AUBURN – Like many renowned town team baseball players of the late 1950s and early ’60s, Norm Davis stayed sharp and clung to youthful glory by wielding the lumber in fast pitch softball leagues.

He loved the game. He knew the game. And in least one man’s mind, that made Davis an ideal candidate to supervise the game.

“It was Byron Adams, God rest his soul, who was umpire in chief at the time and told me I should become an umpire,” Davis said. “To which my response was, ‘Are you crazy?’ I didn’t need all those people screaming and hollering at me.”

Davis learned that the screening process was relatively simple. To get behind the plate, a prospective ump needed to pay a $25 fee and pass a test.

“So I gave Byron my $25,” Davis recalled, “and he said, ‘You are now an umpire.’ “

The mythical test, of course, came on the job. Passing it with flying colors required consistency, dedication and selective hearing more than rulebook smarts and memorization.

Perched at the head of his class for 42 years, Davis recently received the ultimate reward for his ever-presence as the guy in blue standing in the shadow of the backstop. The lifelong Auburn resident was inducted last month into the American Softball Association National Hall of Fame.

Davis, 72, earned his enshrinement under the meritorious service category. He is the first Maine native inducted into the hall, which held its 26th annual ceremony in Colorado Springs.

Any umpire with staying power must be able to laugh with ease, and Davis’ self-deprecating sense of humor becomes apparent when he discusses the other softball dignitaries in his Hall of Fame class.

Joining Davis at the head table were Michelle Granger, Michelle Smith and Dot Richardson, all members of the only United States women’s softball team to win an Olympic gold medal.

“It’s a nice honor, and it was a very touching ceremony,” Davis said. “I don’t know how the hell I got it, to be honest.”

Being one of the best softball umpires in the country longer than most current recreational leaguers have been alive probably did the trick.

Davis has umpired three ASA Major League national tournaments. He has been Maine’s umpire in chief and has conducted clinics at more than 30 national umpire schools. Each year, the organization sends him a copy of the rules and asks him to proofread it.

At his peak, Davis adjudicated more than 100 games per year. Although time and physical limitations forced him to hang up his chest protector several seasons ago, he still observes and critiques ASA umpires every summer.

“After a while, going up and down all the time took its toll on my knees,” said Davis. “I got to be a pretty big boy.”

When Davis was behind the plate, players had no reason to doubt that the ‘big boy’ was the man in charge. But the former Edward Little High School and Auburn Asas baseball standout established that presence in a way that was true to his personality.

He is quick to encourage young umpires not to make their hobby an ego trip or to engage in those inevitable wars of words.

“To umpire, you’ve got to have fun,” Davis said. “You take a lot of grief, and if you pay attention to it, you’ll quit.”

Davis hasn’t ruled out a return to the field. He recently lost 50 pounds and said that he would consider coming out of retirement if he continues to shed the weight.

He hasn’t slowed down away from the game, either. After seeing his job as a shoe shop superintendent eliminated, Davis, then 59, went back to night school at Husson College. He is now an educational technician working with kindergarten through second grade students at Libby-Tozier School in Litchfield.

“My first question was the same as when I got into umpiring: ‘Am I crazy?’ But those kids keep me young,” Davis said.

And his involvement with the softball scene never gets old.

“I don’t think I realize what an honor (the hall of fame) is,” he said. “I hope I’m still the same old person. I’m as full of crap as I’ve ever been.”

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