This year’s Boston Red Sox season is history, and all those pennant-quest statistics are now added to baseball’s record books. Through the years, every imaginable baseball fact seems to have been chronicled, and it’s possible to find some fascinating details about the earliest days of the sport in the Twin Cities.

Gary Rich, a former Lewiston resident now living in Bangor, wrote to me early this summer to tell about finding a story of early baseball in Lewiston. He had been researching his family’s roots and he saw in an obituary of an ancestor that John M. Donovan of Walnut Street, Lewiston, had played for “the old Pioneer team.”

Rich searched further for information about old teams and he came up with a Lewiston Daily Sun article from March 1914 by an unnamed writer.

The story said, “In 1888, Lewiston baseball got together. Baseball ran in their veins. It was the real live energetic kind that couldn’t help find expression otherwise than in the back lots and in a hit-or-miss fashion.”

Lewiston had a ball team and local supporters, but they had to work together with volunteer manpower and money to get their first home field.

The Franklin Co., which was the city’s principal landowner and investment organization, was approached for assistance.

“The needs of the team were put up to the agent,” the article said. “He told them to go ahead. He gave them the rights to play on the field that later became the Howe Street grounds. So far so good, for with a team and a field the thing was well under way.”

Next came the problem of a fence, bleachers and equipment.

“Nights after work at the factories, the ball tossers of Lewiston lost no time in getting to Howe Street, not to warm up with the bat and ball but to warm up with the hammer, the ax and the spade. While the catcher and pitcher worked out with a stubborn hump in the playing surface, the shortstop and fielders were putting posts in position for the fence.”

Players and fans donated money for lumber and they found local companies to contribute to the project. The manual labor on the field was done by the players themselves, for the most part.

The newspaper listed several names of that Lewiston team’s members from about 130 years ago. They included Steve Kelley, Al Barbour, Abel Henry, Joe Lizotte, John O’Brien, Tommy and Tony Kearns and McManus Tebow.

It was called, “A fighting, winning, top-notch team, ” and the writer said, “Portland, Bangor, Augusta and other cities with regularly salaried teams were invaded and Lewiston fans never had to blush for the article of ball the team put up.”

There were no big contracts in those days.

“The players were paid on the community plan and after the gate receipts had been drugged for whatever expenses were called for, the rest went to the men, share and share alike,” the story said.

“Sometimes there was quite a lot to divide, but other times it was quite a problem as how to divide seven cents among the team and satisfy everyone.”

It was a real “Field of Dreams” story that validates the popular movie’s premise … “if you build it, they will come.”

That was the way it started, and Internet searches show that a Lewiston team joined the New England League on June 12, 1891, with Jeremiah Scannel as manager. They finished last that year with 11 wins and 28 loses.

The next year, Forrest Keay and Frank Leonard managed. The team rose to a third-place finish with 53 wins and 45 loses. A 22-year-old named Abel Lizotte pounded out 10 home runs, and a pitcher named Tub Welch had 24 wins.

There was a team called the Lewiston Cupids in 1914-15. The Lewiston-Auburn Twins and Lewiston Red Sox were 1919 teams in the New England League. The Lewiston Twins was the team name listed from 1926 to 1930.

Those old statistics hint at some great untold stories. Some of the players such as P. O. O’Connell and John O’Brien later became nationally famous.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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