Keeping Score: Tracking the Willis legacy

  • Ray Willis was a teacher, coach and athletic director at Franklin Tech from 1976 until 1993. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Friday, June 01, 2018

Greenfield’s Allison Weeden hopes that the powers that be at Franklin County Technical School will name the school’s new track in honor of her 89-year-old grandfather Ray Willis. 

Willis was a teacher, track coach and athletic director at Tech from the day it opened on Sept. 8, 1976, until he retired in 1993. He was instrumental in getting students from the classrooms and shops out onto the playing fields. “He helped jump-start athletics at Franklin Tech,” said Weeden.

An Air Force veteran, Willis met his wife Doreen in London and they raised Allison from when she was an infant until she left for college. The 28-year-old Weeden credits her grandfather with getting her up off her feet and into her running shoes.

“After I graduated from Westfield State in 2013, I began running with coach,” she said. “Our first race was the Don Maynard 5K.”

According to Tech athletic director Joe Gamache, “The track is part of a much larger school improvement project” that will put it on a par with other Franklin County schools.

Gamache doubles as the football coach, and his well regarded program will compete under the Friday night lights this fall. The spectating experience will be enhanced by more bleachers, a new scoreboard and who knows, maybe even a bigger press box.

But what matters to Weeden is her grandfather’s legacy in relation to the school. “Track was his real love,” she said. “I truly believe it would just be just the right thing to recognize his contributions to FCTS.”

The long-shuttered Maple Valley Ski Area on Route 30 in Dummerston, Vt., was sold last month for $745,000, according to the Brattleboro Reformer and Brattleboro Commons.

Commons news editor Randolph T. Holhut reported that according to the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, 119 ski areas have closed in Vermont since the 1940s. “Most were small-town hills served by rope tows,” wrote Holhut, “but southern Vermont has seen the closure of once-popular resorts such as Ascutney Mountain, Dutch Hill, Hogback, Prospect Mountain and Timber Ridge since the 1980s.

Timber Ridge, wasn’t that a racehorse?

Among Franklin County’s little ski areas was Mount Mohawk, owned by Bement school teacher Tom Falcon.

Golden Knights fans filed out listening to Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” on Wednesday, but livelier pre-game festivities included a “Game of Thrones” theme. “It’s the entertainment capital of the world and that’s how they do it,” said Vegas insider Mark Durant. “The team has an entire entertainment department. During the season they had Cirque de Soliel shows between periods.”

A quintet of Franklin County Hockey Association alumni are golfing today in Danbury, Conn. Brock Hines, John Organ and Tim and Ted Hanley will be teeing off at Richter Park Golf Course and Dan Akey will be driving the cart. “Not sure if Dan’s bringing the sticks up from Tampa,” wrote Hines. “He’s a Bolts fan —  another front runner!”

In his third season since O’s GM Dan Duquette re-upped him for seven years at $23 million per season (baseball-reference.com), Chris Davis has four home runs and 15 RBIs in two months.

Duquette was the Red Sox GM until John Henry bought the team, and Derek Lowe told Jerry Remy about the time Duquette called him that after his 1997 trade for him. “He thought I was a lefthander,” said the right-handed Lowe. “He told me, ‘You’re a big tall left-handed sinker ball guy.”

Lowe came off as a big, goofy kid, but he was 70-55 with 85 saves for the Red Sox. After his Hall of Fame induction, Remy reminded him of the time he thought the Red Sox were rooting for him to lose so they could put him in the bullpen. “Yeah, I was all over the place, Jerry. Me and mental strength weren’t the best of friends.”

BC High right-hander Mike Vasil withdrew his name from Monday’s MLB draft and will enroll at the University of Virginia. That leaves UConn southpaw Tim Cate as the likely first New Englander to be taken according to draftsite.com.

Southpaw Jake Groome, taken by Boston with the 12th overall pick last year, underwent Tommy John surgery two weeks ago. Some simply want to get it over with and come back strong while they’re still young. 

SQUIBBERS: NBC’s Doc Emrick on the Caps-Knights series: “It’s been ornery and mean-spirited … all the reasons that make it fun to watch hockey.” … Running back Saquon Barkley threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. “I was a little nervous,” said the Giants’ first round pick. “I didn’t think I’d be because (at Penn State) I played in front of 110,000.” …  Boston clothier Joseph Abboud gets plenty of face time seated behind home plate. Maybe it’s in his ad contract. … “We’re efforting to find out why Pedroia was a late scratch,” said NESN’s Dave O’Brien on Thursday. You mean like, trying to find out? …  The YES Network honed in on former heavyweight Gerry Cooney and actress Lorraine Bracco (Goodfellas, The Sopranos) in the $800 blues at Yankee Stadium recently. … The 1967 “Impossible Dream Team” Red Sox were 100-1 to win the pennant; the Vegas Golden Knights were as high as 500-1 to win the Stanley Cup. … Tom Fornelli of cbssports.com reported that Matt Ruhle and Matt Campbell are the two best college grid coaches against the spread since 2013. Ruhle (Temple and Baylor) is 39-22 ATS and Campbell (Toledo and Iowa State) is 36-21-2. … Pioneer Valley Regional School’s cinder track could use a makeover, but a million bucks says it won’t happen. … LeBron James has scored 663 points in the playoffs, in case you’re wondering. The guy simply fell out of Marvel Comics, wouldn’t you say? … Rangers pitcher Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon after being hit in the gut by a 102-mph line drive: “I have a lot of big belly, so I can take it.” …  Astros pitcher Justin Verlander on getting booed at Yankee Stadium: “I’ve come to think of it as a term of endearment.” … The Vegas line on the NBA finals is $650 to win $100 on the Warriors. “That’s like taking a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament,” said SXM’s Chris Russo. “A snorefest.” … The late Ace Kelley hated me for writing it, but in the spirit of good humor and apropos to the Ray Willis item, a Texas A&M publicist once said, “The only thing more boring than track is field.” … Here’s Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling’s story about a light-hitting utility player named Dion James. One day James brought his son to the ballpark. “Hit a home run for me Daddy!” his son exclaimed. “You got the wrong daddy,” his father replied.


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.