball in its many forms — hardball, softball, slo-pitch, and tee-ball — in Cape Breton for more than 100 years, but local baseball’s best seasons were back in the 1930s when the Colliery League existed.

 

Baseball would become a symbol of community and regional identity, a contributor to civic loyalty in the small and medium-sized town and cities of the Maritimes. Baseball played in the professional Cape Breton Colliery League provided many exciting moments for its fans. Players were both local and imported and played exciting, fast paced games guaranteed to keep the level of interest in the game of baseball at a fever pitch. But the League contributed more than just enjoyment to the communities of industrial Cape Breton. Baseball was a source of community cohesion. The League assisted in the definition of community boundaries and served as a sacred community symbol. In Cape Breton, baseball was a metaphor for class antagonism as the Colliery League rebelled against the dictatorial powers of the Nova Scotia Amateur Baseball Association. The Colliery League provided an escape from the day to day problems of life by not only playing exciting baseball but adding t o the already strong sense of community found in the League towns. The summer of 1935 was a successful time for the Cape Breton Colliery League although not without difficulties

 

The Dominion Hawks opened a new ballpark during 1935 with over 2,000 fans in attendance. There was a six-foot fence and a four tier grandstand behind home plate with another grandstand down the third base line. There was a sign over the entrance gate which read "Hawks Baseball Park, “1911-1935 " (len said 1917 in his book) The first game of the 1935 season saw the Dominion team wearing new uniforms while the visiting New Waterford team had uniforms previously worn by the Brooklyn Dodgers, grey with red trim and numbers on the back. ' New Waterford won the 1935 regular schedule followed by Dominion and the Sydney team. In the first round of the play-offs Dominion defeated Sydney and faced the New Waterford Dodgers, losers of only one game during the regular twenty game schedule, in the finals. The finals were an upset as Dominion won the right to face the Springhill Fence busters. The teams split the two games in Dominion, but the Hawks won the next two games in Springhill to advance to the Nova Scotia finals against the powerful Yarmouth Gateways. The Gateways defeated the Hawks in straight games with the scores of 14-0, 8-1 and 9-4. The Dominion team was no match for the Gateways who were undefeated in their march to the Nova Scotia title.

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Dominion, with a population of 3,000 had been league champions for the last three years, announced the signing of Clarence ”Siki” Leadbetter of Springhill and Roy Maxwell, a local star. Maxwell had obtained a job as an intern at the Glace Bay General Hospital through the influence of the coal Company. They also signed three American players and ‘Smokey’ Joe Kelly the best local pitcher in the Colliery League. 

 

Dominion Hawks were building dugouts with concrete walls, floors and cold water taps. Both dugouts would be on the same side of the field with room between for a scorer's table.

 

Before the season began, William Zitzman replaced Bert Daniels as the Dominion Hawks manager. Zitzman had played 406 games in the major leagues, the majority being with the Cincinnati Reds with a batting average of -267. Hank Hamilton was signed to replace Joe Page in Sydney. As the Colliery League prepared to enter the world of professional baseball, an effort was made to buy all equipment from local merchants (Allen McCormick applauds the buy local effort. In 1936 over $4,000 was put into the local economy by the clubs to pay for equipment. Another attempt would be made to have the Provincial Government lower the amusement tax from five cents to three cents. Interest in the Colliery League was not restricted to Cape Breton Island. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would broadcast the first two games throughout the Maritimes.

 

By 1937, five Colliery League teams turned pro. Players, trainers, managers and umpires were recruited from the big American leagues. Fields were improved and press boxes built. The Dominion Hawks erected a replica of the Yankee Stadium scoreboard.

The Dominion Hawks had built a scoreboard, an exact duplicate of the one found in Yankee Stadium which had room for advertising, an additional source of revenue for the club. The Dominion team had a deficit over $1,000 for the 1936 season but with the full support of the local citizens felt sure of a successful season.

These fans who consumed excess alcohol were to be expelled from the park. The R.C.M.P. would attend all games to ensure the liquor laws were obeyed. Anyone with liquor was to be expelled from the park. President Campbell was of the opinion that only a small number of fans was creating the problem and a larger police presence would be of a great help. To quote President Campbell: "Their was much better discipline of players and the players as a general rule were more ambitious, cleaner living lot than the former players who played in Cape Breton in years gone by.” Campbell was placing the problem directly on the fans and not the players. He seemed to be defending his idea that the imported players should be of good character and set a strong example for the youth of Cape Breton. If the youth of Cape Breton admired these players of strong athletic ability and good character there was hope that sport would keep the youth from a life of poor choices. President Campbell as a Judge of the Juvenile Court had a vested interest in the character and moral strength of the youth of Cape Breton. He was espousing form of muscular Christianity. Sport had the potential to form character if the rules of a game were respected. There was then hope that the rules of the game of life would also be respected." Sport could be used to build a strong Christian character; the positive sport could be useful in the development of leadership with the team sports and their dependence on group goals rather than individual skill playing a major role.'" Team sports would build character and teach a respect for rules and laws. During the season the Colliery League players visited sick children. They spoke to the children at the ballpark whenever possible and never refused an autograph. When playing exhibition games in Halifax the players gave balls to the children at the games. As one reverend gentleman remarked, you can apply a lot of religion to the game of baseball if you have the correct missionaries.

 

Two excellent examples of umpires and players having heated discussions soon followed. On July 2, Sydney defeated Sydney Mines by a score of 4-3. The fans stormed the field when Umpire Sam Melanson ruled against a triple by MacKinnon of the Ramblers which drove in two runs. Ramblers catcher Danny Ayotte was ejected from the game for arguing the call. Melanson was escorted from the field by local police and the R.C.M.P.

Lefty Lumanski signed with the Dominion Hawks on July 10. In 1935 he played for Rochester of the International League and would be the first imported player of Jewish origin to play in Cape Breton. It was rumoured that Lumanski had his own source of income and played for the love of the game. Perhaps a reference to the stereotype that all Jewish people are wealthy.

 

Dominion Junior Hawks won the Baseball Championship in 1936. The manager was Dan T. MacNeil the team was paraded down commercial street when they won.

 

The Dominion Hawks had $500.00 to start the 1936 season and announced Ralph Hall would manage the club. He had begun 20 April 1936. playing ball in 1909 as a second baseman and catcher and had played in the last Cape Breton pro league in 1923.

The Colliery League would attempt to operate on a non- profit basis in 1938. The teams would distribute excess funds to charity to eliminate the payment of the provincial amusement tax. All the League teams had lost money in 1937 and paying of over five thousand dollars in amusement tax did not help balance the books. Sydney who paid over fifteen hundred dollars in tax felt the money would be better spent on playgrounds for children, fixing old locations and establishing new ones. It appeared that the New Waterford Dodgers might not return to the League, as they faced a deficit of about thirty-two hundred dollars; forty percent of which was spent transporting players to and from the United States and nine hundred dollars in provincial tax. Sydney had receipts of $19,000 and was $1,000 in arrears, Sydney Mines $10,000 in receipts and $1,000 in arrears. Dominion was $1,500 in arrears.

 

The Dominion Coal Company complained that afternoon games were hurting production as miners went to ball games and not to work. This absenteeism from work was a concern for local merchants. If the miners did not work they would not be paid. This in turn meant that there would be less money to spend at the local stores. One action the League could take to stop this practice was the installation of lights enabling night games to be played.

 

In early April an offer was made by unnamed American to purchase the Dominion Hawks but the team was not for sale. All the teams in the Colliery League were owned by members of the local community and Dominion would remain locally owned, a part of the community. In Dominion, Alex Burden the manager of No. 1B Colliery was elected President of the Dominion Hawks. He proposed a check-off be used at the mine so that interested fans could donate money to the team to help reduce the deficit. It was hoped the miners would donate ten cents a pay to help defray the costs of running the team. Businesses and clerks of Dominion would be solicited for weekly contributions and monster bingo games would raise funds on a weekly basis.

 

At a league meeting held in Dominion, Gregor and his executive proposed a Co-operative Baseball Plan. The gate and grandstand receipts would be pooled and used to pay down the deficit that plagued all the League teams, Gate receipts would be given to the League executive who would ensure that all salaries and operating expenses were paid. If any money was left after all the expenses were met it would be divided equally among the teams, ' Gregor also wanted changes made to the Lord’s Day Alliance Act by the Provincial Government. Baseball, he reasoned, was a clean, wholesome game that could be enjoyed on a Sunday afternoon by adults while at the same time keeping children out of trouble. Sunday was really the only opportunity for a large percentage of men who worked day and afternoon shifts to attend the games.

 

On the same day, a meeting of League directors was held to decide the fate of the Dominion Hawks. It was becoming evident that the team may fold due to a lack of fan support. - and a mounting deficit plus bills of $2,000 left from 1937. -' The Hawks were losing, and the team was in last place with the majority of fans coming from other towns. With the team doing poorly at the gate, the Hawks must have a percentage of road gates to break even, but the other teams would not agree to this plan. There was a fear that if Dominion folded, the National Association would not accept a League with four teams. The loss of Dominion would require a shorter schedule and a change in the playoff format. In an effort to raise much needed funds, Ralph Bellrose and Lou Lowe were sold t o Glace Bay for one hundred twenty-five dollars. July 14 saw the Dominion Hawks leave the Colliery League as a result of poor financial support:'' a team with a forty year history of organized baseball. Two hundred and fifty fans met in Dominion to attempt to keep the team in the League. A collection was taken up and a committee named to search for new players. The directors of the Colliery League announced the withdrawal of the Hawks and began to draw up a new schedule for the rest of the season. The team representing the smallest community in the League could no longer pay their bills . The remaining four teams in the League would donate money to the Hawks in an effort to help them pay their bills.

 

The Colliery League had 77,846 adult admissions paid during the 1938 season with a gross of $45,000 to $50,000. The official statistics of adult attendance was released by Frank Murphy, the Board of Licence representative on Cape Breton Island. Glace Bay had 19,986 paid adult admissions, New Waterford 17,759, Sydney 21,628, Sydney Mines who did not compete in the playoffs 14,408, and Dominion during its nineteen games before the suspension of operations 4,083.

 

When the Dominion Hawks were in financial trouble in 1938 they attempted a similar scheme in the mines in their area but were not able to raise sufficient funds. However, the demise of the Hawks was caused by the small size of the population base of Dominion, not by the lack of generosity of their supporters. Seeing the solidarity of the teams in the League, the remaining four donated money to the Hawks to help them pay their bills. The cost of arranging the transportation of players from Central Canada and the Eastern United States was a major portion of the teams budgets.

 

During the 1936 season Whitey" Michaels, a black player performed with the Dominion Hawks but not without some difficulties in being accepted. It took the executive members of the other teams a lengthy period of time before allowing Michaels permission to play. The fans in Sydney Mines would not allow Michaels to play. During the three years the Colliery League was a member of organized baseball there was an unwritten rule that prohibited blacks from performing and only one native person performed in the League.

 

The League certainly divided the sexes and excluded blacks and native people. 

 

The Dominion Hawks hired George (Whitey) Michaels from the Boston Royal Giants as player-coach. After the Colliery League became fully affiliated with the pro leagues Michaels had to be let go because of league rules against black players on minor league teams.

 

William (Boss) Wilson, one of the organizers of the Class D Cape Breton Colliery League, died at a hospital in Glace Bay, N. S.. July 14, at the age of 74. He headed the Dominion Hawks in the circuit. Wilson had been an umpire and a referee and announcer for boxing bouts on Cape Breton Island.

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The Dominion Community Hawks Club

The Dominion Community Hawks Club is a non-profit club that was started in the late 1940s by concerned citizens who wanted to start a sports organization to make the community a better place for their kids to live in.  The club was lost in a fire in the 1950s.

 

The Dominion Community Hawks Club under the guidance of Mayor Bob McVeigh and a group of concerned citizens came into existence on 23 July, 1988. (insert the names of the original members) The main objective of the new organization was to raise funds and support the youth of the community.

A year later the club was incorporated and the fund raising began in earnest. The first successful project was providing Dominion Minor Baseball with new uniforms and equipment. The club obtained a Little Red School House grant, renovated over a building provided by the town which was at the Hawks field. In 1994 the club decided to build a new building on land obtained from the trustees of the Old Dominion Hawks Club which disbanded in 1964.

Gerald Lewis, Albert Zillman, and Harold Messenger from the organization helped in the purchase of the land which is at the entrance of Dominion beach. Construction of the new building began on March, 23, 1994. A fifty thousand dollar loan was taken out and each of the twenty-five members agreed to pay five dollars a week over a ten year period. After three years the debt on the building was cut in half.

In 1998 a twenty-five thousand dollar grant was secured from Nova Scotia Culture and Recreation which helped in buying new furniture for the club and to renovate the down stairs. In 2000 the club was successful in paying off its mortgage and now was debt free. It was now in a position to carry out its mandate by supporting worth while projects in the community, one hundred per cent.

Since 1988 the Hawks Club has donated back to our area, over $240,000.00 to causes across the province. We are now a forty-five member strong organisation, who give freely of their time and energy to raise much needed funds and are very proud of the achievements we have taken part in.

The loss of our high school was a terrible shock to the organisation as it the focal point in our little town. We had donated over $85,000.00 to the school , sponsoring school hockey, Dominion hockey clinic, Junior, Elementary and Senior basketball teams, badminton teams, wrestling teams, soccer teams as well as baseball and softball, Student council events, safe grad events and skating parties. Another $10,000.00 had been spent buying uniforms and needed equipment.

We continue to sponsor many projects at schools where our youth are attending today. Our mandate to help make our community a better place to live remains the same today and we will continue to maintain that attitude.

A special feature of our operation is a sincere effort to acknowledge, annually, some of the outstanding volunteers in our community. A club decision was made to select and honor one of the volunteers involved with a special award, “The Gerald Lewis Golden Hawk Award For Years Of Outstanding Community Spirit”. The award was named in honor of one of our founding members, the late Gerald Lewis.

The recipients were:

  • 1999- L. Stephenson

  • 2000- Arthur MacDonald

  • 2001- Doug Morris

  • 2002 –Helen Babin

  • 2003 –Weldon Boutilier

  • 2004 –Jackie Scott

  • 2005 –Donald Ellsworth

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Brother Matthias and Babe Ruth

Much of the following is from the CBC article Babe Ruth: Made in Canada?

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I’m not sure if Martine Leo Boutlier ever made it across Dominion beach to play baseball on our side of the bay. Perhaps it was a Hawk that taught him to play baseball! Martine Leo Boutlier was born a bruiser in Lingan, Nova Scotia, on July 11, 1872. He grew to 6-foot-4, packed on 240 pounds of Cape Breton muscle and decided to join the Xavier brotherhood.

Not a priest, not ordained, but working within the framework of robust Catholicism, he took the name Brother Matthias and got the job of running the recreation program at St .Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore.

Lingan’s Brother Matthias introduced the kids to baseball. One chap was George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr. (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948) who would go as an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball (MLB) spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935. Nicknamed "The Bambino" and "The Sultan of Swat", he began his MLB career as a star left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees. Ruth established many MLB batting (and some pitching) records, including career home runs (714), runs batted in (RBIs) (2,213), bases on balls (2,062), slugging percentage (.690), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) (1.164); the latter still stands as of 2019. Ruth is regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture and is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. In 1936, Ruth was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its "first five" inaugural members. The Babe’s first home run was in Canada on the Toronto Islands against the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team.

The following is a testimonial given by Babe Ruth:

Bad boy Ruth – that was me.

Don't get the idea that I'm proud of my harum-scarum youth. I'm not. I simply had a rotten start in life, and it took me a long time to get my bearings.

Looking back to my youth, I honestly don't think I knew the difference between right and wrong. I spent much of my early boyhood living over my father's saloon, in Baltimore- and when I wasn't living over it, I was soaking up the atmosphere. I hardly knew my parents.

St. Mary's Industrial School in Baltimore, where I was finally taken, has been called an orphanage, and a reform school. It was, in fact, a training school for orphans, incorrigibles, delinquents and runaways picked up on the streets of the city. I was listed as an incorrigible. I guess I was. Perhaps I would have been but for Brother Matthias, the greatest man I have ever known, and for the religious training I received there which has since been so important to me.

I doubt if any appeal could have straightened me out except a power over and above man- the appeal of God. Iron-rod discipline couldn't have done it. Nor all the punishment and reward systems that could have been devised. God has an eye out for me, just as He has for you, and He was pulling for me to make the grade.

As I look back now, I realize that knowledge of God was a big crossroads with me. I got one thing straight (and I wish all kids did) – that God was the Boss. He was only my Boss but Boss of all my bosses. Up till then, like all bad kids, I hated most of the people who had control over me and could punish me. I began to see that I had a higher Person to reckon with who never changed, whereas my earthly authorities changed from year to year. Those who bossed me had the same self-battles – they, like me, had to account to God. I also realized that God was not only just but merciful. He knew we were weak and that we all found it easier to be stinkers than sons of God, not only as kids but also all through our lives.

That clear picture, I'm sure, would be important to any kid who hates a teacher, or resents a person in charge. This picture of my relationship to man and God was what helped relieve me of bitterness and rancor and a desire to get even.

I've seen a great number of "he-men" in my baseball career, but never one equal to Brother Matthias. He stood six feet six and weighed 250 pounds. It was all muscle. He could have been successful at anything he wanted to in life – and he chose the church.

It was he who introduced me to baseball. Very early he noticed that I had some natural talent for throwing and catching. He used to back me in a corner of the big yard at St. Mary's and bunt a ball to me by the hour, correcting the mistakes I made with my hands and feet. I never forgot the first time I saw him hit a ball. The baseball in 1902 was a lump of mush, but Brother Matthias would stand at the end of the yard, throw the ball up with his left hand, and give it a terrific belt with the bat he held in his right hand. The ball would carry 350 feet, a tremendous knock in those days. I would watch him bug-eyed.

Thanks to brother Matthias I was able to leave St. Mary's in 1914 and begin my professional career with the famous Baltimore Orioles (at that time a minor league team). Out on my own…boy, did it go to my head; I began really to cut capers…