AUBURN – First came the game, then came the glory.
That was Mike Fennessy’s day Sunday. The former Lewiston High School basketball standout had a number of options on his to-do list, but at the top of his agenda was playing a basketball game in the morning.
It was just the start of a memorable and full day for Fennessy. He not only won his men’s league championship game in Portland, but also was among the most recent inductees to the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame.
“I still play in every league that I can get into,” Fennessy said. “I’m slowing down quite a bit physically, but it’s still a big part of my life, staying in shape and being able to do stuff. That’s the ultimate goal — to be able to be active as I’m older.”
Sunday, the 27th annual induction banquet was held at Lost Valley. Joining Fennessy in this year’s class were Marty Dow, Rick Lashua, Barry Richardson and John Theberge.
They all played different sports, but used athletics as a launching pad to successful careers and enjoyable experiences.
Sports weren’t just a hobby. It wasn’t just a way of life. Being an athlete and participating in sports was not only a passion, but a vital part of their development from young athletes to adults.
“Sports was everything for me,” said Theberge, who said his parent’s encouragement and the communities role played significant parts in his career as a three-sport standout, who went on to excel in football and hockey at Bowdoin College. “It was the only outlet we had growing up. Three sports were really it, and the community allowed us to do that. From a community standpoint, this is where I really played out my dreams.”
Dow played baseball for the University of Maine and took his passion for the game all around the word. He achieved all he did as an athlete with his opposite hand. He was naturally left-handed, but was given the wrong glove as a child and learned to play with his opposite hand.
“I was pretty much a baseball guy all the way through,” said, Dow, who took a pause from playing in college to serve in the 11th Airborne in Japan as a paratrooper. “I played for 40 years and played for, I’d say, about 25 teams over the years. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed.”
Dow, a long-time resident and businessman in Auburn, says playing sports gave him confidence as a kid and being inducted at his age has brought back a wealth of fond memories and reflection.
“At my age, it means a lot,” Dow said. “I’m going to be 82 in two more days. There’s a lot of people that I met and knew from the past. It’s quite a thrill at this age.”
Lashua grew up around Auburn Suburban Little League and went on to a stellar baseball career at Maine, including four College World Series appearances. Now he’s still active in ASLL as a coach for his son and daughter.
“My daughter Emily was excited for me to be here,” said Lashua, who was the seventh of eight children in a sport-active family. “When I came back from the media luncheon and told her that (Edward Little’s) Kirsten Prue was getting an award, she said ‘I’m going.’”
Richardson was a three-sport athlete at Edward Little. He excelled not only in football but also ski jumping and baseball. He went on to play football at Princeton and returned to Auburn to coach at EL.
Richardson was also a driving force in the creation of the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic football game, which brings together the top senior players and cheerleaders each summer. Mike Haley called him the head coach of the game and that the event still has Richardson’s handprints on it.
“Personally, I think this is one of his finest accomplishments,” said Haley, who coached with Richardson at EL. “Barry was one of the forces in getting this event off the ground.”
Richardson regaled the crowd Sunday with a variety of stories of his athletic career, including the right fielder that played behind the catcher in front of the backstop when Richardson was pitching or his self-described “flailing” style of ski jumping. He also recalled a baseball game while in New Hampshire in which the umpire was tired of the verbal abuse coming from the dugout and eventually asked Richardson who the critic was.
“’Beats me,’” he said. “’I’ve never seen him before in my life.’
“It was my father.”
Richardson also paid homage to his family for their support and credited coaches for the impact they had.
“They are invaluable resources that touched the lives of so many,” Richardson said.
Theberge set numerous records in football at Bowdoin and had the opportunity to share Sunday’s experience with his three sons, ages eight, six and five. His daughter, nursing an ankle injury, was unable to attend.
“Any time you go up to your hometown and get an honor like this, it’s a little awe-inspiring,” Theberge said. “Looking at the turnout today, it prompts a moment of pause to look back on some very good memories.”
Fennessy played basketball at Lewiston, Bridgton Academy and Southern Maine. He set an abundance of school records while with the Huskies.
Being one of five athletic kids in a hectic household, sports were an outlet at an early age.
“It was a big part of my life from Day 1,” he said. “We had five kids. Being inside the house was kind of chaotic. It was nice to get outside. Even on snow days, I’d spend the whole day over at the Lewiston Armory playing sports.”
Also recognized Sunday were recipients of the Chamber President’s Awards. Those honorees included coaches and athletes that have succeeded on the local level in the last year. St. Dom’s coaches Bob Blackman (baseball) and Matt Erickson (soccer), Lewiston’s Ron Chicoine (tennis) and Anita Murphy (tennis) and Edward Little Rebecca Hefty (track) were all recognized for their team’s exploits. The college players honored were Vantiel Elizabeth Duncan (Bates), Laura Martel (Maine), Amrit Rupasinghe (Bates), James Spaulding (USM) and Ben Stein (Bates). The high school athletes honored were Mark Anthoine (St. Dom’s), Mike Butler (Lewiston), Emilie Cloutier (Lewiston), Alex Desjardin (St. Dom’s), Abby Downs (Edward Little), Mat Gordon (Edward Little), Yusuf Iman (Edward Little), Chantalle Lavertu (Lewiston), Ben McDonough (Lewiston), Josh Pelletier (Lewiston), James Philbrook (Edward Little) and Prue (Edward Little).
The Hall also recognized Raymond “Ducky” Pond with the Pioneer Award, recognizing achievements of athletes of the past. Pond was a standout football player at Bates. The Flashback to Fame Team Award was presented to the 1975 Edward Little baseball team that won the Class A state title.