GRAY – Sonny Noel, a longtime chairman of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, who was widely considered one of the state’s most respected umpires, died suddenly Tuesday. He was 87.

Mr. Noel was active in umpiring circles locally and nationally for many years, calling games behind the plate at high school and college games. He worked the State American Legion Tournaments at Togus for more than 20 years.

One of the highlights of his career came in 1975 when he was asked to umpire the College World Series. His umpiring abilities also took him to the professional Triple-A level. He was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 and served as its general chairman for 25 years.

“He was certainly a giant in the baseball community,” said Don Douglas, who served on the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame’s selection committee with Noel.

“He set the tone and tenor of this organization with his presence. Sonny brought it to a tremendous level — as one of the finest sports organizations in Maine. The spirit he infused in this organization is irreplaceable. He will surely be missed.”

Mr. Noel and his wife, Sally, raised three children.

His son Bruce Noel remembered his father Friday as a strong, confident and determined man, who commanded a presence on and off the field. His son said his personality shone as an umpire and scout.

He remembered as a boy traveling to games with his father and watching him from a distance. In between innings, he would jog to the pitcher’s mound to dust it off, hollering at players, “Come-on let’s hustle.”

The younger Noel said his father liked to tell the story of throwing former Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk out of a minor league game because he argued with him.

“When you’re officiating, you are the boss and he was a really, really good boss,” his son said. “He was arguably the best umpire the state of Maine has ever had.”

Douglas should know. Mr. Noel umpired his games when he played for Westbrook High School in the 1960s.

“He had a commanding presence on the baseball diamond,” Douglas said. “He was an authority figure in the best sense of the word. He commanded respect for the game of baseball — how you played it and approached the game. He brought a level of professionalism to the game and inspired players to do the same.”

Mr. Noel also spent some time as a scout for the New York Yankees and mentor to up and coming players. He was instrumental in jump-starting the baseball careers for many young players such as Bill Swift, a former Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher from Portland; and John Cumberland, a Westbrook native and former bullpen coach and pitching coach for the Red Sox.

Noel’s son chuckled Friday thinking of his father handing his Yankees business card to players, coaches, and everyone from his dentist to a parking lot attendant.

“He liked the attention,” his son said. “My father loved the game of baseball. Any time he had an excuse to be at a game, he would be there. He loved to go around and talk to people about baseball.”

Mr. Noel worked as a letter carrier for more than 30 years, delivering mail to Portland’s Stroudwater and North Deering neighborhoods.

He also had a passion for fishing. Mr. Noel went fishing in Rangely for the past 56 years or so. For 30 of those years, he and his son took a week-long fishing trip there.

“We didn’t have a lot in common, but that’s the one thing we did together,” his son said, noting they usually fished for 12 hours a day. “We loved fishing.”

Mr. Noel’s services will be held at a later date.

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]

 


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