Keeping Score: Greenfield’s John Dobrydnio does it again

Published: 06-16-2023 8:34 PM

Good morning!
We’ve got a lot to get to here as “longtime ink-stained wretch” Howard Kurtz likes to say, so let’s begin with headline writing. Contrary to popular belief, columnists do not write their own headline. Last week a few railbirds thought handicapper John Dobrydnio’s pick in the Belmont was Forte because his name was in 86-point type.

Hopefully those people also bet Forte to place, because Dobrydnio had the winner Arcangelo at 8-to-1 odds. In so doing he swept the Triple Crown, picking Mage in the Kentucky Derby at 16-to-1 and National Treasure in the Preakness at 5-to-2.

The 79-year-old Greenfield resident has owned and trained horses since his youth. He hung out with Shelburne’s Jake Shulda and Greenfield’s Bobby Thompson, both gone now, and summered at Saratoga with his late wife Paula, where they’d kibbitz with their lifelong friend and horse partner Steve Klesaris.

John’s mother worked in the social security office, sent him to Wilbraham-Monson Academy and told him to take care of his brother Myron. Affected by Down syndrome, Myron stayed with John and Paula at their home on Colrain Road until he passed at age 71.

Dobrydnio and I met at Hinsdale Race Track while Greenfield’s John Hickey and I were writing press releases about Elvis sightings and John was in the Upper Club with Frank Iacaboni and his Leominster crew. “Remember Doc? At Saratoga once he was down $40,000. He was walking around with his cigar and I’m up there and I love a horse. Doc was desperate so I gave him the horse. He walked up to the window and I saw him bet $750.

“The horse won and paid $13.20. He tried to give me $1,500, but I refused it. I am not a (bleeping) tout. I hate giving people horses. It’s a lot of work and I can be wrong.”

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How much did Dobrydnio bet on the Belmont?

“Don’t put that in there. Let’s just say I did very well.”

Congratulations John but sharpen your pencil, the Travers is in two months.

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Softball fans weren’t happy with the site venue and pricing for Tuesday’s MIAA Division 5 state softball semifinals. The games were at Westfield State University and admission was $11.50 regardless of age.

I called the MIAA for answers but couldn’t get past the main switchboard, other than a brief conversation with Nathan Bonneau who referred me to Jim Clark, who wasn’t in his office and didn’t return my call or respond to an email.

Those who made the 90-mile round trip from Greenfield or Turners Falls were students and alumni — be-true-to-your-school hardcores and the players’ parents, grandparents and friends.

Most knew from previous experience they’d have to drive through a traffic-congested city with stoplights at nearly every intersection and a hold-onto-your-seat rotary that feels like being at Monadnock.

The softball field was a long walk from the parking lot, and the bathrooms were a long walk from the grandstand. At least one elderly fan needed to use a walker to get there and back.

The flat fee meant it cost $46 for a family of four to get into the game, and fans had to pay online. Anyone who wasn’t connected to Big Brother had to rely on someone who was. 

Friday’s Division 5 final was in Amherst at Sortino Field, which holds 1,000 and is quite possibly the best softball facility in the state. The MIAA should consider using it more often.

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The late Bob Murphy would be proud that the complex named in his honor has become the crucible of softball excellence. Four of the state’s top 15 seeds in Div. 5 this year were from Franklin County — Greenfield, Turners Falls, Franklin Tech and Frontier, and regardless of what happened Friday at Sortino Field, the state champion hails from Franklin County.

Baseball’s youth feeder systems also deserve a shout-out considering that Pioneer, Frontier and Greenfield all advanced deep into the MIAA Div. 5 tourney. Bear Country’s Jeff Tirrell noted during a TFHS broadcast on June 7 that all five local teams won that day (GHS softball won the previous day).

In a subsequent email he wrote, “Sometimes we have a bit of an inferiority complex when we play teams from the Berkshires or Central and Eastern Mass. This tournament season has been great. Our teams have crushed it. What went on here was special.”

Their success would be no more than trees falling in the forest if not for the Greenfield Recorder, Montague Reporter and Bear Country (95.3 FM), and the local ad sponsors who are striving to keep this county a community.

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Jeter Downs is batting .146 at the Nationals’ Triple-A team in Rochester. Downs was the can’t-miss kid from LA who was part of the Mookie Betts trade. He did miss and was released last winter. Meanwhile, Dodgers middle reliever Brusdar Graterol has a 3.29 ERA in 132 appearances since the Red Sox refused to take him as part of the same trade.

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Rafael Devers hit his 11th home run in Yankee Stadium on Sunday night but has a way to go to catch David Ortiz who hit 31 in the House that Ruth Built — and the House that George Built. 

One of his more memorable dingers was 20 years ago on the Fourth of July when he blasted a David Wells pitch to straight-away centerfield during a 10-3 rout. When manager Joe Torre lifted Wells, the furious southpaw walked off the mound and flung his glove into the seats.

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Things that annoyed me this week on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball: The camera cut away from Clarke Schmidt before viewers could see if he tipped his cap to the crowd; Ken Rosenthal talked about spin rate; a graphic showed Schmidt’s pitch usage. Who but a geek would care that Schmidt throws 30 percent curves and 26 percent sinkers?

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SQUIBBERS: Pitching is why Wake Forest is the 5-to-2 favorite to win the College World Series. The Demon Deacons’ 2.87 staff ERA is almost a run better than the next-best team Tennessee which has a 3.63 ERA. … The UMass baseball team’s staff ERA of 7.66 was better than Dartmouth’s 9.21 ERA, but Doug Welenc and Jim Beattie aren’t walking through that door. … The Royals released outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. this week. JBJ was batting .133 in 105 at-bats but had thrown out six runners and will likely land on a contender for the stretch run… At the Canadian Open, Jim Nantz used “Glorious and free!” to describe Nick Taylor’s 74-foot putt on the fourth playoff hole. … A lineman for the county informs us that the Red Sox will indeed play a weekday afternoon game this summer, on Thursday against the Twins in Minnesota at 1:10 p.m. … Texas Longhorns rightfielder Dylan Campbell threw a Dewey-like laser to nail a runner at third base on Tuesday, then lost a high pop fly in the lights that scored the walk-off run that sent Texas home and Stanford to the CWS. … Oklahoma won the the College Softball World Series and coach Patty Gasso makes $1.625 million. … TFHS coach Gary Mullins rolls out pitchers the way a John Deere baler pumps out hay. “When we started off this year we had absolutely nothing,” said a longtime fan after TFHS beat Tech, 2-1, on the strength of Madi Liimatainen’s arm. … Sue Bird’s jersey was raised to the rafters in front of a sellout crowd at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle on Sunday. …. It seemed like a smart move by Alex Cora to put a veteran major leaguer at first base on Tuesday, but then  Justin Turner made an error. … The Red Sox are buried in last place in fielding with 47 errors and the Yankees are second-worst with 37. … Yankees fans aren’t happy that Aaron Hicks is batting .351 for Baltimore (13-for-37 with two HRs). … The Yankees-White Sox game on June 7 was postponed by smoke from distant fires. Next day, same conditions, they played a doubleheader in front of 40,669 at the Stadium. Baseball does wonders for the human spirit.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet715@icloud.com]]>