Dave “Zippy” Thompson said he never thought about being inducted into the University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame — or any hall of fame.
So when he found out that he was being inducted into the UMaine hall next month, he was caught completely off guard.
“Was I surprised? Good Lord…,” said Thompson, the captain and third baseman for the Black Bears’ 1964 College World Series team. “I was very pleased. I was very humbled by it because there were players who were far better than I was. For an old goat like me, it is a terrific honor.”
Thompson, a left-handed hitter, led the Black Bears to a 3-2 record and a third-place finish at the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska. He hit safely in all five games and batted .315 average to earn a spot on the all-tourney team.
It was the first of seven trips to the CWS by the UMaine baseball program.
“Since I didn’t go on to play professionally, that was probably the biggest thing in my life,” recalled the 76-year-old Thompson, a Belfast native who now lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “Here I was from a small town going out there to play for the national championship, something no Maine team had ever done before.
“And we were playing big teams like USC, Minnesota and Arizona State,” said Thompson.
The Black Bears beat USC, Arizona State and Seton Hall while losing to Minnesota and then being eliminated by Missouri 2-1.
Because they were such underdogs, Thompson said the Black Bears became the “darlings of the fans. Everybody loved us out there.”
Thompson, one of only two seniors on the 1964 team along with Dick Dolloff, also had captained the squad his junior year.
“I had played two summers in the Cape Cod League so I tried to impart things I had learned from older guys to the young kids on our team. I would say 80 percent of our players were sophomores. They were great young players,” said Thompson, who added that they were responsive to his suggestions.
Shortstop Dick DeVarney, catcher Carl “Stump” Merrill and pitcher and tournament Most Valuable Player Joe Ferris, were among the stars along with Thompson.
Thompson could have been awestruck playing in the College World Series and it could have negatively affected his performance. But he really came through. He had the only UMaine hit against Minnesota.
“I did have a good tournament,” he acknowledged.
Thompson had shared the second base job with Len McPhee earlier in his UMaine career but became the starting third baseman his senior year.
“Vic Nelson and I were going to split time at second but (coach Jack Butterfield) moved me to third so we could both play,” said Thompson.
In order to qualify for the College World Series, UMaine had to first get past Northeastern in a best-of-three series at Boston’s Fenway Park and the Black Bears swept the Huskies.
“That was a big deal. I had a lot of great experiences. I met a lot of good guys that I played ball with at Maine and in the Cape Cod League,” said Thompson. “But the College World Series was the topper.”
He takes pride in the fact that the 1964 team supplied the university and state with tremendous national exposure.
“All these years later, I’ll run into people who remember us from the World Series. It’s amazing. It has had quite an impact on me,” said Thompson who noted that the baseball program received a lot of money from donors after that season.
“That set the stage for later (successes). It really jumpstarted baseball and maybe more (sports). The baseball team was able to take a lot more trips,” said Thompson.
Thompson earned a degree in education and taught school for three years before joining the Marine Corps and serving as a platoon commander in Vietnam. He attained the rank of captain.
He then went to work for Abex Corporation, which fabricated steel for train and subway tracks so they could switch over to a new line. He worked for them for over 30 years into his early 70s before retiring. He was a manager on several projects and traveled extensively.
He is excited about meeting his fellow inductees, including the national champion 1993 UMaine hockey team.
“I used to come up a lot to see them play. Paul Kariya was terrific. They were great to watch,” said Thompson.