Maureen Ulrich’s play about baseball, which is barnstorming through the province, is hoped to be a home run.
Lords of Sceptre is a personal tribute to her father, who played on the team in the early 1950s, and it calls back to a much different era in sports and how people in rural Saskatchewan found entertainment.
Earle Mahaffy, her father who died in May, had dementia in the time before his passing.
“His cousin, George, who played on the team for four years always wanted to know how Dad was doing,” Ulrich said. “The only way to contact George about that was to phone him. I’d call him and tell him how Dad was doing and then we’d talk about the ball team. And as I was talking to him, I started asking more questions about it. I wanted to know more about who he played with because they were my dad’s peers.”
Running those names by Earle would help him show recognition, in a way that normal small talk like weather, politics or current sports wouldn’t.
“It was a way for us would have something for us to talk about,” she said. “Then the more I talked to George about these things, the more I realized there’s a story here… that I want to tell.”
The golden age of barnstorming baseball teams between 1948-1951 would have high quality players, peppered together with National Hockey League greats like Gordie Howe, Bert Olmstead and the Bentley brothers, Max and Doug.
“You think about Gordie Howe going back home to Saskatoon and play for the ‘45s,” Ulrich said. “Who’s not going to go down to watch that? And the Bentleys coming back to Delisle, five of them playing in the NHL and playing ball in the summer. That’s like going to the circus, when it comes to entertainment…
“And then they’re just playing with farm kids. That’s a fascinating time in terms of our sporting history but I was also captured by the fact that Sceptre looks so different now.”
Sceptre was a small community of less than 200 people that competed for the Western Canadian National Baseball Congress championship in 1951 against the Indian Head Rockets, all Negro League players imported from Jacksonville. But their key rivals came from nearby Delisle.
Ulrich, the playwright of Diamond Girls, a one-woman play about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that continues to run occasionally, wasn’t looking to write another baseball play but the inspiration was there.
“I was quite captivated by the fact that my grandfather had a huge role in supporting the team financially and paying a pitcher if they had the money, and going to pick up guys from Havre (Mont.) off the train and going to all the games, and I never really knew that about him.”
Lords of Sceptre is a one-act play that is directed by Mark Claxton and stars Mikael Steponchev, Tyler Toppings and Legbo Menebgo. It lasts 70 minutes and has the three actors playing multiple roles as well as a bit of baseball in a theatre-of-the-round setting.
“I think the audience will feel very involved and there are times when they will pull people out of the audience to play a character in the show,” said Ulrich.
The play will be in Estevan Nov. 22 at the Royal Canadian Legion. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. It will also be in Lampman Nov. 21 at the legion in that twon.
Tickets for the Estevan show can be purchased at Henders Drugs or through Ulrich at 306-487-7512. Tickets for the Lampman show are also available through Woodley Well Services’ office.