The other day a friend from home went to see the Portland Sea Dogs; he sent me a picture of a plaque in the Portland Room at Hadlock Field. It was a plaque listing the 2011 inductees into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, including Uncle Bob.
I know I write about Uncle Bob a lot; everyone likes him. He’s popular. I really wanted him to get into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, so I wrote a letter of recommendation for him. Other people, including my brother, wrote convincingly about Uncle Bob and he was admitted to this elite group of Maine baseball players.
We were all happy for Uncle Bob.
Today is Uncle Bob’s Birthday; here’s the letter I wrote for him. Everyone should have an Uncle Bob.
February 11, 2011
Maine Baseball Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 1062
Yarmouth, ME 04096
Please accept this letter of recommendation for Robert “Bob” Baumer’s induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. I understand a formal nomination has been submitted by my brother, Jim Baumer, which includes the appropriate documentation regarding Bob’s statistical and technical qualifications for admittance to the Hall. From my own reading of history, I think Bob Baumer possesses the necessary baseball resume for this honor. The best players, of course, are well-rounded and have other qualities which enhance their baseball reputation. Bob Baumer represents the type of person who can be described with many adjectives and although your eyes would grow weary were I to write at length about all of them, it is my position that Bob has been many things in his life, including but not limited to “Southpaw Pitcher.” These would include son, brother, uncle, friend, coach, citizen, soldier, worker, neighbor, historian, farmer, and lumberjack. I am sure I have missed a few. Therefore, I offer to you a few thoughts and anecdotes to enhance what the records say about Bob Baumer.
It is true that I was born in August, 1964, and therefore, I did not see Bob play baseball during the Robert’s 88’ers magical season. It was not until much later in my life that I realized I was born right in the middle of the Robert’s 88’ers orbit. Literally. Stan Doughty and Marty Roop were two and four doors down my street respectively, and Bob was around the corner, over the dip in the road. I was too young to understand why Uncle Bob was never home in the cool of the summer evenings when I would sit on the porch with my grandparents. Sometimes, my mother and I would stay late and I vaguely recollect Uncle Bob rolling in from his game, wearing his uniform and unloading his baseball equipment from his car trunk. None of that made sense to me at the time. After all, I was a little girl and I didn’t really care much about baseball.
It is also true that Bob Baumer is relatively modest. It was not until my brother wrote his book in 2005 that I had even an inkling of my uncle’s baseball resume. I remember thinking to myself “Uncle Bob played in the Cape Cod League?” In our self-congratulatory society, it seemed odd to me that someone wouldn’t brag about that. But that’s not Bob’s way of doing things. He’d say something more like “I remember when I was playing for the Auburn Asa’s. There was a place that sold gas, 5 gallons for a dollar. I’d always fill up when I passed, whether I needed gas or not.”
As an uncle, Bob was either directly or indirectly involved in his niece’s and nephew’s lives. To the athletic among us, he would be a trainer and coach. To the not so athletic, he was our guardian angel, riding high above the street in his oil truck and wagging his index finger to remind us to stay on the straight and narrow path. It was hard to be a delinquent in Lisbon Falls when you knew the oil truck might be just around the next corner. Even today, when I am in Lisbon Falls, if I stay in one place long enough, I can be sure that Bob will show up. If I’m at the library, he’ll drive by and see me. If I’m tending a community garden, there he is. An afternoon at the Historical Society inevitably leads to an “Uncle Bob sighting.” There’s no hiding from him and he’ll still wag his finger at me and remind me that in some ways, I’m always going to be five years old.
In my latest pursuit, I have decided I want to be a farmer. Lucky for Farmer Bob, I have decided to be an agrarian in his back yard. My thought was that since he’s got such a big garden, he wouldn’t mind sharing a few rows with me. Indeed, Bob had no qualms about letting me plant a few things and he’s been a perfect gentleman about my ever-increasing need for space. He’s let me do soil tests and bring in manure by the truckload…in his truck. He helped me install a rain barrel and he showed me how to operate the rototiller. He even seemed to like the sunflowers I’ve been planting in the row along the road. In my zeal last summer, I got a little carried away and planted the biggest “mammoth” sunflower seeds I could find. True to their name, they were 14 feet tall and to me, they were “the bee’s knees.” Neighbor Bob did not see it quite that way and he was kind and gentle in pointing out that perhaps they were blocking his neighbor’s view a bit and making it hard for Mr. Roy to back out of his driveway. After a bit of sputtering about the aesthetic beauty of mammoth sunflowers, I had to concede that Bob was right and in the spirit of neighborliness, I will plant a more moderate sunflower this summer.
Naturally, there will be some reading either this letter or my brother’s nomination who will say “well, you kids are biased. He’s your uncle.” I direct you to read again Chapter 3 of Jim Baumer’s “When Towns Had Teams” where he outlines the genesis of the Robert’s 88er’s, their 1964 championship season, and the role Bob played in their success. You could also spend a few summer afternoons poring over Bob’s various chronological scrapbooks of his own sports history, lovingly preserved and noted. The facts generally speak for themselves and I will refrain from rehashing them here. As Bob’s 1954 yearbook quote reminds us, “a modest man never speaks of himself.”
Thank you for considering this nomination for a man who would not nominate himself. Bob Baumer has done much to support local baseball. He has also done a lot to support the goodness of small-town living. I am glad Bob chose to “stay” when the world said “go.” In doing so, he has preserved a home and a legacy for all of his family and friends. Lucky for us, we can still sit on the porch in the cool of a summer evening and talk about baseball.
Happy Birthday, Uncle Bob!