The Halifax Defence (or Defense) League operated out of Halifax during the Second World War. It is hard to fathom in today’s world, but the population of Halifax doubled after the outbreak of the war. Due to the strategic location of the city (closest major port on the North American mainland), many people came to city to work. Not only did military personal move to the city but there were also jobs in manufacturing and shipping based in Halifax. Some of those who came here were professional athletes (hockey and baseball in particular). Ignoring world events and with all these great athletes in town, this was one of the best times to be a sports fan in the region.
The concentration of these athletes meant that Halifax hosted professional quality baseball during the wartime period. At the time, it was said Halifax had the best baseball in Canada outside of the AAA cities (Toronto & Montreal). The only military league that was comparable to Halifax’s was in Vancouver (another strategic port, but on the Pacific). It should also be noted that Halifax had a wartime hockey league, which featured many talented players, many of which had NHL experience.
Following the war, high level baseball continued in the region with the Halifax & District Baseball League that operated across central Nova Scotia from 1946-59. Hard to believe today, but Nova Scotia (Metro Halifax, in particular) hosted some of the best baseball in Canada throughout the 1940’s & 1950’s. The Shipyards club made the jump from the Defence League to the H&D League.
Halifax Air Force
Halifax Shipyards (formed in 1943)
Champions From the Defence League:
1942 Halifax Navy (defeated Saint John Ironmen for Maritime title)
1943 Halifax Navy (defeated Saint John Dockmen for Maritime title)
1944 Halifax Shipyards (won Defence League)
The 1944 Maritime crown was won by the Cornwallis Naval Base (Deep Brook, NS) were they beat the Saint John Saints.
Notables Who Played in the Defense League:
- Darrell Ball, ? (Navy) – played with the Seattle Rainiers
- Chic Charlton, catcher – top catcher from the Maritimes during wartime
- Bob Dill – NHLer played in the league.
- Dick Fowler, pitcher – played in the Majors & member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Buddy Heximer, centrefield (Navy) – played Minor League Baseball in Kingston, Hartford and Quebec (1946-49).
- Joe Krakauskas, pitcher (Navy) – played in the Majors
- Phil Marchildon, pitcher (Air Force) – played in the Majors. Member of both the Canadian Baseball & Canada Sports Halls of Fame.
- Manny McIntyre, shortstop (Shipyards) – played professional baseball & hockey
- Bobby Porter, outfielder (Navy)- played AAA with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Also played football for Toronto Balmy Beach (1940 All-Star at QB & played in Grey Cup game the same year). Also played hockey, lacrosse, softball and lawn bowls. Inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1969.
- Peaches Ruven (Navy) – played in the minors and the H&D League
- Marcel St. Pierre, catcher – played four seasons in the Defense League.
- Art Upper, manager (Air Force) – also managed in the Cape Breton Colliery League. Also had playing experience in both the Colliery League and Canadian American League.
- Leo Woods – Batted .311 in five seasons in the Defense League.