What a difference an initial makes.

George Ferguson will be inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in two weeks — future, then present tense.

That’s bound to continue the head-scratching for those who already believed Ferguson was immortalized in the past tense.

“My dad’s in it too. He went in probably 15 years ago. We both have the same name with different middle initials,” Ferguson explained. “Bitsy Ionta is my spokesman with the committee. He told me that my name has come up a couple of times and people have said, ‘He’s already in.’ It was my father. I think now we might be one of the few father-son combinations in there.”

Ferguson, who played, coached and taught in the Lisbon school system, is one of two inductees from a community that emerged as a baseball factory in the 1960s.

Charles “Marty” Roop grew up in Millinocket and developed into a pitcher at Bowdoin College before a distinguished playing and coaching career in Lisbon Falls.

“George should be in. Most of the guys from Maine who played professionally are in there,” observed the modest Roop. “Guys like me straggle in.”

With his father and renowned youth coaches Stan Doughty (a 2009 hall inductee) and Jim Bouchles guiding his progress, Ferguson starred for both Lisbon High School and New Auburn Legion.

Scouts from the Milwaukee Braves and San Francisco Giants expressed interest in Ferguson when he graduated in 1964. The elder Ferguson intervened.

“I wanted to sign out of high school, but my father said, ‘No, you’re going to school.’ Back then you didn’t argue with your father,” Ferguson said. “It was probably the best advice I ever got. At that age you don’t realize how good these other players are.”

Ferguson attended the University of Maine and played third base for legendary Jack Butterfield. He converted to shortstop as a junior, atoning for his admitted lack of quickness with a strong arm and acute anticipation.

The New York Yankees — and all the mixed feelings they bring to a 22-year-old student of the game from a mill town in Maine — came calling in 1968.

“I hate the Yankees now,” he said. “It was a paycheck then. Not a very big one. Every day we got $3 for meals. We slept through breakfast, usually until 1 o’clock. We tried to have lunch at 2 or 3, and then off to the ballpark we’d go. We took a bus that wouldn’t go faster than 50 mph and had no air conditioning. You had to dress up in a golf shirt or something like that. When you got to the park, half the seat would be stuck to you. It wasn’t as glamorous as people made it out to be.”

Auburn’s Larry Gowell, Westbrook’s John Cumberland and future major league stars Thurman Munson and Cesar Geronimo advanced through the Yankees’ farm system during the same period.

Ferguson split time between the Binghamton Triplets of the Eastern League and the Oneonta Yankees of the New York-Penn League in 1968.

He played a productive season with the Kinston Eagles of the Carolina League in 1969 before calling it quits.

“I probably could have stuck around long enough to make a major league team. But could I have made a decent living then? Probably not,” Ferguson said. “When I stopped playing, I thought my life was over. I had no other goals. Depression set in. I played golf and that was about it. That was when I started to gain a lot of weight. You wonder what’s left.”

For Ferguson, it was conveying his love of sports to the next generation.

In addition to teaching middle school, he became a baseball umpire and basketball official before eventually coaching both sports.

It’s there that Ferguson and Roop’s lives intersected for the second time, with Ferguson coaching Roop’s three sons.

Two decades earlier, at the twilight of Roop’s career and the heart of Ferguson’s, the two played together with the Roberts Drugstore 88ers.

“In 1964 right out of high school, he really helped us out,” Roop said of Ferguson. “We had good teams. We won the (Auburn Twilight) league six years in a row, won states twice. Turner and Norway-Paris also had pretty good teams then.”

That ’64 season ended with Roop as winning pitcher of both the state championship game and a contest at the regional tournament in Connecticut. The 88ers were runner-up in that showcase.

Roop played for an Eastern Maine championship team under George Wentworth at Stearns High School in 1954. The Minutemen lost to Stephens High of Rumford in the state final.

He made his home and career in the area after graduating from Bowdoin, where he was a three-year varsity football player and two-year baseball letterman. Roop’s semipro career also included a stint with the Lisbon Merchants.

Roop was a central figure in the 2005 book “When Towns Had Teams,” a non-fiction look at Maine’s proud baseball heritage. He believes Jim Baumer’s work helped solidify his hall of fame status.

“When Jimmy wrote his book, he was very generous to me,” Roop said. “I played and coached with Stan Doughty for many years. I think there were many ballplayers better than I was, but that total package is probably what did it. You get noticed.”

Doughty and Roop were among those who founded Lisbon’s Little League program in 1970. They guided the inaugural group of Lisbon youth through two years of Little League and five years of high school and American Legion ball.

In its best season, Lisbon’s Coombs-Mountfort squad won the Legion zone championship in 1976.

“It always has been an excellent baseball town,” Roop said.

One that will get another double dose of recognition Sunday, July 25. The banquet will take place at Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland.

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Class of 2010

Leonardo “Leon” Buck, Bath

Tim Curley, Sanford

Gary Dube, Gorham

George Ferguson, Sabattus

Pat Feury, South Portland

Kevin Joyce, Standish

Jeff Paul, Orrington

Charles “Marty” Roop, Lisbon

Hubert “Billy” Shaw, Presque Isle (posthumous)

Clayton Sockabasin, Princeton

Patrick Sockabasin, Old Town

Ron Staples, Presque Isle (posthumous)

Norman White, Dover-Foxcroft (posthumous)


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