What’s in a name – Red and Green, Hilltops/Hilltoppers and Shamrocks …

Bruce Yarnall

Recently, I was asked — related to the 100th anniversary of the BHS football program — when was the Shamrock name adopted? Were there also prior nicknames for the team?

Thankfully, we have a century of microfilm and electronic newspaper records available to search for the answers. Shortly, with the end of this newspaper’s publication, researching questions of this nature will be more challenging for future historians.

After a five-year hiatus, Barnesville relaunched the football program in the fall of 1921. The yearbook for 1922 provides no clue whether the team had a nickname.       

The first reference I find Barnesville’s football team is a 1922 Whetstone article wherein the team was simply called the “Red and Green.”

“Red and Green” is found throughout the Enterprise files and several Senrabs that followed almost up until World War II. The first “Shamrock” reference is in the 1937 Senrab when the Basketball team was called by that name.

One name suggested was the Hilltop or Hilltoppers. This was the name exclusively held by the local semi-pro baseball team. The Barnesville Hilltops played at City Park, formerly the Barnesville Fairgrounds and now Memorial Park, until automobile travel was improved when the National Road/Route 40 was paved by brick in the mid-teens.  Play then moved to the new National Road Ball Park at Barnesville Junction (Route 8 and Route 40) east of Hendrysburg. 

The Barnesville baseball team played teams from throughout region from Zanesville/Cambridge to towns up and down the Ohio River. One advertisement I came across while researching this question announced a big game between the Hilltops and the team from Massillon. Several Hilltop players/prospects also played in the American and National leagues.

The Hilltop name derives from Barnesville being the highest incorporated community in the state at 1,275 feet above sea level.

The semi-pro baseball team network did not survive the Great Depression. Locally, it was replaced by the Mountain League that included teams from towns as small as Boston (Atlas) and Malaga. Former professional player, Woodsfield native “Sad” Sam Jones was an official for the league.     

There is no “smoking gun” evidence to suggest there were any clean breaks with Barnesville football nicknames rather than suffice to say that prior to World War II the prevalent reference was “Red and Green” while the Hilltop and Shamrock names were also interchangeably used. By the end of the war, Shamrocks was the prevalent nickname for all Barnesville teams moving forward.

And over the past quarter century, the Shamrock name has evolved into the shortened ‘Rocks.   

Below are some specific school name references of note:

Oct. 13, 1921 – First football season opens (Whetstone)

Oct. 19, 1922 – Team referred to as Red and Green (Whetstone)

Oct. 19, 1923 – Red and Green again (Enterprise)

Oct. 17, 1924 – Team called Red and Green warriors (Enterprise)

Oct. 5, 1926 – Barnesville defeated 6-0 at Cambridge. Touchdown in 1st quarter is enough to undue the Red and Green (Enterprise)

Oct 16, 1926 – Coach Shallcross’ Red and Green Machine (Enterprise)

Jan. 7, 1927 – Basketball squads called Basketball   Red and Green Teams (Enterprise)

Oct. 17, 1927 – Barnesville Red and Green plays Cadiz (Enterprise)

1930 Senrab – The Red and Green gridders of the year 1929    

Sept.17, 1936 – New uniforms consisting of bright red jerseys and pants with green striped and number on the jerseys debuted along with red and green headgear debut (Enterprise)

Sept. 24, 1936 – Red and Green (Enterprise)

1936 Senrab – Profiles the 1935 Red and Green football squad 

Sept. 23, 1937 – Team called Red and Green (Enterprise)

Jan. 13,1938 – Red and Green Basketball game (Enterprise)

1938 Senrab – The boys basketball team is first called “Barnesville High’s Shamrocks” 

Sept. 15, 1938 – New green uniforms purchased. The team is referred to as the Hilltops

1944 Senrab – The headline on a two-page football spread reads “Hilltoppers’ Pigskin Parade”

1945 Senrab – The two-page spread for football reads “The Red and Green Displays Shamrock Spirit on Gridiron”. Copy on the same page refers to the team as the “Hilltoppers”   

1946 Senrab – The two-page basketball spread headline reads “Hilltop Court Tempo varies with victories matching defeats”

While researching this article, I came across a couple of early references that help explain why the historic rivalries between Barnesville, St. Clairsville and Woodsfield are intense even to this day. 

Twice St. Clairsville refused to play Barnesville over eligibility rules. The birth certificate of one Barnesville player indicated he was 21 while the physician who administered the player’s physical said he was younger, 20. One dispute ended up in county court, the judge deciding the young man could play. That still did not dissuade St. Clairsville skeptics and the game did not take place.  

And, one year, Woodsfield fans dismantled the Barnesville goal posts after winning the annual Armistice Day (Nov. 11) game at Barnesville. The popular rumor was the perpetrating Woodsfield fans were well fortified with alcohol!

Normally, I would say we’ll cover this in a future Barnesville Enterprise article but, alas, with just a half dozen issues remaining, time is too short to also fully research and detail these fascinating local stories as the Barnesville football program marks it centenary.