TURNER — Like a lot of boys of his generation — and only a few more generations to follow — Stan Timberlake would get home from school, hop on his bike and ride three miles to the nearest baseball field.
Timberlake would meet his friends at the North Parish Road diamond and play until supper. He would race home to eat, and once he cleared the last crumb off the plate, he would jump on the bike again and pedal furiously for another three miles so he could squeeze as many innings as they could out of the fading sunlight.
"We lived to play baseball," he said. "Of course, there weren't the things to do then that there is now. We played baseball and we played more baseball."
Little did Timberlake know at the time, but he and many of his friends would one day put their tiny farming town on the baseball map.
If any of them did have a notion, they probably didn't picture little Stan being part of it, let alone the best player on the team. Sure, he could run like the wind and throw a little bit, but he was just a little squirt, riding the pine for Leavitt Institute.
That started to change around Timberlake's junior year of high school, when he would start to catch up to his peers in physical stature, and surpass them as a baseball player.
His talents as a pitcher, hitter, base runner and fielder helped the Turner Townies become one of the dominant town teams in central Maine and ultimately led Timberlake to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, into which he will be inducted along with nine other honorees on Sunday.
"It's quite an honor," said the 76-year-old Timberlake, who works for Veterinary Support Services in Turner. "I think I'm the only one that's getting in this year that never went to college, but I'm not quite sure."
Timberlake got all the education he needed working on a farm. He graduated from Leavitt Institute in 1953 and started up the Townies in 1954 with Paul Varney and his North Parish Road playmates.
The Townies played independently for a year before joining the dying Twin City League. The lefthander patrolled the outfield or first base and had the power and bat control to hit anywhere along the top half of the batting order. But the Townies were often at their best when he was on the mound.
And he was on the mound a lot. He'd often pitch nine innings on Friday and toe the rubber again on Sunday for both ends of a doubleheader.
"I never had a sore arm. I had tired arm, but sometimes when I was tired I had a better curve than when I was strong," he said.
In that case, anyone who stepped into a batter's box hoped Timberlake was well rested. His curve was his strikeout pitch. He threw as hard as anyone in central Maine, but his 12-to-6 curve, or "drop" as it was known then, was tough to hit.
"He had two great assets," said Don Ricker of Turner, who caught nearly all of Timberlake's starts for 15 years. "One is, he had all of the confidence in the world, and he had the arm to go with it."
Managers loved using Timberlake in relief, Ricker said, "because if you gave him 10 warm-up throws, he was ready."
Timberlake had pinpoint control to go with the rubber rocket arm. If he walked a batter, he usually had a reason.
"He went after every batter. He didn't pick around the edges," Ricker said. "He was awful easy to catch. If you stuck the mitt out, the ball was going to be very close to it."
From Turner to Battle Creek
In 1957, the Townies won the Andy County League championship and the Yankee Amateur Baseball Congress district championship at Auburn's Pettengill Park. Timberlake was the YABC MVP, batting .545 for the tournament with a record four triples and five RBIs. He also picked up a win on the mound, part of a 16-2 pitching record that season.
"Stan was the anchor," Ricker said. "We had a second pitcher, Gerry Henry, that was also good. But he wasn't the big-game pitcher Stan was."
With the district title, the Townies earned a spot in the National Amateur Baseball World Series in Battle Creek, Mich., in 1957. They lost to Orlando, Fla., by a run in the opener, then beat East Chicago, Ill., in another nail-biter before getting blown out of the tournament by Nashville, Tenn.
"For a bunch of farm boys, we did all right," Timberlake said. "I started the second game when we beat East Chicago, but I was a mere shadow of myself by then. I'd pitched a lot. We played an exhibition game against Dixfield a couple of days before we went and I got hit on the left elbow by a pitch, so I didn't have much."
"We picked up a couple of pitchers that were good pitchers," Ricker said, "but I honestly and truly think we'd have been better off if we'd stuck with our pitchers to start with."
The Townies were a powerhouse in the Twin City and Andy County leagues. They rarely finished below second and retired the Seltzer and Rydholm Trophy by winning the Andy County League three times in the 1960s.
Coming from a tiny farm town, the Townies could barely get enough players to fill their roster, so they would often draw from surrounding towns. At various times, Timberlake counted among his teammates Maine Baseball Hall of Famers Drig Fournier, Al Davis, Steve Lancaster and fellow 2012 inductee Wilfred Laverdiere, as well as Fern and Reggie Masse, Ronnie Desjardins, Johnny Lawler and Joe Spano.
"We'd play baseball, then we'd go back and hay when we got done, and we'd get most of the guys to go with us," Timberlake said.
Town team baseball drew large crowds, and the Townies had a large and faithful following that supported the team at home and on the road.
"One night, we went to West Minot and we only had nine players for some reason or other," he said. "Andy Woodard, a guy we'd picked up in Auburn, was the first batter up. The first pitch was just about even with the top of his visor and the umpire said 'Strike.' He was the father of a couple guys that played for West Minot. Andy turned around and said something to him, nothing really bad, and the ump said, 'You're out of the ballgame.'"
"Well, he knew we only had nine players," Timberlake added. "I was managing and I went out to get my two cents worth in and I got thrown out, too. So we started packing up our stuff to go home, and they said, 'Come on, stay. We'll give you a couple of our players.' They wanted to pass the hat because we had such a crowd with us. We said we'd go back to Turner and practice."
Playing for money
In 1957, a scout from the Cincinnati Redlegs offered Timberlake a shot at playing professionally, but with a wife and young son to support, he decided to stay in the hay fields.
Besides, playing baseball in Maine could still be lucrative.
"I played in two French-Irish games (held at Pettengill Park annually). I think I got 125 bucks. That's more than I made in a week," he said.
Like many of his town team peers, Timberlake moonlighted for other teams when the Townies weren't playing. He played for Bates Manufacturing and the Lisbon 88ers, and made another trip to Battle Creek with Chi-Liv in the early 1960s. The Auburn Asas tried to recruit him, too, but Timberlake had to decline the invitation to keep a roof over his head.
"Well, I was living with Paul Varney at the time and he wasn't very happy (with the Asas). I would have been sleeping in the barn if I'd ever gone," he said.
Timberlake started developing other interests in the late 1960s and his playing career wound down. He took up golf and raced stock cars at Oxford Plains Speedway (He beat track legend and Turner neighbor Mike Rowe one year for the Charger championship). He also helped organize Little League baseball in Turner.
He stopped playing in 1972, but the Turner Townies will live on in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame when Timberlake is inducted on Aug. 5.