Searching For The Blues Baseballers

Everton baseball team circa 1945 Featuring Gordon Watson of EFC and Theo Kelly as trainer wearing hat
Everton baseball team circa 1945 Featuring Gordon Watson of EFC and Theo Kelly as trainer wearing hat

The Everton team you’ve never heard of as Blues search for sporting pioneers Everton were once a leading name in trying to establish a popular American sport on Merseyside 

Because Everton have diversified into other sports in their long sporting history – and the Everton Heritage Society – the group of historians which seeks to research and chronicle all elements of the football club, is interested in discovering more about one particular diversion. Baseball.

The Toffees have flirted with another sport with American roots, basketball, when the Toxteth based Tigers operated under the Everton brand between 2007-2010. However, six decades earlier Everton was a leading English name in another American sport – Baseball. Now, Richie Gillham of EFC Heritage Society is researching the rise of the sport on Merseyside and its connections to Everton.

An Everton baseball team, with no affiliation to the football club of the same name, actually existed in the early 1900s. Former Everton player and sportswear shop founder, Frank Sugg, was one participant. The club fell into decline and ceased playing around the end of the First World War. Aided by Liverpool’s maritime links to the USA, Everton hosted exhibition matches at Goodison in the 1920s – notably the visit on 23rd October 1924 of Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants. Over 2,500 spectators watched the White Sox beat the Giants 16-11. Perhaps this showcase event inspired Littlewoods entrepreneur, John Moores – who would later have a great impact on Merseyside soccer – to seek to establish baseball as a spectator sport on these shores.

In 1933 Moores created the National Baseball Association and convinced 18 local teams from the Liverpool area to create a league. Leagues were also set up in London and Yorkshire, amongst other locations. Over one million pounds in today’s money, was invested by Moores in the development of the game. Famously, Dixie Dean appeared for Blundellsands and Liverpool Caledonians in this period. He is reputed to have once met New York Yankees’ legendary figure Babe Ruth whilst in London. Ruth was amazed that Dixie, as a sporting superstar, was not receiving a percentage of turnstile takings Theo Kelly, Everton’s Secretary in the 1930s and 1940s, was another advocate of the game and was instrumental in the football club fielding a baseball team.

The BATS British American Tobacco Team with John Moores 2nd from left in hat

The BATS British American Tobacco Team with John Moores 2nd from left in hat

The home plate was in the corner between the Gwladys Street and Bullens Road stands. The war years intervened but the club was certainly playing fixtures by 1944 and featuring footballers such as Everton’s Gordon Watson and Jackie Grant plus Liverpool’s Alf Hanson. Everton trainer and Winslow publican, Bill Borthwick was another team member.

Recently Ted Bulmer shared some keepsakes with the Heritage Society that his great uncle George Barrett had from playing for Everton as well as Formby Cardinals and Patricroft. Sadly George spoke little of his time playing the sport before he passed away. Also, Joe Stephens got in touch about his namesake grandfather, who played baseball either side of the war, including for Everton. A docker by trade, he was nicknamed Socks (or Sox) Stephens – perhaps as a nod to his baseball prowess.

The EFC Heritage Society is appealing to Echo readers for further information about the Everton Baseball team. They would love to hear from anyone who had relatives that played for the team and are able to share recollections or have memorabilia that were passed down the generations.

Anybody with information is asked to contact Richie via .

By David Prentice

1 Comment

  • Is there a link between the Everton Baseball Team of the late 30s and war years, which clearly played American baseball, and the Everton team that played English baseball in the 20s and 30s. Was that team one of the ones that ‘converted’ to American baseball before or after 1934 when John Moores National Baseball Assoication introduced the Liverpool League playing to the American code. Similarly, you mention Dixie Dean playing for Blundellsands. was that the Blundellsands playing English baseball or were they too a ‘convert’ to the American game?

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