Libbey, Jr., Herbert (2004)
In 1970, Mattawamkeag High was destroyed by fire, incinerating all information and statistics concerning Herb Libbey’s storied baseball career at the school.
The numbers were lost, but nothing can erase the memory of Libbey's skill. “What’s amazing,” writes his daughter-in-law, Laurie Libbey, who compiled the family’s history of Herb’s career, “is that the stories are retold as if the storytellers had a record book held in front of them.’
At Mattawamkeag High where he never struck out in four seasons, 1948-1951, Libbey compiled a batting average of more than .400 The 1951 team was Eastern Maine Class S champion.
Following high school and after turning down a tryout with the Boston Braves, Libbey played for the Mattawamkeag Merchants, appearing in more than 1,200 games over 30 years. From 1966-1970, he was player-manager. No one can remember Herb missing a game.
“Herb and his brother, Ken, were the backbones of the team along with manager Dick Lowell,” said teammate Ron Marks.“Ken was one of the best second basemen and Junior (Herb) was equally adept at first. Later, younger brother Dennis joined the team and we had three Libbey brothers playing at the same time.”
Marks remembers Herb as a disciplined clutch hitter who played the bag with finesse and saved infielders many errors by scooping low throws out of the dirt.
“As good as Herb was with the glove, I think he was even better as a hitter” said Marks. “He was a left-handed batter and always made good contact. He hit lefties as well as he hit righties.”
Libbey’s ability to hit in the clutch was demonstrated against Lamoine in the Keag Invitational. Marks singled and stole second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Lamoine brought in former Major Leaguer Carlton Willey.“This was just 4 couple of years after Willey retired and he was still very good,” said Marks.
‘Herb promptly doubled to drive me in with the winning run of the same and tournament.’
Herb Libbey had a genetic predisposition for baseball. His father, Herbert, Sr., worked long hours as a woodcutter, but played for the town team. He taught his sons to play with dedication and seriousness of purpose.
“Junior” grew up as a fan of Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“Herb used a Jackie Robinson model (bat)”, said Jerry Hallett. “It had a thick handle.”
The late Raymond Coombs was a teammate of Herb Libbey’s in the 1950s and remembers his presence at the plate: During one of our games at Garland Field, Herbert hit the longest ball I’d ever seen against ace pitcher Ron Soucie.
‘I played ball for two years with Roger Maris and Herbert always reminded me of Roger at the plate, they had the same swing.’
He was known as Junior, June or Lib, but always played the same - all out. Libbey’s respect for the game is passed on to his children and grandchildren.“Don’t ever walk on or off the field - run!”
LIBBEY, HERBERT S., JR.
MATTAWAMKEAG - Herbert S. Libbey Jr., 78, passed away June 3, 2011, surrounded by his loving family at his home. He was born April 11, 1933, son of Teresa (Stanley) and Herbert S. Libbey Sr.
His jobs included H.C. Haynes, Madden's Store, The Pumping Station, Murray's Motormart and Suburban Propane Co.
He enjoyed bowling and other sports, but baseball was his true passion. He loved playing on Mattawamkeag's semi-pro team with his brothers, sons and several players who became his best friends. He was inducted into Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.