BANGOR, Maine — Some made their athletic marks coaching while others made them playing. Some did both, and one did it by talking about them and the sports they excelled in.
But the nine people inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon shared one other common thread besides their ability to excel in the sporting world. They all did so because they had exceptional role models, coaches and family members to help them.
Click here for a complete list of Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductees by year.
Many of those exemplary people were in the soldout crowd of 350 people crammed into the Bangor Motor Inn’s events center to honor the MSHF Class of 2009:
Former University of Maine baseball coach and New York Yankees scout and executive, the late Jack Butterfield, Lawrence High and UMaine star basketball player Cindy Blodgett, Bangor High School baseball coach Bob Kelley, Stearns High and University of Maryland standout Jon MacDonald, Bangor High and University of Massachusetts football star Peter McCarty, former Brewer High and John Bapst Memorial football and baseball coach Ken Perrone, Ellsworth High three-sport star and Toronto Blue Jays director of player development Richard “Dick” Scott, Georges Valley of Thomaston boys soccer coach Charles “Sam”Pendleton, and long-time Bangor television and radio broadcaster George Hale.
“I’m very appreciative of being here and very fortunate to have been around so many great people growing up and in my life,” said Scott. “And I’m honored to be part of such a distinguished group today.”
Not distance, schedule conflicts, nor even sickness could keep the living inductees from swelling the Hall’s ranks to 159.
Kelley, 72, who spent half of Friday in the hospital due to fatigue, started feeling sick during the social hour and went home, but returned in time for the ceremonies.
“My liver test came back abnormal and I’ve been feeling run-down lately,” said the Waterville native who coached the Rams to eight state championships, 15 regional titles and 23 playoff seasons in 32 years. “I went home, and then I got to thinking ‘Gee, this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal.’ Then I started thinking about what I’d say if one of my players wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to play. I’d probably say ‘suck it up and get in there.’”
“I coached 41 years counting freshman baseball,” said Kelley, who earned the nickname “Punk” as a star player at Bangor and played a year at UMaine before an injury ended his career. “To see all the people here, I’m just awed. It means the world to me.”
About a third of the crowd was there to honor Perrone, who despite being a Connecticut native and Massachusetts resident has come to consider Maine his home state of sorts due to all the friends and memories cultivated as a star UMaine baseball player, and coach who led his high school teams to nine baseball titles and four state football crowns.
“The longer you go in life, the more you realize the wins and losses are nice, but it’s the kids you’ve coached and the coaches you’ve worked with who make you rich from becoming part of your life,” said Perrone, still Salem State College’s baseball coach at age 74. “Every time they do something great, I feel pride.”
Perrone, also a Massachusetts State Football Coaches Hall of Fame member, said 60 former players have become coaches.
“This means so much more to me because of Jack [Butterfield], who became my second father and had such an influence on me, and George [Hale], who did our games.”
Blodgett, now head coach of the UMaine women’s program that she scored a record 3,005 points for as a guard, thanked many people she credits for her success. They included high school coach Bruce Cooper and his wife, MSHF member Maureen Burchill Cooper, and parents Thayer and Evelyn Blodgett, who imparted advice that she repeated to those in the crowd.
“Your children should play because they enjoy the sport, not because you enjoy watching them play the sport,” she said.
Blodgett admitted Sunday’s ceremonies are not the kind of functions she enjoys because she played a team sport.
“It’s something I never expected,” she said, “but it’s one of the reasons — these people and values — I decided to come back.”
Daughter Sherrie Thomas accepted the award for father Jack Butterfield, who died in a car accident in 1979.
Butterfield was recalled as an influential figure and intense coach who knew what buttons to push to motivate his players. He led Maine to one of its most successful seasons in 1964, when the Black Bears went to the College World Series, beat defending champ USC 2-1 and finished third in the country. He also coached two seasons at the University of South Florida before becoming a New York Yankees scout and later vice president of player development and scouting.
Scott was drafted by the Yankees out of high school but later signed with Oakland and earned a World Series ring with the A’s in 1989. He started managing for the A’s in 1991, was named Minor League Manager of the Year in 1994, then managed a minor league season for Arizona before becoming a major league advance scout and earning another Series ring in 2001. He is now Toronto’s director of player development.
“I was wondering why I had to go last in this group, but my former manager Stump Merrill is here and he always batted me ninth,” Scott said with a smile.
Pendleton, 66, learned about coaching soccer, a sport he was largely unfamiliar with, at Maine Central Institute and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. After starting Ashland’s soccer program in 1968, the Rockland native went to Georges Valley after a few seasons. He coached his teams to 417 wins and 36 playoff appear-ances in 38 seasons. His teams were 8-0 in state finals.
“I picked soccer and I thought that was a bitch,” Pendleton said with a laugh. “But that’s the way life is. Good thing I didn’t pick football.”
Hale thanked the athletes he covered and Maine fans for getting a “broken-down cross-country runner” into the hall.
“I feel honest saying I don’t know how I got here,” said the iconic 76-year-old broadcaster.
MacDonald, 62, helped Stearns win the 1963 New England title as a sophomore and led the Minutemen to a 44-1 record and two state titles as a junior and senior.
The retired Secret Service agent thanked his coaches and family members for his success, and particularly older brother Paul for preparing him for high-level competition.
“This means a great deal and is something I’ll always cherish,” MacDonald said.
McCarty also credited his family and all his coaches — former Syracuse University and New England Patriots coach Dick MacPherson in particular — for instilling the values and work ethic he used to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy and lead Bangor to a state football title in 1973, and become a successful football coach himself.
“You realize how fortunate you are to be raised in Maine and to have people around you who have made so many impressions on you,” he said.