(Stubby Truman on his way to first, 1965)
I interviewed Leon "Stubby" Truman in the fall of 2004. I knew when I walked in the door of his rustic home, on the outskirts of Norway that Stubby was a character.
We spent three hours together that afternoon and I knew in speaking to him, how much being inducted into Maine's Baseball Hall of Fame would mean to him.
Like many of the 40 men I interviewed for When Towns Had Teams, Truman still took pride in the accomplishments that he had achieved on the baseball diamond. One of the best indications of this was born out to me in March, the following year. I was giving one of my first talks on my upcoming book at the Auburn Public Library. On that cold late winter evening, nearly 30 people showed up for my talk, most of them being former town team legends.
My talk was scheduled to start at 7, but these old-timers (including Stubby) were trying to one-up one another with stories, reliving the days when maybe they struck out a great hitter, three times, or when one of those hitters won the game with a blast over the trees in the distance. I enjoyed just sitting back, listening, knowing I played a part in bringing these guys together one more time.
Two weeks ago, I received an email from Stubby's daughter-in-law. She wrote that Stubby was terminally ill. While struggling with the questions of "why" that accompany being dealt this hand, she indicated that Stubby was still as upbeat and filled with life as was possible when you know that your days are numbered. Apparently, Stubby received a call on Christmas Eve, indicating he had been selected for a July induction into Maine's pinnacle of baseball achievement, the prestigious Hall of Fame. His daughter-in-law said there was alot of joy in the Truman household. She also told me that she felt my book had much to do with his induction.
If my book was able to accomplish anything, it was to validate the stories and the memories that these men have left behind. I had been hoping to call Stubby and was thinking about doing that and inquring if he was up for a visit, making a note to call him over the weekend. I never got the chance because when I opened up the newspaper, his obituary was featured at the top of the page.
While Stubby was a tremendous local baseball player, twirling 10 no-hitters over his illustrious career that spanned nearly three decades, he was so much more than that. His obituary indicated that he was a pillar of his community, reviving the local fish and game club, as well as being a longtime member of the Rotary. Married to the same woman for 46 years, the obituary showed Truman to be the loving husband and father that he was, devoted to his two sons and two daughters and later, his grandchildren
I drove to Oxford yesterday afternoon to pay my respects to the family. When I walked into the packed room, I knew that this man left behind a legacy in his local community. I also observed several men that I had interviewed, opponents of Stubby, some of them bitter rivals, but here to honor a good man, someone who lived his life with honor, dignity and who enjoyed his time that he had.