Remembering Reckitts Robins

This article resulted from a piece of historical research that cost nothing and took less than 10 minutes, but I think the result is magnificent. I did not write that to brag about the achievement. Instead, I’m just trying to illustrate that it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to recover facts about British baseball’s rich history.

A few days ago I entered “Reckitts Robins” into Google for some fact-checking I was doing for the Project Cobb Team names archive. One of the results was a post on a rugby forum by a user called “Yogi” mentioning that he had played for the Robins, a baseball team from Hull, in the 1950s. I signed up to the forum and sent a private message explaining about the research I am carrying out for the British baseball archives. The following words came from the wonderful reply I recived. Yogi’s real name turned out to be Norman Angell (he has a surname that all fans of baseball writing should smile at).

I began work at Reckitts as a 15 year old in 1951 and immediately got interested in baseball, which was very popular in Hull at that time with two divisions of eight each, of which I can remember ten.  These were;  Hull Royals, Hull Giants, East Hull Aces (later Hull Aces),
Cavendish Cardinals, Leeds Lions (with the famous Red Holmes as pitcher), and Holme Cowboys (a USAAF team from the former RAF air base at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, East Yorkshire).  Company sides were Reckitts Robins (because of the Robin Starch that the company produced), Priestman Panthers (named, I think after a Panther crane the the company produced), Blackburn Bombers (from the Blackburn Aircraft Company at Brough, East Yorkshire – Later Hawker-Siddeley and British Aerospace), and a side from Wold Road Youth Club in west Hull.
I don’t know when Reckitts Robins were formed but it would have been after WW2, during which a few American Army sides played in Hull.  My first ever game was when I saw Cavendish Cardinals play a Yank side on Rockford Avenue in East Hull just after the war.  I lived in East Hull and I watched the Cardinals quite often, and also East Hull Aces, hence my eagerness to get playing with Reckitts.
However, the side was well established when I joined them, mainly older players and young employees like myself.  I played three seasons before going into the Army for three years and during that time the side ceased playing as kids my age were all being conscripted into the Forces.  After a couple of years they were returning and under the Guidance of pitcher Stan Hopkinson, they began playing again until about 1961 when the team again folded.  We almost folded a year earlier but we secured the services of another pitcher, the legendary (in Hull anyway) Ron ‘Lofty’ Marshall, who actually worked at Reckitts but played for Hull Royals.
Although one of Hull’s lesser sides the Robins entered the National Cup and I can remember playing at Nottingham Athletic and also against Bootle Red Sox, on a cycling stadium where we were billed as Hull Robins, Hull’s Premier baseball side!!.  As we got beat 9-3 that day that myth was soon kicked into touch.
After the Robins folded I concentrated on my rugby activities, which I am stilll involved in, and my interest in baseball gradually waned, as did the interest in baseball in the city generally, until Hull were left with just one side in the National League.  I have not seen a game in years, apart from US games on TV, and I am not sure whether the game is still played in Hull.  All I can say is that for seven seasons I had a lot of fun and enjoyment from playing the game.
I attach a photo of the Robins, taken in 1960 and I have named every player on it but I cannot remember the name of the club chairman or the umpire for the day.  Incidentally, a cousin of mine, Johnnie Large was one of Hull’s leading umpires, perhaps you have heard of him.  You will certainly have heard of Hull’s ‘Mr. Baseball’, Don Smallwood who played for East Hull Aces and later Hull Aces.  He was a real one club man both as player and later as administrator.  A great guy.

Norman’s story

I began work at Reckitts as a 15 year old in 1951 and immediately got interested in baseball, which was very popular in Hull at that time with two divisions of eight each, of which I can remember ten. These were: Hull Royals, Hull Giants, East Hull Aces (later Hull Aces), Cavendish Cardinals, Leeds Lions (with the famous Red Holmes as pitcher), and Holme Cowboys (a USAAF team from the former RAF air base at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, East Yorkshire). Company sides were Reckitts Robins (because of the Robin Starch that the company produced), Priestman Panthers (named, I think, after a Panther crane the the company produced), Blackburn Bombers (from the Blackburn Aircraft Company at Brough, East Yorkshire [later Hawker Siddeley and British Aerospace]), and a side from Wold Road Youth Club in west Hull.

I don’t know when Reckitts Robins were formed but it would have been after WW2, during which a few American Army sides played in Hull. My first ever game was when I saw Cavendish Cardinals play an American side on Rockford Avenue in East Hull just after the war. I lived in East Hull and I watched the Cardinals quite often, and also East Hull Aces, hence my eagerness to get playing with Reckitts.

However, the side was well established when I joined them, mainly with older players and young employees like myself. I played three seasons before going into the Army for three years and during that time the side ceased playing as kids my age were all being conscripted into the Forces. After a couple of years they were returning and under the guidance of pitcher Stan Hopkinson, they began playing again until about 1961 when the team again folded. We almost folded a year earlier but we secured the services of another pitcher, the legendary (at least in Hull) Ron “Lofty”Marshall, who actually worked at Reckitts but played for Hull Royals.

Although one of Hull’s lesser sides, the Robins entered the National Cup and I can remember playing at Nottingham Athletic and also against Bootle Red Sox, on a cycling stadium where we were billed as Hull Robins, “Hull’s premier baseball side”! As we got beat 9-3 that day that myth was soon kicked into touch.

After the Robins folded I concentrated on my rugby activities, which I am still involved in, and my interest in baseball gradually waned, as did the interest in baseball in the city generally, until Hull were left with just one side in the National League. I have not seen a game in years, apart from US games on TV. All I can say is that for seven seasons I had a lot of fun and enjoyment from playing the game.

Norman was also kind enough to scan in a team photo, and to supply player names.

 

Back row: Dave Robinson (chairman), Harold Waterson, Billy Coates (catcher), Gordon Acaster, Ron "Lofty" Marshall (pitcher), and the umpire for the game. Front row: Les Smith, Colin Arnold, Norman Angell, and Dennis Woods. The team's colours were red and white, and in this picture white was predominant.  A couple of seasons earlier, red was the main colour but the kit faded and so the scheme was changed.

A photo of the Reckitts Robins taken in 1960 (the Robins were a works baseball team based in Hull). Back row: Club Chairman (unnamed), Dave Robinson, Harold Waterson, Billy Coates (catcher), Gordon Acaster, Ron "Lofty" Marshall (pitcher), and the game umpire (unnamed). Front row: Les Smith, Colin Arnold, Norman Angell, and Dennis Woods. The team's colours were red and white.

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8 Responses to Remembering Reckitts Robins

  1. Keith Rylatt March 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    My late father was called Eddie Rylatt, he was born in Hull in the late twenties and went to the USA and Canada to train as an RAF pilot during that closing stages of WWII. When he returned, like hundreds of others he was mad on Baseball and joined the Hull Cardinals. I still have his shirt with H C across the chest and if anyone is interested I can post a photo.

  2. Joe Gray March 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    Hi Keith. Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I’d be delighted to see the photo of this – and anything else that happens to have been passed down. I’ve emailed you separately too – if you email me the photo I can add it to your comment. Joe

    • Keith Rylatt January 13, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      Hi Joe. Almost three years ago we were in touch re my dad’s shirt but I just could not find it anywhere, luckily however I now have it and if you can email me again I’ll send you some pictures. Kind regards Keith

  3. BJ De Lorenzo June 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Hi Joe, I see you mentioned the Bootle Red Sox, the Liverpool Trojans now play at Bootle Stadium which was at one time a sysle track, where can i get some info on the Red sox.

    BJ

  4. Joe Gray June 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Hi BJ,

    The only mention I’ve seen of them is on the bottom of page 3 pf this publication:
    http://www.projectcobb.org.uk/artefacts/bn%2006-06-1953.pdf

    I’d suggest a trip to a newspaper library to examine this era could well yield more.

    Sorry to not be able to help more,

    Joe

  5. Kevin S. Holmes December 3, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    Hello , I am Kevin S. Holmes , son of Wilfred Homes. *he was better known as Red Holmes in Baseball. He played for many of the Hull teams and in his later years was an Umpire before he retired. Wilfred was born in Hull on 24 June 1919 he got into Baseball while he was in Canada , emigrated there with his parents, sister and brothers. He came back to England and I remember him playing at several pitches in Hull. He was good at pitching and he wanted me to be one as I was a Left Hander. I did not have the same enthusiasm as he did and I never played to his dismay. I did go and watch him many times. He passed away at home in Hull on 22 December 1978.

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