William J. “Chick” Leahey ’52
Longtime Bates coach believes passionately in the lessons of sports
It is entirely fitting, given his decades of expert coaching and mentoring of generations of Bates athletes, that Chick Leahey is inducted into the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society in the same ceremony with Ted Beal, who played baseball for Chick as a Bates freshman fifty years ago this spring. Their friendship, common dedication to Bates and to the lifelong values of sportsmanship and competition is a signal example of the purposes of the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society.
Chick was an outstanding student-athlete at Lewiston High School, chosen as captain of the school’s undefeated football team and state champion baseball team. Following graduation, Chick served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater in World War II. After his discharge from the Marines, he played in the New York Yankee baseball organization for several years.
He entered Bates in the fall of 1948, where, because of his affiliation with professional baseball, he was ineligible to participate on varsity teams. He did, however, work as an assistant coach of successful Bates freshman football and baseball squads. He also played for the Auburn Asas baseball team, which won championships in 1950 and 1951 when he was the player-manager of the team.
Chick graduated from Bates in 1952 in economics and earned his master’s degree in physical education from Columbia. He returned to Bates in 1955 as head baseball, assistant football and freshman basketball coach. Chick and his wife Ruth raised four children, two of whom are Bates alumni.
For over 35 years, Chick was an exemplary coach and mentor for Bates athletes. A passionate advocate for the Bates philosophy of excellence in academics and in competition, he saw that his players honed more than just their athletic skills. With his cheerful, easy-going demeanor and willingness to chat, he used athletics to teach them lessons for life: the values of discipline, hard work, leadership, innovation, sportsmanship, and respect for the opinions of others.
Always thinking of the athletes’ best interests, Chick engaged in a major study of the detrimental health hazards of tobacco on college baseball athletes. In 1986, during his tenure as president of the New England Baseball Coaches Association, Chick launched a nationwide campaign to prohibit smokeless tobacco by collegiate players. His data, coupled with the national respect for Coach Leahey, was instrumental in the eventual ban on tobacco products in all collegiate sports.
His squads won several CBB titles, ECAC Division II and III combined championships, and appeared in post-season games. In 1984, the Bobcats’ cumulative batting average and runs-per-game put them at the top of all of the nation’s Division III schools. As a result of his individual and team successes and contributions to the sport, he was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame and the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame, and Bates honored his service with the naming of Leahey Field.
Chick Leahey has demonstrated an extraordinary passion for Bobcat athletics and a lifelong commitment to the development of scholar-athletes. His contributions to Bates and the sport have been invaluable, and reflect the very best qualities of collegiate athletics. Here with his colleagues and former players, and looking back over a lifetime in athletics that spans parts of eight decades, we are honored to share Coach Leahey’s induction into the Bates Scholar-Athlete Society.