Freeman, Thom (2016)
“As a teammate for three seasons, I always felt victory was at hand with Thom on the mound. He controlled games with his pitching expertise and dominated hitters. A loyal team member and thoroughly respected by his fellow comrades, he was legendary.”
Teammate and Former
Bowdoin Head Football Coach
“Chick Leahey was not just a baseball coach, but a truly gifted instructor in the fundamentals as well as the nuances of the game. Although I was fortunate to have a chance to play on after Bates, I can honestly say that at no time did I learn more about baseball and how to conduct oneself on the field, and as a person in general, than the three years I played under his guidance.”
Thom Freeman was born in Boston Ma. He grew up in Arlington Ma, a town known for their tough high school hockey teams, rather than their baseball pedigree. He played two years in Little League, 4 years of Arlington Youth Association Baseball followed by 3 years with American Legion Post 39. As a 16 year old he made a guest appearance in the historic Boston Park league against the prison team at Walpole.
A two way player in both basketball and baseball Thom was recruited by Bates College and matriculated in the fall of 1959. He was a four year member of the varsity basketball team. His 1960-61 team was selected to the Northeast Regional NCAA Tournament. They won the first game against Springfield College but lost the next game to Williams College. Thom was the captain of the 1962-63 team.
Thom played varsity baseball three years at Bates under the tutelage of the legendary coach William “ Chick” Leahey. He would become like a second father to Thom and many others on the team. In those days the Maine State Series was the ultimate competition for bragging rights in all sports in the state of Maine. Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and the University of Maine at Orono, the Goliath, coached by Jack Butterfield. The other 3 schools had equally remarkable coaches in Chick Leahey, Danny MacFayden, and John Winken.
His Junior and Senior season were especially rewarding for the Bates baseball program. As a junior they won the State series, losing only one game to Colby. At season’s end, Bates was selected to the Eastern Regional NCAA tournament in New Jersey. Thom pitched a complete game 2-lvictory over Fairleigh Dickerson University. Before the game the Bates players heard the comment that they were “hicks from Maine and never played any real competition.” They lost in the finals to Rollins College.
In his senior year Bates again won the Maine State series. Thom said it was “especially satisfying defeating the Maine Black Bears” in his three years at Bates. Although it’s been 50 years since graduating many of Thom’s records are still standing. Some of these are: innings pitched (68) in one season, strikeouts (77) in one season, strikeouts (181) in his career. He is also still 2nd in wins in a season (7), innings pitched career (186), and his career E.R.A was 2.47. For his body of work Thom was selected on the 1963 All American team. He was the first Bates player to receive this honor. Thom is perhaps one of a few Mainer’s to play in the NCAA Tournament in both basketball and baseball.
Upon graduation in 1963 Thom signed with the New York Yankees. They promptly shipped him out to play with the Harlan Ky.Yankees in the Appalachian League. In 1964 with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees, Thom won 5 games mostly in relief. He pitched 124 innings giving up 101 hits, striking out 89 with a 1.52 E.R.A. In 1965 with the Binghamton Yankees in NewYork-Penn League, Thom won 5 games and had 75 strikeouts in 66 innings. Some of the future major leaguer’s Thom played with was: Bobby Murcer, Fritz Peterson and Steve Kline. Some of his coaches were Bobby Shantz, Cloyd Boyer and Gary Blaylock.
After the 1966 season Thom returned to Maine and began a very rewarding sales career with IBM. His wife Claire of 52 years, is a Lewiston native and his oldest son was born in Maine. He now lives in Wrentham Ma. and Fort Myers Fl. His family has regularly returned to Maine to enjoy family and Maine’s natural wonders. Most of his closest friends and teammates from Bates are from Maine or have returned to work or retire in the state. Of special note are football All American, Howie Vandersea, retired football coach at Bowdoin College, roommate Web Harrison, retired Bates football coach, roommate and teammate Woody Woolson, now retired in the Boothbay area, baseball and basketball teammate John Lawler of Auburn, and John Lanza, friend and former teammate. Their have been many great athletes who have graduated from Bates College. Thom was their first All American in baseball. He attributes a lot of his success to his coaches and teammates. It is perhaps fitting that he is the first player from Bates to be inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. He is a welcome addition to the class of 2016.
Baseball Reference . Stats
From Bates College in the News July 2016