As the snow melted from Hippach Field in 1921, many Farmington residents turned their attention to the same diversion they do today: baseball.

Former Red Sox star Babe Ruth was ready to carry the New York Yankees to the team’s first World Series. Meanwhile in Farmington, hopes were high when the talented Leland Gray from Starks joined the town’s newly-formed, semi-professional team as a pitcher. Unfortunately, the team’s first outing was marred by wild pitches, a poorly timed bunt on a third strike and an ill-fated attempt to steal third base with the ball firmly in the shortstop’s control. Gray allowed four runs, and his Farmington mates could barely get a base hit. This ragged play resulted in a loss to Dixfield, 0-4.

Despite a rough start, townspeople enthusiastically showed up at Hippach Field for games that summer, finding the time to cheer their team on even during weekday afternoons. Admission was 35 cents, and young boys were charged a dime to be refunded at the end of the game if they behaved themselves.

Some of the old-timers said it was the hottest July they could ever remember, and by the middle of the season, Farmington baseball had heated up as well. When the team played Rangeley, Gray found his stride, tallying 13 strikeouts and allowing no hits until the seventh inning. In addition, his batting was “all to the mustard,” and Farmington beat Rangeley 12-0.

Gray, a righty, broke his left hand during the season, but that didn’t deter him from playing ball. In September the team met Wilton in a tournament for a prize of $100. Despite broken bones, Gray, “the twirler” took the mound, and the final score was 21-4. The local sports reporter noted that the Starks boy with the broken hand, “was gamey to the end.”

In 1922, the story of opening day had a happier ending for Farmington. With Gray on first base, home town player Stan Small pitched the game. Two double plays and 15 hits later, Farmington beat Dixfield 11-6. Farmington didn’t falter that summer until it lost to the Taxis of Lewiston twice in mid-July. They rallied to play Dixfield again, and while home games that year could draw as many as 700 spectators, that was a small crowd compared to the throng of 1,200 that turned out to watch Farmington beat their rivals on Dixfield’s own field.

Stan Small was an important player for Farmington that summer. Fans who traveled to Gardiner got to see him send the ball high over the right field fence for one of the longest home runs ever hit at Williams Field. A few days later the Farmington Chronicle noted that “at last report the ball had not yet been recovered.”

On Labor Day the Farmington team played a double-header against the formidable Taxis from Lewiston. This time Farmington came out on top twice, ending the season on a high point. In 1922 Babe Ruth took his Yankees to a second World Series, and the popularity of baseball continued to soar. Here at home, Leland Gray and Stan Small led their team to an impressive 28-7 record.

Additional research for this column by David Farady.

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