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Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Swinging for a dream

Good morning!

The long odds of playing in next month’s U.S. Open were reduced significantly this week for Greenfield native Josh Hillman who shot a 2-under-par 70 at the Schuyler Meadows Club in Loudonville, N.Y. The course was one 111 playing venues where 10,127 golfers began the process of trying to qualify for next month’s Open at Pinehurst, N.C.

“The odds are long,” the U.S. Golf Association says on its website, “but the qualifying process gives everyone with a dream a chance to play in the national championship.”

A field of 60 golfers teed off at Schuyler Meadows and Hillman’s score tied him for second with Chistopher DeForest. The low medalist was Bryan Bigley, whose 8-under 64 was a course record. They and 522 others advanced to the Sectionals that will be played at 10 courses throughout the U.S., plus Japan and England.

Hillman’s next challenge is in Purchase, N.Y., where he’ll be going up against an even stronger field of about 50 golfers who will compete in 36 holes of stroke play at the Old Oaks Country Club and the Century Country Club on June 2.

A Greenfield High School grad, Hillman is head pro at Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown and head coach of the Williams College golf team.

“The U.S. Open is the biggest golf event in the country and I’m one step closer,” wrote Hillman. “I’ve been playing well lately and this is very exciting.”

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Jeff Hampton played goalie for the Tech School in the mid-1980s. He was a quiet kid, polite and thoughtful. He grew up, married and had a family. The last time we met he was beyond sad, his daughter Alexandria had cancer. She fought the disease long and hard until the day she passed away two weeks ago.

Her family needs financial help, paying bills that arrive with uncaring regularity. Five- and 10-dollar donations add up, and checks can be made payable to the Hampton Family Fund c/o People’s United Bank, 45 Federal St., Greenfield, MA. 01301.

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Shelburne’s Skip Smith works the TV camera in the Tampa Bay dugout and saw a silver lining the night pitching coach Jim Hickey was ejected for arguing a checked swing. “Hickey always helps himself to my bag of roasted peanuts. Finally I had the whole bag to myself.”

The 60-something Smith was raised in West County where he spent summer days in the Hole and at Cricket Field. He was in Washington this week with his daughter and decided to make a long overdue side trip. “I visited three boys from the ‘Falls, Tucker Looney, my cousin Ronnie Wissman and my service mate Jimmy Palmeri. Jimmy and I knew each other since kindergarten. We were drafted together. All three are inscribed on the Vietnam Wall.”

Never forget, can’t forget.

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Friday night’s gullywasher at Berkshire East was all the better for Brian Carney’s Bone Frog Challenge. The brutal nine-mile course is rigged with three dozen obstacles meant to thwart but not stop its participants.

“You will get muddy. You will get beat up. You will be exhausted. But you will finish.” Carney recruited several of his Navy Seal buddies to help fulfill the mantra that no man or woman will be left behind.

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ESPN’s “30-for-30” segment about the Detroit Pistons includes a classic Johnny Most soundbite from bygone days: “We’re starting to see the bang-bang stuff now, Rodman is all over Bird and there is a VIOLENT, VIOLENT KNOCKDOWN BY LAIMBEER! OH! THE YELLOW, GUTLESS WAY THEY DO THINGS HERE!”

Most called Celtics games for 38 years until 1990 and was a show in himself, a gravel-voiced craftsman who referred to Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland as “McFilthy” and “McNasty” and called Kareem Abdul Jabbar “Kareem Puff.”

He was a wizard in the smoke-filled arenas but nothing to look at in person. I saw him once in a McDonald’s across from North Station, frail and gray with a large bandaid over his hand.

I said hello. He nodded, quiet, staring at his coffee, not wanting to be bothered. Two hours later he was across the street at the Boston Garden working listeners into a lather. The coffee had kicked in, and it was showtime.

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“Eddie Gaedel,” was Rico Petrocelli’s answer when asked to name the best short player in baseball.

The 3-foot-7 inch Gaedel made one plate appearance and walked leading off the bottom of the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Sportsman’s Park on August 19, 1951. It was just as St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck Jr. had planned it. Veeck was the grandmaster of promotions, the man who introduced bobble head doll nights and exploding scoreboards.

He’d signed Gaedel to a standard player’s contract and paid him $100 to go into a batter’s crouch with an inch-and-a-half strike zone. The crowd roared, the next day in the New York Times Arthur Daley huffed it was “an ignoble burlesque of a noble sport.”

Veeck couldn’t have cared less what the Times thought. He wrote several books including one about owning Suffolk Downs called “Thirty Tons a Day,” a reference to all the horse manure that was in and out of the stalls.

Gaedel’s jersey with the number 1/8 on the back is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. A heavy drinker, he died after a Chicago bar fight in 1961. The pitcher on the day he batted, Bob Cain, drove 300 miles and was the only major leaguer to attend his funeral.

Petrocelli said that 5-foot-4 Fred “The Flea” Patek and 5-foot-5 Albie Pearson were both good players, “But the best is (Dustin) Pedroia. They list him at 5-8 but he’s really about 5-6.”

Pedroia is clutch, fearless and indestructible. He leads the Red Sox in games played, at bats, runs, hits, doubles and extra base hits. Without him the Red Sox are goners.

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Urban Meyer thinks the Oakland Raiders did well taking outside linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick, telling ESPN’s Colin Cowherd: “The kid from (the University of) Buffalo is the best player we faced. This kid was a freak. He disrupted the entire game.”

Mack had seven solo tackles, two-and-a-half sacks and a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown against Ohio State. A few weeks later he had two solo tackles, one sack and an interception against UMass.

Pats fans will get a look at Mack when the Raiders play at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 21.

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The Chicago Bears have signed Jordan Lynch as an unrestricted free agent and will try him at running back. Lynch is the versatile Northern Illinois quarterback who demolished UMass with 633 yards of total offense in back-to-back routs of UMass. “Whatever I can do to help the team out,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ll run down the field on special teams.”

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Squibbers: Tickets for the pre-season “friendly” between Liverpool and Roma at Fenway Park on July 23 are priced between $30 and $150. ... The demand for Red Sox tickets plummets for Sunday 8:05 p.m. games. A grandstand seat in Section 27 for tonight’s game versus the Tigers cost $84.50 on StubHub; tomorrow night virtually the same seat in the same section is $36.65. ... John Lackey is 15-15 since returning from Tommy John surgery. ... Josh Beckett ended his 14 game winless streak on Tuesday when he beat the Marlins on Yasiel Puig Bobble Head Doll Night. ... Going into last night’s game Jarrod Saltalamacchia was in the throes of 0-for-23 slump, his average dropping from .310 to .250. ... Yanks skipper Joe Giradi on getting tossed by umpire Jerry Layne on Tuesday: “I didn’t say nothin!” ... In the same game, Mets starter Zach Taylor had a six run lead with one out in the fifth inning but was yanked after 118 pitches, opening the door for reliever Daisuke Matsuzaka to record his first win of the season. ... Tom Murphy of Stuart, Florida, forwards sage wisdom from John Wooden: “When opportunity comes, it is too late to prepare.” ... Brooks Robinson turns 76 tomorrow. Greenfield native Steve Kramer will long remember the day he asked for the great third baseman’s autograph. “He signed and asked me where I was from. Then he gave me the ball back and thanked me for asking. Amazing, 100 percent class.”

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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