McClure, Gene (2004)
In 1951, Bobby Thomson hit “the shot heard ‘round the world.” As any Brooklyn Dodger’s fan or New York Giant’s supporter of that era remembers, it was a three-run homer off Ralph Branca in the bottom of the ninth at the Polo Grounds. The 5-4 win gave New York the game, the playoff series and National League pennant.
But that year was also more than a loud foul in the baseball Career of Gene McClure. In 1951 McClure played for Maine’s Suburban Little League All-Stars in the World Series at Williamsport, PA.
He had been cut from the team the previous year. McClure’s perseverance is an early indicator of his passion for the game and the dogged pursuit of a seeming unobtainable objective.
McClure’s son, Bob, supplies part of many dinner-table discussions.“I have heard that story of the ‘51 World Series many times, Bob McClure said.“Through that I learned never to quit at anything. During his years of coaching and working at the Portland Boys and Girls Club, I saw a man who poured himself and his talents into the lives of thousands of young kids that loved sports.”
One of those who crossed McClure’s path at the Babe Ruth level was former Westbrook High pitcher Jonny Cumberland, who played for the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and California Angels in a career spanning the years 1968-1974. He later served as pitching coach for the Red Sox before moving on to Kansas City.
Building on his Little League experience, Gene McClure was a varsity baseball player at Westbrook High and an All- Telegram League selection in 1956.
He also wore the uniform of Manchester Post’s American Legion team, 1954-56, Higgins Classical Institute 1958, and played in the Twilight League, 1957-62. In 1961-62 McClure was a player-manager for the Westbrook Merchants in the Twilight League. In 1960 he managed a Babe Ruth entry, the Westbrook Community Association team.
Returning to his baseball “roots” served as Little League and Senior Little League manager at Cape Elizabeth, 1930-35. In 1982 he was honored as Cape Elizabeth’s Little League Manager of the Year.
The same year he was the recipient of the Kenneth Sills Award as Maine’s Little League Manager of the Year.
He was assistant coach at Deering High from 1980-84, including the 1984 state championship team.
Attorney Peter Carlisle grew up playing baseball with McClure’s sons, Bob and Mark. “In my third and last year of Little League Gene was nominated coach of our All-Star team. He taught us many things about the sport of baseball, but most importantly, he showed us how to love the game.”
Mark McClure summarizes his father’s legacy:” ...a true Maine baseball man and without question someone who defines what it takes to become a member of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.’
From Legacy Portland Press Herald
GORHAM - Eugene Gene McClure, 69, a resident of Cape Elizabeth for 28 years and the last four in Gorham, passed away Monday afternoon on Dec. 24, 2007
He was born on Oct. 3, 1938 in Westbrook to Walter and Esther McClure. He graduated from Westbrook High School in 1957 and University of Southern Maine with an education degree.
Eugene is most remembered as a dedicated husband, father, teacher and coach throughout Southern Maine and northern New Hampshire, but one of his proudest achievements was being a member of the 1951 Westbrook Little League All-Star Team that saw them go to the LL World Series in Williamsport, Penn, playing against former Baltimore Oriole, Boog Powell and having the chance to meet legendary former major leaguer, Cy Young. As a 2nd baseman for his little league team that season his batting average was a record .660, highest in the league by more than 140 points. As a player in the Pony League in 1952 at age 13, he tied for the league in homeruns and led his team in batting, runs scored and RBI as their 3rd baseman.
As a three sport stand out athlete at Westbrook High School, Gene was named captain on to many of the teams, and led the league in hitting his senior year for the 1957 baseball squad.