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  • Writer's pictureMaine Baseball HOF

Greenlaw, William K. (1984)

Updated: May 9

Greenlaw, William K. (84)

His fabulous feats on the baseball diamond and gridiron made him a “Superman” among athletes in the 1950s.

He could do it all. Whether the powerfully-built southpaw was striking out bewildered batters in the Twilight League or the minors, or using his speed to track down balls in the outfield or create havoc on the basepaths after yet another hit, Willie Greenlaw was exciting to watch.

The former Portland High star, who played baseball and football for the University of Nebraska (receiving All-American honors in football), once pitched back-to-back no-hitters in the Twilight League for the Capitol Theater Red Sox in 1956.

However, baseball scouts first noticed Greenlaw when he shut out Thornton Academy, 2-0, in the Telegram League championship game in 1953. During the 16-inning marathon, Greenlaw struck out 18, scattered five hits and knocked in the winning run with a booming triple. Greenlaw led the Telegram League in batting that season with a .407 average.

The thought-conscious will argue that Greenlaw was even better in football than baseball. He could pass and kick, besides being a great broken-field runner. In 1952 he led the Bulldogs to the state title by scoring 107 points in eight games and gaining more than 1,500 yards rushing, including 188 against Deering in the biggest game of the season.

Yet Greenlaw opted for a professional baseball career with the Cincinnati Red-legs organization. “‘I injured my ankle and didn't play well at all my senior year (at Nebraska),’’ Greenlaw told the Telegram in 1972. ‘‘That’s why I chose baseball over football. I had a lot of telegrams and telephone calls from professional football teams asking if I'd take football if drafted.”

Greenlaw’s ankle healed and he played for the Portland Seahawks in 1962. He was second in the Atlantic Coast Football League in scoring and fourth in rushing. He made the All-Star squad.

Also a basketball and track star, Greenlaw is the subject of numerous arguments whether he was the greatest athlete in state history.

From Portland Press Herald

Paying tribute to Willie Greenlaw who passed at age 90 on April 29 2024. He was an inductee into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame 1984, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame 1986, and the Portland High School Football Hall of Fame original class of 2013. "He was called a Superman on a playing field. He was compared to Mickey Mantle. He was thought by many to be the best athlete ever to come out of Portland High, if not all of Maine."

"Jack Dawson, 89, of Portland, regularly competed against Greenlaw in football and baseball when they were kids growing up in Portland and young men in the Twilight League.

“He was built like Mickey Mantle,” said Dawson, a former Portland mayor and the longtime head of the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy committee in charge of selecting the state’s top high school senior football player. “If you saw him do anything, you knew he was strong and he would do things with ease. He was a natural. Two outs in the ninth inning he would hit a home run. He’d run a punt back for a touchdown, have the play called back on a clip or something, and then he’d run the next punt back.”

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