Tuesday, May 21, 2013
BOOTHBAY HARBOR – Two American flags, the type waved at Memorial Day parades, stand sentinel to the large boulder with a plaque. This is Alfred B. Sherman Field, where generations of Boothbay Region High athletes have played.
Will the reclaimed pasture with its manicured baseball diamond and football goalposts set in a sea of lush grass always be known as Sherman Field? Or could the name of a bank or pizza chain someday rise above it?
School districts and municipalities elsewhere are selling naming rights to playing fields, snack shacks, scoreboards – you name it.
Lewiston is marketing naming rights to its complex. The new money would relieve the taxpayers' burden. Boothbay could do the same.
Douglas Burnham gave me a you've-to-got-to-be-kidding look, standing outside the town manager's office late Friday afternoon. He graduated from Boothbay's high school in 1958. He knew Al Sherman well. A lot of people did.
"I can't see that happening," he said. "Not here."
Sherman was part of the fabric of Boothbay, pun intended. He owned an upholstery business after returning from World War II with a Bronze Star and five Purple Hearts from wounds he suffered on Iwo Jima.
He served with the 4th Marines Division and was promoted to lieutenant on the battlefield.
The field that took his name in a 1986 dedication was like another of his seven children. He led a group of local citizens who paid for the field with their sweat. A town selectman and volunteer firefighter, he was a go-to guy. Tom Perkins went to him with a busted baseball glove.
"I was the shortstop on our seventh-grade team in 1973," said Perkins, now a financial adviser in town. "We were playing for the Lincoln County championship. I took the glove to Al Sherman, who stopped what he was doing, picked up his awl and restrung it for me. We went on to win the championship."
Perkins' father, James Blenn Perkins, was a lawyer and for years the moderator at town meetings. His name is on another field at the high school. "Don't try to compare the two (recognitions). Al Sherman meant so much to this community. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for the kids in town.
"I understand (the selling of naming rights). I think whatever money you gain, you would lose five times as much in goodwill and in tradition."
In Lewiston, Don Roux's name will remain on its football field no matter who buys the naming rights. The generosity of the Roux family hasn't been forgotten. Some parts of a community's soul can't be bought and won't.
In Maine, the names of doctors, legendary coaches and players, captains of industry and hometown heroes grace fields, stadiums and gyms. Dr. Steven A. Cobb opened his practice in Sanford in 1915 and coached the high school football team before serving a year in France in World War I with the Medical Corps. He was the executive officer of a U.S. Army general hospital in England during World War II.
On Veterans Day, 1954, the Sanford Stadium was dedicated in his name. He was the Sanford High team doctor for some 50 years.
The Thornton Academy teams play on the turf of Dr. Paul S. Hill Stadium, a team doctor and president of the school's board of trustees in 1966. Dr. Hill was once called the most loved man in Saco.
George Olmsted ran the S.D. Warren paper mill in Westbrook. His name is on the football field and track. Marc Sawyer, the new Westbrook High athletic director, said, "There's a big push this fall for all student-athletes to respect the past while protecting the future."
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