Athletic Hall of Fame 2014: Carpenter Acceptance Speech

Editor’s note: Dan Carpenter Sr. was inducted into the Williston Northampton Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 7, 2014 during Reunion weekend.  Dan Carpenter, Jr. gave the following acceptance speech during the ceremony.

On behalf of the Carpenter family and with great thanks to the Williston community, I am honored to accept this award in memory of Dan Carpenter. If he were here today, he would likely downplay all the public acknowledgement, but I can assure you that inside he would be immensely proud and deeply touched by the recognition—as well as the opportunity to be among so many friends.

From a very early age, Dan developed a healthy, lifelong interest in sports and physical activity. In the past few months, we have uncovered photographs of a four-year-old boy in his first baseball uniform, baseball in hand and faithful dog by his side. When the older kids in the neighborhood weren’t available to play catch, Dan would throw the ball for the dog to bring back, and they would play for hours. As he got older, pick-up games of all kinds were common in the neighborhood. And when the school system didn’t offer hockey as an organized sport, Dan and a group of high school friends formed a club they called the Maple Leaf Gang. They built a rink on a friend’s tennis court and organized their own games there. And at South Kent School, he lettered in three sports, was captain of the football and baseball teams, and was awarded the trophy for the best all-around athlete in the senior class. As soon as he learned to read, he became an avid fan of the sports page in the newspaper, so he could study every detail in the box scores of his beloved Philadelphia A’s, Green Bay Packers, and Toronto Maple Leafs—a habit he maintained throughout his life.

I’m grateful to the School for bringing to light some of the statistics that surround Dan’s coaching career at Williston, for I wouldn’t know where to begin to find information such as 66 total seasons as a coach, 126 victories in baseball and 162 victories in hockey. And quite honestly, I don’t think he would either. Make no mistake, he was a fierce competitor and keen strategist and thrived on winning any contest he coached. He worked tirelessly to help his athletes improve their skills. But for Dan, coaching wasn’t about scorebooks or records – it was all about the athletes behind those numbers. For sure, he remembered the undefeated football team of 1963 and the impressive 9-2 record of the 1962 hockey team. As the years went on, all the statistics would fade away, and it was memories of the colorful characters and all the little stories about their time together that he often recalled the and cherished the most.

A couple specific stories come to mind. One spring, the baseball team was scheduled to play a game at Wilbraham. The bus developed mechanical difficulties – apparently there was a small engine fire – on the Mass Pike and team had to wait along the side of the highway for a replacement to take them to Wilbraham. In his usual fashion, Dan struck up a friendly conversation with the state trooper who arrived to assist. Learning that the trooper had experience as a semi-pro catcher and knowing that there would be little time for the team to warm up when they eventually reached Wilbraham, Dan convinced the trooper to warm up the starting pitcher while they waited for the new bus. The team did reach the ball field, the pitcher was ready, and Williston won the game.

Jim Hamilton, a Williston legend in the Class of 1961 in his own right who sadly passed away a few months ago, maintained a close friendship with Dan over the years. After their final meeting at the reunion here a year ago, Jim said the following:

Saw Carpy this June at reunion and had a chance to get to him to chat after the throngs parted. He was a great guy, a “Mister Chips of Williston” and a warm friend, always greeting us when coming back to Williston and then bringing up stories I’d forgotten–like the bet we made if we could beat Suffield, he’d buy one of our Labrador’s pups. That brought the pup we had dubbed Arcturus to campus–can’t remember if he renamed him. He was the biggest pup in the litter. And senior year when I sat through sophomore honors algebra to get my board score raised to get into Dartmouth–which he told me I should and I could, and then went about setting up an alumni interview even though many had other ideas where I should go to college. Always asked about my parents, always interested in me and my family. I can’t think about Williston and all the good things that happened there without including him in my thoughts.

That dog remained Arcturus or “Arkie” and was a loyal member of the Carpenter family, and a mascot for more than one Williston team, for years to come all because of a simple bet Dan made as a way of encouraging one of his athletes.

During the past several months, many others who had Dan as a coach and mentor have spoken eloquently about the effect he had on their lives.

Mike Timm said:

My 3 brothers and I all played baseball for Dan and a couple of us had him in the classroom too. Chalk on his face; pipe smoldering in his sport jacket pocket; twinkle in his eye; kindness for everyone. I spent time watching NFL games at his house on Sundays (great doughnuts from Jane), he took me to my first professional hockey game, and taught me to like the Oakland Athletics, and reminded me that you had to swim upriver to reach Dartmouth but only needed to glide downriver to get to Yale.

Steve August said:

I remember the many photos of former Williston players and teams on the wall of his den in his home. How I wished to be among them, for it meant that I would be ever in Carp’s “hall of fame.” Yet, we all know that Carp carried us with him always. He was so instrumental in our lives at Williston. He forgot no one. He had time for every one. And with a little time, he might even call you “Veteran.”

T. J O’Brien said:

Carp was a coach and a man you could never forget. Playing four years of hockey and three years of baseball for a coach like him was quite an experience for an impressionable teenager. But what I will never forget was his compassion when as a freshman Carp had to come to my dorm, wake me, inform me of a death in the family and then drive me home to West Springfield to be with my family. Only a man like Carp could handle that chore.

David Thorne said:

He was a kind, upbeat, unselfish and fun loving mentor to many. He always had a smile in his eyes. The last time I saw Carpy was at a recent reunion. As I was walking away I turned to him and we exchanged silent, secret baseball hand signs, exactly as we had done so many times on Galbraith Field over 50 years ago.

During thirty years at Williston, Dan enjoyed the daily friendship of an amazing group of colleagues. Ray Brown, Al Shaler, Joe Lossone, Charlie Duggan, Bob Couch and Rick Francis and so many others were constant companions and a daily source of inspiration. And Jane was always at his side, keeping him grounded, attending innumerable games, and welcoming students and their families to refreshments in the Dodge Room after contests.

But it was the student-athletes that provided him the greatest inspiration of all. For sure, it was important that they could shoot a puck, field a ground ball, or tackle an opponent on the football field, but for Dan there was so much more. He lived and taught the old-time virtues of good sportsmanship and teamwork and keeping everything in perspective. He endeavored to help those in his charge find their way at an impressionable time by instilling confidence in not only in their athletic ability but also in their potential as productive members of society. And the warm response that he received and the lifelong friendships that developed were his greatest source of ongoing inspiration and joy that he experienced as a coach.

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