A selection of Maine-based sports books. Dave Bailey/Kennebec Journal

It may be August, but there’s still plenty of time to squeeze in some summer reading before the leaves turn and the kids return to school.

Maine’s sports history may not be as illustrious as that of other states, but that doesn’t mean the Pine Tree State lacks for quality literary offerings. Here’s a selection of Maine-oriented sports books sitting in or around my bookshelf. You can probably get some of these for a song on your favorite book-selling website; others may take some hunting.

In no particular order:

“Was Baseball Really Invented in Maine?” (Will Anderson, 1992): The question is answered on Page 1: No, baseball was not invented in Maine. But Anderson’s self-published work is an exhaustive history of the state’s professional baseball teams from the 19th century through the tragicomic Triple-A Maine Guides of the 1980s, followed by an all-star team of the best pro players to come out of Maine and a roundup of everyone other MLB player from Maine. Illustrated with tons of photos, it’s still a great read three decades later.

“When Towns Had Teams” (Jim Baumer, 2005): Long before TV or streaming devices, the only way to watch baseball was to attend a game in person. During Maine summers, the easiest way to accomplish that task was to attend one of the many amateur “town” team games that dotted the landscape, particularly in western Maine. Many games attracted crowds of 4,000 fans, according to Baumer, who grew up watching the Lisbon Falls-based Roberts 88ers in the late 1960s. The book includes interviews with many of the people who made town ball a staple of postwar Maine.

“Black Bears Baseball: Orono to Omaha” (Augie Favazza and Allen Lessels, 1987): This could be an ESPN “30 for 30” tagline: “What if I told you one of the best college baseball teams in America came from the snowy fields of Maine?” It really happened, and this book from a pair of former Portland Press Herald reporters captures the spirit of an amazing time when a bunch of University of Maine kids — many of them native Vacationlanders — held their own against the baseball factories from Florida, Arizona and California. The book profiles the teams, players, coaches and benefactors who made Black Bear baseball a happening thing. 


“The Maine Book: University of Maine Athletics 1881-2007” (Stuart Haskell, 2007): As a UMaine sports history geek, I’m still blown away by this massive tome that includes rosters, stats and scores for every UMaine team through 2007. Basically, it’s the Black Bear equivalent of Gray’s Sports Almanac. I don’t even want to think how much time Haskell, a former UMaine athletic director, spent putting this beast together, but I’m forever grateful. The book also includes tons of team photos. I have pored through this volume so much over the last 15 years, several of the pages are literally falling out.

“University of Maine: A Sports History” (Shelley Danforth, Jennifer Crotty, Jessica Carpenter, Shannon Danforth, 1992): A prequel of sorts to Haskell’s epic, this 316-page book has histories and trivia for current and discontinued UMaine sports. Unfortunately, it came out just one year before the men’s hockey team won the 1993 NCAA title. Like “The Maine Book,” it’s loaded with pictures. 

And speaking of those ’93 Black Bears …

“Black Bear Magic” (Friends of Maine Hockey, 1993): This commemorative softcover book celebrates the legendary 1992-93 42-1-2 UMaine team with profiles, pictures and game stories. Much of the book was written by current Boston Globe sportswriter Chad Finn, then a student at UMaine, and even then his stuff was a must-read.

“University of Maine Ice Hockey” (Bob Briggs, 2008): This book, part of the Arcadia Publishing “Images of Sports” series, is loaded with photos from throughout UMaine’s hockey history, from the abortive attempt at a varsity program in the 1920s through the Jimmy Howard era in the mid-2000s. Many of the pictures are from the program’s often overlooked salad days in the late 1970s-early ’80s, when Alfond Arena was much tinier and the sweaters resembled something out of a midnight beer league.

“Mariner Mania” (Steve Buckley, Augie Favazza, 1983): Wow, was 1977 a banner year for hockey in Maine or what? UMaine hit the ice for the first time since the ’20s, “Slap Shot” is released in theaters and a new American Hockey League team in Portland takes the state by storm. Much in the manner of “Black Bears Baseball,” this book profiles the great teams and players of the first six years of the Mariners, who won two Calder Cups (and added a third in 1984, a year after the book was released) as a Philadelphia Flyers-owned farm club. The book ends with the team’s sale to the New Jersey Devils, and things were never really the same — not even a later affiliation with the Boston Bruins helped — before the team moved to Providence in 1992.


(BTW, we need a Portland Pirates history book, badly. Mike Lowe, are you reading this?)

“The Portland Sea Dogs” (Wendy Sotos, 2008): Another Arcadia book, this from the “Images of Baseball” series, this book profiles not just Sea Dogs legends such as Josh Beckett and Charles Johnson, but much of the activity around the game, such as the trash monsters, the Field of Dreams game and the 2003 construction of the Maine Monster in left field.

But wait, there’s more! Some other Maine-based sports books I have not read, but might be worth our time and effort:

“Maine’s Greatest Athletes” (Nancy Griffin, 2021): Profiles of 50 Maine-related sports people, from Joan Benoit Samuelson to John Winkin (but no Ricky Craven).

“Just a Kid From Maine” (Matthew and Stephanie Mulligan, illustrations by Rick Parker, 2022): The former UMaine tight end from Enfield, who spent nearly a decade in the NFL, describes his journey in this children’s book.

“Olympians in Vacationland: The Legendary Training Camp at Bowdoin College and the Athletes who Took on the World in Munich” (D. Todd Coffin, 2022): The story of 54 U.S. Olympic track and field athletes — including heavy hitters like Frank Shorter and Steve Prefontaine — who prepared for the Games with a 10-day camp in Brunswick.


“Robin Emery: Maine’s First Lady of Road Racing” (Ed Rice, 2021): A biography of the running pioneer who paved the way for many others to follow in her sneakers, including Joan Benoit Samuelson. And speaking of Samuelson …

“Running Tide” (Joan Benoit Samuelson and Sally Baker, 1987): The 1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist tells her story and shares her training methods.

Simply the Best: The Cindy Blodgett Story, the Making of a High School Phenom” (Ron Brown, 1994) andPlaying Like a Girl: Cindy Blodgett and the Lawrence Bulldogs Season of ’93-’94″ (Tabitha King, 1994): Clinton’s most famous native was the subject of not one, but two books before she even hit the hardwood at UMaine. Honestly, a full-length bio or documentary of Blodgett would be very fascinating.

Native Trailblazer: The Glory and Tragedy of Penobscot Runner Andrew Sockalexis (Ed Rice, 2021): The Old Town native and cousin of baseball’s Louis Sockalexis finished fourth in the 1912 Olympic marathon before his untimely death at 27.

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