Keeping Score: Paul McDonald, the real McCoy

Published: 07-07-2023 5:55 PM

Good morning!
It was fitting that Paul McDonald passed near the Fourth of July, a time when the McDonalds, Bergerons, Conants and Belangers gather on the Green River to light fireworks, grill hamburgs, praise the Red Sox and roast the Yankees.

He was a probation officer and long distance runner, a hail-good-fellow sort and ubiquitous sight running short, quick strides on the streets of Greenfield. “An easy five,” he liked to say.

A gifted athlete at GHS, in 1958 he won two WMass titles in the same week, the one-mile run and the boys singles tennis title.

Back in my wild and crazy days I was one of his clients. My license was suspended for six weeks after I rolled my car in Gill and Paul was my probation officer.

Every morning I’d looked at the Mustang in the yard until finally I took it for a spin. I was cruising up Silver Street when whad’ya know, Paul drove past me. Our eyes locked, but he never said a word.

Paul ran 10 Boston Marathons and liked having his name in the paper. This was before iPhones and instant results, and looking for local finishers involved poring through hundreds of names in small print. One year I couldn’t find his name and called to double check. “I’m no Rosie Ruiz!” he protested.

Paul contacted the BAA and the snafu was corrected. Paul McDonald was no Rosie Ruiz, he was the real McCoy.

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It’s a tragedy Isaiah Rodgers was thrown under the bus for betting on NFL games. Give these guys a break, suspend them for six games and drop the hammer if it happens again.

His bets were for $25 to $30, and his only big bet — $1,000 on Jonathan Taylor’s over/under rushing yards — was likely a no-lose promotion for first-time users of the betting app. The Colts waived him after he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

Rodgers was born and raised in Tampa and attended Blake High School, a magnet school of about 1,800 students in Hillsborough County. According to an article in the UMass Daily Collegian, his father was shot and killed by Tampa police when he was a teenager.

Scouts considered him too short for college, and the only schools that recruited him were Virginia and UMass. He missed only five games in four years at UMass and finished with 11 interceptions and 126 solo tackles. His last college game was against BYU on Nov. 23, 2019, and ended with him being carted off the field.

The following week I wrote: “UMass kickoff returner Isaiah Rodgers was blindsided by a BYU defender, and fans standing above us shouted obscenities at the refs.

“He was put on a stretcher and wheeled past the UMass bench to the parking lot near the visitor’s locker room. By the time I got there, an EMT was closing the ambulance door and Rodgers’s mother was sitting in the front seat. ‘We’re going to Baystate,’” said the driver.

The injury turned out to be minor, and the Colts drafted him 211th overall. Despite his size he’s durable, and he got more playing time from season to season.

It doesn’t feel right to see Rodgers be thrown out with the trash while the NFL’s in bed with FOX Bet and BetMGM. In the words of Michael Corleone, “We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator.” 

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The wet holiday weather reminded me of the washout against the Yankees on July 4, 1978. Boston was 53-24 and owned the best record in baseball. They were nine games up on the Yankees, and in those days it was either win the division or go home. 

“Let’s see what happens if they lose their shortstop,” said Yankees manager Billy Martin, referring to Rick Burleson. Sure enough, Burleson went down after the All Star break and third baseman Butch Hobson began wearing an ice pack the size of a fruit basket on his throwing arm.

The Yankees started winning and the Red Sox went into a freefall. The makeup game was moved to September 7 and the Yankees won, 15-3. The losing pitcher was Mike Torrez, an omen.

Boston won the coin flip for home field in the one-game playoff. According to Bill Madden in “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball,” Yankees GM Al Rosen made the call in AL president Lee MacPhail’s office.

“You lost? What did you call?” asked George Steinbrenner.

“I called heads. Why?”

“Heads?” roared Steinbrener. “You imbecile! Any dummy knows tails comes up 70 percent of the time!”

After Bucky Dent’s home run gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, Boston manager Don Zimmer sent Bob Bailey up to pinch hit. On the mound, reliever Goose Gossage looked skyward and said, “Thank you, God.”

The “1918” chants wouldn’t end for 26 years after Carl Yastrzemski popped out to Graig Nettles to seal New York’s 5-4 win, and all because of a July 4 rainout.

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Mike Francesca groused on his latest podcast: “Every time someone hits a home run they make ‘em wear a stupid hat or put on a chain and do high-fives. Mickey Mantle would go around the bases with his head down and run at a good clip. He showed humility and that’s why pitchers never had anything but great respect for him.”

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Baseball Notes: On Red Sox radio this week Sean McDonough said Nate Eovaldi wanted to stay in Boston “but got the cold shoulder.” Eovaldi is 10-3 for the first place Rangers. … 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke is 1-9 for Kansas City and the Royals are 1-19 in games he’s started. … At this writing Giancarlo Stanton had crawled back over the Mendoza Line with four hits in 18 at bats. The Yankees’ $32 million man has hit one home run in 62 at bats since June 13. … On Sunday, Angels hitter Chad Wallach went to the plate on an 0-for-28 skid in the ninth inning against San Diego and got an RBI by walking with the bases loaded. … Red Sox fans are keenly aware that southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez goes hot and cold. Now in Detroit he had one stretch of allowing two runs in 40 innings followed by nine runs in 16 innings. On Wednesday he gave up five runs in four innings to mighty Oakland. Same ole E-Rod. … Arizona pitcher Tommy Henry, on the 493-foot home run he gave up to Shohei Ohtani: “It was loud, I’ll leave it at that.”

SQUIBBERS: A UMass football insider says:  “We’ve got numbers at every position except offensive line [so] we moved Josh Atwood from defensive line to center. He’s a leader type guy.” … The season opens at 7 p.m. on Aug. 26 at New Mexico State. The Aggies are 8 1/2-point favorites. … Joey Chestnut won his 16th Mustard Belt on the Fourth of July by woofing down 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. The over/under was 74 1/2… Ryan Cain has left the Keene State basketball program to take the reins at Johns Hopkins. Cain was 146-66 in eight seasons and made the NCAA tournament five times. … The backpage of the New York Post the day after ESPN axed Jeff Van Gundy, Suzy Kolber, Keyshawn Johnson, Jalen Rose, Steve Young, Matt Hasselbeck and others: “Worldwide Bleeder” … The Wall Street Journal reported this week that there are 1,597 high schools with mascots named Indians (783), Warriors (406), Braves (227) or Chiefs (181). … Since ESPN finds it fascinating to post exit velocity, how about bunts? … Australian Lachlan Barker had 17 birdies and two eagles and carded a 9-under 200 to win the New Hampshire Open at Bretwood Golf Course in Keene last week. … John Sterling got bonked on the head by a foul ball last month, so the New York Giants felt it was fitting to give the voice of the Yankees a football helmet on his 85th birthday. … Your reward for making it this far is to know I’m off for the next three weeks but will return for the second half.

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]]>