Tracy, Sylvanus (Junior) (2015)
“Just about everyone who’s been here (Lamoine) for any length of time, knows who Junior is, and there’s no one that doesn’t like him”
- Stu Marckoon, Deputy Town Clerk, Lamoine, ME
“I am a baseball player, and I play for Lamoine.”
- Sylvanus “junior” tracy
Sylvanus “Junior” Tracy’s life began in a very different time. There were no cell phones, no Facebook, and Isis was a goddess. Town Team baseball was in its heyday with multiple leagues encompassing many small towns. Each of these local nines had its own hero. “Junior” was one of the heroes of Lamoine. His baseball career spanned the years from 1949 to 1966. He was an organizer, pitcher, third baseman, first baseman, groundskeeper and architect for a golden era of baseball in Lamoine. However, he was more than those things. He was a member of “The Greatest Generation” from that very different time. America was at war. “Junior” answered Uncle Sam’s call, and put himself in Harm’s way. He was a real hero.
In baseball today, sportscasters refer to players who play with a pulled groin as “warriors”. In baseball it is horsehide spheroids which fly by our heads. In war it is bullets. In baseball if we make an error, our ears are filled with boos. In war our ears may be filled with the cries of dying comrades.
It is really not the same at all. A pulled groin is not quite the same as losing a leg, or a life. “Junior” was a real warrior. He found himself as part of the famed 167th 105 Armored Field Artillery. In an interview for The Ellsworth American, with characteristic modesty, “Junior” would say, “It was getting a little rough. When the “buzz bombs” started dropping, you just held your breath.” He has not talked much about the war. When asked in the same interview if there were moments when he wondered if he would return safely, he responded, “All the time.” In baseball a teammate who can bring smiles during slumps a losing streaks is priceless, likewise one who is true to himself and to others. It would seem those traits would be valued in war is well. “Junior” shares a story of a time when he was part of a 150 truck convoy carrying gas and ammunition to the front. Not surprisingly, the convoy caught the undivided attention of the enemy whose aircraft began strafing the convoy. “Junior” abandoned truck, or whatever you call it, and jumped into a nearby haystack. When the bombing ended, Junior says with a chuckle, “When I came out of there, there were about 50 other fellows in there with me. If they’d hit the haystack, they’d have gotten us all.” Committed, you ask? This is a fellow who never smoked and sold his ration of cigarettes so he could send the money home to his mother. It was a different time for sure. This man is a hero who earned the following medals : Sharpshooting, The WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct, the Central Europe, Rhineland, and European Campaigns.
He could throw and hit a baseball pretty well, too. After his return to Lamoine, “Junior” was looking for a sport. If you are reading this program, you are not surprised he chose baseball. In 1949 the first step in a long and golden period of baseball in Lamoine began, and “Junior was in the thick of it. The first teams were a pretty rag tag assemblage. They featured “threadbare uniforms, taped up bats and a shortage of baseballs.” (When Towns Had Teams 157) How many of us of A Certain Age from that different time cannot empathize? The Lamoine boys had more than held there own against local teams such as Ellsworth, Columbia Falls, SouthWest Harbor, Freedom, Sullivan and Blue Hill. They were perennial headliners at the Blue Hill Fair which netted them a cool one hundred bucks, which was a fortune compared to what passing the hat at home games garnered. It was a different time.
And then times changed. A fellow named Gifford Cochran, an artist and painter, and his wife Fletcher, a former actress and best-selling author, moved to town. They fell in love with the spunk of the local nine. At first, they offered to buy balls and bats. Then it happened; they had a piece of land behind their summer home which they thought would make a great ball field. Gifford owned a hotel in Ellsworth and had, what is known in these times as “disposable income”. The seminal moments of what would come to be known as Tracy Field, the site of the great Lamoine tournaments had begun. “Junior” was in on the ground floor of the thing. He was a consultant, architect and groundskeeper. Work on “The Field of Dreams” began in 1959. He says, “I had been the one who had been managing the team, and I spent quite a few hours on the grounds, digging, rolling and other things that go into the building of a field.” He was also a shoe-in all star on the field at third, first, on the mound and, once in awhile, at shortstop. (When Towns Had Teams) That was how Tracy Field came to be. Not surprisingly, “Junior” says, “I didn’t care to have the field named after me, but Gif said he was going to, and if he set out to do something, he did it.”
And then they came: The Yarmouth Townies, The South Portland Merchants, Mattawamkeag, Bangor/Brewer, The Quoddy League, Arlax Oils, Medford, Mass, Boston Envelope and too many more to list. As Junior says,“Players from the Boston area liked coming to Lamoine. It was like playing in a Major League park.” Barnstorming teams from up and down the East Coast played there. If you were anyone in that level of baseball, you wanted to be at Lamoine. It probably did not hurt that Gifford Cochran put them up and fed them at his Ellsworth hotel. Meal money could be pretty thin in those different times. The players came, and so did the scouts to watch them: Dick Joyce, Carleton Willey, Ed Phillips, Joe Ferris, Jack Scott, the Libbey brothers, Terry Ordway, Dick Jude, Phil Martin and too too many more to name. It will be quicker if you just read the membership roll of The Maine Baseball Hall Of Fame. And today we add “Junior” Tracy to that list.
“Junior” ended his playing days at age 38 after 28 years. Lamoine never won their own tournament. They almost did once. “I wished we could have won one of the tournaments. As good a team as we had we never once won our own tournaments. We had a chance once, but I dropped a popup and we ended up losing.” (When Towns Had Teams) This is a man who understands life is a long season and that you have to show up every day ready to play. He has.
It would have been a shame had “Junior” passed up baseball for the floodlights of Broadway. It seems he was part of a play written by Fletcher Cochran. It was baseball themed and performed at a local grange. “Junior” was on stage with bikini clad women, which is tough to picture. It is better to picture him at the end of his 28th season saying, “This was my last game I played at Tracy Field. I was asked to play softball for a team in Ellsworth, but that was not for me. I am a baseball player, and I play for Lamoine.”
Well, yes he is, and he always will be. He is a hero for all time. He has served his teammates, his town, the game of baseball, his country, his family and God with distinction.
By Joe McLaughlin, BDN Staff • July 31, 2015
Updated: July 31, 2015 6:42 pm
At age 89, Sylvanus “Junior” Tracy has enjoyed several happy milestones.
“I’ve married two lovely women, had a field named after me, got my stripe [in the U.S. Army] and wrote a book, ‘Downeast Baseball,’” he said.
On Sunday, his induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Portland was added to that list of milestones, and for Tracy, that was enough.
From Bangor Daily News
Sylvanus R. Tracy Jr., 91 . May 8, 1926 - February 13, 2018
In the Post-War period, Junior distinguished himself as a semi-pro baseball player from Lamoine, and as a result of his activities, with Downeast Baseball throughout the years; was inducted into Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. Additionally, Junior captured the highlights of his 20-year baseball career by authoring and publishing his manuscript entitled "Downeast Baseball."