The phone calls are unexpected. So are the reactions to the words Al Bean is speaking.

Surprise. Pride. Tears. Appreciation. Doubt, sometimes. Dick Jordan, a former Portland school principal, wanted the name of the practical joker who interrupted a late summer day.

Bean had to tell Jordan the message was gospel. Jordan is in the 2010 class of inductees into the University of Southern Maine’s Husky Hall of Fame. The former baseball standout at the old Gorham State Teachers College way back in 1952 had to let the news sink in.

“It brought tears,” said Cathy Manchester, Jordan’s daughter. “Baseball brought him some of his greatest joy. It brings back memories of teammates and their camaraderie. At this stage of his life, most of his friends have passed.”

In fact, when Bean offered Jordan extra tickets to Saturday’s induction dinner on USM’s campus in Gorham, Jordan passed. Thank you, he said, but those friends are gone.

Renee Heath-Towne couldn’t believe the news. Me, she asked her husband, Ben. Why me? What have I done?

“She’s the most humble person around,” said Ben Towne. His wife, a new nurse and new bride, was working an overnight shift at Maine Medical Center. “She was shocked.”

USM has few ivy-covered walls. Its Husky Hall of Fame is only 25 years old. Through athletic directors Doc Costello and Bean, the emphasis has been on people and accomplishment. Not the other way around.

Seven men and women join 156 others in USM’s hall of fame. This year’s inductees are all noteworthy. Some, like Bob Brown, the successful basketball coach, and Tracy Libby Lizotte, an expectant mother and the stalwart forward on Gary Fifield’s women’s basketball teams in the late 1990s, are familiar. So is Mike McCullum, the new Portland High athletic director and member of USM’s 1997 national championship baseball team.

Heath-Towne, who starred on winning teams in field hockey and softball as recently as 2006, isn’t as well known because her sports didn’t have large followings off campus. Bonnie Titcomb Lewis was a basketball player in the pre-Fifield era.

Rupert Lewis played soccer nearly 30 years ago, leaving Jamaica, where he earned a position on its men’s national field hockey team. Today he’s the field hockey coach at nearby St. Joseph’s College.

Different sports, different backgrounds, different eras. Their common ground is USM and Jordan, now 84, may understand that best. The other inductees could be his sons and daughters or his grandchildren.

Jordan is proudest of helping grow Little League in the Portland area. Too many youngsters were turned away because there were too few teams and leagues. He loved baseball because it gave him so many opportunities.

“I was a catcher and everyone is always looking for a catcher.”

While serving his country, he played baseball on Air Force teams, traveling to bases and camps throughout the south in the post-World War II years. He was one of the three chosen to play for the local team in Biloxi, Miss.

“I wasn’t quite good enough to make the big stuff (high minor leagues and big leagues).”

He wanted to go to college. He wanted to start a family.

Jordan lives in Gray. The retired school principal drives a school bus. He watches as many baseball games and other sports as he can.

His daughter will present him Saturday night. USM baseball coach Ed Flaherty will present McCullum. Jordan, who once caught the dropping curveballs thrown by Herbie Swift, father to Billy, will shake the hands of Flaherty and McCullum.

He will talk to the other inductees and listen to their stories. He’ll discover what he shares with Heath-Towne, at 29, the youngest inductee.

They’ll be on common ground.

 

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: [email protected]