Induction is bittersweet for family of ex-Cardinal

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Porter “Pete” Sickels isn’t being inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously, but the occasion is just as bittersweet.

Sickels, who lives in Weld and was a St. Louis Cardinals’ farmhand in the 1950s, is in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease.

While his family hopes that Sickels will be able to attend the entire ceremony in Portland on Sunday, July 29, the former Mt. Blue High School coach is not in condition to accept the award on his own behalf or communicate his feelings about the honor.

“I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t happen earlier,” said Sickels’ son, Craig, a longtime coach at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School and now the athletic administrator at Freeport. “His health is dwindling so quickly that I’m not sure he mentally is able to grasp the whole concept. If it had happened two or three years ago, he would have been able to get up there by himself and appreciate it a lot more.”

In preparing to make his father’s acceptance speech, Craig Sickels has struggled to piece together the history of his father’s playing days.

There are no photos and no statistics readily available. The younger Sickels knows that his father was a utility infielder, left-handed batter and right-handed thrower.

“This whole process of digging for information has been difficult, because he wasn’t able to be much help,” Craig Sickels said. “I guess the two things I can say for him is that one, he coached a lot of years in baseball, and secondly, how many people who grew up in Maine went out and played professional baseball at any level, major or minor league?”

Pete Sickels attended the University of New Hampshire but wasn’t recruited to play baseball.

“Strangely enough, during that same time, he would play for the Cardinals in the summer,” Craig Sickels said. “Somebody at UNH missed the boat on that one.”

A Buxton native and Deering High School graduate, Sickels coached at Kents Hill School and Cushing Academy in Massachusetts prior to leading his son’s team at Mt. Blue. He started the American Legion team in Franklin County during that same period in 1974.

Sickels also played for the Dixfield Dixies semipro club during the era of local legends Bitsy Ionta and Red Dean.

Three of this year’s other area inductees are deceased.

Leon “Stubby” Truman of Norway won 232 games in a stellar Pine Tree League pitching career. Rumford’s Ray Baum caught for the Lewiston-Auburn Buccaneers of the PTL in the 1930s and later coached for a quarter-century at Stephens High. And Larry Boyce was a player-coach for the Temple Townies for three decades.

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