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Leavitt, Ralph (Bud) (1989)

Leavitt, Ralph (Bud) (89)

Ralph William (Bud) Leavitt Jr., Maine's outstanding sports journalist, ex-columnist, personality, has colorfully covered Eastern Maine and the state field — plus territory well beyond — in a 54 year career that’s being extended on a once-a-week basis since his official retirement from the Bangor Daily News last Oct. 28.

Although he was most visibly identified with the fish-game world for 40 of his 42 years with the News, Bud freely testifies that he’s been “‘a life-long baseball junkie. I've never lost my love for this same — the best one of them all.”

Bud recently told a cute story about his roots in the National Pastime:

‘My career in baseball began as a six-year old kid batboy when Jimmy Fitzpatrick came from Boston College to pitch for and manage the PCF team in the old and original Eastern Maine Baseball League. My dad hired Jim. That's how I became batboy.

‘I remember picking up the bat off home plate when Jimmy had ordered a squeeze play — with himself on third base — and in sliding home was badly spiked. God, when I saw the blood running down his stocking leg, I actually cried. Fitzy was my pal. (Bud hereby joins the beloved Fitzy in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame; both also Maine Sports Hall of Famers).

Leavitt describes himself as becoming a “‘fifth-class first baseman in the local circuits’”’ — Old Town and Bangor area — but, it should be added that he quickly became a first-class writer, starting at age 17 for the former Bangor Commercial.

As a scribe, he’s covered and columned baseball at all levels with his inimitable, witty, yet considerate style and as sports editor developed many capable young writers. Bud has covered Six World Series, innumerable other major league games but will be forever remembered for his friendship with New England's own immortal, Ted Williams, dating from the Splendid Splinter’s rookie season in Boston in 1939.

That strong tie, of course, has kept the legend of Teddy Ball game very much alive and on the Maine and New England scene through the humorous series of TV commercials as Bud and Ted swap jibes in behalf of Nissen’s bread.

Bud had his own television sports show for over 20 years. His “Woods and Waters” show was judged No.1 in the country by New York critics in 1979.

His Maine peers twice chose him Sports Writer of the Year.

From Wikipedia

Sometimes Leavitt was joined on his Maine TV show by friends like broadcaster Curt Gowdy, or baseball players Brooks Robinson or Ted Williams. "He was to outdoor journalism what Norman Rockwell was to art," wrote longtime Bangor Daily News sports columnist Larry Mahoney. The comparison was apt. Leavitt was not known for his eloquent turns-of-phrase, but for his directness and lack of artifice—what some might call his 'Maine-ness.'

Leavitt's friendship with baseball player Ted Williams spanned decades, and the two were frequent fishing buddies.Leavitt had been sent to Boston's Fenway Park in 1939 to write about the Boston Red Sox, where he met Williams, then a first-year rookie already making a name for himself as a slugger. Overhearing that the cub sportswriter was from Maine, Williams asked about the fishing up north. A lifelong friendship ensued.

"One journalist with whom Williams had a genuine friendship was the late Bud Leavitt, former sports editor and outdoor writer for the Bangor Daily News," wrote Tony Chamberlain of The Boston Globe. "Leavitt fished often with Williams in the lakes and streams of Maine and Canada. Most of their fishing up north was for salmon, and Williams fished with Leavitt near the writer's home along the Penobscot River.'

From The Day I Met Ted Williams


By Paul Betit

The Day I Met Ted Williams first appeared in Islandport Magazine, Winter 2018 By the time I met the Splendid Splinter, I was a seasoned journalistic veteran. I just had to keep my cool and be professional.

It was the year the Sox ended up losing the World Series in seven games to the New York Mets. Williams had teamed up with longtime Maine outdoor columnist Bud Leavitt for a series of television commercials for J.J. Nissen Baking Co. It was August and they were filming on the golf course at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.

Williams, who at one time was tagged as the world’s best sports fisherman as well as being arguably baseball’s greatest hitter of all time, and Leavitt were longtime fishing buddies. I was writing a feature for the Maine Sunday Telegram about their relationship.

Both men said they met during Williams’ rookie season in 1939. At the time Leavitt was a cub sportswriter for the old Bangor Commercial and was covering the BoSox. Sportswriters were allowed in the dugout before each game, and when Williams heard that there was a young sportswriter from Maine covering the game, he sought him out.

“Hey, Rook,” Williams recalled saying to Leavitt. “How’s the fishing up in Maine?”

“You’ll have to come up and see for yourself,” the blunt-speaking Leavitt retorted.

The two young men hit it off, and Williams took Leavitt up on his invitation.

Back then, Monday was normally an off-day for the Sox, so sometimes following a Sunday doubleheader at Fenway Park, Williams took the train to Bangor from North Station. After spending Monday fishing with Leavitt he’d take the last train that night back to Boston.

It seemed like a nice little story.

As I wrapped up the interview, Williams asked for my opinion—possibly the only time in more than forty years as a journalist anyone I was interviewing wanted to know what I thought.

“What about that trade?” Williams asked. “Is it a good one?”

A couple of days earlier, the Red Sox dealt shortstop Rey Quinones, pitchers Mike Brown and Mike Trujillo, and a player to be named later (who turned out to be outfielder John Christensen) to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Dave Henderson and shortstop Spike Owens.

In those days, Williams spent most of his summers casting dry flies for Atlantic salmon in the upper reaches of the Miramichi River on the northeast side of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. As far as media reports were concerned, it was a virtual black hole back then. Williams wanted to know the details.

That very morning I read a story about the trade in the Portland Press Herald. I knew the stats of every player involved and could give Williams an honest appraisal.

“Dave Henderson is a real good center fielder and he has some power,” I told him. “A lot of people don’t know it, but he’s hit seventy-nine home runs in three seasons with the Mariners, and that’s the team record.”

“As for Owens,” I continued, “he’s got good range at shortstop, and he’s a switch hitter.” Gesturing with my hands, I added, “He’s a good bat from the left and a good bat from the right.”

Williams nodded. “Seems like a good trade then.”

“I think so,” I answered.

That brought the interview to a close.

The film crew had to wait to set up the final scene of the ad shoot. Armed with a thirty-five-millimeter Canon, I also waited so I could photograph the two stars while they sat at a picnic table munching on sandwiches made from Nissen bread.

The crew set up next to the fairway on the par-five fourth hole. The signature hole at The Samoset, it ran for about 500 yards down a hill toward the famed Rockland Breakwater, a stone jetty that extends for more than 4,000 feet out to a lighthouse marking the entrance to Rockland Harbor.

While we waited, Williams sprawled out in a golf cart to catch some rays. At this stage of life, Williams, just a few days shy of sixty-eight, was a big man. He nearly filled the entire seat.

Every once in a while, a golfer, while looking for his ball in the hay-like fescue next to the fairway, recognized Williams and exchanged waves with the baseball legend.

One intrepid golfer, a hacker from New Jersey who had shanked his second shot wide left, began talking baseball with Williams.

I sat close enough to hear the conversation but too far away to participate politely. I didn’t want to intrude anyway.

“What about the trade?” the golfer asked.

“Seems like a good one,” Williams answered.

Then he leaned forward and spoke with authority.

“Dave Henderson is a real good center fielder and he has some power,” Williams explained. “You know, a lot of people don’t know this but he’s hit seventy-nine home runs in three seasons with the Mariners, and that’s the team record.”

“As for Owens,” he continued, “he’s got good range at shortstop, and he’s a switch hitter.” Williams then gestured with his hands. “A good bat from the left and a good bat from the right.”

The golfer was impressed.

“Wow,” he said, shaking his head in wonderment as he walked past me after leaving Williams. “Teddy Ballgame has still got it.”

“He certainly does,” I agreed, just loud enough for only the hacker to hear.

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