Maine Baseball HOF
Noel, Wilfred (Sonny) (1980)
GRAY -- Sonny Noel, 87, of Gray and of Fort Meyers, Fla., passed away unexpectedly of cardiac arrest on Feb. 7, 2012. Sonny was born on Aug. 27, 1924, in Portland, the son of Wilfred and Mildred Noel. He was a graduate of Portland High School.
Sonny's accomplishments reveal not only a proud record of achievement during his military and professional careers, but also a lifelong commitment to the service and support of others. Sonny served in the United States Army in the 101st Airborne Division from 1943-1945. While serving his country he was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two Presidential Unit Citations. Sonny served as commander and officer of the South Portland Chapter of Disabled American Veterans for 15 years and was active in state and national DAV organizations.
His favorite saying was that 'there are only three sports: baseball, baseball, and baseball; and only one team: the New York Yankees. Sonny coached Harold T. Andrews American Legion Post baseball team for nine seasons, winning six league crowns and one state championship in 1960. He was also a member of Western Maine Board of Approved Umpires for 33 years. In addition, he worked the State American Legion Tournaments at Togus for over 20 years and was the first Umpire from Maine to work the College World Series in 1975.
In 1978, he was elected president of the NCAA baseball committee and inducted into the Maine baseball hall of fame in 1980 and served as its General Chairman for over 20 years, Sonny fished the Rangeley area for 56 years. His favorite view in the whole world was looking down on Mooselookmeguntic Lake from the Height of Land.
The service for Sonny will be announced at a later date, giving us enough time to 'give em' the Ole' Muhuska.'
From Portland Press Herald Posted February 11, 2012
Sonny Noel, 87, one of state’s most respected baseball umpires
BY MELANIE CREAMER STAFF WRITER
GRAY – Sonny Noel, a longtime chairman of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, who was widely considered one of the state’s most respected umpires, died suddenly Tuesday. He was 87.
Mr. Noel was active in umpiring circles locally and nationally for many years, calling games behind the plate at high school and college games. He worked the State American Legion Tournaments at Togus for more than 20 years.
One of the highlights of his career came in 1975 when he was asked to umpire the College World Series. His umpiring abilities also took him to the professional Triple-A level. He was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 and served as its general chairman for 25 years.
“He was certainly a giant in the baseball community,” said Don Douglas, who served on the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame’s selection committee with Noel.
“He set the tone and tenor of this organization with his presence. Sonny brought it to a tremendous level — as one of the finest sports organizations in Maine. The spirit he infused in this organization is irreplaceable. He will surely be missed.”
Mr. Noel and his wife, Sally, raised three children.
His son Bruce Noel remembered his father Friday as a strong, confident and determined man, who commanded a presence on and off the field. His son said his personality shone as an umpire and scout.
He remembered as a boy traveling to games with his father and watching him from a distance. In between innings, he would jog to the pitcher’s mound to dust it off, hollering at players, “Come-on let’s hustle.”
The younger Noel said his father liked to tell the story of throwing former Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk out of a minor league game because he argued with him.
“When you’re officiating, you are the boss and he was a really, really good boss,” his son said. “He was arguably the best umpire the state of Maine has ever had.”
Douglas should know. Mr. Noel umpired his games when he played for Westbrook High School in the 1960s.
“He had a commanding presence on the baseball diamond,” Douglas said. “He was an authority figure in the best sense of the word. He commanded respect for the game of baseball — how you played it and approached the game. He brought a level of professionalism to the game and inspired players to do the same.”
Mr. Noel also spent some time as a scout for the New York Yankees and mentor to up and coming players. He was instrumental in jump-starting the baseball careers for many young players such as Bill Swift, a former Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher from Portland; and John Cumberland, a Westbrook native and former bullpen coach and pitching coach for the Red Sox.
Noel’s son chuckled Friday thinking of his father handing his Yankees business card to players, coaches, and everyone from his dentist to a parking lot attendant.
“He liked the attention,” his son said. “My father loved the game of baseball. Any time he had an excuse to be at a game, he would be there. He loved to go around and talk to people about baseball.”
Mr. Noel worked as a letter carrier for more than 30 years, delivering mail to Portland’s Stroudwater and North Deering neighborhoods.
He also had a passion for fishing. Mr. Noel went fishing in Rangeley for the past 56 years or so. For 30 of those years, he and his son took a week-long fishing trip there. His favorite view in the whole world was looking down on Mooselookmeguntic Lake from the Height of Land.
“We didn’t have a lot in common, but that’s the one thing we did together,” his son said, noting they usually fished for 12 hours a day. “We loved fishing.”