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 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.