Truman, Leon “Stubby” (2007)
Norway’s Leon Truman epitomizes in many ways the quintessential candidate for the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame - an outstanding high school career, near-legendary status with a variety of town teams during the heyday of semipro baseball, and an intriguing “what it” surrounding a potential pro career.
Leon compiled an 18-6 career record twirling for Norway High School from 1955-59. His enduring legacy, however, is rooted in a sparkling 25-year career in the popular semipro leagues that defined the Maine baseball landscape in the 50’s and 60’s.
Leon acquired his distinctive nickname as a freshman at Norway High School. There were two freshmen southpaws on the varsity in 1959, 5’10” Truman and the lanky Blynn Thurston. To differentiate the two, Coach Tom Reynolds dubbed Thurston “Spider” and Truman “Stubby”.
The nickname stuck as Leon joined the Norway-Paris Twins following graduation and proceeded to carve out an unmatched niche in the fast Pine Tree League. Toiling at various times for the Twins, the West Paris Westies, Hebron Hawks and Bowdoin Braves, Leon compiled a documented career mark of 232 wins and 78 losses, highlighted by a 1.33 ERA, 447 career strikeouts in 388 innings and a strikeout/walk ratio of 5 to 1. His dominance was punctuated by 10 no-hitters including consecutive games in 1971 against Farmington and New Sharon.
Stubby’s signature pitch was knuckle-drop, a rare hybrid that was actually a precursor to today’s split-fingered fastball. Phil Martin (Maine Baseball Hall of Fame 1989) taught the pitch to Stubby who revealed its secret to reporter Bob Moorehead in a 1972 interview: “I didn’t have any fastball to speak of and my size prevented me from throwing it any harder. Phil was my coach at the time and he helped me to develop the Knuckle-drop pitch. You grip the ball between the thumb and little finger and dig the other three finger tips into the top of the ball. You come right over the top on your delivery. When the ball is released, it’s not necessary to turn your wrist. By pushing the ball out , it causes it to spin which is important because the spinning action forces the ball to tumble sharply as it reaches the batter.”
Leon managed Hancock Lumber Company’s South Paris store for over 25 years. He was an avid hunter and fisherman, co-founding the Norway-Paris Fish and Game Club in 1970. He was also active in the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce and the Oxford Hills Athletic Boosters.
Leon Truman passed away January 19, 2007 after a long battle with cancer. He was survived by his wife of 46 years, Freda, four children, 13 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. Fortunately, he was notified in December, 2006 that he had been selected for induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, a fitting and richly-deserved culmination to the peerless southpaw’s baseball journey.
He told Maine Baseball Hall of Fame Sonny Noel, Gen. Chairman. that he was going to crawl all the way to Portland for his plaque. Sonny says, “I sure wish he could have”.
Town team baseball was his most popular hobby and his achievements were mentioned in the book, When Towns had Teams, by Jim Baumer. He was a very successful south-paw pitcher with ten documented no hitters. A culmination to his baseball career, he was notified in December of 2006 that he will be inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in July of 2007.