Carlton Willey Passes Away at 78

Updated 5 years ago

Cherryfield native Carlton Willey, who played 8 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1958-1965, passed away due to complications from lung cancer Monday night, according to family members. He was 78-years-old.Friends and family say his heart was always in Cherryfield. “He liked Cherryfield, he was a Cherryfield boy,” says lifelong friend Harold Sprague.Carlton Willey grew up here in Cherryfield doing what most kids around here did in the 1930’s and 40’s: playing baseball. “If there was no field out there we’d go out and play,” says Sprague “there might have been an old barn out there for a backstop, something like that, we played baseball all the time, there wasn’t anything else to do just play baseball.”Known as “Cardy” to his close friends it wasn’t hard to see his talents on the baseball field as well as off. Willey used his baseball prowess to his advantage at an early age according to his cousin Joanne Willey. “We like to have Carlton go up to the Cherryfield Fair with us because he would win all the prizes,throwing the baseball, knocking the bottles off the shelves and then the fair people soon found out what we were up to and that was the end of that.”It was after Willey left Cherryfield for the bright lights of Major League Baseball that he helped to put Cherryfield on the map. He was named National League Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News in 1958 while pitching for the Milwaukee Braves. Willey also appeared in the 1958 World Series where he recorded 2 strikeouts against the New York Yankees. “Watching him in that World Series game I was working in a law office in Massachusetts,” says Joanne Willey, “we closed the office in the afternoon, and we watched on a little black and white T.V. and my boss was quite impressed that I knew a Major League pitcher.” The Braves would eventually lose the series in seven games to the Yankees. Willey also made history in September of 1963 while pitching for the New York Mets. In a 4-2 Mets victory over the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, Willey retired the side in order getting all three Alou brothers, Jesus, Matty, and Felipe consecutively. It was the first time in Major League history three siblings had bat consecutively, and were retired, in the same inning. Willey retired shortly after breaking his jaw during a game. He played 8 seasons for the Braves and the New York Mets. He returned to Cherryfield full of stories to tell. “He played with a lot of great players,” says Joanne Willey, “there were Casey Stengel stories, Hank Aaron stories, and he was always willing to talk to anybody.”Everyone agrees, Willey ramined humble to the very end. “He was just amazed that people cared enough to come out,” says Kathy Upton, President of the Cherryfield Historical Society, “he couldn’t understand, after all these years that anybody really cared about who Carlton Willey really was, or even remembered him.”While you may be hard pressed to find anyone who knew Carlton Willey that didn’t love him, his close friends say: Nobody’s perfect, “Unfortunately for living in Cherryfield he was a Yankees fan” says Joanne Willey, “and those of us who belong in Red Sox nation didn’t forgive him for that.”


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