Chris Kane and Dennis Baker have a lot in common.
Both are Ashland High graduates and both were three-sport stars in football, basketball and baseball. And, after their college days, they both pursued careers in teaching and coaching.
The similarities don’t end there. They both became athletic directors — Baker at Bellingham High and Kane at Keefe Tech. They’re both married, they reside in Ashland and Baker is the father of two sons while Kane is the father of two daughters.
This month, they’ll be linked again when they’re inducted into the Ashland High Athletic Hall of Fame. The ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2 p.m. at the Laborers Training Center function hall in Hopkinton.
Baker will be entering the Hall of Fame in two categories —as a three-sport athlete and also as a member of Ashland’s 1966 state title baseball team.
A 1966 graduate, Baker excelled in baseball, football and basketball before heading off to the University of Maryland on a baseball scholarship. He was a two-way end in football, a center in basketball and a first baseman in baseball. A Dual County League all-star in football and baseball, Baker was the sixth man on the 1964 hoop squad that lost to Holliston in the state finals. In 1966, he helped Ashland win a state crown in baseball by defeating Norton. The Clockers finished the 1966 season with a 20-2 record.
“I was surprised and humbled when I found out I was nominated for the Hall of Fame,’’ Baker said. “And, when I was informed that I was voted in as a player and as a member of the state title baseball team, that is such an honor. It’s so meaningful and special.’’
Baker has fond memories of his coaches and teammates on the state title squad. “It’ll be an incredible feeling to be inducted with so many quality players,’’ he noted. “Clem Spillane and Al Adams were terrific coaches and I greatly respected all my teammates. We had excellent chemistry and a sense of togetherness. And, we had a lot of fun. Winning a state title was without doubt the highlight of my athletic days at Ashland High.’’
The scholarship to play baseball at Maryland was no fluke. Baker, who could hit for power, batted .500 in Ashland’s cleanup slot as a junior. He was a league and all-scholastic choice and was selected to play in the Hearst All Star game at Fenway Park. His DCL batting average was .480. Later on, Baker coached Ashland’s varsity baseball team for 14 years, compiling 200-plus victories and winning three Tri Valley League championships. He was named Boston Globe Coach of the Year in 1990.
At Bellingham High, Baker taught physical education and was the Blackhawks athletic director for 15 years. He coached varsity baseball for Bellingham and he’s still the school’s softball coach. His 2014 softball team posted a 25-1 record and captured the state title by beating Grafton. During his tenure as athletic director, Bellingham won three Super Bowls and captured state titles in basketball, field hockey, softball and baseball. Baker was on staff at Bellingham High for 41 years.
Kane said he was humbled and shocked when he learned of his upcoming induction. “I’m honored but I’m not sure I’m worthy,’’ Kane said. “So many great athletes came before me, and when I played, there were plenty of outstanding athletes. For me, personal success takes a back seat to the teams I played on. The 1977 football team that lost to Hull in the Super Bowl was without doubt the most incredible group I was associated with.’’
Before the bowl game, Kane quarterbacked Ashland to a 20-0 victory over Medway, clinching the Tri Valley League title. The Clockers finished the regular season at 10-0. The Medway game was on a Friday night and Kane called the atmosphere “magical.’’
“Both teams were 8-0 and the winner was going to the Super Bowl,’’ said Kane, who’s been Keefe Tech’s athletic director for the last 12 years. “It was rare back then to play football on a Friday night. The crowd numbered about 7,200. Fans parked at two supermarkets and got to the field by shuttle buses. I remember seeing thousands of fans during warm-ups and when I came out of the game with about a minute to go, I saw the enormity of the crowd. People were lined up eight deep at the barriers.’’
Kane threw two 40-yard touchdown passes for a 14-0 first-quarter lead and the Clockers defense did the rest to thwart Medway.
Kane credits his coach (the late Scooch Giargiari) for Ashland’s success in 1977. “He was an offensive genius,’’ Kane said. “He was all about creativity.’’
Kane was dynamic that year, throwing 11 touchdown passes and rushing for six others. He was a TVL all-star in football and basketball and was Ashland’s MVP in basketball.
“My years at Ashland High were so memorable and rewarding,’’ he said. “I had good coaches and excellent teammates.’’
Kane recalled the close-knit bond the 1977 football team had. When Gary Gilman, one of the team’s captains who played linebacker and guard, was struggling in his battle to beat cancer, Kane and teammates Jim Norton, Kevin Maloney and Dale Adams traveled to Florida to be with Gilman, who died at 56 two days after their visit.
“The friendships we had weren’t casual,’’ he emphasized. “We wanted to be with Gary.’’
Kane, now 58, played left field and hit .300 in baseball. A strong defensive player, he helped the Clockers go to a pair of tourney games. “We went 13-5 my senior year and I remember beating Hopkinton with a triple that scored the winning run in a 1-0 game,’’ Kane noted. The TVL’s second leading scorer in basketball his senior year, the 5-foot-11, 160-pounder averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds and his 30-point outing against Medway as a senior was a career-high.
“After high school, I started at QB all four years for Framingham State where we had three plus-.500 seasons,’’ Kane said.
Joining the Keefe faculty in 1985, Kane started as a phys-ed instructor, later coached its football squad for 14 years and became athletic director in 2006. His 1994 team went 10-0 and beat Ashland, 15-14, that year. His coaching record in football was 77-54-3.
Kane plans to finish this school year as Keefe Tech’s A.D. then retire in June. Baker retired as Bellingham’s A.D. in 2016.
Chris Kane and Dennis Baker have strong Ashland roots and their athletic backgrounds are closely linked.
And, there’s another attribute that connects their careers — both are worthy Hall of Fame choices.