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Lancaster, Steve (2008)

Lancaster, Steve (08)

At least one sportswriter—and likely many others, as well—has written of Stephen Lancaster’s “thunderous left handed bat.” At age fifteen, Lancaster played first base, hit .460, and led the Augusta Babe Ruth team to the Maine state championship. He finished that summer at first base with the Chi-Liv Townies in the Pine Tree League and hit .385 there. Nearing age forty, after thirty-some years of worldwide baseball excellence, he hit a walk‑off grand slam home run for the Jay-Liv Townies to win the 1980 Pine Tree League championship. Such is the story of Steve Lancaster and his thunderous bat.

Born in Pittston in 1943, he was first exposed to baseball by his father, who played for the Pittston Ramblers in 1950 and 1951. A veteran then of batting rocks into the woods in his backyard, Steve held a real bat for the first time at Rambler practices and sat in their dugout during games. From there he went on to become a baseball disciple and a hitting zealot. He entered organized baseball at nine years old with the Gardiner Little League. He later moved to Fayette and lettered four years for the Livermore Falls High School Andies; simultaneously his hitting led the revived Chi-Liv Townies to two league championships.

Lancaster loved to hit a baseball. In 1959 he hit .460 for the Winthrop American Legion team and led them to the State Legion championship. He hit .612 for the same Legion team in 1960 and won the national American Legion batting title. After high school he moved to New Jersey to work in a steel mill. He hit .419 for the Burlington, New Jersey, Giants in the Rancocas League and attracted the attention of Philadelphia Phillies scout Jim Roderick. Roderick signed Lancaster to a Phillies contract and Lancaster’s career in the steel mills was over. At twenty years old, he was catching future baseball hall‑of‑famer Ferguson Jenkins at the Phillies spring training camp in Clearwater, Florida and showing off his thunderous bat to the Phillies coaching staff. The Phillies assigned him to the Class A Spartanburg Phillies in the Western Carolinas League. At Spartanburg he continued his lusty hitting. He batted against left handers Jerry Koosman, Grant Jackson—“best curve ball I ever saw”—and future hall‑of‑famer Steve Carleton, who couldn’t get him out either. In a game against rival Greenville, he hit a home run they still talk about there, far over the right field fence where the ball plugged in a railroad embankment 512 feet from home plate, earning Lancaster and his thunderous bat a headline in The Sporting News. Following the 1964 season, Lancaster was promoted to the Miami Marlins. Unfortunately, his local draft board intervened.

In the army, he played baseball in Germany. In 1968 Lancaster caught for the 8th Infantry Division Support Command Saints and also was one of two Americans in Germany selected to play for the Darmstadt Colt 45’s. The Colt 45’s won the German national championship that year and went on to play for the European Cup. In the quarterfinal game, Lancaster’s thunderous bat produced three runs in the first inning, enough to eliminate the British from Cup competition. The Colt 45’s finished third in the chase for the European Cup behind two teams from Spain.

Back in Maine, Lancaster concluded his baseball career in 1983, thirty-some years after his first at-bat in the Gardiner Little League, hitting.427 for the Jay‑Liv Townies in the Pine Tree League. An all-around athlete, Lancaster also played fullback for the Kents Hill School and the Saint Mary’s University Huskies in his school days, and won the U.S. Army and German national weightlifting championships in Zirndorf, Germany in 1969. As another sportswriter put it once, “Known in all of Maine for his competitive spirit, Steve Lancaster … has the stuff of which champions are made.”

Stephen Lancaster lives in Farmington now with his wife Julie, his dented and splintered thunderous bat retired to a trophy room.

Lancaster, Steve (08)

From Wiles Remembrance Centers

AUBURN-- Stephen L. Lancaster, 72, of Farmington, passed away on Monday Sept. 7 at the Hospice House in Auburn after a strong battle with liver cancer. His devoted wife Julie, daughter Bethany and nephew Jerry were by his side. He is now in the comfort of the Lord.

He was born in Gardner, Maine to Leo and Irene Lancaster. He graduated from Livermore Falls HS in 1960 and went to St. Mary's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia on a football scholarship.

His true love for baseball followed him through adulthood breaking many records along the way while playing in the Pine Tree League. In 1964 he was spotted by a Philadelphia Phillies scout and signed with their single A minor league organization in Spartanburg, SC. After one season with the Phillies he was drafted in the Army leaving his minor league career behind to proudly serve his country. His talent was once again made known to an Army general in Germany so he continued playing baseball for the Army National Team. In 2008 Steve was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.

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