Gaw Dave (2018)
“I always loved playing baseball, and consequently gleaned everything possible about the game by observing, listening, watching games on tv, and reading the rulebook every year. I am left with great memories of a great group of kids from PCHS. It is those former players, and there are many of them, who, through their dedication, effort, and love of the game of baseball, are the ones responsible for my success and any accolades that come with it.” - Dave Gaw
David Gaw comes to the Maine Baseball Hall Of Fame by way of Boothbay, The University of Maine, and Guilford, Maine, following a long and successful career as a player, coach and educator. He is the son of Earl and Helen who are both deceased; his Dad in 1964, and his Mom in 2005. He has a sister, Cathy Gaw Savage who lives in Ft. Myers, Florida and is also a retired educator and an avid golfer who plays to a decent handicap. He currently resides in Guilford where he served as a very well respected coach for twenty- two years and an educator and administrator for thirty years in total. He is married to Freda (Gammon) Gaw, who is also a former educator and who also has strong connections to baseball in the State of Maine. They have two sons. Brian is a teacher and coach in Guilford. He and his wife Becky have three children: Brady 10, Breelyn 8, and Bensyn 3. They live a mile away from David and Freda and are frequent visitors with VIP status, and some might say, partners in crime. Alan, the second son, resides in Naples, Florida, and works in the golf industry. Early in his retirement Dave and Freda played lots of golf, and he dabbled in woodworking. They were able to play some magnificent courses in the Myrtle Beach area in the winter months. As we all know, Time passes, and some things become more difficult. Golf has been replaced with weekly fishing trips and VIP visits. “ Brady and I still fish several times a week in the spring and early summer. I usually come home with the smallest (or no) fish.”
When asked to name two people in his life who made the greatest impression on him, he is very quick to name his father. “My dad was my cheerleader, supporter and idol. He was a risk taker and a successful entrepreneur who established a successful business with a partner in Boothbay Harbor a few years following WWII. His accomplishments were made without the benefit of having completed an education. When I was about ten, dad bought a new glove for me and also got one for himself. He had dropped out of school and had never played ball. Meanwhile, my younger sister and my mother were taking piano lessons, and they always practiced after dinner. So that’s when Dad and I would make sure that the window beside the piano was closed, and we would grab our gloves, go outside, and play pass.” And so it all began.
When Dave began to play in grammar school, the playground on site was not large enough to accommodate baseball, so at recess and after school Dave and his friends would go across the street to play ball on the Boothbay Commons. At the time Dave swung lefty, and that became a problem. “Across the street was Leavitt’s Chrysler Plymouth dealership. One day I really got into one. The ball landed on the windshield of a new Chrysler, smashing it. Mr. Leavitt promptly asked me if I’d consider batting right handed! I did. Sometime after that, I tagged a good one again. This time the ball landed on a porch roof on the other side of The Commons, smashing it. My dad and Boocie Leeman, the homeowner, happened to see it happen. Dad hollered, ‘ Keep on playing. I’ll pay for the windows.’” That grammar school team won several championships. They were called The Triple Threats”. As a reward for winning those championships, Dave’s dad and the other fathers funded a team trip by train to Boston so the boys could attend a Boston Braves game.
Then came American Legion baseball. Dave played for Smith-Tobey Post of Bath, and in 1957- 1958 they won the state championship. In the New England tourney, Dave found himself on third base with a big lefty named Ed Connelly on the mound. His coach gave him the sign to steal home. Doubtful but obedient, he headed for the plate. After a flat slide, (“I wanted to slide Under the plate.”) He was safe. Baseball is not without its ironies. Many years later while playing town team ball with Guilford, Dave found himself in Saratoga, NY, for the YABC tournament. Who was opposing hurler? None other than Ed Connolly who admonished Dave from the dugout, “ You won’t steal home on me again.”
Next stop: Orono, Maine, and Jack Butterfield. “The second influence on my life was my college coach, Jack Butterfield, who taught me much about baseball innuendo. I appreciated his aggressive approach to the game. Because Maine’s season playing outside was so brief, we spent much time in the field house learning basics. That enabled me as a coach to do the same things with my high school teams. Learning came in the gym. Practice and improvement came on the field.” In his first college game, Dave went splat rounding first base on a fly ball that split the outfielders resulting in a double. His next at bat produced a similar long drive, but with no pratfall resulting in a triple. With the third at bat, a groundball dribbler bounced down the third baseline. Certain he was safe, Dave returned to first base, ready to advance to second. The umpire had called him out, and with Dave standing on first said, “ Are you trying to show me up?” Stunned, Dave returned to the dugout thinking, “Jeez, I can’t get thrown out of my first college game!” Things on the field did not really improve. In his last at bat, he hit a rocket back up the middle, which struck the pitcher’s rubber and bounced directly back to the catcher who promptly threw him out at first. In Dave’s words, ”Welcome to college ball!” “All’s Well That Ends Well”, though. David went on to hold the record for stolen bases at Maine for quite some time. He jokes that he has home plate hidden in his garage. Maybe Ed Connelly will drop in to check that out. He was a captain of the team as a senior in 1963, and Coach Butterfield called him ” One of the best hitters I’ve ever coached.” If one were to look closely at that 1963 team picture, one would see quite a few names that also appear in the MBHOF.
In Guilford it became clear that the lessons of Coach Butterfield had found fertile ground. Coach Gaw coached twenty two years and never had a losing season. His final record was 309 – 139. His teams won three Penquis League titles and appeared in the Eastern Maine Finals. He was able to coach both of his sons, was lauded by Hugh Lord in The Bangor Daily News and also his friend Jim Harvey, the local sports scribe. Harvey described him thusly, “Gaw, at the age of 39, has become a legend in his own time with his intense baseball mind, sometimes feisty manner, provocative candor and wit. No other coach, at least in this area, knows his players more thoroughly than Gaw. Another secret is his five weeks in the gym while the snow melts. His pitchers come first and he usually tries anybody who is willing.” The baseball field in Guilford is named after him. He is an inaugural member of the newly minted PCHS Hall of Fame, and now he is in The Maine Baseball Hall Of Fame.
From the Piscataquis Observer David Gaw diamond dedication
DAVE GAW DIAMOND — Field namesake Dave Gaw takes a look at the sign for the newly-named Dave Gaw Diamond in Guilford, unveiled during a surprise ceremony as part of the Bicentennial Piscataquis River Festival on July 30. Gaw coached the baseball team at Piscataquis Community School for over two decades, compiling a record of 309-119 with no losing seasons and leading the Pirates to several Penquis League championships. The effort to name the baseball field in Gaw’s honor was led by Andy Lovell, standing to the right of the sign, a former player of Gaw’s.
If that excellence is reflected statistically, it doesn’t hurt, but the endurance of such a relationship usually stems from the heart and sweat poured into a mutual goal.
So it was no surprise Saturday morning when many former Piscataquis Community High School baseball players from the mid-1960s through the late-1980s gathered to witness the naming of the field on which they learned the sport as Dave Gaw Diamond during a ceremony held in conjunction with the town’s annual Piscataquis River Festival.
PCHS baseball alumni came from around the state and as far away as Virginia to join with family, friends, community members and local politicians to honor Gaw, whose teams compiled a 309-119 record during 23 years as the Pirates’ head coach from 1965 through 1987.
“Many lessons have been learned on this field – winning, losing, honest competition, how to never quit and how to keep on trying,” said Guilford town manager Tom Goulette.
“(Gaw) did have a scowl, a gritted-teeth growl, and a heart for his players,” he added. “He earned the admiration of everyone who ever played for and learned from him.”
A sign recognizing Gaw already had been erected at the field but had been kept under cover in recent weeks, and his friends and family did a good job keeping the secret.
“I’d seen it up there for a month,” said Gaw, who had come to the ballfield Saturday to watch his grandkids take part in the town’s bicentennial parade. “I really didn’t know what it was. I had an inkling, I will say that, but I found out when they pulled the (cover) off.
“Obviously I’m overwhelmed, happy, surprised.”
The sign was finally unveiled by Andy and Terry Lovell, owners of the Guilford Hardware store located just across Route 15 from the field.
It was Andy Lovell’s idea to honor Gaw, particularly after he bought the store a decade ago and began to look out every day at the field where he was a batboy for the former coach during his grammar-school days and then played for the Pirates as a freshman at PCHS in 1973 and as a senior in 1976.
“I always had a special bond with him,” said Lovell. “My dad died at a young age and (Gaw) kind of was my ‘dad’ to a certain degree. In an athletic sense he mentored me, and this was something I really felt strong about.”
Lovell also was motivated by similar honors bestowed upon other former coaches in the area.
“Ever since I bought the store I’ve wanted to do this,” said Lovell. “With owning the hardware store I do a lot of deliveries and I’d go to Dexter and see Ted Clark Field or to Greenville and see Loren Ritchie Field. The straw that broke the camel’s back was after Ed Guiski passed away a couple of years ago I went to a basketball preliminary playoff game in Dexter this winter and when they announced the players they said, ‘Welcome to Guiski Gymnasium.’
“I said, ‘OK, we’re going to try to make this happen in Guilford, too.’”
Lovell sent a letter to each selectman and followed that up with personal visits to explain his mission, and at the next selectmen’s meeting the vote was unanimous to re-name the town-owned field along the bank of the Piscataquis River.
Gaw, now 75, played baseball, basketball and football at Boothbay Region High School before moving on to the University of Maine where he played baseball under coach Jack Butterfield and was a team captain as a senior in 1963.
“I played first base and some in the outfield,” he said, “and I pitched for one inning.”
After graduating from UMaine, Gaw came to Guilford for the most logical of reasons.
“I got a job here,” he said.
Gaw had no long-term plan to stay in the area as a physical education teacher and coach, but he quickly grew fond of the area and its people and he and his wife Freda have never left.
“When I first came up here I coached JV basketball and baseball,” he said. “I coached the JVs for at least two years and I coached varsity (basketball) for six years, and then I became (athletic director) after I gave up the basketball job.”
But it was on the baseball diamond now bearing his name where Gaw and his teams were the talk of the town.
“In my era, basketball was nothing compared to baseball here,” said Lovell. “Everybody played baseball during the summer, all summer. We didn’t play basketball until the fall of the year.”
PCHS was a perennial contender for Penquis League honors during Gaw’s tenure, winning several titles thanks in part to an aggressive coaching philosophy that stressed such fundamentals as base stealing and the hit-and-run.
“And doing your best,” said Gaw. “If you do that things have a way of working out.”
Gaw also had the chance to coach his sons, Brian – the current PCHS athletic director – and Allen.
“I was lucky, they were both pretty good and they worked hard, and that made it a lot easier,” he said. “There was never any doubt in my mind that I was playing them when I should have been playing them.”
Gaw’s compassion for his players transcended familial lines, whether it was buying lunch after a road game for a player who couldn’t afford it or supporting them in other ways.
“If he could do something to help a kid, he would,” said Lovell. “There was one guy who came to me this morning and told me as a kid he didn’t have the money to buy a glove so he used an opposite-hand glove. He’d catch the ball and then take the glove off and throw and then put the glove back on.
“He told me that in his freshman year coach Gaw went to a store and bought him two gloves and gave them to him. What’s that tell you?”
Gaw also was active with the local youth baseball program and instrumental in bringing an American Legion baseball team to Piscataquis County.
“He’s a winner,” said Lovell. “He’d pick you up when you fell, he’d pat you on the back when you were successful. He was a great coach, absolutely a great coach.”
Gaw retired from education in 1993, and his primary baseball interests now are the New York Yankees – an allegiance that reportedly began after he lost a 25-cent bet some 40 years ago – and oldest grandson Brady, an 8-year-old making his way through the Farm League ranks.
“He’s a pretty good hitter,” said Gaw.
Maine Memory Network . Guilford . Baseball notes by David Gaw