Is there a more quintessential image of a “Down East” Mainer than a lobsterman, raised under the beacon of a lighthouse tended by his father, tying up his boat and scurrying up the wharf to play ball for the local team? No fuzzy image, this is an accurate portrayal of Cutler’s Neil Corbett, the pride of Washington County, who joins the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame today.
Born November 23, 1916 in Roque Bluff, Neil Corbett moved to Cutler when he was six and started playing organized baseball for the Cutler AA at the age of 15. For the next 65 years or so, as player, manager, umpire, commissioner and benefactor, Neil Corbett left an indelible mark on baseball “Down East”.
Neil served in the Army during World War II and saw action in the New Hebrides Islands, Guadalcanal, and the Russell Islands. Returning home, Neil was instrumental in the formation of the Quoddy League based in Washington County, one of numerous postwar semi-pro leagues which sprang up across the county sparked by the surging popularity of town team ball.
Neil became player-coach of the Cutler Cardinals in 1955 and skippered the local nine for thirty-five years. Along with entrants from other Down East communities such as Eastport, Addison, Pleasant Point, Machias, Millbridge and Peter Dana Point, the Quoddy League thrived on spirited play and local pride. Competing against Down East legends and fellow Maine Baseball Hall of Famers Omar and Chick Norton of Eastport, Carlton Willey of Cherryfield, and Tony Tammaro of Woodland, Neil Corbett established a reputation a as hard-nosed competitor and tireless supporter of the team and league.
Not content merely to show-up and play, Neil Corbett threw himself into the necessary but often thankless tasks required to field a team. According to his former players, Neil was always the first one at Corbett Field (donated to the town by Neil’s father), did most of the ground work, bought the equipment and balls, stocked the concession booth and recruited wives and girlfriends to run it, took the collection, coached third, pitched batting practice and even umpired the game if necessary.
Hauling lobster traps and playing ball, Neil Corbett built a town team dynasty of sorts with the Cutler Cardinals, winning 14 Quoddy League championships in a skein that started in 1962 and ended with their last championship in 1988. Even after his playing days had officially ended, it was not unusual to see Neil’s son waving the flag from Cutler’s Wharf signaling his father to “Come on in – we need you to play today”. Local legend has is Neil once had three doubles and a walk in a win over Peter Dana Point after hauling 125 lobster traps that morning!
Neil recalls a game in 1957 when Carlton Willey assembled an all-star team of “Washington County boys”. Playing against the Central Maine League All-Stars, Willey pitched a three-hit shutout and Neil drove in the game’s first run with a double which clanged off a bulldozer parked in the fenceless outfield.
In 1960 Neil was elected Commissioner of the Quoddy League, a position he help for more than 20 years. Still active as a player-coach, Neil’s sense of fairness and overarching dedication to the survival of the league nevertheless made him a superb steward. It was widely acknowledged by many that baseball survived as long as it did Down East due to the unstinting efforts of Neil Corbett.
Neil’s innate knowledge of the game and boundless desire to serve also made him a highly respected umpire. He often umpired league play-off games when Cutler was not involved and was a charter member of the Down East Umpires Association founded by Tony Tammaro. Neil also counts over 20 years working games for the University of Maine at Machias, Washington Academy and Lubec High School.
Neil continues to reside in Cutler
with his wife of 57 years, Allie, and spends his days repairing lobster traps, tending his garden and no doubt reminiscing about the heyday of Cutler Cardinal baseball.
Considering his firmly planted roots, it’s no wonder this son of a lighthouse keeper kept Down East baseball shining brightly for so many years.