Arnold, Gil (2017)
“Gil was one of the most outstanding players I ever played with. He was our best pitcher for years. Gil was also a great person. His quite manner and friendly personality made him a person that everyone liked being around”.
- Ron Marks
“I played many games with and against Gil over a lengthy period of time and became aware of his ability as a multi-skilled baseball player. He not only was able to pitch and catch at a very high skill level, but could play other positions effortlessly”. - Terry Ordway
“I played with Gil for the Merchants for many years and he was the best all-around athlete on the field. He was a fierce competitor, but I can tell you as a teammate that he was a gentleman and very humble”.
- Dennis Libbey
“Gil was the mainstay of an excellent Mattawamkeag baseball team of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He was, in most people’s opinion, the superior pitcher, as well as an above average catcher and all-around player for his team and one of the best hitters of his era”.
- HOWARD MCFADDEN
“Gil was his team’s #1 pitcher and was an excellent catcher and solid hitter. He was a great competitor, but like others on the “Keag” team, kept a cool head and was fun to play against”.
- BILL CORBETT
“Gil pitched a lot of big games for Mattawamkeag. It was not uncommon for him to pitch game one of a doubleheader and catch the second game. He didn’t always pitch or catch. He played the other seven positions better than anyone on the team”. - Bill McCarthy
Gilbert Arnold was born in the Northern Maine town of Island Falls, Maine on August 12, 1938. He was the second child of three born to Paul and Edith Arnold. His older brother, Paul, was five years older than Gil and served in the Korean War, while a younger sister, Nina Ann died at the age of four. He moved to Mattawamkeag in 1945 when his father became employed at Forster Mfg.
Like most kids growing up in a small town, such as Mattawamkeag, kids played baseball from spring to fall and basketball in the winter. Gil was no different. He would play pick up baseball all day long until it was too dark to see. That sometimes meant playing wherever they could find an open area. In some cases it usually meant playing in pastures or hay field where the outfield fence was barbed wire and cows as spectators no doubt. This was not an uncommon “playing field” in Maine.
Gil enjoyed a very successful high school athletic career from 1953 --1958. As a four year starter on the varsity basketball team, he scored 1,657 points for a 20.3 career average. Though he loved basketball, his best sport and passion was baseball. He “began” his high school career as an eighth grader where he became the starting catcher. His first year he hit .318. He followed that up with a freshman year that saw him hit .384 with 30 RBI’s in 17 games. It wasn’t until early in his sophomore year, when his coach, George Larlee, tried him out as a pitcher. Gil obliged his coach in his first start, by firing a one — hitter. He followed that up with a two-hitter and no-hitter. Both were against Sherman High. He finished that year with a .413 batting average while on the mound, striking out 94 hitters in 62 innings and giving up only 10 runs on 19 hits. His junior was even more dominant. He ended that year with a .521 average, pitched in ten games and won all ten. By his senior year, Gil was well established as one of the best all-around players in the area, especially as pitcher. He ended the year with a .631 batting average, while as pitcher, allowing only 8 runs on 12 hits and striking out 80 batters in 8 games. Oh, by the way, he won all 8 games.
During the summer of 1955, Gil played Junior Legion baseball for the Burrill Post 77 team from Lincoln. That year the team won the Penobscot County championship with a big win over a strong Bangor team. They then went on to beat Milo to win the Piscataquis County title. Their streak ended when they lost to a tough Gardiner team in the state tournament.
For his high school career, Gil would have a record of 28 0 as a pitcher and be part of 5 Katandin Valley League titles as well as a team record 30 game winning streak. His coach was quoted in an interview as saying of Gilbert, “He’s the best youngster I have coached and to my knowledge, is the best athlete to attend Mattawamkeag high School and that his record deserves this praise”.
A year after graduating, he had tryouts with the San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins. Upon returning home, he married Opal McLeod in 1960 and began a family that included three children, Jay, Darcy, and Alison. He started his working life at Great Northern Paper Company and continued until retirement as a Mason after 30+ years.
In “Keag”, he continued playing baseball in the semi-pro league with the Mattawamkeag town team “Merchants”. During that time, he played with fellow MBHOFer’s, Herbert “Junior”, Ken, and Dennis Libbey, Terry Ordway and Brian Gordon. Together, they formed a strong nucleus that dominated Northern Maine baseball from the 1960’s through the early 1970’s. The team was a constant fixture at the biggest tournaments of it’s time, including the Carlton Willey Tourney in Lamoine, Maine as well as Mattawamkeags own tourney, the Blue Ox Torney. Many of the best teams and players from around the state could be watched throughout an entire weekend.
Like many men on his team and of his era, Gil would work all day and then rush home, grab his gear and head to practice or put on his uniform for a game that evening no matter where it was to be played. He worked hard and played baseball even harder. The way it was supposed to be played by giving his full effort.
After his playing days of semi-pro baseball, he still played ball. This time it was in the form of softball. He played into his 50’s for local teams as well as for the “Elks” from the 1980’s into the early 1990’s.
Throughout his life, he enjoyed many other hobbies such as camping, golf, hunting, and especially fishing. His favorite times were spent at his camper at Pete Pray’s campground at the base of Mt. Katandin. He also enjoyed John Wayne westerns, Dean Martin shows and boxing matches involving Muhammad Ali.
Gilbert passed away on May 15, 1998 in Millinocket, but left a strong lasting legacy, especially in the form of athletic genetics. His daughter, Darcy excelled in all sports and finished her high school basketball career with over 1,300 + points. His granddaughter, Ashlee carried on that legacy of ability by scoring over 1,100 + points in her high school basketball career. All of the Arnold children and grand- children participated in some form of sports for every season.
Gilbert was a very humble, loving and giving family man. He always believed that his success was a team honor and not an individual one. Many of Gil’s former teammates and contemporaries wrote wonderful letters of support for his nomination in which they used phrases such as “best all-around athlete”, “most outstanding”, “multi-skilled”, and “great competitor”, but the one letter that best summed up Gilbert Arnold was from a teammate, Eddie Rideout. The context of the letter is as quoted, “We didn’t use this word back then, but he,(Gilbert), taught us all by modeling. We were encouraged (without even realizing) to be like Gilbert, to want to be as good an athlete and person as Gilbert. He never acted as if he were better than the rest of us and he set examples for all of us to be good enough to win gracefully”. This excerpt exemplified not only Gil Arnold the athlete, but more importantly as a man, husband and father.