Keeping Score with Chip Ainsworth: Checking in on things at UMass

Published: 05-24-2024 8:01 PM

Good morning!
John Kennedy is fuming over the way UMass-Amherst’s faculty and staff have thrown Chancellor Javier Reyes under the bus. Earlier this month hundreds of anti-Israel, pro Palestinian/Hamas radicals set up an encampment outside the student union and refused to leave. 

Unlike Columbia University president Nemat Shafik who vacillated for weeks, Reyes told police to remove the protesters and according to multiple reports 70 students, six faculty members and 60 outside agitators were arrested.

Some of them complained that their handcuffs were too tight.

“What’d they expect would happen?” said Kennedy, who has given millions of dollars to his alma mater. “They could have protested outside the Student Union and used bullhorns [but] setting up a tent encampment and refusing to leave crossed the line.”

This week the UMass Faculty Senate gave Reyes a vote of no confidence, which to Kennedy was like telling Indy 500 drivers to slow down. “There are two groups in this country that in my opinion are completely useless,” he said. “One is the U.S. House of Representatives and the other is the UMass Faculty Senate.”

Unlike some educators, Reyes does not look down from an ivory tower. He is friendly, outgoing and accessible. “Are you enjoying the game?” he asked me one night at the Mullins Center. He didn’t know me from Adam, but he was engaging and talkative and was wearing a white Minutemen hockey jersey.

“Harvard is taking this much more seriously,” Kennedy added. Indeed, Harvard’s top brass repudiated the faculty’s recommendation to let 13 student protesters receive their degrees.

Likewise what Reyes did to restore order on the campus took courage, and what the faculty senate did by failing to back him was spineless.

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Congrats to coach Pat Moriarty and his Deerfield Academy baseball team for beating Worcester Academy, 2-1, in 10 innings to win the Central New England Prep School championship. The Big Green’s first league title since 2009 was a fitting way to christen its new 5-and-10 Turf Field.

Deerfield’s endowment is about $1 billion, and no expense was spared to replace Headmaster’s Field. The diamond was built on what had been a cornfield owned by Williams Farm, and players wore all-white uniforms to emulate the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver from Field of Dreams.

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A caller to Richard Neer’s show on WFAN had a wonderful story to tell about his experience at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 1974. “It was the last year they did not allow tour caddies to caddy in the U.S. Open. So there I am a 16-year-old kid waiting to get a pro and to my good fortune I got Jack Nicklaus. His manager said, ‘Son, you’ve got the best job of any caddy here. Jack will ask you once in your four days what club to hit.’ 

“So we were going along and it wasn’t until the third day on the 17th hole he said, ‘Tom, what should I hit? So I go through the whole thing like Jordan Spieth’s caddy would do today. I said, ‘We’ve got 185 yards, we’ve got a little wind here, you should hit a seven.’ 

“He took out the eight iron, put it two feet from the pin and said, ‘Thanks Tom.” 

Nicklaus finished 10th and won $10,000, of which he gave his young caddy $500.

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You never know what you’ll find in those boxes of free books at Hannaford’s, like “Bounce Back” by John Calipari and David Scott. The book is a compendium of self-help tips called “PractiCal Points.” Right, who knew that Coach Cal was in the self-help biz. 

Alas, his exhortations aren’t likely to go down in the annals of great sayings unless this gives you goosebumps: “Prepare yourself to be the impulsion that drives your revitalization.”

As W.C. Fields said, “If you can’t dazzle ‘em with brilliance, baffle ‘em with bulls***.”

There’s at least one good anecdote about Calipari’s obsession to succeed. When he was an assistant at Pitt and the Panthers were playing Providence, center Jerome Lane shattered the backboard. Calipari pocketed several shards of the broken acrylic and sent them to recruits because, he said, “In recruiting, you do anything you can to stand out.”

For a better read about Calipari’s peaks and valleys at UMass, get a copy of “Going Bigtime” by local author Marty Dobrow.

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Remember that horse we told you about last week, Reynolds Channel? Part owner and talkshow host Mike Francesca said if he broke his maiden they’d consider entering him in the Belmont Stakes. Railbirds must have been listening because he went off at 1-to-2 on Sunday and ran fifth at Churchill Downs. “Hard to handle… came up empty,” said the chartwriter.

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I tuned into four ballgames one after the other on Tuesday and all four were in ad breaks. The pitch clock has moved the pace along at warp speed, and that’s not good. Each game has — or had — its own rhythm. Pitchers need to slam down rosin bags and stalk around the mound. Batters need to step out of the box and umpires need to make the occasional bad call, because baseball is about failure and the mighty Casey striking out.

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SQUIBBERS: Chris Sale is 7-1 for the Braves who are paying him $8 million. The Red Sox are forking over the other $17 million but they got Vaughn Grissom in the deal. Grissom’s batting .136 with one walk and 14 strikeouts. … Cards’ radio announcer Ricky Horton on pitcher Sonny Gray’s antidote for a bad inning: “He went to the clubhouse, stripped down and changed his uniform, his spikes, his hat, his belt, and said, ‘Let’s try this all over again’ and came back and pitched well.”  … Gotta love those MLB-TV scrolls: “Red Sox have not lost five straight since Sept., 2023.” Wow, that’s like almost before the Civil War. … Happy 51st birthday to former Red Sox infielder Todd Walker, now a color analyst for the SEC Network. … Patriots starting guard Cole Strange has a bad knee and may already be done for the season. “He’s not coming back any time soon,” said podcaster Greg Bedard. … Meanwhile Patriots pass rusher Matthew Judon will be in Westfield on Monday for a one day kids mini-camp that costs $149.99 but is “Subjective (sic) to increase based on availablity” whatever that means. … Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel, late in Tuesday’s game against the Phils: “We’re gonna see the manager Rob Thomson come out. He’s going to make a change and we’re going to see one of the long hairs, the hard throwing lefty Matt Strahm.” … Garrett Whitlock lasted 241 innings and notched 18 wins between surgeries. No wonder the Yankees let him walk. …  According to mcubed.net, the Yankees are 127-53 this century against the Twins. … RIP Dick Summer, velvet-voiced DJ from the days when WBZ’s lineup included Dave Maynard, Carl DeSuze and Shelburne’s own Gary LaPierre. … Kudos to the Eaglebrook JV player who realized an opponent who batted right-handed his first time up was now batting left-handed. Not knowing to call him a switch hitter he referred to him as ambidextrous, then added, “I’m half-ambidextrous.” … Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone, especially to the veterans out there who’ve served this great country.

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