Carl “Stump” Merrill address the crowd with a tip of his cap before a New York Yankees game spring training game last February in Tampa, Florida. Photo provided by the New York Yankees

BRUNSWICK — Carl “Stump” Merrill never really thought about reaching baseball’s major leagues while growing up in Brunswick.

And managing the New York Yankees, which Merrill did in 1990 and 91? That wasn’t on the radar, either, when he graduated from Brunswick High School in 1962.

“When you spend your childhood in a town like Brunswick, you really aren’t thinking about the bigger things you can accomplish,” said Merrill in a recent phone interview. “I was just fortunate to grow up in a part of town where the other kids in the area loved sports just as much as I did.”

Merrill starred in football, basketball and baseball for the Dragons. After graduating from high school, Merrill attended the University of Maine in Orono, where he played football and baseball.

“Back in those days you could really focus on two sports in college, I feel as though I was fortunate to continue my athletic career in two sports,” said Merrill, 76, from his Harpswell home.

By his junior year at UMaine, Merrill — who was a catcher — started drawing interest from professional baseball scouts.

“It wasn’t until we went to Omaha (for the college baseball World Series) when scouts started talking to me before and after games,” said Merrill. “It wasn’t until then when I realized I had a shot to play at the next level.”

After graduating from Maine with a degree in physical education, Merrill was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1966 free agent draft.

Carl “Stump” Merrill signs autographs during a New York Yankees spring training workout session last February in Tampa, Florida. Photo provided by the New York Yankees

He would spend the next five seasons in the Phillies organization, before a leg injury in 1971 prematurely cut short his playing days.

It was then when Merrill returned to Orono to assist head baseball coach Jack Butterfield, who is credited with coming up with Merrill’s nickname, “Stump.”

“Butterfield was trying to get my attention, I was walking next to a teammate about six inches taller than me,” said Merrill, who stands at 5-feet-8. “I guess he couldn’t get my attention, so he said ‘hey stump get over here,’ and it’s stuck around ever since.”

Merrill would coach the UMaine baseball team for the next six seasons, until Butterfield became a scout for the Yankees. Merrill ultimately followed Butterfield to New York, and was hired in 1977 as a minor league coach.

In 1978, Merrill was named the manager of the West Haven Yankees of the Eastern League.

He later managed the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in the Florida League in 1982. Two years later, Merrill was promoted to manage the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees’ top minor league affiliate in Triple-A.

In 1985, Merrill joined the Yankees as a first base coach. Hall of Famer Yogi Berra was managing the big club at the time.

“To be brought up to the big leagues by a legend like Berra was a special moment for me,” said Merrill. “It made me feel a sense like I belonged among the others in the majors.”

During the 1980s, the Yankees went through a series of managerial changes, with several former players getting a crack at the job. The Yankees changed managers 13 times between eight different managers, highlighted by Berra and Lou Pinella.

“Those two (Berra and Pinella) made my transition to the big leagues easier than it might have been,” Merrill said.

In 1990, Merrill’s patience within the organization paid off, and he was named the 31st manager in franchise history.

Carl “Stump” Merrill, left, receives a pat on the back from Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, right, during a 2019 spring training game in Tampa, Florida. Photo provided by the New York Yankees

“I spent a lot of time preparing and helped myself along the way to put myself in a good position to land the job,” said Merrill. “To be the manager of an organization as great as the Yankees is still the greatest achievement of my life.”

Merrill was hired by the late George Steinbrenner, something that still holds meaning today.

“I bought into Steinbrenner’s philosophy and he trusted me, he truly epitomized what baseball and the Yankees are all about,” Merrill said. “I still remember the day he hired me like it was yesterday.”

Merrill’s tenure at the helm was short lived. After going 71-91 in 1991, he was relieved from his duties as manager.

Merrill would stay within the Yankees organization in some capacity, including managing minor league teams at different levels, and being a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman in 1999 and 2000, and again in 2005.

Merrill officially retired from baseball in 2014, but said he is just one call away if the Yankees ever need anything.

“One of the nice things the Yankees do is bring a group of former Yankees down to spring training to observe and help in any way possible,” said Merrill. “That policy was instituted by George, it was his way of thanking us for our hard work over the years.”

Now residing in Harpswell, Merrill never really left the state during his career. He moved back to Topsham during his career and lived in town during the offseason to “make ends meet,” including stints as an assistant baseball coach at Bowdoin and Colby colleges.

“I think I was fortunate when I look back on how everything turned out in my career,” Merrill said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: