Keeping Score: Returning to the scene of the climb

Friday, June 09, 2017

Good morning!

The temperature atop Mt. Washington on Monday was 35 degrees with a 20-degree wind chill. Staff meteorologist Caleb Meute wrote on mountwashington.org: “Winds will ramp up from the southeast with gusts late today through tomorrow approaching hurricane force.”

Why go to the Arctic when the Arctic can come to you?

Conditions will likely be better for next Saturday’s run up the mountain, but events coordinator Lisa Matthews said it wouldn’t really matter. “On a day like (Monday), as long as there’s no ice at the summit and we’re confident everybody’s safe, I would expect we would run the race,” she said.

The 47th Northeast Delta Dental Mt. Washington Road Race is a 7.6-mile slog to the highest peak in the Northeast — 6,288 feet above sea level. The race is “freakishly, unrelentingly uphill” described Runner’s World Magazine.

Each year thousands apply— this year it was 4,000— but only 1,300 are chosen. They pay a $95 entry fee, endure an excruciating climb past the tree line and afterward return to the warm temps, flora and fauna of northern New Hampshire to have a turkey lunch catered by Hart’s Turkey Farm of Merideth, N.H.

Matthews said about 275 volunteers and staffers monitor the race which has an attrition rate of about ten percent.

The race attracts runners worldwide, but just like Boston’s best are Kenyans, Mt. Washington’s pacesetters are from the high climates west of the Mississippi. Joseph Gray, the defending champion and record holder (58:15), hails from Colorado Springs which is 6,035 feet above sea level.

Two years ago, six of the first seven finishers were Coloradans and last year, four of the first 11 hailed from the Centennial State, including women’s winner Kim Dobson. The runner-up, 37-year-old Kim Nedeau of Leverett, finished nearly five minutes off Dobson’s time of 1:09:33.

Dobson and Gray both won $1,000 for their efforts.

This year, race organizers are anticipating a duel between Gray and a physics whiz named Cameron Cogburn, who studied at MIT and holds the fastest bottom-to-top cycling time. On two wheels he finished in 50:48, but against Gray he’ll be testing his mettle off the pedal.

Amy Rusiecki of South Deerfield, and Sara Smiarowski of Sunderland, also finished in the top 100 last year. Ultra-runner Kelsey Allen of Wendell has competed in the Cayuga (N.Y.) Trails 50-miler and the Vermont 50-miler, which should make Mt. Washington feel like a sprint race.

The spotlight, however, will be on 97-year-old George Etzweiler of State College, Pa. who will be making his 12th trek to the top. He’ll be joined by his 71-year-old son Larry, 43-year-old grandson Robert and 19-year-old great grandson Malik.

Etzweiler’s expected to reach the top at about 12:30 p.m. three-and-a-half hours after the starting gun. The former Penn State engineering professor told GQ, “My plans are to run Mt. Washington until I’m 100 and drop dead when I cross the finish line. That would be a nice age to die and a nice place to die.”

“I don’t want that,” said Matthews. “I want George to happily have his turkey dinner.”

Yes George, heaven can wait.

Senate president Stan Rosenberg of the Franklin-Hampshire-Worcester district opposes a bill in the Mass. legislature that would prohibit schools from using “Native American” mascots. 

“It’s really about local standards,” Rosenberg told NPR in Boston.

That should help settle matters in Turners Falls, where residents voted by a 3-to-1 margin to keep the “Indians” nickname.

It was a non-binding resolution, but it sent a message. Kudos to them, and kudos to Rosenberg for trying to keep politics out of sports.

Red Sox fans of a certain age will remember when Jimmy Piersall wore No. 37 and played outfield with Ted Williams and Jackie Jensen.

Piersall, who died on June 3, grew up in Waterbury, Conn. and broke in with the Red Sox in 1950. His New England roots and eccentric behavior made him a fan favorite. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the Boston Globe’s obituary reported that he credited lithium with helping to stabilize his mood swings.

After his baseball career ended, Piersall worked in the broadcast booth for the Rangers and White Sox. He appeared on “What’s My Line” and was a guest in the White House during the Kennedy administration. He often joked that he made more money than his harshest critics. “I’m the gooney bird who walked to the bank,” he said.

The long and informative obituary was written by Globe correspondent Joseph P. Kahn. He claimed that Piersall did an Indian war dance when he played for Cleveland, but what I remember was seeing him do jumping jacks until Ted Williams complained to the homeplate umpire. Piersall was ejected and that’s when he went into his war dance.

The sports community is mourning the loss of Whately’s Gary Stacy, who passed away last month at age 60. Stacy golfed at the Country Club of Greenfield and was a longtime umpire and basketball official. Whenever we crossed paths, his wit and keen sense of how to fix the Red Sox always left me smiling. His friend Doug Couture summed it up with an online message that was posted on the funeral home’s guest book: “Save a seat for me at the Jolly Green Pub buddy. I’ll catch up with you in due time.”

The Greenfield Savings Bank has established a Gary Stacy Memorial Softball Scholarship Fund and contributions can be mailed in care of Kelly Stetson-Adams at 400 Main St., 01301.

They played the Brass Bonanza in Nashville on Tuesday, but the Hartford Whalers’ theme song wasn’t music to the ears of Pierre McGuire.

NBC’s hockey analyst lasted just six months as head coach of the Whale— hired in September, 1993, and fired in May, 1994. The Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs wrote that McGuire, who was 32 years old at the time, played the role of angry coach: “When the hallway curtain opened after a loss in Boston, McGuire was found by the media wildly smashing sticks against the wall. When the door opened after a loss in Pittsburgh, he was seen knocking furniture around the coach's room.”

McGuire grew up in Montreal where his father was a car dealer. According to Wikipedia, the family moved to New Jersey because the French Canadian population was Anglophobic and shunned his dealership.

If Montreal did one good thing, it taught McGuire to love hockey. He played at Hobart College in New York, coached at Babson College in Wellesley and somehow wound up as an assistant coach for the Whalers. Things went awry after he became Hartford’s head coach. After he was axed Jacobs wrote, “General manager Paul Holmgren did more to unify the Whalers than anyone in recent team history. It was more than a great idea. It was justice.”

McGuire’s done well with his job from “Inside the Glass” on NBC. He uses colorful language, unique turns of phrase and his Canadian dialect to entertain the masses. After Craig Smith’s goal put the Preds up 4-1, McGuire chortled, “It was electrifying in here! And it even got louder after he snapped it off the twine!”

McGuire’s found his calling after a rough start in a tough sport.

SQUIBBERS:  Today’s card at Belmont Park has nine graded stakes including the Met Mile, the Manhattan and the Brooklyn Invitational, capped by the Belmont Stakes at 6:37 p.m. Hinsdale OTB will open at 11a.m. for the first race at 11:35 a.m. … Sailors will often get a tattoo of a pig on one foot and a rooster on the other. The two creatures often survived shipwrecks because they were caged in wooden crates. Similarly O’s pitcher Alec Asher has a tattoo that shows 20 black stitches on his inner throwing elbow, a reminder of the Tommy John surgery he had when he was 14 years old. … Fox Sports analyst John Smoltz keyed in on Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts during Fox’s telecast of last week’s Red Sox/O’s game at Camden Yards. Betts had led off with a strikeout. “That’s the Kryptonite, the curveball,” said Smoltz, who noted that Benintendi’s recent 8-for-69 slump was the result of advance scouting. “It was changeups at first, and now they’re beating him with fastballs inside.” Smoltz was inducted into the 2015 Hall of Fame with 213 wins and 154 saves. … Mark Durant reports that Greenfield native and LA Kings trainer Chris Kingsley is going to China. “Saw it on NHL.com that the Kings and Canucks are playing two exhibition games Sept. 21 & 23.” … Before Wednesday’s Red Sox-Yankees’ game, NESN’s Jerry Remy issued an apology. “Last night I made some comments that offended a number of people in our audience, I’d like to apologize to those who were offended.” Remy had said Japanese translators shouldn’t be allowed on the field for mound visits. He also said, “You can make scrambled eggs by the time Masahiro Tanaka delivers the ball to home plate,” but so far no protest from chicken farmers. … Steve Kramer reports that NMH grad Oliver Drake was traded to Milwaukee and is no longer with the Baltimore Orioles, as was reported in this space last week. I’d like to apologize to those who were offended. … Dan Barry’s piece in Sunday’s New York Times described a scene in Worcester federal court before gangster Ralph DeMasi was about to be sentenced. The judge asked if there were any further comments to which DeMasi growled, “Yeah, Kiss my ass.”

The judged hammered the gavel and declared, “Motion denied.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.