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Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Fade to Green

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Former Deerfield Academy teacher, administrator, coach and Mr. Everything Bob Merriam passed away last week at age 90. Merriam was interred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Deerfield, a pastoral burial ground that holds the remains of many of the school’s iconic figures, including legendary headmaster Frank L. Boyden.

The eulogy was delivered by Peter Ives, the retired senior pastor of the First Churches of Northampton and a Deerfield graduate. He told of how Merriam nurtured him from being a scared kid on a strange campus into a confident student athlete, and spoke of Merriam as the de facto headmaster during the late stages of the Boyden tenure.

It was a traditional Protestant ceremony; guests were given the lyrics and asked to sing Thomas Ken’s 1674 song “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” and the service ended with a Navy Honor Guard playing taps and presenting Merriam’s wife Mary with the U.S. flag.

Afterward, Merriam’s colleague Jim Smith noted all the other Deerfield faculty members who are buried at the base of Pocumtuck Mountain. “All those guys were men’s men. A lot of them had served in World War II.”

Merriam himself was aboard the USS Boston that was assigned to the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor. After the war he returned to Dartmouth and graduated in 1948. His obituary reported he is the only four-year, three-letter athlete in the college’s history.

Merriam wasn’t a big man; it was his ferocity and intense persona that made him excel in sports and put the fear of God into wayward students like myself. “When I first met him I thought he was a son of a bitch,” said Smith, “but then I learned he had a heart of gold.”

“He put on a crabby face but it didn’t take long for people to see through it,” smiled his wife.

Merriam was aptly nicknamed “Frowner” by students. His temper was legendary, but neither he nor Smith were bullies. “We were a lot alike: Don’t let ’em off the hook, but let ’em know you’re still with ’em.”

It was a philosophy that prompted many to return on Tuesday to say goodbye.

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Colrain’s Mike Ryan made his national television debut this week on NBC’s “Pro Football Talk,” co-hosted by Mike Florio and Dave Briggs. In February, Ryan retired as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head trainer after 26 NFL seasons. Normally trainers are too old for TV work when they retire, but Ryan hasn’t hit 50 and NBC wants to tap into his behind-the-scenes knowledge.

Once the season starts he’ll be an analyst on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, breaking down injury reports and relaying whatever info he can glean from the sidelines. It’s similar to how FOX uses former NFL official Mike Pereira to explain rules interpretations during games.

It’s the perfect gig for a father of two young children who wanted out of the sunup-to-sundown grind of the NFL.

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Lou and Steve Bordeaux have lined up Paul D’Amato to be at next Saturday’s Hockeyday at the Coliseum in West Springfield. D’Amato is the actor who played Tim McCracken, aka “The Hook”, in the movie “Slapshot” that starred Paul Newman. McCracken was the Syracuse Bulldogs’ bug-eyed goon who could “carve a man’s eye out with the flick of a wrist.”

“It was interesting the way we found him,” said Lou Bordeaux, a Bernardston resident who’s on the town’s board of selectmen. “We sponsored an over-70 team at the Senior Games in Worcester and Steve spotted him wearing a Syracuse Bulldogs T-shirt, so he struck up a conversation.”

D’Amato will join former New England Whalers goalie Bruce Landon and right wing Mark Heaslip who captained the 1974-75 Calder Cup champions.

The event starts at noon at the Food Court behind the Big E. For more info, call the Springfield Hockey Heritage Society at 413-650-7447 or find them on Facebook.

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Steve Kramer showed his hometown allegiance by attending all of Post 81’s playoff games in Eastern Mass. Kramer lives in Medford, works in Wellesley and trekked to Sudbury, even for the rainout. “Nobody there so I hit a bucket at the driving range and went home.”

Attendance, he said, averaged about 400 a game and admission was $5. “That’s half an inning at Fenway Park.”

Kramer’s final communique came Thursday night at 7 p.m. when he texted: “Game just ended. Lost 4-3. Great season.”

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Ben Cherington’s trading blitz may have altered the team’s chemistry enough to shake Xander Bogaerts out of his season-long funk. Last week in Tampa, Bogaerts was called out on strikes, dropped his bat at home plate and took off his batting gloves.

Up in the broadcast booth, Don Orsillo was stunned. “Bogaerts thinks he’s the last out and he’s not. He’s confused.”

“Yeah, that’s where his head’s at right now,” chimed sidekick Jerry Remy. “He had no clue ... thought the inning was over.”

Bogaerts has eight weeks to turn his season around, or he might be the next player on the trading block.

Meanwhile, it appears that Jackie Bradley Jr.’s destined to be a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement, as his .216 batting average and four home runs in 408 at-bats would attest.

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Last year on July 31 the Yankees were 56-51, one game better than this year. They spent $60 million for free agents Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, yet fangraphs.com gives them a 13.6 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Mariners, with former Yank Robinson Cano playing second base and batting .327, have a 25 percent chance.

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Ross Tucker played in one game for the New England Patriots, but he remembers it well. It was 2005, he was four years out of Princeton and was playing center. “We broke huddle and Tom looked me in the eye and said, “Okay Ross, great snap. You and me first.”

“I was like a little kid... ‘Okay! Okay!’”

Tucker’s a good NFL analyst because he’s smart and he doesn’t mind rubbing people the wrong way. On SiriusXM this week he told sidekick Bob Papa, “This whole Manziel thing couldn’t be much worse. He’s been slow learning the playbook, and it seems from the quotes I’m seeing that the players are less than eager for him to be named the starting quarterback.”

Strong words, but nothing compared to what Bills’ Hall of Famer Andre Reed said in New York Magazine: “You’re not Johnny Football, you’re Johnny Rookie Bitch.”

As the late Pete Brulotte would say, “Why don’t you tell us how you really feel?”

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Squibbers: Vegasinsider.com lists the Minutemen as 14-1/2-point underdogs against Boston College in four weeks. ... Sad to hear that former AHL vice president Gordie Anziano passed away. Anziano’s cheerful presence at Springfield hockey games was a refreshing counterpoint to his boss Jack Butterfield’s stony reticence. ... Tom Brady said of Darrelle Revis this week: “He’s a lot like me, he gets pissed off when a ball gets caught on him.” ... Actor James Garner’s obit reported that he drove the Indy 500 pace car three times, the last being in 1985. Other notables to have led the pack around the Brickyard have included Marty Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Colin Powell, Chuck Yeager, Jay Leno and ABC newscaster Robin Roberts. ... At Foster’s Supermarket recently, Rick Roy mentioned there wasn’t the usual ‘Good morning!’ in a recent column. Turns out he was reading the Monadnock Speedway feature that was in the Life & Times section, where it’s not in the contract. ... Better late than never, kudos to local umpires Artie Burke and Dick Hilliard for working the Division I high school baseball final between Norwood and Leominster at Holy Cross. ... On Friday’s Dan Patrick Show, Peter Gammons said that Ben Cherington is one of the top GMs in baseball. “He has no ego and that allows the three owners to be the stars, which they love.” ... The Dodgers gave away free microphones to the fans after Vin Scully announced he’d be returning for a 66th season next year. The 86-year-old Scully has called 21 Dodgers’ no-hitters and filled air time with casual remarks like, “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not illumination.” He is a living, walking, national historic landmark.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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