L’Heureux, Henry (2008)
The way baseball threaded its way through the life of Henry L’Heureux – Depression-era youth honing a life-long passion for the game, heroic yet unheralded service in World War II, and a sparkling post war career for one of the premier semi-pro teams in the state – is emblematic of so many Maine Baseball Hall of Famers, and Henry’s posthumous induction today is a well-deserved addition.
Born in 1925 in Lyman, Henry was raised in Sanford, and had to look no further than the L’Heureux family circle to find his first baseball game and teammates. Six L’Heureux brothers, including older siblings Art and Walter (Maine Baseball Hall of Fame 1982), developed their skills in and around the sandlots on Foch Street, using baseballs held together with several layers of black tape and bats often carved with an ax.
“We ate, slept and drank baseball,” Henry claimed in an article written by sports journalist John Cochin. “If we couldn’t get enough guys together for a game, we’d use the side of a barn as a backstop and take turns trying to strike each other out with a hard rubber ball.”
Pushing each other up the learning curve, the brothers L’Heureux honed their baseball skills as teen-agers, acquiring invaluable instruction in the fundamentals from Sanford high school coach Joe Nunan.
After playing two years at St. Ignatius High School as well as the Cole Post Junior legion team, Henry left for Army boot camp in April, 1943 at the age of 17, joining four brothers who had enlisted previously. Henry served meritoriously in the Army 3rd Infantry Division, seeing action in Marseilles, France and the Anzio beachhead in Italy.
Returning home after the war Henry caught on with Goodall-Sanford one of a handful of strong semi-pro teams (including Portland’s Pilots, Auburn’s Asas and Augusta’s Millionaires) that laid the foundation for the explosion of town team baseball that would soon follow. Teaming up with brothers Art and Walter, La famille L’Heureux anchored a powerhouse nine that racked up an impressive record against independent, semi-pro teams from all over New England.
Other than a 2- year stint with the Allain City Club out of Rochester, New Hampshire, and a summer with the Granby, Quebec semi-pro club, Henry was a fixture behind the plate for 5 years with Goodall-Sanford as was Art at third base and Walter on the mound. According to Cochin, “the three played pretty much together from 1946 through the early 1950’s. Rarely was a game won without at least two and sometimes all three of the brothers being instrumental in victory.”
As with most successful catchers, Henry possessed an intuitive feel for the care and handling of pitchers and a throwing arm that would-be base stealers feared. His clutch bat produced this headline in the local paper on one of the rare occasions when he played against his brother: “Brother Henry’s Single Beats Walt L’Heureux and Allains.”
Henry continued to play ball in the local twilight leagues for several years after his Goodall-Sanford days had ended.
Henry worked as a painting contractor most of his life and used his talent to do interior restorations, including several churches, as well as artistic paintings and sketches.
Henry continued to enjoy baseball in retirement, often riding his bike to his beloved Goodall Park to watch the Sanford Mainers play. He was active in fund-raising efforts to restore Goodall Park after it burned down several years ago and his name is engraved on a stadium seat which he purchased himself.
Henry passed away July 4, 2008 following a courageous battle with mesothelioma and after having been informed on Christmas Day, 2007 by General Chairman Sonny Noel that he had been selected for induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. The affable, gregarious “Pepere”, as he was known to many, would doubtless have relished this day and the chance to spin a few more baseball yarns about the L’Heureux brothers.