College is full of memories – some hazier than others, perhaps. Classmates, parties, professors, sporting events, and more fill up our heads with recollections years after we’ve left the 04469. But for the packrats out there (I include myself), often times life’s memories will take a physical shape…in the form of STUFF. Concert posters might remind us of the time Method Man and Redman didn’t show up in Orono to perform. Of course you kept the puck that came into the stands during a particularly heated Black Bears-BU game. Or maybe it’s the program from the play in Hauck Auditorium where you took your date out for the first time. Here’s a quick stroll down a UMaine-themed memory lane.
When I was a kid (1980s-90s), UMaine Baseball was REALLY good, as we’ve covered before in this space. The team’s postseason play brought attention to the UMaine diamond – including that of pro scouts. Billy Swift is probably the most notable Black Bear of that era to make the Majors, but Mike Bordick was my favorite. I loved playing Shortstop in Little League, and, being from Maine, there was no better player to emulate than Mike Bordick. After a little bit of back-and-forth between the Majors and Minors in 1990 (and that season’s playoffs against the Red Sox), Bordick settled into a very good MLB career that lasted 15 years – including an All-Star Game appearance in 2000, multiple playoff games, two World Series, and 110 consecutive games in 2002 without an error (in 543 chances!)
On one of the first “grown-up” nights of my life (age 11, coincidentally just after Mike Bordick’s first World Series appearance in 1990), my parents let me tag along to a charity auction for the parochial school I attended at the time. Big night out – staying out well past bedtime, hobnobbing with the adults, cool prizes all over the place – if Kelly Kapowski or Winnie Cooper had shown up, I would’ve been in adolescent Nirvana.
Naturally, being eight miles away from the UMaine campus, there was a ton of Black Bear gear – autographed hockey jerseys, sticks, basketballs, and so on. I didn’t have much of a shot at getting anything hockey-related, as they were the hottest ticket in the room – and I had about $35, thanks to my small paper route savings. I keyed in on the game-worn, autographed Mike Bordick hat. I figured it might still go for more than I had, but that’s what I wanted. My folks said that they’d give me an extra fiver if it got to $40, but that was it.
About two-thirds of the way through the auction, there it was, on the block. I got a bid in at $10 or $15… Then it went up to $30 a whole lot quicker than I would’ve liked, but it stayed there for a second or two. I bid it up to $35. Going once… Going twice… Sold! I didn’t have to use the extra five bucks from my parents, and I’d won the item I wanted (away from a family friend, who I’m convinced let me win, but who cares when you’re 11?!?)
I had stolen it, as far as I was concerned. For $35! Game worn… It still had sweat marks in it, with the equipment manager’s writing on the back tag – 46. On the bright yellow brim was signed ‘Mike Bordick.’ I told myself that it might’ve been worn in the playoffs – or even the World Series! It probably wasn’t, but I couldn’t have cared less. I had the score of the night, and no one would convince me otherwise. I showed it off to every friend who came over to play ball in the back yard for two years. Some were more impressed than others; some said that I’d overpaid… Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t – but it was priceless to me, anyway.
(I also won the raffle prize of a trip to Florida that night, which nearly made me pass out… But that’s a story for a different blog.)
As with the 1993 Maine Hockey Commemorative Coke Bottle, my game-worn, signed Mike Bordick hat is still in my collection; it’s a great reminder of the night I came away with that piece of UMaine history. Surely more valuable to me than anyone else, it’s still a great piece of UMaine memorabilia.