‘After that, I always dove feet first’ Maine’s not-so-great-moments in sports

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 27, 2013, at 4:08 p.m.

Anyone who has laced up cleats, skates or sneakers and worn a uniform can recall a moment or two that will live in infamy.

It can be awkward and embarrassing.

Years later, it makes for an entertaining yarn around the campfire or Thanksgiving table.

Some sports celebrities with Maine ties were asked about their most embarrassing moments. Most were eager to recount them.

“I was in college and everybody was trying chewing tobacco,” recalled former University of Maine and Orono High School catcher Ed Hackett.“The first time I tried it, I was in college. I got hit in the mask with a foul tip and I swallowed my dip. It made me sick to my stomach but I couldn’t come out of the game. I just had to bear it. I couldn’t tell anybody.

“When I got back to the dugout, I had a candy bar and a drink but it didn’t help. Trying to spit it out with my mask on was another challenge. I never did that again,” said Hackett.

Lee Academy boys basketball coach Randy Harris remembered a short-lived get-together after his first basketball tournament coaching win at the Bangor Auditorium.

“It was 1987. We beat Deer Isle-Stonington,” recalled Harris. “My assistant coach and his wife were going to treat my wife and me to dinner at Governor’s after the game. As I walked into Governor’s, people were congratulating me on the win. We went to a table all the way in the back. My college [basketball] coach at Husson, Bruce MacGregor, was there.

“When the waitress came over, my assistant asked if they took credit cards. She said they didn’t. We didn’t have enough cash, so we got up and walked out past the people who congratulated me. I just kept looking at my feet as we left.”

Former University of Maine assistant women’s soccer coach and Black Bear United coach Jackie Gebhart remembered when her competitive juices overflowed during a regular-season soccer finale for Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina. Current Bangor High School boys soccer coach Dave Patterson was her coach.

“The referee called a foul on me and I was angry. I bumped him with my chest and he gave me a red card. I was the captain,” said Gebhart. “When I came to the sidelines, I told [Patterson] that I didn’t do it. It wasn’t my fault … the referee was being a jerk. But it really was my fault. It was my fifth card [yellow or red] of the season, so I missed our first playoff game [for receiving five cards].

“[Patterson] brought me into his office and showed me the video of the incident and me bumping the referee. The athletic director was there, too. That shut me up pretty quickly. I was very immature. I never should have done it.”

She said she apologized to her teammates.

Presque Isle High School hockey coach Carl Flynn’s incident happened earlier this month.

“After playing Houlton-Hodgdon we were in the handshake line. I went to shake hands with a referee and I fell on my rear end at center ice. One of the Houlton kids tried to catch me. I tensed up so I wouldn’t hit my head on the ice. I didn’t hit my head but I couldn’t turn my neck for three days. I hoped nobody saw me but by the time I was walking off the ice, my cellphone was going crazy because some of the parents had seen me fall. I know I’ll never live that down.”

Presque Isle High School girls soccer coach and assistant girls basketball coach Ralph Michaud recalled playing basketball for Fort Fairfield against Fort Kent. His father, Ralph Sr., was the clock operator at the scorer’s table.

“I made a bad pass and my father picked up the [clock] unit and slammed it down. All the lights in the gym went off for 10-15 seconds. When the lights came back on, he had to use the old-fashioned clock to keep the time. It was like an alarm clock. Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to our conversation after the game,” said Michaud.

Stock car driver Travis Benjamin will never forget the time he was racing in the Busch North series (now K and N Pro Series East) series at Thunder Road in Vermont.

“I had just run some practice laps and I was supposed to come to the pits. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going and took the wrong turn. I wound up getting my car stuck on the scale pads [used for technical inspections]. They were only four or five inches off the ground. My crew was waiting for me in the pits and wondered where I was. I told them and they had to bring a jack over to get the car off the scale pads. I had to climb out of the car first. I was so embarrassed. I was hanging my head for a while. The guys in the tech garage got a pretty good laugh out of it. The one thing that made me feel better was they told me I wasn’t the first one to do it.”

Husson University men’s basketball coach Warren Caruso remembered baptizing a new computer system they had purchased for keeping stats during a game in 2004. Dave Paul was, and still is, the statistician.

“David was keeping the stats on the computer next to our bench and we had an old plastic table,” recalled Caruso. “I didn’t like how we were playing so I took my two fists and pounded the table. David had a soda and I launched it into the air and it landed on top of the computer. A moment later, after I had sat back down, I asked David how the computer was working. He said it wasn’t. That wasn’t one of my finest moments as a coach.”

Caruso added a footnote that Paul had been drinking out of a foam cup with a flimsy lid from the concession stand but he now drinks out of a bottle with a cover on it.

Mark Sweeney, former two-time University of Maine All-American outfielder and 14-year major leaguer, remembers a head-first slide in a game against the San Francisco Giants when he was playing for the San Diego Padres.

“I hit a line shot to left and Moises Alou dove but the ball landed five feet away from him. As I went around second, I said to myself that he was giving me a triple so I put my head down and tried to emulate a Pete Rose head-first dive at third.

“But when I landed on my chest, I stuck right there. My arms went out and my legs came up over my head. They called it the Scorpion Dive. My helmet came down on the bridge of my nose and knocked me woozy,” said Sweeney, now a TV analyst and pre- and post-game host for Padres games.

“Our third base coach, Rob Picciolo, had been telling me to hit the deck but after that slide, he just rolled his eyes and walked away. I couldn’t look at him in the eyes for a week.”

Sweeney was safe and wound up scoring and his teammates, who were often the brunt of Sweeney’s good-natured ribbing, reciprocated.

“When I came to the bench, they had stuck band-aids on their faces,” chuckled Sweeney. “After that, I always dove feet first.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/12/27/sports/maine-sports-personalities-recall-most-embarrassing-moments/ printed on August 22, 2014