Keeping Score: Gone but hardly forgotten

Friday, December 29, 2017

Good morning!

Here’s a brief, eclectic and arbitrary compilation of obituaries that caught my eye during the last year, starting with Ralph “Rotten” Papsadore of Dedham. One look at his photo and I felt like I knew the guy. He worked at the Needham post office for 35 years, collected cars and was a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. “A true 1 percenter, Rotten was always the life of the party. He will be fondly remembered by all his numerous lady friends. He is now riding free.” In case you’re wondering, a one percenter is a motorcyclist who gives the other 99 percent a bad name.

Former MLB umpire Steve Palermo, 67, was an Oxford native and Norwich grad who was shot outside a Dallas restaurant in 1991. Well-liked and a marvelous story teller, Palermo recounted the time he was working behind the plate and Lou Piniella objected to a called strike. “Where was that pitch at?” yelled Piniella. The good-natured Palermo straightened up and informed Piniella it was incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition. Piniella stared incredulously at the smiling Palermo and finally barked: “Where was that pitch at, a-hole?” 

Another man in blue, Ken Kaiser, 72, was a former pro wrestler, who umped for 23 years. According to New York Times obit writer Richard Sandomir, when Orioles first baseman Eddie Murray challenged him to a fight, Kaiser took him up on it. “You can even bring your bat, the way you’re swinging,” said Kaiser. 

Deep-voiced Jim Vance, 75, was Washington’s longest-serving television news anchor. His infectious laugh endeared him to D.C. viewers and kept him out of trouble. One night, he couldn’t stop laughing about a model’s mishap on the runway. “This is fashion week in Paris but there was a problem out there today, a woman fell down. … Twice,” said Vance, who looked at the video and cracked up. “Well, you are just tickled by that aren’t you? You try walking in those shoes,” said his female co-anchor. Vance gasped and replied, “First of all baby, I got enough meat on me that it’s all right!”

Jim Nabors, 87, better known as PFC Gomer Pyle, died in Honolulu on Nov. 30. Baby Boomers grew up listening to him exclaim, “Well Golleee…” on the Andy Griffith Show. He was promoted to Lance Corporal Pyle in a special naval ceremony in Honolulu in 2001.  … Patrick Killebrew, 68, died peacefully at home on June 20 after watching his beloved Washington Nationals blow a late-inning lead. Killebrew requested all memorial contribution’s go toward helping the Nationals pay for a relief pitcher. … Lastly, name the Hall of Fame player who was the only pitcher to strike out Ted Williams three times in a game.

Brian Derry forwarded a photo posted by Jerry Thornton of Barstool Sports of a sign directed at the L.A. Lakers’ bench during their game in Boston last month. Derry explained: “The man holding the sign is Curtis Chin, whose parents own The Wok in Deerfield. The usher said the sign was great, and the L.A. bench was aware of it, but he had to take it.”

The sign said in large black lettering: “We make your shoes … You steal our stuff.”

Chin’s message was directed at Lonzo Ball, whose brother LiAngelo Ball was one of three UCLA players caught stealing sneakers from a store during the team’s “goodwill” trip to China. LiAngelo subsequently left UCLA and is playing basketball in Lithuania.

Down the Stretch They Come: The Patriots lost three starters in their 1989 preseason finale — Andre Tippett, Ronnie Lippett and Garin Veris. They finished 5-11 and coach Raymond Berry was fired, replaced by Rod Rust. The Robert Kraft era was still five years hence.

Today’s uber-efficient Patriots are two-deep at every position. They lost Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower and kept on trucking. They faced the Bills who were on an emotional high last week and beat them by 21 points, and they’ll likely cover the 15-point spread today against the Jets.

Odds are they’ll play the Vikings in the Twin Cities on Feb. 4. They’re 4-0 versus Minnesota since 2002, when Tom Brady was in his first full season.

Any change in the NFL power elite won’t be in the guise of Case Keenum and the Vikings.

The timing will be perfect. The Red Sox equipment van is scheduled to leave Boston the day after the Super Bowl.

The Northern Illinois football team is sponsored by the Mega Grande Laundromat of De Kalb. Yes, a laundromat got national airtime during Tuesday’s Quick Lane Bowl from Detroit.

In the 1970s, Minuteman Dry Cleaners sponsored UMass football on WTTT (640 AM). Ted Peene did the play-by-play, Bill Carty did the color, and yours truly did the stats.

Those were the days of sitting in the back of Peene’s black Cadillac en route to Kingston and Storrs. Before each game, Peene opened his briefcase, retrieved a black-and-white photo of a URI cheerleader — a Ramette — and taped it to the press booth window for inspiration.

SQUIBBERS: Sports Illustrated is going biweekly. “Revamping our schedule (and) creating a less-is-more opportunity,” was the editors’ unconvincing explanation to the readers. … The Pinstripe Bowl’s sponsor (New ERA) provided a fitting gift for players and coaches at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. “We got the nicest jackets I’ve ever had in my life,” said BC defensive coordinator Jim Reid. “It could be 55 million degrees below zero, I’m gonna be warm.” Iowa won 27-20 despite gaining only 200 yards of total offense against the Eagles’ defense. … Trivia Answer: Jim Bunning, who won 224 games with the Tigers, Phillies and Pirates. … Not sure how I could’ve made it through the holidays without listening to Frank Zappa’s Christmas album. … Santa’s sending me a new crystal ball for next year’s bowl picks. Sending one for Saratoga, too. … Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield told ESPNU that Georgia defensive lineman Roquon Smith got ahold of his cell phone number and texted him saying “he’s gonna hit me harder than the Fayetteville police.” … I can’t find anything good about winter or the cold, so this must do: “Plant carrots in January and you’ll never have to eat carrots.” Oh, and Happy New Year a day at a time.


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.