NEWBURYPORT – Former longtime Newburyport baseball coach Bill Pettingell has completed Volume II of a book started by his friend and former rival Bert Spofford, entitled “The History of Newburyport Baseball Book”.
The late Bert Spofford, known for his years of coaching and dedication to the Amesbury High baseball program, spent some of his final years chronicling the game to ensure that records would be kept and enjoyed. Once completing hand-written documents of everything one might want to know regarding the history of Amesbury’s four major sports, he did the same for Triton, Georgetown and Pentucket. He then set his sights toward helping his friend and rival coach Bill Pettingell from Newburyport.
“As a friend of mine and a rival coach, Bert decided to do the history of Newburyport High School up to the years that I began coaching,” Pettingell said. “The problem that arose was that Bert got ill around 1994, and he went to the different coaches and said, ‘I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.’ A few years later when he turned 95, he passed away.”
Pettingell continued updating information since 1994 while working to type and organize what was hand-written. He recently finished Volume II.
“Ten years before Bert died, I took over writing the book because I was coaching anyway for Newburyport baseball. As each year went along, the information was more accessible,” he said. “The book for the last 25 years or so is thicker than the first 100 years of Newburyport baseball.”
Volume II is 250 pages long, not including a 66-page preface, and includes everything one might want to know about the Clippers and its 118-year-old program.
“Scores, games, offensive highlights are all included,” Pettingell said. “On the left side are all of the pitching statistics for Newburyport. The scores and the opponent are in columns on each sheet of paper for every season. That’s the way Bert had it written originally, and I thought it was pretty cool, so I kept that basic form.”
What would drive someone to put in this amount of work to compile statistics from a 118-year-old program?
“I went to Natick High School, who has a good tradition in sports,” Pettingell said. “But, if people tried to look up the high school statistics of Doug Flutie, they can’t find anything. Most towns don’t have that luxury. I think that this information is so valuable and needs to be updated and kept. I just want to give back to the great game of baseball. Doing this book was just for that and to give credit to the kids who usually wouldn’t get it.”
After looking through over a century’s worth of information, the item Pettingell found most interesting was not a single statistic or an exceptional player’s ability, but rather the way the game has changed.
“I found that the biggest change that altered stats forever is when the MIAA changed,” he said. “The number of games allowed to be played changed drastically. When I started coaching varsity in 1972, we were allowed to play 22 games before the state tournament. Before I coached, only the league schedule of 14 games was allowed. And before that, only 12. The kids playing today or that I coached in the past 20 to 25 years saw their stats go up drastically. Also, when bats switched from wooden to aluminum, batting averages jumped 40 points and never went down.”
After putting in the time and the effort to chronicle the history of Newburyport’s baseball program for the betterment of its players and coaches, Pettingell has grown frustrated with the record-keeping of other sports.
“It would be a shame if these documents that are accessible to the public in libraries weren’t updated in other sports,” he said. “It would take some time, but coaches should be updating these books. It would really be a shame to lose what Bert started, and that’s why I’m so involved in this.”
Now that Pettingell has finished his book and is in the process of getting them bound with hard covers, one might wonder what his next project will be. He has and continues to work with the Newburyport High School Baseball Association, fundraising for charitable organizations such as the Jimmy Fund or the fight against ALS. Oftentimes, half of the money raised is donated while the other half goes toward Newburyport’s Pettingell Field, which is named after the admired former coach.
Pettingell also started the Newburyport Baseball Golf Tournament two years ago, which is being run solely for the betterment of the field.
Volume II of the “History of Newburyport Baseball Book” can be purchased directly through Pettingell for $25 each. It is a nonprofit project for Pettingell, with 100 percent of the book’s cost going toward the cost for binding. Already, he has 21 former players that have requested a book that he hopes will be a way for families to bond.
“I think it’s cool because grandparents, sons, grandsons — they can all look up when their father played or their grandfather played,” he said.
To purchase a book or to simply discuss baseball, Bill Pettingell can be contacted by email at WBPettingell@Comcast.Net, or by phone at 978-462-9819.