April is a time of rebirth. Baseball flourishes at Hadlock, and mosquitos come back to our pristine life on the shore.

Baseball started for me in the early 1930s, during those dark days of the Great Depression. Most summer days, there would be a bunch of us at Crosby Park with our black-taped baseballs and cracked bats. Nowhere in the state of Maine was an infield having more rocks than Dexter’s Crosby Park! We were sure they grew overnight, as quickly as Katahdin potatoes!

The Park hosted a baseball team in the Eastern Maine League through the period. With the Depression on everyone’s mind, small town baseball was for many, major entertainment. Corinna’s Gilbert Patten, writing under the pseudonym of Burt L. Standish, used players of the old Waldo County League as models for his famous Frank Merriwell stories. Without fancy frills or a lot of money, these ballplayers were millworkers, loggers, machinists or day laborers, but their Saturday and Sunday afternoon games drew huge crowds.

I once tried to get the Maine Sports Hall of Fame to note some of these players, the lesser known like Bobo Ogden, Johnny Lanpher, Charlie Atwater or in the case I suggested to the Hall, Brewer’s Art Tapley. Tapley was a very capable catcher in the mould of Freddie Harlow and was a fixture in Eastern Maine League baseball for many seasons. His hard nosed play behind the plate gained him a reputation not always pleasant, but Art was a favorite for the Brewer Easterns or wherever he played. He was not, however, appreciated by the Hall of Fame.

One year, South Portland’s Wayne Roberts was the mainstay of Dexter’s pitching staff, and a post-season game was scheduled where George Washburn would pitch for a Bingham team against Roberts and Dexter. If my fading memory is active, I think Dexter lost the game, 3-2. But the big story was that a professional ballplayer, property of the New York Yankees, would pitch at rocky Crosby Park! That, my friends, was quite something to we innocents on the fringe, looking in!

Many years later, I wondered whatever happened to George Washburn and whether or not he was in fact a major league ball player.


Diving into those meticulous and detailed records of Major League Baseball, I found that George Washburn did indeed have a big league career. On May 4, 1941, he was the starting pitcher for the Yankees in an American League game (opponent lost to records). He pitched two innings, gave up two hits, walked five and struck out one while giving up two earned runs. The lefty did not figure in the game’s decision and he appears nowhere else in baseball records.

My first listening to baseball broadcasts came from the voice of Fred Hoy who announced the games all by himself and without an oppressive number of commercials. I gravitated to the Boston Braves for no particular reason and my favorite was Tony Cuccinello, second baseman of the Braves, only because he was an infielder.

Television attempted some bold strokes in covering baseball. Who can ever forget those gritty but very funny Narragansett beer commercials during early Red Sox telecasts? Less numerous and far more interesting than some of those blasting toward us now.

Fred Hoy, Jim Britt and Curt Gowdy had singular abilities and knew their subject. So do the many voices of announcers today but their presentations suffer from too much of a good thing. We have guests in the booth, roving reporters in the stands and a fetching young lady pitching commercials and/or something called “atmosphere.” It’s not the fault of game announcers; they are just caught up in a mad commercial rush. Speaking of commercials, NESN even flicks them into the middle of an at-bat, long a no-no in broadcasting. For broadcasters, I like the compelling knowledge and baseball savvy of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Old Town’s Gary Thorne does a neat job for ESPN in several sports.

And so, back to Hadlock Field. But Charlie Kilbride, a friendly presence there, will not be with us this season.

A few years ago, when my wife suffered a broken wrist from being struck by a foul ball, Charlie was the first to reach her, even ahead of emergency personnel. A caring action by a caring person.

We’ll miss you, Charlie.

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