AUBURN — Marty Dow is naturally left-handed, so when he was a young boy and asked his mother to buy him his first baseball glove for his birthday, he told her to get a left-handed mitt.
Mrs. Dow fulfilled her son’s request and bought him a glove for his left hand.
Marty Dow didn’t complain. He couldn’t. It was the Great Depression, and he was just happy to have a glove.
“To have a glove in those days, I wasn’t going to give it up. So I just went right-handed from then on, and it worked out fine, ” he said.
Dow went on to have a long and distinguished baseball career with his right arm, a career that will have him inducted in the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday. He doesn’t wonder how good he would have been as a southpaw, in part because he also hit right-handed.
The author of the second of four no-hitters in University of Maine history, Dow, now 81, grew up in Vassalboro and starred at Cony High School and ended up living most of his life in the Twin Cities almost by accident.
“I lucked out in a lot of ways along the way,” he said. “A lot of nice people helped me out and I made a lot of acquaintances.”
Family, not athletic talent, helped send Dow to the University of Maine. He wasn’t recruited out of high school, so he followed a cousin to Orono.
“They didn’t bring me up there because of my athletic ability or anything,” he said. “I went up there because my cousin, Paul Dow, was up there and that’s where I wanted to go.”
He spent a year in school, then enlisted in the Army to earn more money, eventually joining the 11th Airborne. After 18 months in the service, he returned to school and resumed pitching for Mike Lude at Maine.
The historic moment on the mound came during the Black Bears’ annual swing through the South his junior year at Little Creek Amphibious Naval Base in Virginia in 1950.
“They had a bunch of big guys and the wind was blowing out to center field and we figured we were going to get clobbered,” he said. “They were hitting everything over the fence in batting practice. The wind was a gale and everything was moving. I had a good curve ball and even the fastball was moving.”
Like most no-hitters, Dow’s masterpiece had its close calls.
“It was a ground ball to the shortstop and the guy threw it and it was high and pulled the first baseman off the bag,” Dow said. “One of the sportswriters there said it was hit and the other three said it was an error.”
Dow didn’t overpower hitters, but he had a tough sweeping curve and a change-up to keep them off balance. He went on to have an outstanding senior year, posting five wins and a 1.20 ERA. While he was in college, Dow played for the semi-pro Augusta Millionaires for one season, where he counted Harry Agganis, Ted Lepcio and future Boston Red Sox part-owner Haywood Sullivan among his teammates. That was the first in a number of stops along his baseball trail.
“I played a lot between Bangor and Auburn,” he said. “A bunch of us went to Bucksport and played for the Bucksport AC in the Eastern Maine League. I got thrown out of one game, the only one I ever got thrown out of. Our manager was the center fielder for Maine. It was a 0-0 game and I thought a guy was out, and I swore, which I shouldn’t have, and the umpire threw me out of the game. The manager came running in from the outfield and called him the same thing and he got thrown out. We sat in the bleachers with the girls the rest of the evening.”
Needing an internship to graduate, Dow and two of his classmates were hired by the City of Auburn to complete the city’s valuation during the summer. Bernal Allen, the city manager, ran the Auburn Asas and invited Dow to try out. He made the team in 1951 and 1952 and helped lead the Asas to the league title, but the highlight of his time with the Asas may have been an out he made against a future Hall-of-Famer.
“The Birdie Tebbetts All-Stars came up and played and Whitey Ford was the pitcher and Ted Lepcio was playing third base. We had 5,000 or 6,000 people at Pettengill (Park),” Dow said. “I got up to bat and, of course, I wasn’t what you’d call a speedster. I hit a hot shot down to the third baseman with nobody on base. He threw it to second and they threw it to first and got me out. I thought I’d die. That was embarrassing. I wanted to hide.”
Aside from a five-year stay in Waterville, Dow and his wife of 60 years, Phyllis, lived in the Twin Cities once they graduated college. He started out in finance then went into banking, eventually becoming senior vice president of Mid-Maine Mutual Savings Bank in Auburn. He retired in 1992 after 40 years.
Dow continued playing baseball into his 40s, then played softball for a few years before deciding to give his body a break and make golf his primary form of recreation.
“I got banged up playing softball much more than I ever did playing baseball,” he joked.
If Mrs. Dow had known that, she may never have given her son a glove in the first place.