Lester Jordan (2019)
Lester Jordan was a heralded 3-sport athlete when he graduated from Cape Elizabeth High School in 1951. He attended the University of New Hampshire on a partial baseball scholarship. He played baseball on some very fast service teams while stationed in Korea and Japan. But that resume, impressive as it is, pales in comparison to a singular, unforgettable accomplishment in the summer of 1951 - coaching the Suburban Little League All-Star team all the way to the Little League World Series. It was the very first year Maine had Little League teams, and the feat has only been accomplished twice since that magical season. For this historic achievement and exemplary baseball resume, the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame is pleased to present to Lester Jordan the Sonny Noel President’s Award.
Lester was born July 15, 1932 and raised in Cape Elizabeth, the youngest of 7 children of Raymond and Vesta Jordan. The Jordan name is, of course, synonymous with Cape Elizabeth and Lester proudly traces his lineage to Robert Jordan’s landing on Richmond Island off the Cape shoreline in 1627.
Growing up on the family farm on Two Lights Road, there was no shortage of siblings or farm hands to get a pick-up baseball game going. There was no organized youth baseball but Lester wrangled a job as the bat boy for the local town team and eventually worked his way onto the playing field at the age of 14.
Lester was a standout 3-sport athlete at Cape Elizabeth High School, playing basketball and running track in addition to honing his baseball skills under the legendary coach Durward Holman.
After graduating in 1951, Lester was hired as the playground director of Fathers and Sons Field, located at current day Plaisted Park. The 19 year old was also asked by Harris “Bud” Plaisted, known as the “father of Maine Little League,” to coach the Cape Elizabeth entry in the new Suburban League, one of the first Little League sanctioned leagues in the State. Lester’s team went undefeated and he was selected to coach the Suburban All-Star team, comprised of the best players from teams based in Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Scarborough and Westbrook.
“We never lost a game until we got to Williamsport,” recalls Jordan. “We were always the underdog, even in Maine, but we found a way to win.” The Suburban LL All-Stars dispatched Portland and South Portland to win the Maine title, and added wins over Manchester, New Hampshire and Corning and Port Chester in Schenectady, New York to win the regional title and earn the coveted trip to Williamsport.
By then, the fan base back in Maine had grown considerably and the entire state was following the improbable baseball journey of Lester’s plucky band.
“People stopped at work to listen to our games on the radio,” recalls Jordan. “This was big doings here, but I was too naive back then to know it was something. I just liked baseball.”
The boys from Maine lost to Texas 3-1 at Williamsport but fan enthusiasm didn’t wane. On the trip home, the team was honored by the Brooklyn Dodgers and their manager, Maine native Clyde Sukeforth, at Ebbets Field. Upon arriving by train at Union Station in Portland ,the team was celebrated with a fire-truck parade down Congress Street with 10,000 fans lining the streets.
Following the once-in-a- lifetime summer, Lester attended UNH but was drafted into the Army the following year. He continued playing baseball for the 14th Infantry while stationed in Korea and Japan. Intra-service rivalries among the branches were intense and many who played were already under contract to professional teams. One of Lester’s fellow Army recruits was Maine Baseball Hall of Famer Harold Ware. The connection led to Lester’s meeting Harold’s sister Audrey. Lester and Audrey were married in 1955 and the two enjoyed 62 years together until Audrey’s passing in 2017.
Following his discharge from the Army in 1954, Lester returned to Maine. He resumed coaching in the Cape Elizabeth Little League and Babe Ruth League and played Twilight League ball with Harold and Bob Ware for several years. In addition to lobstering for more than 30 years, Lester and Audrey started L & A Farm growing vegetables and flowers to sell at the Portland Farmers Market.
Having just celebrated his 87th birthday, Lester easily recalls the storied events in his life, particularly the poignant details from the glorious summer of 1951. He was just a teenager but he was the right person at the right time to coach and counsel an intrepid band of 11 and 12 year olds in their improbable march to Maine baseball immortality.