George Skidmore inspired hundreds of children in the Hampton Bays community throughout his life—both on and off the baseball field.In addition to being the longtime owner of Skidmore’s Sports and Styles on East Montauk Highway, a business community staple for the past half century, Mr. Skidmore helped found the Hampton Bays Little League in 1963 and would also serve as a coach for four decades. Those coached by him said he always emphasized two things: how to work as a team and the importance of having fun.
There was never any pressure to win—victories were simply viewed as bonuses, they said.
Many of those former players would go on to work at Mr. Skidmore’s shop part-time as teenagers and, in the case of Rick Martel, would never leave. “I started working here and never left,” said Mr. Martel who quickly became Mr. Skidmore’s right-hand man at the sporting goods store.
As the years passed, Mr. Skidmore slowly handed over more and more of the day-to-day responsibilities to Mr. Martel. And when Mr. Skidmore suffered a stroke last April that eventually landed him at the Westhampton Care Center, Mr. Martel immediately stepped in to fill the void until Mr. Skidmore could return to his familiar spot inside the store.
But Mr. Skidmore, who suffered a brain hemorrhage, was unable to fully recover from the stroke and died on Monday at the Westhampton facility. He was 80.
“He was awesome,” Mr. Martel said of his longtime friend. “He knew the game. He understood the kids and what they were capable of.
“That was the beauty of him,” he continued. “Every kid he had on his team he would take in like family.”
Mr. Martel, who considered Mr. Skidmore his “surrogate dad,” explained that those who played on Mr. Skidmore’s team would often be invited back to his house to play billiards, watch films on baseball, or watch hockey and baseball games on television.
Though he never married and had no children of his own, Mr. Skidmore was a father figure to many of the children who passed through the ranks of the Hampton Bays Little League.
“He was quiet, but he was fun as well,” Mark Strecker of Hampton Bays, one of Mr. Skidmore’s former players who joined the league in 1970 and played three years of baseball, recalled this week. “He could tell a joke; he could laugh. He had quite a way of connecting with a kid.”
In fact, many of his former players looked up to Mr. Skidmore so much that they would later become baseball coaches themselves.
“I’ve coached for 40 years coming up this summer and he is basically the reason why I got into coaching and mentoring kids,” said Mr. Strecker, who also worked at Mr. Skidmore’s store for a clip when he was younger. “His style was not to reinvent the game and make kids play his style of baseball. He just let kids play the game and have fun—with that philosophy he was successful.
“He was a big role model for me, no doubt,” he added.
Others who knew Mr. Skidmore point out that he was instrumental in introducing many who grew up in Hampton Bays, to the game of baseball.
After graduating from Hampton Bays High School in 1953, Mr. Skidmore was approached by Ed Lopez, the physical education teacher at the high school at the time, to help create a summer baseball team for local children. They were successful in their effort and, in 1963, their team became part of the Little League. Two baseball fields—one at Red Creek Park and another at the Hampton Bays Middle School—now bear Mr. Skidmore’s name, recognition for a lifetime of service to the sport and, more important, its players.
Although Little League baseball was a big part of Mr. Skidmore’s life—he even preferred watching Little League baseball to the pro teams, survivors said—it was not the only way he connected with his community.
Wayne Allen, a former deputy supervisor in Southampton Town in the 1980s who now lives in Saratoga Springs, met Mr. Skidmore through the Hampton Bays Little League. In addition to teaching him the ins and outs of America’s pastime, Mr. Skidmore also inspired Mr. Allen to eventually enter the world of politics.
“I don’t have one bad memory or thought about George over the 50 years that I knew him,” said Mr. Allen, explaining that Mr. Skidmore inspired him to join the Southampton Kiwanis Club when he was older. “If you talk to people in Hampton Bays you will never hear anyone say anything bad about George.”
Perhaps one of the best things about Mr. Skidmore, according to Mr. Allen, is the way he took care of Mr. Martel and his family. “He took Rick Martel under his wing and he adopted him and his family and took care of them,” he said. “George took care of him.”
Though he has no blood relatives remaining, Mr. Skidmore is survived by those closest to him: Mr. Martel, his wife, Deborah, and their sons, Ricky and Danny.
When he was not on a baseball field or inside his shop, Mr. Skidmore could usually be found doing something to give back to his hometown. For his generosity, he was awarded the George F. Hixon Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Southampton Kiwanis Club, and was also presented with a similar honor by the Southampton Rotary Club. Additionally, he was named grand marshal of the Hampton Bays St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2012 and was an inaugural member of the Hampton Bays Hall of Fame in 2015.
Though devastated to learn about the loss of his “last best friend,” Mr. Allen stressed that Mr. Skidmore led a long, happy and fruitful life.
“I’m kind of down,” Mr. Allen said. “But it’s that point in life—he knew it was coming.”
Services for Mr. Skidmore will be held at the J. Ronald Scott Funeral Home on Ponquogue Avenue in Hampton Bays on Thursday, January 5, from 7 to 9 p.m., and Friday, January 6, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.
A funeral mass will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Hampton Bays United Methodist Church, with burial to immediately follow at Good Ground Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to make a donation in Mr. Skidmore’s name to either the Hampton Bays Little League or the Southampton Kiwanis Club.