Let there be lights
Hobbs Hall of Famer using art to raise money to illuminate Maine ballfield
BY GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Baseball art is lighting the way to night baseball games at Kelley Field in Bath, Maine.
Roy Hobbs Baseball Hall of Famer Dick Hill is the spark behind the quest, one that involves raising $450,000 thru the baseball graphics of renowned artist John Gable, specifically numbered prints featuring Boston Red Sox all-time great players and Atlanta Braves championship teams.
How much has been raised so far? Prints became available in 2 weeks ago, and Hill reports some $2,000 in donations thru June.
“It’s a start; we have a ways to go,” Hill said.
But Hill, the 80-year-old founder of the Maine Woods and Boston Braves teams, is the sort of fellow who gets things done. He built those teams and a local league, and his next goal is lighting a ballfield in this town of 8,766, a place known as the City of Ships.
Part of the quest for Hill is setting up a non-profit 501(c)(3) for the funds and lights for the municipal park.
Mike Doucette, president of Maine Woods Baseball, is following the progress of the project that could put lights on Kelley Field.
“It would open up a lot of opportunities,” Doucette said.
Lights would mean the chance for more games not only for the 45-plus Maine Woods wood bat league but local youth and high school teams. “It would be a growth factor,” Doucette said,
Hill secured rights to prints of two of John Gable’s baseball paintings. The paintings show Hill’s New England roots even though one of the works is of the Atlanta Braves celebrating their 2021 World Series championship.
What does a team from the Deep South have to do with New England? Hill, 80, became a Boston Braves fan in 1949 when his father took him to see the team play at Nickerson Field before the franchise moved on to Milwaukee and later to Atlanta. Hill remains such a Braves fan that he has participated in Braves’ fantasy camp each of the past 5 years.
The other painting is a tribute to the Boston Red Sox and their storied history. Gable’s painting shows David Ortiz in the dugout. Behind him, in the stands, are other legends — Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Cy Young, Pedro Martinez and Babe Ruth. In all, Hill said, 18 players are shown in the painting.
Hill has 2,000 prints of the Braves painting and 500 of the Red Sox painting. The prints are 16 inches by 24 inches. He said they have a value of $250 but he is offering them will sell them for a donation of $129.
“The money should be there,” Hill said.
It’s not a one-man quest. Hill said a local Rotary Club is also on board with the lights project. He’s confident the $450,000 goal will be reached and even exceeded. He said any excess funds will be used to replace lights on a football field.
Gable is also on board with the project. Hill said Gable normally gets $25,000 for a painting.
“He’s not taking one penny for these prints,” Hill said.
Gable said Hill approached him with the idea of selling prints to raise money for lights and to give him the rights to sell the prints.
The paintings are much larger than the prints. Gable said both paintings are 5-feet wide.
The Red Sox painting covers generations of players, from Young, who pitched for the team from 1901-1908, to more recent stars such as Ortiz and Martinez and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is shown in the dugout.
The painting does not zero in on any era.
Are Gable and Hill targeting Red Sox and Braves’ fans?
“For sure,” Hill said, “but the Sox players and Braves’ celebrations are special and should appeal to fans of the game.”
Hill and Gable connected through their Maine residences and love of baseball and their ages. “I haven’t grown up yet,” said Gable, a resident of Woolwich. Maine. “I’m 78.”
Gable respects Hill’s passion to put lights on a community field. His company is called John Gable Fine Art. Its website contains examples of his sports murals and paintings, from duck hunting to football, boxing, auto racing, basketball and volleyball.
Gable’s passion is art, but he understands Hill’s goal. “He has a real passion to do this,” Gable said.
Gable also has a passion for the game and its history. He rattled off the names of players in the Red Sox painting. In addition to those already mentioned, Gable said players in the painting include Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Tony Conilgiaro, Xander Bogaerts, Kori Uehara and Smoky Joe Wood.
The painting of the Braves celebrating includes pennants of the years that the franchise has won a World Series – 1914, 1957, 1995 and 2021. “That was his idea,” Gable said.
Hills’ Braves baseball memories go far back, to that 1949 visit to Nickerson Field. That was a year after the Boston Braves won the National League pennant behind the formidable pitching duo of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, who were immortalized as “Spahn and Sain, and pray for rain.”
Now nearly three-quarters-of-a-century later, Hill is contributing to other generations of baseball players and fans in America’s Northeast.
Baseball seasons are shorter so far north, as Hill knows. He has been bringing teams to the Roy Hobbs World Series since 2001.
The dimensions of Kelley Field are much shorter than the big-league diamonds used in the fall at the Roy Hobbs World Series. Doucette said the right-field line is 277 feet, the left-field line is 300 and centerfield is about 350 feet, by his estimate.
He said it is “the best municipal field” in that part of Maine.
Lights would provide more chances to play baseball in Maine.
“We have such a small window to play baseball,” Doucette said.
Doucette has a business called Just Framing in Bath and is familiar with Gable’s art.
“He’s a customer of mine” Doucette said.
Now, that customer’s art may help light fields for the Maine Woods and generations of ballplayers yet born.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
To get your Red Sox or Braves print, or to get more information, check out www.lightsformainebaseball.org and join the campaign to enhance the baseball experience at Kelley Field in Bath, Maine.