PIHS Pitching Star-Wayne Hartford
Wayne Hartford, a 1961 Presque Isle High School graduate, can legitimately lay claim to being the best Wildcat pitcher over the last 60 years. Hartford began his pitching career in the service club league ball fields of Presque Isle and showed promise of being an outstanding left-handed pitcher in his early years. As a member of Presque Isle’s Midget All-Star team he pitched his team to a 3-1 victory over the Caribou All-Star allowing only one hit while striking out 15 of 18 hitters. Hartford concluded the regular season with a 9-3 record.
At the age of 14 and just out of the eighth grade Hartford was selected to play for the Presque Junior Legion team along with friend and classmate, Bob Duprey. Hartford was blessed with a good fastball, a natural screwball and a curve. In his first start of the summer he led the local team to a 7-2 victory over Fort Fairfield, pitching brilliantly over the last several innings, allowing just three hits and striking out 15.
His pitching also helped the Presque Isle Junior Legion team to three straight Northern Maine Championships in 1958, 1959 and 1960. In 1959 the local legion nine had an 11-1 record and lost a heartbreaker in the opening round of the State Tournament. Hartford suffered the 4-3 loss versus Bath allowing just 4 hits over 10 innings.
High School years:
It did not take long for Hartford to become a significant member of the PIHS pitching staff during his freshman year. He concluded his first year on varsity with a 4-1 record and threw a no-hitter the last game of the year against Houlton at Mackin Field.
In 1959 his sophomore year he again recorded a 4-1 record and while he pitched brilliantly, the Wildcats finished second in the Aroostook League.
During the 1960 campaign the Wildcats won the County championship with Hartford leading the pitching corps with a 5-0 record and an era of less the 2.00. The hard throwing lefty struck out 10 or more in all of his starts.
The Wildcats again won the 1961 County Championship behind a solid offensive and defensive team and a pitching staff head by Hartford and Joe Knight. Entering his final season Hartford was considered one of the best high-school pitchers in Maine. He pitched the title clinching game versus Fort Fairfield, coming away with an 8-2 victory, allowing 6 hits and striking out 14 Tigers. The win gave Hartford 6 consecutive wins without a defeat. During his high school career he averaged 13 strikeouts per game, recorded a 2.21 lifetime era and a record of 19-2. The Wildcats four major sports teams (cross country, basketball, baseball & track) finished the season with a perfect 34-0 record against County competition.
During the summers of 1960 and 1961 Hartford pitched semi-pro baseball for the Houlton Collegians in the Maine – New Brunswick League. He found success during the opening season winning his first three games, giving up a total of three runs with only two being earned. Hartford was also the winning pitcher in the annual Maine-New Brunswick League All-Star game held at Grand Falls. He worked the final four innings and held the opposition scoreless, allowing only one hit.
In 1963 Hartford joined the pitching staff of Husson University after spending one year at MCI. He began his college career by firing a 5 hitter, while striking out 17 versus Windham College to earn the win. He later pitched a one hitter against the Colby frosh, the Waterville schools first loss after a 6-0 start. A 4-1 win over ASTC (UMPI) concluded a three game stretch which saw Hartford allow only three earned runs and eight hits. He concluded his freshman year with a 4-2 record. Hartford led Husson pitchers with 56 innings pitched, allowing 33 hits, 14 earned runs, 73 strikeouts, 22 walks and an era of 2.25.
Wayne Hartford (left) and Harry Greenfield (center) along with Coach Del Merrill were instrumental in the success of the Husson University baseball team during the 1960’s. Photo courtesy of Bangor Daily News Library.
He continued his success his sophomore sporting a 5-2 record. He pitched 45 1/3 innings, striking out 42 and issuing 11 walks.
In 1965 Hartford hurled a no-hitter against Thomas College while walking only one and striking out 15. Returning to his hometown to face ASTC (UMPI) he fired a two hitter and stuck out 17 in leading the Braves to a 5-0 win. Over a four game period Hartford had struck out 64 hitters and finished the season with a 5-1 record. He led the Husson staff with a 1.88 era, 77 strikeouts against 13 walks in 52 2/3 innings.
Entering his final year at Husson Hartford had won 14 games while losing only four. In 150 2/3 innings he allowed but 82 hits and only 36 earned runs. He had 182 strikeouts while allowing 45 walks and a miniscule 2.14 era. The 1966 season saw Hartford win eight games, highlighted by his 21 strikeout, 3 hit shutout performance against Nichols College. Over a four game period in May of 1966 Hartford won four games. In the first game of a double header on May 25th he pitched two strong innings of relief against Ricker College to pick up the win. He pitched Husson to a complete game victory in the second game, allowing only two hits and fanning 15. Three days later he pitched both games of a double header against ASTC (UMPI). He allowed three hits in the opener, then came back to hurl a two hit gem in the second game. He concluded the 1966 season with an 8-2 record, 1.57 era and struck out 121 in 80- 1/3 innings
Hartford’s name is still etched in the Husson baseball record book. He holds the record for most wins for a pitcher in a career, 22; tied for most wins by a pitcher in a season, 8; most strikeouts by a pitcher in a game, 21; and was second with most strikeouts by a pitcher in a season with 121. He also had eight career shutouts. During his four years at Husson, Hartford helped lead the school to two Northeast College Conference Championships in 1964 and 1966.
Hartford also pitched in the Penquis semi-pro league in the mid 1960’s, hurling for Lamoine and Mattawamkeag. It was customary for Hartford to pitch the first weekend game on Saturday in Lamoine,, and on his Sunday return trip to Presque Isle, he would hurl for Mattawamkeag. Hartford had the opportunity to play along side former major leaguer Carlton Willey of Cherryfield, Maine. Willey had pitched for the Milwaukee Braves and New York Mets.
Hartford was offered a Class D contract to sign with Boston Red Sox; however he decided not to pursue a professional baseball career. Murray Putnam, Athletic Administrator and baseball coach at Southern Aroostook Community High School submitted Hartford’s name to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame Committee. He appeared to have enough votes to be inducted but had his name withdrawn for personal reasons. Hartford was inducted into the Husson Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.
Hartford was an exceptional athlete who also excelled in basketball. In 1959 he was All Eastern Maine honorable mention and All Aroostook first team; 1960 – All State second team, All Eastern Maine first team, All Aroostook MVP and first team selection; 1961 – All State first team, All Eastern Maine first team Aroostook County MVP and All Aroostook first team. He also displayed his basketball skills at Husson University, scoring a career 892 points and averaging 12.4 ppg; he was also known for his fierce rebounding skills. He was also captain of the basketball team the 1962-63 and 1965-66 seasons.
While in high school Hartford played with probably the best group of athletes ever assembled in one class. Steve Smith was one of the school’s all-time great athletes, starring in basketball, track, baseball and cross-country; Harry Buzzell and Tom Cockcroft excelled in baseball, track and basketball; Bob Duprey was also outstanding in basketball and baseball. Duprey also starred at Husson College and was inducted into the schools Hall of Fame. Others who were a part of this great athletic class were Bobby Allen, Loring Warner, Albert Moreau and Bobby Archer. This group put Presque Isle High School sports back on the map throughout the state, and placed athletics on a level so that winning a letter, or even making a team, became an honor. In the four major sports at the time, this group and their teammates amassed a 46-1 record their senior year, their only loss being to Cheverus in basketballs state championship game.
Thank you to the Mark & Emily Turner Library, Bangor Public Library, Bangor Daily News, Husson College and Wayne Hartford. To comment regarding the article please call 207-764-1217.