McNeilly, Al (2004)
Raised in the coastal Maine community of Ash Point (now known as Owl's Head), Al McNeilly actually graduated from Brookline (Massachusetts) High School in 1939, due to his father’s teaching position in the Bay State. Al captained the baseball team both his junior and senior years while pitching and playing left field.
A year at the Huntington Prep in Boston followed and, after an undefeated season,Al returned to Maine to play that summer for Manager Frank Winkenback and the Rockland Pirates in the Knox County League. McNeilly recalls the special joy of Maine town-team ball in those days:“We played good, semi-pro teams from up and down the coast - St. George, Thomaston, Bucksport and Belfast.The support from the townspeople was great and it was a special treat to play in front of enthusiastic fans”.
Heeding his sage grandfather’s advice to“ get your tuther end up to Orono and take some engineering” , McNeilly enrolled at the University of Maine as a pulp and paper major in 1940 and began a long and fruitful association with that institution which continues even today. McNeilly arrived the same year as Sam Sezak who was Al’s freshman baseball coach and went on to enjoy a legendary 30-year coaching career at Orono.
Combining academics with fastballs, Al worked at the Maine Seaboard Paper Company in Bucksport and pitched for the mill team during the summer of 1940. During the season, McNeilly also pitched for the Bangor Highlanders against the best semi-pro teams in the area.“I beat the Augusta Millionaires 4-1 and somebody slipped me twenty bucks after the game’, says McNeilly.“I thought I was a millionaire.”
McNeilly joined UMaine Coach Bill Kenyon’s starting rotation his sophomore year and took several of his Black Bear teammates - Nat Crowley, Cliff Blake and Bob Nutter - to play for Jabber Joyce and the Todd Bath Shipyard out of South Portland that summer Al was elected captain of the UMaine baseball team in 1942 and 1943.
World War II interrupted many flourishing careers and Al McNeilly was no exception. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1944 and served as a navigator on a B-29 bomber, flying 34 missions over Japan.
Returning home, Al married Jennie Bridges (Class of 1943) and finished up at the University of Maine, playing one more season in 1946 and graduating with a chemical engineering degree in 1947. In between, Al got a taste of pro ball, pitching and playing right field for the St. Johnsbury Yankees tn the Northern League.
Following graduation, Al received an invitation from Del Bissonnette to play for the Portland Pilots in the New England League. Al reluctantly passed on the offer and took a job with Esso (later to become Exxon) which was the beginning of a 35-year career with that company, eventually being promoted to vice-president and business manager.
Throughout his working career, Al’s loyalty and devotion to his alma mater was unswerving and the 3-time captain worked tirelessly promoting the University throughout the state.“The University of Maine has always been very dear to me and over the years I’ve tried to give back and serve as best I can’, says McNeilly, who has been active in alumni affairs, serving on the President’s Development Council for a number of years. Last month Al joined fellow members of the Class of ‘44 in celebrating their 60th reunion.
Retired in Owl’s Head and a part-time lobsterman, Al is blessed with 5 children, 7 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.
From Legacy Portland Press Herald
Alvin S. McNeilly, 93
OWLS HEAD -- Alvin S. McNeilly, 93, died Thursday, June 19, 2014
An accomplished and studied baseball player, Al served as Captain of the 1944 University of Maine Black Bears Baseball Team. He later played in the Northern League with the St. Johnsbury Yankees and the Portland Pilots. He was a proud member of the State of Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.
Since graduating from the University of Maine, Al has been a staunch supporter of that institution and served several years as President of the General Alumni Association, and was a past president of the University of Maine Development Council.
Entering the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Al served as a First Lieutenant Navigator on a B-29, with the 19th Bombardment Group, flying more than 30 missions over Japan. He was awarded three Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Returning from his military service, in 1947, Al was offered a contract with the Boston Red Sox, but chose his wife and family over a sports career.