Hartford lost an institution on November 10, 1997, with the passing of Herb Sheintop, who owned Herb’s Sport Shop in Hartford for nearly 40 years.
When you walked into Herb’s – on Asylum, Trumbull, Allyn or the present location on 250 Main Street – you could only stand there in amazement, and look at the cramped quarters that were full of sports merchandising, always piled to the ceiling.
Of course, Herb would greet you with one of his patented, at-times corny jokes. Without fail, Herb’s jokes always drew a laugh or a chuckle, regardless of how many times he had told the joke.
A visit to Herb’s could last for hours because he was always in tune with what was happening because of his dealings with hundreds of high school athletic directors and coaches from around the state.
“Hey, you wanna a scoop?” Herb would usually ask when I walked in. “Vanilla or chocolate?”
Baseball was Herb’s favorite sport.
Herb pitched in the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League, once even had a no-hitter. A Herb’s-sponsored team has been a fixture in the GHTBL for parts of five decades and for that, he was inducted into the Twilight League Hall of Fame in the sponsor’s division.
“Herb was the oldest active sponsor and one of the best we had,” league president Jim Gallagher said Saturday.
“Herb was a great friend, a very unselfish man. Very often players would come into his store looking for a team to play on. He would direct them to me to make sure they had a place to play. He was great to everybody in the league, helped keep a lot of teams going.”
Gallagher said the league will dedicate its awards banquet in January to Sheintop.
Herb also sponsored teams in the Jaycee-Courant League, and Babe Ruth and Little League teams in West Hartford, where he lived with his wife, Ruth.
“He was a very generous, kind man and very supportive of youth sports,” said Herb Lawton, who has worked at the store 18 years with Bill Stewart, Norm Kershaw, Herb’s son, Andrew, and Herb’s nephew, Al Sogolow.
“We couldn’t begin to count how many times he bailed out teams so they could wear their new uniforms. He often would say, `Pay me when you raise the money.’ ” That’s how we got our American Legion program in Wethersfield started.”
“That was my father,” said Andrew, who now runs the business. “The main thing with my father was that he always wanted to make sure kids had an opportunity to play ball. Be part of a team.”
Herb knew every inch of the store, knew where everything was: whether it was that high school team’s uniform order, special baseball bat, or the maroon or royal blue laces for those Chuck Taylor Converse All- Star sneakers the kids bought for $7.95 a pair in the 1960s and ’70s.
In 1988, the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance honored Herb with the Good Sport Award, given to those who volunteer their time and support to local athletics.
A true good sport, Herb will be missed.
Herb Sheintop is a GHTBL Hall of Fame Inductee – Sponsors Division.