WATERVILLE – A lot of baseball people talked about Dr. John Winkin on Saturday night, but it was former New York Yankees manager Stump Merrill who probably described him best.

“The most important thing in this man’s life is baseball,” Merrill said. “Was then, is now and always will be.”

Merrill, a former assistant to Winkin at the University of Maine, was one of many guests as Colby retired Winkin’s No. 5 at its baseball hot stove dinner at the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center.

Winkin coached Colby from 1955-74 before succeeding Jack Butterfield at the University of Maine.

Winkin, who chose No. 5 because of his admiration for former Yankees star Joe DiMaggio, had 14 winning seasons in 20 years at Colby and finished with a 229-141 record in Waterville.

After the dinner, Colby baseball coach Dale Plummer, who played for Winkin at Maine, began by speaking about Winkin’s impact on him and his goals for Colby baseball.

“If it wasn’t for you, Coach, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight,” Plummer said. “And if it wasn’t for you, we all wouldn’t be here.”

Plummer later gestured to Winkin and added, “No one’s bigger than the game. If anybody is, this guy here is pretty close.”

Plummer then played a DVD of himself interviewing Winkin about some of the players Winkin coached at Colby.

Although Winkin is in a wheelchair and his speech is slightly slurred from a stroke, he still conveyed an infectious enthusiasm about baseball.

Winkin cracked up the guests several times, such as when he described Maine baseball Hall of Famer Mike Coutts as “slow as hell.”

Earlier, there was a memorable exchange as Plummer and Winkin talked about Warren Judd, who set a still-standing Colby record by pitching 881/3 innings in 1958.

“A lot of walks, though,” Plummer said. “Sixty-two strikeouts and 45 walks.”

“I know, I know,” said Winkin, grimacing and looking at the ground, as though the pain of watching those walks was coming back to him.

Winkin then gestured with his hands where Judd’s pitches would miss the strike zone.

There was more baseball talk afterward, as a local broadcaster, Mike Violette, moderated a panel discussion that included Merrill, Coutts and two 1966 Colby graduates, Eddie Phillips and Sal Manforte.

Phillips, a Deering High graduate, pitched in 18 games with the Boston Red Sox in 1970, going 0-2 with a 5.23 ERA but striking out 23 in 232/3 innings.

In 1966, Phillips was part of a Colby team that went 17-3.

“We had one fantastic ballclub and it was put together by John Winkin,” Phillips said. “There weren’t many people who looked forward to playing us. I don’t care who it was.”

On May 10 of that year, Phillips pitched a no-hitter against Maine, winning 5-1 and striking out 16. Plummer brought out the ball from that game, and Violette asked Phillips how he gave up a run that day.

“(Manaforte) made one error all year,” Phillips said, to a big laugh from the crowd.

It was just a night for baseball. One of the surprises of the evening was near the end of the DVD, when Plummer told Winkin that he had been added to this year’s Colby roster as a coach.

Winkin was clearly pleased.

“You cannot describe that,” he said. “Glad to hear that.”

Added Plummer: “You’re part of our team and always will be.”