Laprise, Roger (2007)
Roger Laprise may be the only 2007 inductee into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame who played a lot of childhood baseball on the same diamond that Babe Ruth’s barnstorming team visited many decades ago. Legend has it in Sanford that the Babe took one local hurler deep that day - much to the delight, no doubt, of local fans. How would tall and lanky right hander Laprise have pitched to George Herman Ruth, had he ever had the chance to so at Goodall Park?
If you read the yellowed clipping in the family scrapbook, and talk to friends who watched and played ball with the 1964 ST. Ignatius High School grad, you are left with only one conclusion: high and hard; inside corner; letter high; reminding the Babe who owned the inside corner! “They didn’t ever clock me,” Laprise chuckles. “They weren’t doing that back then.” But, yes, he allowed, he had good velocity.
Good stats too. And good clips documenting a strong career in Sanford youth leagues and high school ball, all leading to an impressive three-year run with the Pittsburgh Pirates in their minor league system. “PIRATES SIGN ROGER LAPRISE,” the headline in the Portland Press Herald screamed on the morning Thursday June 4, 1964. Laprise had starred at St. Ignatius in both basketball and baseball. His baseball resume had included dominating years in the Sanford-Springvale Little League, topped off by membership in their all star team in 1959 that won the Maine state title. He went on the next year to pitch for the Sanford winner of the Maine Babe Ruth championship team.
Press Herald archives record that he pitched three years in high school for the Cole Post in the “Junior Legion” league. He had four no-hitters in his youth baseball career. He wowed area high school coaches during his junior year when he struck out 145 batters during the season.
6'1" and 180 lbs., he was a great guard on the high school basketball teams. His sophomore year, he played for the Western Maine Class L title team that got nosed out by Orono for the state crown. Senior year, his team got beaten in the finals of the Western Maine Class tourney by Freeport. Many regarded him as the tourney MVP. Friends often considered his senior year attempt at a perfect game against Old Orchard on May 3, 1963 as his best individual achievement. He had a perfect game going with two outs in the ninth. A teammate booted an infield grounder, and the perfecto was gone; he still got a no hitter though.
Laprise signed his pro contract only hours after graduating as a member of the St. Ignatius Class of 1964. Signed with help from his high school coach, George “Choc” Doiron, who had recently become a Pirate “bird dog” scout, Laprise reported immediately to Salem Rebels of the Rookie League in Salem, Virginia.
He was used mainly as a relief pitcher, a new role for him, the first part of the season. That changed a bit midway through the season, however, recalls his wife, Cynthia, “when he caught the attention of the front office with his ability and very smooth motion,” she says. A highlight of that first season in minor league ball was hitting a grand slam home run during one pitching stint.
August of that first season brought bad news, however. “I had a weak muscle in my eye,” Roger recalled years later for the (Biddeford) Journal Tribune. “It caused problems with my motion.” He was sent home with two weeks left in the season. He went back the next year wearing eye glasses.
Laprise, who already had one positive brush with baseball trivia and history by being the first Sanford resident signed to a pro contract since Freddie Parent (1906), got another via his trip to the DL - a document entitled Notice To Player of Transfer From Active List, dated August 18, 1964, is signed by the team’s then-business manager, Branch B. Rickey. To this day, Roger that the trip to the DL got in the way of his big league dreams. “I was told later Pittsburgh had intended to move me up to the International League . . . and the big time the next year,” he told the Journal Tribune.
Eye muscle problems plagued him in the 1965 season. He was placed on the DL again. He underwent corrective eye surgery. He came back in 1966 for third year, but the eye problem got in the way again. He was released in June.
Laprise admits that Opening Day each year can be a tough time for him. He thinks what might have been. “I get a little upset about it, “ he admits, “I was THAT close.” Coming back from baseball, however, Laprise threw himself into family life, and police work. He ended up with an outstanding career with the Sanford Police Department, an approximately 30 year career culminating in promotion to sergeant.
He and his wife, Cynthia, have been married more than 40 years. Roger, age 61, and his wife, raised three sons - Roger David, Daniel and Robert. Roger’s baseball resume added a second page - this one for youth coaching, baseball and other sports for the three very active and accomplished sons.
Grandfather Roger and Cynthia do some traveling nowadays, doting on several grandchildren, who are scattered through the Northeast.
Cynthia says Roger is most proud of former players contacting him years later when they have gone on to accomplish things in life. He had an impact on them on the field and off, they tell him. “They recognize that Roger instilled in them a sense of pride in their team, and in themselves,” Cynthia says of the phone calls and visits. “He showed them by example what good sportsmanship is all about.”
From Portland Press Herald
Posted April 2, 2014
Roger Laprise, 68, Sanford police sergeant, baseball standout
Roger Joseph Laprise, 68
SPRINGVALE - After facing small cell lung cancer with his usual courage, determination and humor for more than two years, Roger died peacefully at Gosnell Hospice House on March 31, 2014.
Roger was born Dec. 8, 1945, in Sanford to Edgar and Monique (Jacques) Laprise. He attended parochial schools and was a stellar baseball and basketball player at Saint Ignatius High School. Roger signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates on his graduation night in 1964. He enjoyed three seasons with the Salem Rebels in Salem, Va. and also trained in Daytona, Fla. He was both honored and humbled to be inducted in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Roger remained involved in the sports he loved through coaching. This involvement included Little League, Babe Ruth, SJHS baseball, St. Thomas girls' basketball, and SSYAA youth basketball.
Robert Laprise, the youngest of his three sons, reflected on his father’s years as a coach and the life lessons he taught players through sports.
“He looked at the game the way he looked at life … to (play) with pride and to represent yourself well,”