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Staples, Ron (2010)

Staples, Ron (10)

Baseball for Ron Staples started in Presque Isle, in right field for the Presque Isle High School Wildcats. He switched to catcher and lettered four years, caught summers for the local American Legion team, and when the semi-pro Presque Isle Indians saw the young catcher hit, they put him in their lineup, as well. In a four‑year, teen-age batting spree, he hit as many as ten home runs in a high school season, led the Wildcats to a 54‑12 won‑lost record, including an appearance in a Class A state championship high school game, and sparked the semi-pro Indians to the 1953 Maine‑New Brunswick League championship.

Staples left Presque Isle in the fall of 1954 for Colby College and acclaimed baseball coach John Winkin. Winkin named him starting catcher for the Mules’ varsity his sophomore year. It was during Colby’s baseball heyday, when they went up against such first-rate teams as Connecticut, Boston University, Georgetown, and Villanova. Staples hit .338 with four home runs, sixteen runs batted in, and threw out fourteen would-be base stealers from behind the plate. Neil Stinneford (Maine Baseball HOF 2009) played on that Colby team. He remembers Staples: “A leader on the field. A forceful ballplayer,” Stinneford says. “He controlled the game. Handled pitchers as well as any catcher I ever saw. A real good player, great arm.” Though Colby didn’t participate in post-season games then, the Mules and Staples were considered by many the number one collegiate team in New England.

Staples continued to play semi-pro baseball. In the summer of 1956, He caught for the Kentville, Nova Scotia Wildcats. The following season, back in Presque Isle, he hit .415 for the Indians, and was the most valuable player in the prestigious North East Invitational Tournament, hitting a home run at Presque Isle’s Macklin Field they still talk about up there, a drive that “cleared the light tower in left field and crossed the race track in the air.” Following the tournament, Boston Red Sox scout Larry Goodall signed him to a professional contract.

The Red Sox sent Staples to Lexington, Nebraska in the Class D Nebraska State League. There he averaged .250, hit 3 home runs, caught the offerings of future major‑leaguer Bill Spanswick, and was selected the league’s all‑star catcher. Lexington finished fifth, three games behind the Kearney Yankees, and Staples was promoted to the Corning Red Sox in the New York‑Penn League.

When 1959 came, Staples was assigned to the Alpine, Texas Cowboys in the Class D Sophomore League along with future Red Soxers Chuck Schilling and Don Schwall. But he spent the baseball season in the Army completing an ROTC active duty requirement. In 1960, however, he reported to Corning, hit .267 over the season, clubbing four home runs. Corning finished third behind the Auburn Yankees. The Geneva Redlegs, with Pete Rose and Tony Perez in their lineup, finished last. Staples was sent up to the Midwest League’s Waterloo Hawks. In Waterloo, again an all-star catcher, he batted .282, hit eight homers, and drove in forty‑seven runs, earning another promotion, this time to the Class B Carolina League.

Ron Staples’ professional baseball career ended in the Carolina League catching for the Winston Salem Red Sox. Eddie Popowski was manager there, Rico Petrocelli shortstop, and Jerry Stephenson on the mound. Staples hit thirteen home runs, drove in fifty-six, and the Red Sox finished third behind the Durham Bulls and the Kinston Eagles. But Staples had played his last professional baseball game. Twenty-seven years old and five years traversing the minor leagues, he had reached the end of a praiseworthy baseball career. He went to bat close to a thousand times in the minor leagues, two hundred fifty hits, fifty doubles, thirty home runs. And he had been named to two minor league all‑star teams. Exemplary? Yes. But the end had come.

After the 1962 season he and his wife Jeanne, who had traveled with him for four years, returned home to Presque Isle. During the ensuing years, Staples worked at the C.W. Staples potato-supply business, guided hunters and fishermen out of his camp on Munsungan Stream, and honed his swing at the Presque Isle Country Club.

Staples died in 1977, the result of an accident. Jeanne still lives in Presque Isle; Nancy, his daughter, in Caribou. Two grandsons, Chad, a starting first baseman at Lewiston High School, and Carter, a third baseman in the Caribou Little League, carry on his baseball legacy.

Staples, Ron (10)

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