When George Sims was nearing the end of his life in the hospital, his brother Paul says he would often ask, “Do you think dad was proud of me?”
“I would reassure him that dad was certainly proud of him, as we all were,” Paul Sims shared during an Oct. 22 ceremony at the Gateway Ball Field in Yarmouth.
Indeed, pride for Sims and Richie Hubbard was overflowing as the two men were inducted onto the honour backstop for their contributions to baseball.
Sims – a.k.a. Simbo – played baseball with the Yarmouth Mooseheads, the Yarmouth Gateways and the Yarmouth Gateway Oldtimers. He died in 2016.
Hubbard was umpire in chief for southwestern Nova Scotia for 25 years. He was also the town’s first recreation director, was elected Yarmouth MLA in 1993 and in 1995 received Baseball N.S.’s Distinguished Service Award. He died in 2011.
Their names were added on the backstop alongside the names of players Bobby Devine, Donnie MacDonald, Allen Nickerson, Paul Blades and Don Rodgerson and umpire Leo Mooney Jr.
“I was a good friend of George’s for over 40 years, on and off the field,” said Terry MacDonald, noting Sims spent around 40 years playing competitive baseball. MacDonald described how he would go to Frenchys and purchase Red Sox t-shirts to take to his friend when he would visit him in the hospital.
“I knew he loved them . . . It would perk him right up,” MacDonald said. “The following time I’d go in (to visit) and he’d have that t-shirt on and I’d have a new one in my hand.”
Paul Sims recalled a game his brother George had played in his younger years.
“My father and I went to watch him pitch down in Wedgeport,” he said. “At the end of that game he had struck out 20 players.”
Keith Bridgeo spoke about his friend Richie Hubbard, who he first met in the early 1970s after Hubbard had retired from a career in the military and was doing baseball clinics for umpires.
“Richie was inspired by the Gateways and he had a love of the game and he believed in team sport and how important it was to build character,” Bridgeo said. “As a pitcher I had many disagreements with him over the size of his strike zone. But at the end of the game we were always friends.”
As he looked up at the names of the players on the backstop Bridgeo added, “They were all willing to accept leadership, whether they liked the coach or didn’t like him. These guys had the attitude . . . and they had the heart.”
Tom White, a former baseball coach, was another who spoke about Hubbard.
“As a coach, we had a lot of disputes and contradictions, but other than that we were definitely good friends,” White said. “The saddest thing about our relationship is that he had to leave us so darn soon. It's obvious how popular Richie was with the number of people who are here today.”
The memorial plaques on the backstop were unveiled by family members of each of the men. When the covering over Sims’ plaque didn’t come down as easily as it was supposed to – and a ladder had to be brought in – Sims family and friends all said George was having a good laugh right now.
Another story that made people laugh was told by Frank Grant, a baseball player who later in life followed in Hubbard’s footsteps by becoming a recreation director. He recalled playing in a game at the Gateway field when the Yarmouth fog rolled in.
“The game just became legit and we were tied with our arch rivals down the shore, Clark’s Harbour. Richie came over, because the fog rolled in, and told both benches, ‘The fog is coming in, this game may have to be called,’” said Grant.
“We're the home team, we get a couple of guys on. Curtis Falls comes up and cracks one into the gap. The ball gets lost in the hedge, a ground-rule double, a run comes in, the play comes back to the mound and Richie says, “That’s it, game’s over!”