Uh-oh. The Maine Basketball Hall of Fame revealed the list of its inaugural inductees Wednesday and Cindy Blodgett’s name wasn’t on it.
What, the player who was the face of women’s basketball in Maine for four years at Lawrence High of Fairfield, then four more at the University of Maine, didn’t make the grade?
The woman who made countless young Maine girls pick up a basketball and dream of playing like Cindy?
She led Lawrence to four straight state championships. She led Maine to its first NCAA tournament her freshman season and the three seasons after. She led the country in scoring. She sold tickets. So magnetic on the court and so quiet off it.
Somewhere between her freshman and sophomore years in high school she lost her last name. Even those Mainers who never saw her play knew her by one name.
How could the selection committee forget her or minimize what she accomplished? She had no peers. That’s still true. There hasn’t been another Cindy.
The selection committee has a rule. A candidate for induction as a player had to have played his or her last game 20 years ago. That condition was included in the criteria before the selection committee sat down to cull through the best of Maine basketball over dozens of years.
The committee did look at other states. Indiana has a 20-year wait period. Others had 15 years. Some may be even shorter. The number of years was arbitrary.
“We wanted to step back and get the historical perspective that time would give us,” said Tony Hamlin, chairman of the committee. He most recently was coach at Penquis Valley High in Milo. His 2013 team won the Class C state championship. He was also the coach at South Portland High in the 1980s.
“I’d say Cindy will be a unanimous choice (in 2018, when her 20-year wait ends). We couldn’t make an exception for her.”
This being a first-time exercise, the criteria could have been changed to 15 years before the selection process began. Fifteen years after playing is still a long time. Hamlin agreed but said the committee decided on 20 without looking to see who would or wouldn’t be eligible. Change it just for Cindy? What kind of message would that be?
By the way, Cindy last played in the WNBA in 2001. Does that make her eligible for induction in 2021? No, said Hamlin. He believed her last game played at Maine in 1998 would start her clock.
Twenty-three men and women will be the first inductees. I wouldn’t subtract one. I would add Cindy because there’s a certain distinction to be in the first class.
Much to-do about nothing? Maybe. Cindy has been recognized many times for what she accomplished. In a career of some blood, sweat and tears, it’s a reward that won’t change her life.
That doesn’t mean it’s not important. Sports halls of fame may be social clubs to some. To the rest of us they serve as reminders, and give us examples of what can be accomplished and not forgotten.
Take Lisa Blais Manning, the Westbrook High star player more than 30 years ago.
Then Lisa Blais, she played at a time in Maine when girls’ basketball was still transitioning from an after-school activity to a serious, competitive sport. She left Westbrook for Old Dominion University, then one of the few dominant women’s programs nationally. She wondered if she would be successful.
She played on Old Dominion’s national championship team in 1985. She proved not only to herself, but to Maine girls of that time, she belonged among the elite.
For that alone she deserves to be remembered.
Cindy arrived at a different time in a different world of more attention given to women’s sports. Her success went beyond the state’s borders. She wasn’t a star in the WNBA but had a three-year career with the Cleveland Rockers and the Sacramento Monarchs.
She was the slight woman with the incredible resolve to maximize her physical gifts and be successful. Many Mainers haven’t forgotten. There’s a much newer generation that won’t know until her induction.
Cindy is not among the first inductees to the new Maine Basketball Hall of Fame. Her absence won’t make the moment smaller, certainly. Her presence would have made it larger.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: