Maynard, Maxwell (2018)
“What I liked best about baseball was the competitiveness of pitcher versus hitter. Being a pitcher, I always tried to strike the batter out if I could. If not, a pop fly or a ground out would do. A fastball in the nineties with a hop on it, a drop in the dirt, or a curve that the batter breaks his back on: a pitcher has a lot of advantages if used properly. But still, some batters can hit anything you throw. That’s baseball.” - Maynard Maxwell
Maynard Maxwell was a powerful right handed pitcher from Lee, Maine. In the words of fellow Hall Of Fame member, Brian “Butch” Gordon, “Maynard was a very well respected pitcher in the area when I was playing for Mattawamkeag.” Marty Roop, another Hall Of Famer, called him, ”The fastest pitcher I ever faced when I played for Stearns High School”, and called his induction “well deserved”. Maynard, age 84, still resides in Lee with his wife of sixty one years, Cheryl. They are the parents of three sons: Kevin and his wife Ginger, who reside in Winn and manages the part of the original farm which produces hay, Keith who, after retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel and a base commander following a twenty five year in the Air Force is currently involved with the Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan, and Scott and his wife Janet who reside in Lee where Scott currently operates an automotive and truck repair business. Maynard and Cheryl have seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Maynard graduated from Lee Academy in 1952. We hear the phrase, “It was a different time”, and it often seems trite. However, it rings very true when one listens to Maynard speak about his early years growing up in the Other Maine. “Lee and the surrounding areas were boomtowns. There were over one hundred farms in the area producing milk and potatoes. There were six paper mills along the Penobscot River. There were sawmills, broiler houses, shoe and textile manufacturing, as well as leather and clothespin producers. Everybody had a job. There was no welfare, no nursing homes, No TV, no Walmart and no smart phones. The average wage was fifty dollars a week, and everybody ate well -potatoes, beans, garden vegetables, venison and a few fish.” It was a time when Maxwell Farms was a renowned potato producer. Kevin and Scott joined their father in the family business. Maxwell Farms became known nationally for its excellent seed potatoes, providing them to farms from Maine to Florida. The business grew and expanded to farms in Webster and Canton. The Maxwells diversified to produce broccoli, cabbage, radish grain and straw. Then things changed like they always do. The NAFTA agreement resulted in a significant loss of business, and it was clear the time had come to exit the potato business. Six hundred acres of irrigated land went to another farm which was seeking to expand. The rest was put into the production of hay and straw. Kevin harvested several eighty thousand bales last year. Maynard was clearly more than a right handed fireballer; he was a well respected businessman and community leader as well with roles with The Farmers Home Administration, The Central Maine Potato Growers, the Agway company as a store owner and representative, the Penobscot County Soil and Conservation Committee, the Lee Planning Board and the Lee Snowmobile Club.
Well, there weren’t any cornfields on the farm, and no Ty Cobb ever showed up there, but there was always baseball. “Baseball was king then, and basketball in the winter. The main sport was scrub. We played it at recess, noon hour and into the evening all the way through elementary school. There was no Little League or American Legion back then, only high school ball.
During his time in high school, Maynard met one of the people who had a profound influence on him as a player and a person. That man was Dan Frazier, a math teacher and the baseball coach. “He stressed fundamentals. If you made a physical mistake, he said nothing. It was the mental mistakes he let you know about. He taught us to think ahead, to run on and off the field and to be dedicated to the game.” Maybe sometimes Coach Frazier was a tad too dedicated to the game. Maynard recalls that the coach’s wife once told him that he and his neighbor John Winkin the couple got into “some pretty heated arguments over baseball.” Somehow I doubt those arguments centered on launch angle or exit velocity.
Maynard was sort of a pitching progeny, if you will. He was just a freshman when he was asked to play for a local town team. The catcher that day was a seasoned veteran of the town team wars and doubted that this young pup had anything he hadn’t seen before. He sauntered to the mound after Maynard’s last warm up toss. When Maynard asked what he wanted to do for signals, the catcher said, “Just throw whatever you want, and I’ll catch it.” Well, he had not seen that drop ball. After quite a few hurried trips to the backstop to retrieve it, the catcher called time and jogged to the mound to suggest the implementation of signs.
In 1952 Maynard became a bonafide town teamplayer. “After graduation I played for the Mattawamkeag Millionaires for a few years. In a short time we organized our own team, the Lee AA. We were very successful for the next eight to ten years, sometimes losing only two or three games. We all had graduated from Lee Academy and four of my teammates are still living.” I can tell you from personal experience that when you get those fellows in one room it does not take long for the stories to start flying about. Maynard says the Lee AA took on all comers. Well,
I borrowed a few of his old scorebooks and spent about three hours in his office with a notebook. A different time you say? I learned there was a Mushquash League, with two divisions, no less. Take a drive out Route Six someday -Prentiss, Springfield, Codyville, Kingman, Danforth all had teams. Check the scorebooks. When you look at games Maynard pitched in, you will see two things: one, there were never any relief pitchers, and two, there were always tons of strikeouts -sometimes as many as sixteen or seventeen. These did not all come against a bunch of ragtag ball clubs. You can see where Maynard beat some iconic town teams from the area: the Mattawamkeag Merchants, who featured Herbert and Kenneth Libbey as well as Gil Arnold, had some very rough nights against the Lee AA when Maynard hurled. It was likewise for the Peter Dana Point nine with Clayton and Patrick Socabasin in the lineup. Marty Roop recalls a game in which Maynard squared off against Jim Difrederico and bested him 1-0. The Lee AA made a trip to the Bangor Daily News office one night and got the late Bud Leavitt to issue a challenge to “ all comers”. The Bangor Bees answered the call. Both teams were undefeated at the time. That night Maynard stung the Bees. It was with good reason that Maynard found himself to be the starting pitcher in a number of all star games.
Remember that “different times” thing? Oh, the stories. Tony Tammaro played on and managed the Woodland team. He called Lee to see if they would come down for a Saturday game. He asked Maynard if it would be alright if he put up some signs advertising that Maynard would be pitching. Well, he did pitch. A really large batter for the opponents took a called third strike. He voiced his disapproval by snapping the bat over his knee. He intended to follow that up by doing the same to the umpire and Maynard, not necessarily in that order. At that moment it was a good thing Mr. Tammaro had some boxing cred. The mele was averted, and then game resumed. Former teammate Lloyd Stevens recalled that centerfield at Princeton was a bit challenging since the highway ran through it.
Any reader of When Towns Had Teams is familiar with the Lamoine field. At their peak, the Lee AA were invited down for a weekend. They were not aware of a policy which said that the visiting team would be responsible for one dozen new baseballs. A couple of days later, the Lee team heard rumblings of displeasure about their “stiffing” of Lamoine. Not ones to dodge responsibility, the Lee men took up a collection and sent the cash to Mr. Gifford Cochran. No Mastercard, no checking account; it was in an envelope. Cochran sent it all back with a note thanking them for their integrity and saying that their honesty, “warmed the cockles of his heart”.
Today we often hear how these “townies” don’t stack up against today’s college players. Well, Maynard was scouted by the Baltimore Orioles. He was up back in a field at the farm. Mardi Crocker and Roland Scribner came to tell Maynard a scout was looking for him. He left the field and went to his yard. There was a mound there. He loosened up and let some fly. The scout said, “Yes, you have the speed and the movement, but you are too darned old.” Well ok”, said Maynard, “I’ve got a crop of potatoes to take care of.”
Yes, they were different times, but different is not necessarily good or bad. For the baseball players of Maynard’s era, they were pretty darned good times.