Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four profiles on members of the 2011 Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame.

BRUNSWICK — The horsehide has faded, as it does on all old baseballs. It just makes the blue ink stand out more.

And it is almost seam-to-seam in blue ink, this baseball which lists Barry Peaco’s pitching accomplishments at the University of Maine at Farmington. It details six career records and six single-season records he held upon graduation in 1973, as well as his 5-0 record as a senior captain, when he led the Beavers to the NAIA regionals.

It would take a couple of baseballs and perhaps a basketball or two to record Peaco’s feats as a star on the diamond and hardwood at Lewiston High School and UMF. On Sunday, Peaco will be inducted into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame, along with Ray Beaudoin, Tim Jordan and Don White, and while the Hall ranks continue to swell, it would be hard to find anyone who matched the two-sport consistency Peaco played with for seven years in Lewiston and Farmington.

“I was very pleased to just get that nomination. To be one of the four, it’s fantastic,” said Peaco, 60, who lives in Brunswick with wife Kelly.

Varsity baptism

Peaco dove feet first into varsity sports in the mid-to-late 1960s. He was one of the cornerstones of coach Fern Masse’s rebuilding project from the time he was a sophomore. His freshman year, 1965, marked the second of back-to-back Western A titles for Lewiston. When the talented core from that team led by Dick Giroux graduated, Peaco had to take his varsity baptism by fire.

 With three sophomores in the starting lineup, the Blue Devils lost 19 straight before salvaging their final game, 60-50, against Brunswick. Expectations still low the following year, Peaco and company produced one of the great turnarounds in Lewiston history, earning the fifth seed in the Western A tournament with one of the smaller teams in the region. It ranks among his proudest accomplishments.

“I was kind of in between (a guard and a forward), but our whole team was that way,” he said. “We didn’t have a starter over 6-feet my junior and senior year. Norm Larock was a center. He was 6-foot. I was a forward. I think I was 5-11 then. And we had three guards. We were a quick team and fundamentally real sound. I think we were an exciting team to watch, especially my senior year. I think we won several games on a last-second basket.”

Few were quicker than Peaco, who liked to get out on the fast break and slash to the hoop. A right-hander capable of going right or left off the dribble, he usually could get the step he needed to get to the hoop and wasn’t afraid to take it to the bigger bodies in the paint.

“He could go left and right better than anyone I ever had,” said Masse, who will introduce Peaco at Sunday night’s induction banquet. “In fact, I thought he was better inside with his left hand.”

His senior year, Peaco helped lead the Devils to the regional semifinals, where they lost to Morse. Peaco set the ultimate example for his teammates through his hustle, enthusiasm, consistency and competitiveness.

“Barry was a great player for us,” said Masse, who later hired Peaco as his first counselor at his upstart Hoop Camp. “What I like about him is he is one of those kids who really competed. He liked challenges.”

The challenges came early and often in baseball. Coach John Gillette handed the ball to Peaco for his first varsity start as a sophomore. Whatever nerves Peaco had were overwhelmed by the feeling that he had something to prove on the mound.

“Before the game, a parent of one of the players on our team who knew me from my senior Little League days at Elliot Avenue said, ‘Don’t think that you’re going to come up here and dominate like you did in senior Little League,'” Peaco said. “I didn’t say anything. I used that as a little extra incentive.”

Always blessed with a good fastball and breaking ball, Peaco struck out 13 in his debut victory over Brunswick. By the end of the year, Gillette was giving him the start in most of the Blue Devils’ big games. His Edward Little counterparts on the mound included future Yankee Larry Gowell a couple of times (“My claim to fame against him was that I hit the ball. Didn’t get a hit, but I got the bat on the ball,” he said), then Barry Richardson and Gary Belanger  ( “It was always Barry against Barry or Barry against Gary when Lewiston and EL played”).

Game-in, game-out

Peaco quickly gained the trust of his coaches at UMF, first Len MacPhee for a year then Roy Gordon the next three years. He compiled a 16-5 record in four years and took over the record books.

“What I’m kind of proud of and surprised with is two or three of them have held up,” he said.

Peaco’s career earned run average mark of 1.57 stands, as do his four shutouts and 153 strikeouts. Playing a schedule half the size of today’s Beavers, his win and complete game (also 16) totals were also school marks when he graduated. For a portion of his senior year, he led the nation in the National Assoication of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in ERA. UMF won the conference that year. They lost to Husson in the regional tournament, 1-0, in 11 innings.

“I pitched all 11 innings. It started to rain in the bottom of the 11th and I lost control of my curveball. They just sat back on my fastball,” he said.

Peaco was the one making adjustments for his college hoops career. Encountering the more physical college game at UMF, he developed more of an outside game under MacPhee. He and fellow freshman Al Carlisle started right away, and Peaco never missed a start in his four-year career.

He broke Steve Williams’ career scoring record late in his senior year with 1, 233 points, helped in part by his brother, Mike, a freshman on the UMF roster. The record didn’t last long, as Hank St. Pierre eclipsed it the following year.

Outside of breaking the career scoring mark, Peaco doesn’t recall a lot of individual moments in his basketball career. He prides himself on having been a consistent, dependable performer whenever he took the court.

“There aren’t a lot of things that I think back on and think ‘That was unusual,’ or ‘That was great,'” he said. “It was more of the game-in, game-out consistency. I don’t think I ever broke 30 points in a game in high school or college.”

He drew some interest from scouts in both high school and college (Duke sent him a recruiting letter for basketball) but was never drafted, he believes because he was married to his first wife in college and pro scouts shied away from married players. He majored in special education at UMF, attended graduate school at Springfield College and taught emotionally disturbed children for 10 years in Massachusetts, at the Sweetser Children’s Home and Gray-New Gloucester High School.

Now 60, he works in employment and training, managing a statewide program for senior citizens. He started the Veterans Career House, a transitional housing and employment program in Biddeford for homeless veterans.

After college, Peaco played in the Tri-County League in western Massachusetts, facing numerous Division I players and pro prospects. He was the second-best pitcher in the league but got into a motorcycle accident. Upon returning to Maine, he played in the Portland Twilight League and various town teams all over the state.

He and his father, Warner, started the slow-pitch softball L-and-A Kings in the early 1980s, and played in his fifth decade of softball as a member of the East Auburn Lakers. He also coached at Gray-New Gloucester High School and one year at the University of Southern Maine.

He has two sons from his first marriage, Brian, a standout golfer at Edward Little and Jarod, who attended Gray-New Gloucester.

Family and friends will join Peaco for Sunday’s induction, but he noted his sadness that he won’t be able to celebrate with deceased college teammates and friends such as Carlisle and Mike Berticelli.

“Becoming friends with your teammates, that camaraderie lasts beyond your college days,” he said. “That’s the highlight to me.”


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