Presque Isle’s Baseball History
Baseball in Presque Isle began as far back as the early 1900’s. There are records indicating that Presque Isle had some excellent semi-pro teams in 1903, 1905 and 1906. Hundreds of local fans would travel long distances by buggy to watch their team play, it may have mean traveling to Caribou, Canada or downstate. In 1905 the local team won 25 of 40 games and in 1906 they played a total of 55 games. Some of the familiar names from that era would have e been Frank Smith, Theriault, Michaud, Graves, Crock, Upton, Gallagher, Burgess, Baker, Thibodeau and Good.
My research is dedicated to the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and will deal primarily with the semi-pro teams that played in the Aroostook League, Northern Aroostook League and the Maine-New Brunswick League. There were many great local and imported players who played during this era.
During the early 30’s there were not of semi-pro teams but there was the Aroostook Legion League. The local entry was known as Presque Isle Midgets and they competed against Fort Fairfield, Mars Hill and Caribou. During the 1930 season the team was coached by a Mr. Wylie and the team finished second in the league that season to Mars Hill Mountaineers. Mars Hill faced the Bangor Comrades at the ACI Field for the Eastern and Northern Maine Legion Championship and lost by a score of 6-1. In Presque Isle there was also a twilight league for semi-pro players. The league was comprised of four teams; the Kilowatts, Stamp Lickers, Drones and Pipe Fitters. There was also a baseball tournament held at the Northern Maine Fair, team participating were from Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Van Buren.
The 1931 version of the Presque Isle Midgets were anchored by two good pitchers in Ernie Clark and Hal Cheney. The team was coached by Spike Williams and sponsored by the local legion post. The team lost the County Championship to the Caribou Legion team 6-4 in a ten inning affair. This game saw Presque Isle pitcher Hal Cheney strikeout 19 Caribou hitters and accumulate 3 hits including a triple. Caribou pitcher Peterson allowed four runs in the second inning and pitches shutout ball the rest of the way. The Midgets did win the Northern Maine Fair tournament, winning four games in three days. They defeated the best teams that Washington, Penobscot and Aroostook County could offer. Caribou’s team was comprised of players from Caribou and Stockholm, Eastport was the champion from Washington County and Millinocket the champions from Penobscot County. Cheney won three games in two days while the hitting stars for the Midgets were Soup Willette, Bill Shaw and Ernie Clark.
1932: The National pastime was making a comeback in Presque Isle and the County this season. The Presque Isle Twilight League was formed. League members were the Presque Isle Boy’s Club, State Road, Presque Isle Legion Midgets and Battery A. Star Herald sportswriter Claude Taylor was very instrumental in organizing the league. The teams in the league would play four times each week. Many towns in the County had a town team. The Presque Isle A.A. team was under the management of Henry Gagnon and played some excellent ball during the season. The team was led by the pitching of Hal Cheney, powered offensively by Henry Gagnon, Billy Shaw and Ernie Clark; Shaw and Percy Willette were also outstanding defensively while other outstanding players were Carl Green, Verdelle Clark, Bus Shaw, Louis Gagnon and Bear Willette.
The Northern Maine Fair Baseball Tournament was held in September. This was the first attempt at a Baseball Tournament at any Fair in Maine and proved to be a real drawing card. Town teams participating were from Limestone, Westfield, Mars Hill Washburn, Mapleton, Easton, Caribou Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent and Van Buren. Mars Hill defeated Presque Isle to get into the Championship game against Van Buren. Mars Hill defeated Van Buren 24-7 as a result of an 11 run outburst in the seventh inning. Tapley, Adleman and Varney set the pace offensively for the winners.
1933: At a meeting of local baseball fans an athletic club was formed: Coach and manager would be Spike “Elmer” Williams; business manager, Ralph Shaw: secretary and Treasurer William Mackin. There would be ten league games and season tickets would be sold at one dollar per ticket. There were six teams in the league; Presque Isle, Mars Hill, Caribou, Mapleton, Limestone and Easton. Presque Isle fielded a very competitive team and was tied for second, one game back of league leader Mars Hill for the league lead with one game left to play. Presque Isle lost to Caribou 11-8 and finished second with a 6-4 record. Caribou and Mars Hill tied for first with 7-3 records. Mars Hill and Caribou faced off in the championship game which Caribou won giving them the league title. Ten of the leading teams in the County were invited to the Northern Maine Fair to play baseball. Instead of using an elimination process, each team will play an equal number of games with no champion being crowned. The games were well attended with large crowds swarming around the Northern Maine Fairgrounds field.
1934: This year the Aroostook League was headed by Claude Taylor and was comprised of teams from Presque Isle, Caribou, Mars Hill, and Fort Fairfield. A uniform ball was to be adopted this year for league members. The Presque Isle team was sponsored by the Abnaki club and coached by Spike Williams. Familiar names on the PI squad would be Hal Cheney, Bill Hanscom, and Bill Haskell. In an outstanding regular season game Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield hooked up in a 15 inning affair with Presque Isle coming out on top 4-2. Hal Cheney was brilliant going 15 innings allowing 5 hits and striking out 17 hitters. Ernie Clark drove in the winning run in the 15th. The Indians continue their winning ways and went on to win the League Championship behind the pitching of Cheney who was backed by a solid infield of: Ernie Clark, Bill Shaw, Talbot and Walt Shaw. The outfield was composed of Bill Haskell, Cal Green, Willette. Bear and Crock were the catchers. Cheney was awarded the Most Popular Player (MVP) in the League, which was determined by fans by casting over 10,000 votes. The Presque Isle Indians had a record of 12-4 of which Cheney won ten. Interest ran high this season as WAGM radio broadcast nearly all league games.
The Aroostook League All-Stars selected by the fans took on the Houlton Collegians in September. Players from Presque Isle selected were Cheney, Clark 1st base, H. Shaw leftfield and Willette back-up catcher. Milton McBride from Easton was also selected to the team. Approximately 10,000 fans watched as Cheney pitched 6 shutout innings allowing just one hit to the Collegians.
This season the Presque Isle Indians withdrew from the Aroostook League as result of a dispute with the league over player eligibility. Players had to reside in the town they were to play for a minimum of 90 days prior to opening of the league schedule. There was also some confusion over the use of neutral officials. The Indians could have elected to play non-league opponents this season, but ultimately decided to play a league schedule... The Boston Braves traveled to Aroostook County to play the Aroostook All-stars. The game was played in Houlton, players chosen from the Presque Isle Indians: Hubert Shaw, Hal Cheney. A familiar name from Mars Hill chosen was Clarence Keegan as well as Red Osgood from Easton.
The Boston Red Sox traveled to Bangor, Maine to take on the Maine All-Stars at Bass Park. Several County players were selected to play including: Cheney & Shaw, PI and Clarence Keegan of Mars Hill.
A series of games again were played at the Northern Maine Fair and organized by Sid Cook who was the business manager of the town team. The Fair tournament was so popular that the Director of the Fair’s baseball program W.J. Mackin was snowed under with applications for the Fair games.
The Indians took on many non-league opponents including: Edmundston, Vanceboro, Millinocket, Calais and Corrina of the Eastern League. They continued to play improved ball with the additions of Ernie Clark and Fay Ladner who provided them with batting power and pitchers Bill Haskell and Lefty Hughes aided the Indians cause. Presque Isle finished second in league action behind an excellent Mars Hill team.
There were many good hurlers in the league this year but Cheney again was at the top of the class. He pitched 14 games winning eleven, he had two one hit games and two three hit games during the summer. He pitched 129 innings striking out 155 hitters allowed only 80 hits. In his all-star appearance against the Boston Braves he gave up only one hit in his two innings of work.
The Indians were coached by Spike Williams and had an outstanding season. The completed the Aroostook League with a record of 12-2. They defeated such teams as the Calais Southerners, Aroostook Major League All-stars, Houlton Collegians, Danforth, Patten A.C., Caribou A. A., East Millinocket and Guilford Advertisers. There two losses were to the St. Stephens N.B. Kiwanis Club. This season saw Hal Cheney pitching for the Guilford Advertisers; the Indians staff was now headed by Ralph Peabody, Lefty Hughes and Bill Haskell. Despite having a fine year the Indians finished in The Aroostook League behind the Mars Hill Mountaineers. The Indians played many outstanding opponents from around the state. One of the high-lights of the season was Presque Isle’s 1-0 win over Guilford at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds field. The “Advertisers” came in riding an eighteen game winning streak. It was a pitcher’s duel between Presque Isle’s Peabody and Guilford’s Cheney. Each pitcher allowed 6 hits and the Indians lone run scored on an error in the 7th inning. The game was played in front of more than 3000 fans.
During this season there was also a Presque Isle-All Star Tilt Benefit Game. The Presque Isle A.A. opposed the Aroostook League All-Stars. The purpose of the game was to raise funds for Clarence Keegan of Mars Hill and Hubert Shaw of Presque Isle who were to leave for Baltimore where they would tryout for the U.S. Olympic baseball team. Some of the members of the Presque Isle A.A. were Hubert and Bus Shaw, Harold Cheney, Eddie Bear, Henry Gagnon, Fay Ladner, Cal Green, and Bill Haskell. The All-stars lost to Presque Isle 5 to 1 as Cheney held the all-stars to four hits while striking out thirteen.
1937: The Indians enjoyed a successful season winning the 1937 Aroostook Semi-pro Baseball Crown by compiling a 17-8 record. The Indians won the title by defeating the Fort Fairfield Wanderers 6-3 in a well played game. Bill Haskell came up with a solid pitching performance allowing only six hits and not allowing a run after the fourth inning. The offense was paced by Bill Shaw, Frank Tapley, Verdelle Clark, Fay Ladner, Cal Green and Eddie Bear.
This was also the year the Hal Cheney was offered a tryout with the Boston Red Sox. He tried out for the Sox under the supervision of Hugh Duffy. He was placed under contract and sent to Mansfield, Ohio in the Ohio State League. He lost his first start 1-0 and then won his next six. The Mansfield won the Ohio State League Pennant.
1938: This season the Aroostook League was divided into the Northern Aroostook League and the Southern Aroostook League. The Northern Aroostook League was comprised of six teams: Mars Hill, ft. Fairfield, Limestone, Presque Isle, Caribou, and Van Buren. The “Indians’ had their poorest record in many years ending at 8-14 and in the cellar with Caribou. They were plagued with a lack of seasoned players. Ed Packard and Q. Niles were the top pitchers for the locals although with some support Lefty Swett and Ken Ballard would have had improved records. Fay Ladner was the “Indians” top hitter with a .421 average among the leagues best. The team batting average was anemic .239.
In the Annual Northern Maine Fair tournament the Indians edged Van Buren 4-3 and Fort Fairfield Wanderers edged the Caribou Clovers 4-3 before over 2500 fans during the semi-final round to move into the finals. Fort Fairfield overwhelmed the Presque Isle squad 17-4 to win the tournament. Presque Isle had beaten the Houlton Collegians 9-1 and Caribou had beaten Fort Kent to reach the semis.
Hal Cheney recalled to Hazelton to pitch in the Eastern League. He has a sensation record with Clarksdale bringing that team from the second division to second place.
1939: The Northern Aroostook League included five teams: Caribou, Fort Kent, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield and Madawaska. The Presque Isle Indians were sponsored by the Presque Isle Fire Department. They were an outstanding sponsor; taking care of many jobs connected to the ball club including providing transportation. The department also paid the teams expenses to the State semi-pro tournament in Portland. The Indians opened their season with a 24-13 win over Fort Fairfield Wanderers, they then lost five straight and never seemed to recover. They did not fare well in the Aroostook semi-pro tournament either. They easily defeated Madawaska 12-5 in the opening round but lost the second game to Fort Fairfield 4-3 as a result of several errors. In the State semi-pro tournament the locals defeated the S.D. Warren team of Westbrook in the first round but then lost to the State Championship team from Lisbon Falls 2-0. Lefty Swett was outstanding on the mound for the Indians vs. Lisbon Falls. Swett was one of the best hurlers in the league losing only one game in league competition.
The Indians and the Caribou Clovers were in a record breaking game when they played a 12 inning 0-0 game. Frankie Ouellette pitched for Presque Isle while Higgins pitched for Caribou.
Lefty Swett (with four wins) was the mainstay of the Indians staff but the team suffered a severe loss when Lefty Graves had to refrain from pitching because of a sore arm. Dick Pelletier lead the team in hitting with a .393 average. During the season the Indians secured a number of out of town players including Clarence Keegan of Mars Hill who served as a coach and played several positions while hitting .388. Ron Livingston played an excellent brand of ball at third base and hit hard at times. Fort Kent eventually won the Northern Aroostook League title.
The Northern Maine Fair Tournament was held with the six best teams in the County participating. Baseball chairman William Mackin organized the tournament. They were also entertaining the thought of bringing up one of the top teams from downstate to play the winner of the Fair Tournament.
Hal Cheney was now in his third season with the Red Sox farm clubs. He was pitching for Rocky Mount (North Carolina) in the Piedmont League. He started out the season with Scranton PA in the Eastern League.
Northern Aroostook League
1940 The Northern Maine league’s Presque Isle Indians was comprised mostly of local baseball talent plus a few players from out of town. Some players were still playing out the college schedules and would join the team when their season concluded. The locals were coached by Spike Williams and Dr. Alex Graves headed various business committees to assure a fine financial start for the Indians. The Northern Maine League was made up of teams from Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Caribou and Fort Kent. The Indians were expected to have a fine team with excellent pitching from Wilfred Sapier, Lefty Swett and Quentin Niles with Eddie Cluff of Washburn receiving their pitches. However the team lost Sapier when his left arm caught in the planer and severed his arm just below the elbow. He was working at N.W. Downing & Son Company when the accident occurred. A benefit baseball game was played at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds field to pay tribute to Sapier. The two teams were comprised of Aroostook County All-stars and over 1200 fans attended the game.
The Northern Maine Fair held its fourth annual baseball tournament with the four Northern Aroostook League teams participating. The conclusion of the tournament marked the end of the baseball campaign for the Indians. The finished the season with 14 wins, 12 loses and one tie. The locals suffered crippling injuries besides Sapier the lost catcher Cluff twice and third-baseman Ron Livingston. The most improved player on the team was first-baseman Don Kilpatrick; he was an excellent fielder and seldom struck out. Frank Downie of Houlton played second-base while Parker Dempsy of Millinocket played short-stop. In the outfield was Henry Gagnon, Clarence Keegan and Lewis Johnston. Gene Hunter, Ben Curtis and Eddie Packard were all used some during the season and played well when called upon.
During the league season the Indians compiled a 9-8 record and finished second to the Fort Fairfield Wanderers who were the league champs.
1941. The Presque Isle Indians were a revamped team this season. Business manager was Dr. M. D. Harris with Cal Green handling the coaching reins. The line-up was nearly 100 percent local boys. Pitching was to be handled by young Eddie Packard, veteran Gene Stewart from Van Buren and Charles Clark. Catching was handled by Freeman Brewer and Luther Smart. Stan Parker and Don Kilpatrick played first-base, second base Billy Bonville, third base Henry Gagnon, short-stop Gene Hunter, left-field Tim Willette, centerfield Cal Green and right field was handled by Eddie Packard when not pitching.
I am assuming that this was the first year that the baseball field was referred to as Mackin Field in honor of Bill Mackin an avid baseball supporter. Prior to this it had been referred to as he Northern Maine Fairgrounds Field.
The Northern Maine Fair Baseball committee, chaired by Elmer Spike Williams announced that they will be holding the annual fair tournament with the winner taking on the Emerson Pills a semi-pro team from Millinocket. The Pills were captained by George Wentworth who was an ex Notre Dame pitcher
Fort Kent won the Northern Aroostook League Championship with a 15-2 record. The Presque Isle Indians won three games but did play their best ball the later part of the summer. This also marked the season that Caribou withdrew from the league and were replaced by the Houlton Collegians. The Star Herald All-League first team had three players from Presque Isle: pitcher, Stanley Bear; 3rd baseman Billy Bonville and centerfielder Clarence Keegan. Two players represented Presque Isle on the second team. Left fielder Fay Ladner and centerfielder Henry Gagnon.
1942. The Northern Maine League this year consisted of teams from Presque Isle, Presque Isle Air Field, Houlton Air Field, Houlton Collegians and Fort Fairfield. Business manager of the Indians was again Dr. M. D. Harris and manager was Fay Ladner. There was an Aroostook League which included the four teams listed previously but also teams from Oakfield, Sherman Station, Staceyville and Benedicta.
Forty-two was a hitter’s league. Overall the pitching in the Northern Maine League was not good; there were many free scoring games with many games seeing over twenty hits. Presque Isle Air Field had a strong team and won the league title with the Presque Isle Indians finishing second with an 8-5 record. There were many times during the season when the locals had a difficult time fielding a complete team. Manager Fay Ladner had to play the outfield; Gene Hunter started out at shortstop, moved to second base and then had to play first-base. Jack Buffington also played some second base, Ron Livingston third with Joe Gray at shortstop. The outfield was strong with Ladner, Frank Kilcollins and Ed Packard. Ken Clark did some catching and played outfield while Bill Kelly, Eddie Packard and Ken Clark handled a majority of the pitching chores.
This same year was the year that Hal Cheney decided to retire from pro-baseball but was undecided if he would continue with semi-pro baseball.
1943. The Presque Isle Indians opened their season vs. the Fort Fairfield Wanderers. They would be facing pitcher Hal Cheney the minor league right-hander who used to pitch for the Indians. Starting lineup for the Indians was Phil Mealy catcher; Ed Packard, pitcher, Waldron 1st base; Joe Gray 2nd base; Beckwith shortstop; Giggey 3rd base; outfielders would come from Long, Ladner, Boulier, Parsons, Roberts.
The Presque Isle Army Airfield successfully defended their Northern Maine League baseball title by defeating the Houlton Air Force Base 2-1 in the Championship game. Nelson Trout the PIAF pitching ace allowed just five hits. The same Presque Isle team also won the State of Maine Army Championship by defeating Fort Williams of Portland 11-3. The combined efforts of George and Trout limited the losers to four hits. The Presque Isle Indians finished last with a 1-8 record.
1944. The Presque Isle Air Field nine again had a strong team and rode the left-handed slants of Lefty George to get off to a roaring start. There was no Northern Aroostook League this year. However, under the coaching of Spike Williams former Northern Aroostook League pastimers from Presque Isle, Caribou and Fort Fairfield formed an all-star team to play the PIAF team. The All-star line-up included: Phil Mealey, Caribou, catcher; Hal Cheney, Fort Fairfield, pitcher; Robert Waldron, Ft Fd, 1st base; Vavel Guiggey Ft.Fd 2nd base; Henry Gagnon, SS, Presque Isle; Harold McCrea 3rd base, Ft Fd.; Faye Ladner, LF, Presque Isle; Red Russell, RF, Ft Fd.; Phil Peterson, CF, Caribou. This was a two game series of which the first game was played at Fort Fairfield diamond at the Lockhart Field dedication the second game to be played at Presque Isle’s Mackin Field. The All-stars won the game 2-1 behind the brilliant one hit pitching of Cheney, who gave up one unearned run. The defense of short-stop Henry Gagnon was outstanding.
In their second game the All-stars defeated the Quoddy Seabees 7-5. Red Russell of Fort Fairfield hurled a masterful game scattering eleven singles. First baseman Bob Waldron was the hitting star collecting a pair of triples and a single.
1945. As a result of the War the Northern Aroostook League did not operate this season. In April President Franklin D. Roosevelt died and Harry Truman became President. General Mark Clark hero of the African and Italian Campaigns came home from the European Wars and his first stop in the United States was Presque Isle.
Spike Williams chairman of the Northern Maine Fair baseball committee announced that there would be a four day schedule for a Fair tournament. Teams participating were from Caribou, Hodgdon, Van Buren, Mars Hill, Fort Fairfield, Monticello, Presque Isle and Limestone. A scrappy team from Monticello defeated Hodgdon 13-3 to win the Northern Maine Fair baseball tourney. Since the Northern Maine League did not operate this season because of war time conditions the Fair crown represented the baseball championship of Aroostook.
1946. Semi-pro baseball was back in Aroostook this year with the Aroostook League divided into two divisions, the Northern Division and the Southern Division. There would be a play-off between the division winners to determine the league champion. The Northern Division was comprised of teams from Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Mars Hill, Limestone and Van Buren. The Southern Division was made up of teams from Monticello, Hodgdon, Oakfield, Island Falls and possibly Bridgewater and Houlton. Wilfred was President of the Northern Division and Faye Ladner was the umpire –in-chief. The Presque Isle Indians were coached by Jack. Beginning this season only the regular residents of each community could play on the respective teams. Enthusiasm was high and the following players reported to practice for the Indians: Bud, Henderson, Eddie Packard, Bill Kelley, pitchers; Keith Thompson, Flynt Dillen, Poddy Johnston, Ron Livingston, Gene Hunter, Real Proulx, Roy Parsons. Hal Cheney also planned to return to the baseball wars this summer and would pitch for the Indians.
The Northern Maine Fair brought back their baseball tourney for the championship of Aroostook, Spike Williams was the chair of the tournament committee and announced that eight teams would compete in the event. The Presque Isle Indians won the tournament with a 4-3 win over the Fort Fairfield Wanderers. The Indians used the strong pitching of right-hander Bud Henderson and the hitting of Bonville, Livingston, Rafford and Hussey to gain the win.
The Fort Fairfield Wanderers won the league championship with a 17-2 record while the Presque Isle Indians finished tied for second with Caribou at 12-8. The two teams had a play-off to determine sole possession of second which the Indians won 9-3.
During this season discussions began on the possibility of installing a portable night lighting system so that each town in the circuit could play night baseball. Lawrence Sear the star catcher from the Fort Fairfield Wanderers was voted the Most Valuable Player and received the Hugh Lockhart Memorial Trophy. The Wanderers also received the league championship trophy; Fort manager Charlie Sloat accepted the award. Players from the Presque Isle Indians selected to the All-Star team were third baseman Ron Livingston, pitcher Bud Henderson, first baseman Gene Hunter, second baseman Maynard Strong, and outfielder Ed Packard.
The Aroostook All-Stars rode the ninth inning double of Ron Livingston with the bases loaded to defeat the Brewer Eastcos 7-6. Ed Packard pitched into the fifth inning for the All-stars before being replaced by Don Graves.
1947. This year it was thought that the Indians would challenge for the Northern Aroostook League crown but lack of hitting kept them from accomplishing that goal. The team had a number of pitchers available including Harold Brown, Bud Henderson, Lefty Hughes, Finn Dillen, and Real Proulx. The infield was solid with Maynard Strong and Pat Proulx manning second and short respectively, Cliff Beckwith was at third and Harvard Whitten and Ivan McGlauflin battled for the first base duties. Bennie Livingston started as catcher while several candidates battled for outfield spots including Henry Gagnon, Poddy Johnston, Bert Rafford, Bud Bragdon, Darrell Bragdon, Carl Hallet and Cooper. At the beginning of the season the Indians were coached by Gene Hunter but was later replaced by Cal Green when Hunter had to return to college.
The Fort Fairfield Wanderers and the Mars Hill Cubs were tied for the league lead going into the last game of the season. In that game the Cubs overcame a four run deficit to upend the Wanderers 6-5 in an eleven inning affair. After struggling the first few innings Left Graves, the Cubs pitcher, settled down and pitched beautifully the rest of the way. Red Russell was also dominant for Fort pitching no-hit and no-run ball the first five innings. Mars Hill then lost the County Championship to Oakfield.
The Presque Isle Indians were a disappointment finishing in third place. They did however place four players on the All-Star team: Bud Henderson, pitcher; Ronnie Livingston, catcher; Bert Rafford, outfielder; Pat Proulx, infielder. Faye Ladner of Presque Isle was the manager for the all-stars. Mars Hill place five players on the team: Eddie Cluff, catcher; Lefty Donald Graves, pitcher; Bobby Morris, centerfield; Von Shaw, leftfielder; Everett Beals, shortstop. Red Russell and Bob Waldron of Fort Fairfield were also selected to the team.
Poddy Johnston and Bert Rafford were the two leading hitters for the Indians. Johnston hit over .400 most of the year and Rafford was around the .350 mark. Jim Buck of Limestone was voted the Outstanding Player in the Northern Aroostook League.
1948. On the evening of June 8, 1948 there was a double header scheduled for Mackin Field with four Northern Aroostook League teams participating (Easton, Ashland, Mars Hill and Presque Isle). Ashland took on Easton and Mars Hill played Presque Isle in five inning contests. A near capacity crowd estimated to be near 3000 fans witnessed the inauguration of night baseball in Northern Maine. Albert Brewer, secretary of the Northern Maine Fair spoke briefly before the first game and Edwin Parkhurst threw out the first ball. The Presque Isle High School band was also on hand for the opening exhibition of night baseball. The first regulation game between Grand Falls A.A. and Presque Isle was played June 10, 1948. Presque Isle, Ashland, Easton, and Mars Hill all played their week day home games at night at Mackin Field. Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Van Buren and Limestone used the night lighting that was being installed at Caribou for their mid-week home games.
The 1948 season officially opened June 20, 1948 with day games. June 22 the first Aroostook League night contests were played when Presque Isle visited Caribou and Van Buren and Ashland played at Mackin Field. During the Northern Maine Fair teams from down state (Patten, Brewer, Calais, and Lincoln) were brought in to play local teams (PI Indians, Houlton Collegians, Oakfield Oakies, Caswell and Monticello).
The Houlton Collegians were a powerful team paced by pitchers Lefty Swett and Jim Difrederico who was a hard thrower. Difrederico was to have a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers when the season was finished. The Indians were able to hand the Collegians there first home defeat in more than two years, the game was played in front of 1500 fans.
The Indians went on to win the Northern Aroostook League crown and later defeated the Oakfield Oakies to win the County Championship. The team was coached by Cal Green and offensively led by Real Proulx, Gene Hunter, Jim Dyer; Joe Cronkite and Bert Rafford. On the mound Bud Henderson was 16-6 and Ed Packard was 14-3. The team finished with a record of 40 wins and 17 losses. Dyer was named Most Valuable Player for the season. Henderson and Packard combined for 30 of the Indians 40 wins. Henderson also struck out 138 in 22 games. He will also be remembered for a Sunday afternoon in which he pitched the Indians to a win over the Caribou Clovers and then traveling to Grand Falls where he hurled the ‘Cataracts’ to a win over another strong Canadian team. Two games pitched and won on the same day in two different countries, quite an accomplishment.
This season the Indians also upset the Augusta Millionaires (one of the top semi-pro teams in the state) 1-0 behind the pitching of Ed Packard. Packard also had three hits while Gene Hunter added two.
The Presque Isle Indians completed a successful season compiling a 33-23 record against the best teams in Northern and Eastern Maine. This year also set a new attendance record in Presque Isle with more fans witnessing games than ever before. This was also the inaugural year for outside paid ball players of which there were six. With the exception of Jim Dyer, who was guaranteed a salary at the beginning of the season all other local players provided their services without compensation. George Wales (catcher) led the league in hitting .367, home-runs 13 and runs scored 56. Dyer scored 54 runs and had the most hits with 87. Jim Keefe led the pitchers with a 10-4 record.
The highlight of the ’49 season was when the Birdie Tebbetts Major League All-Stars played and exhibition game vs the Aroostook County and Brunswick League All-Stars. This was the second consecutive that the All-stars came to Presque Isle. Besides Tebbetts the major league roster was comprised of such players as Dom Dimaggio, Johnny Pesky, Vic Wertz, Mickey Vernon, and Joe Coleman. Approximately 3000 fans attended the game at the Northern Maine Fairgrounds baseball diamond. The Major league all-stars defeated the locals by a score of 10-5. Dick Cormier of Fort Fairfield won the home-run hitting contest prior to the game. Red Russell also of Fort Fairfield pitched 4 shutout innings against the all-stars allowing just one hit a single to Johnny Pesky. Local all-stars who participated were Joe Cronkite, Real Proulx, Jim Dyer and Bert Rafford of Presque Isle, Hal Cheney of Easton, Dick Cormier, Hal Melkonian, John Gorman and Red Russell of Fort Fairfield.
Maine – New Brunswick League
Baseball in Presque Isle and the County has had its ups and downs through the years. There have been many outstanding high school, legion and semi-pro teams. Baseball can be traced back to the early 1900’s locally. There were many local stars in the early years; Hal Cheney, Milt MacBride, Verdelle Clark, Bill Haskell, Ron Livingston and Bert Rafford. Verdelle Clark holds the distinction of having hit the longest homerun at Mackin Field, a blast that reportedly travelled over 500 feet clearing the racetrack in centerfield.
During the 30’s and 40’s baseball continued to thrive in Aroostook as a result of the Northern Maine League. The Maine-New Brunswick began in 1950 with Gordon Bither of Houlton serving as it first president. The first year the league was comprised of four towns: Edmundston, Grand Falls, Houlton and Presque Isle. From 1950-1955 many of the teams were comprised of imported talent and a few players from the local the area. The league was one of the better leagues in operation. The Presque Isle Indians played their games at Mackin Field and brought many thrills to the local fans. Presque Isle won the league in 1950 and 1953.
1950 – The Maine New Brunswick League