Town Crier

In the spring of 1927, the Wil­mington High School base­ball team had a problem. They had almost no pitching staff.

Into the box stepped Har­old Waterman. He turned out to be a fearsome pitcher and a great leader. By the time he graduated, his pitching rec­ord was 7 and 1.

He was dubbed “the one-armed wonder of Wilming­ton.”

Some 60 years before Jim Abbott rose to a major league career with the Angels, Wa­terman pitched a no-hitter in a Boston area semi-pro league. He was a great all-around ballplayer, a remarkable fielder, and lightning-fast on the base­paths. A hit to centerfield was not a hit but an out, if Harold was playing.

His throws were on-target and fast. He would catch a ball, toss it in the air, shake off his glove, catch it again and throw, strong and true. Playing against Mitchell Academy, he ran from center to the left foul line for a sensational game-ending catch.

The Boston Globe wrote in 1925 that he completed nine consecutive games without an error or strikeout at bat, stealing seven bases in eight tries. Waterman batted .345 in 1925 and was never below .300 in his high school ca­reer. He never hit a home run, but frequently went for extra bases.

In one game, he came to the plate with a 3-3 tie. He hit a double into left, then stole third and scored on an error, winning the game.

His remarkable athletic ca­reer is all the more im­pres­sive in that he only had one arm. Waterman, then eight years old, had lost his left arm in 1918 after a ladder collapsed while he was helping his father prune a tree at their yard, near the Walker School. The arm developed gangrene, resulting in amputation at the shoulder.

He grew up with the determination to excel, working out and practicing relentlessly. He entered Wilming­ton High School in 1923, in the old Swain School building. The baseball team play­ed its home games on the Common.

WHS had no yearbook in 1927, but a special edition of the school paper, The Al­pha, captures all that would be found in a yearbook. In the class prophesy, Melvin Cla­rence Putnam predicted a glowing athletic career for him, dubbing him “the one-armed wonder of Wil­ming­ton.”

“Harold is an exceptional lad, a decided asset both morally and physically to the team, willing to work, full of vim, and an inspiration to all to all who have seen him play,” WHS Prin­cipal Melvin Knight told the Globe. “He has shown what a young man can do when he has the will to succeed and refuses to be daunted by obstacles be they ever so great.”

He was captain of the baseball team, and he also play­ed football and basketball. He ran track and was a member of the Athletic As­so­ciation. He was also an exceptional student.

Graduating in 1927, Water­man was offered a contract playing professional baseball for a team in New Jer­sey. He turned that down, choosing to study at North­eastern University, where he immediately became an athletic sensation.

In 1929, he won 30 of 40 games, pitching for the New­ton Town Team, even taking on professional clubs.

In 1931, playing semi-pro for the Somerville Criteri­ons, he pitched a no-hitter against the Somerville Town Team. He had joined the team in July, and by Aug. 8, he had won seven of nine games pitched.

The Waterman family lived on Adams Street for about 25 years. Louis Wa­terman was a mechanic. His wife Lois worked in the school lunch program in the high school. Harold had a sister Ruth, who had an equally compelling story (next week.) Harold Wa­terman died in Bradford (Haverhill) in No­vember 1978.

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