Halifax Zwicker’s: 1946, 1947 Maritime Senior A Softball Champions
The Halifax Zwicker’s Men’s Wear team was a consistently strong, even dominant team, at a time when competition within Maritime softball (today called fastball) was at its pinnacle, with the Halifax Commercial League involving especially stiff competition with a minimum of eleven teams annually competing for the crown in the city, just for the right to enter regional, provincial and Maritime playoffs, a road that would be long and highly competitive to attain even a single Maritime title.
To win one year was a feat in itself; to win two in a row was very special; with some sports followers suggesting it was actually three, as the Keith’s Stags team included more than half of the former Zwickers team in winning a third consecutive Maritime title.
The trek to these titles actually began in 1945 with People’s Jewelers defeating Zwickers in the Halifax finals and going on to win the provincial crown. The City Commercial League consisted of at least ten or more teams in any one year between 1945-49, including Peoples, Simpsons, Normans, Cordons, Army, Navy (Stadacona), Mounties (RCMP), Conners, Coolen’s, Cousins, Mike’s Outfitters, United Taxi, the Rangers, Keith’s and, of course, Zwickers. At times there was also a Fraternal League in Halifax, as well as one from the South End; and sometimes the military teams played in a separate division, but also played interlocking games with the Commercial League. The structure of the Halifax City Championship varied as well, with three or four playoff series being required to win in any given year.
In 1946, Zwickers beat People’s Jewelers in the semis, then Army for the Halifax title, followed by the Dartmouth North Stars, going undefeated 7-0-1 in that stretch, in what is known today as HRM. They then defeated Springhill 2-0 and Liverpool 2-1 before defeating the Sydney Sunbeams, 2-1, with a fourth game in that three game series won by Halifax, as the second game won 8-7 by Zwickers, was thrown out after a successful protest of an umpire’s decision. The final game was a real battle, with Halifax Zwickers winning the provincial title over the Sunbeams by a score of 3-2 in eleven innings. In the Maritime title they lost the opening game 7-2 after a 12-hour road trip to Saint John, but Zwickers won the final two games against Saint John’s McAvity World’s. Both teams scored 16 runs in that three game series. That level of elevated competition would steel the Zwickers team for competition in the years that followed.
In 1947, after placing first in the Commercial league, Zwickers would defeat the Rangers in straight games in the quarter finals, while Normans beat Cordons; then it was Zwickers over Normans in the semi-final, also in straight games. Then they defeated United Taxi three games to none, in what was a 7-0 playoff run for the league title. Then it was Stadacona and Zwickers for the City title, a “knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out” series in which the Men’s Wear sponsored team outlasted the Navy squad in five games, with the final game being a 4-1 victory won by Zwickers on outstanding pitching and defense.
The provincials began with Dartmouth losing to Zwickers in three games, while Glace Bay defeated Stellerton. Glace Bay would lose in two straight games, with Zwicker’s outscoring them 18-5. The Maritime title would be almost a repeat of 1946, except it would be the Saint John Main Brace who won game one, then fell 5-1 and 7-0 on outstanding pitching by Freddy Cuvelier and Leo Woods, along with a nearly flawless Zwickers infield. Clary Nicolle, the team’s batting leader, Ed Mitchell and Leo Woods led the attack at the plate.
In 1948 there would again be eleven teams in Halifax, and the first games ever played under lights on the Halifax North Commons. However after two consecutive Maritime titles, the Zwickers team was essentially split into two teams, with half of the previous team members joining the Keith’s Stags; the rest remaining with the original team. In the Commercial League finals Keith’s edged Zwickers three games to two in mostly low scoring games, dominated by pitching and defense, again led by Woods and Cuvelier. Woods would play few games during the 1948 regular season, as he was a leading hitter/outfielder in the H&D League (professional baseball), with significant travel commitments. The mainstays of the Keith’s team during the playoffs were Jim and Fred Cuvelier, Frank Neihley, Nicolle, Mitchell and Woods. That is why many regard this championship as their third consecutive Maritime title, despite the sponsor/name change.
It was a truly remarkable and resilient team during the heyday of fastball in the region.
Footnote: In 1949 it was Zwickers who would defeat Keith’s for the Commercial League and the City championships, as well as winning the Nova Scotia title for a third time in four years. However, it was the Saint John Main Brace team who would finally win the Maritime title after a number Saint John’s teams being the New Brunswick Champions for several consecutive years.
Team roster, 1946-47: