#6 The Death of Will McDonough (and others)

This decade has seen the passing of a number of Boston sports media figures, some big names, some smaller, some after a long life, some taken from us way too soon.

The passing of Will McDonough on January 9th, 2003 was among the biggest passings of the decade.

McDonough’s death was the true end of an era. He was the last of the “old school” style of reporter/columnist, who wasn’t really all about writing flowing prose, but about getting information from his sources and passing that along to the readers. McDonough got personally involved in many of his stories, a huge example being the Bob Kraft/Bill Parcells split, where McDonough was basically right in the middle between the two sides. Then was the time he got in an altercation with Patriots cornerback Raymond Clayborn in the locker room.

The day after his passing, McDonough was remembered on sports radio by one friend and colleague after another. There were dozens of articles and columns written about him.

McDonough was active right up to the last days of his life. He had hosted a sports radio program with Bill Parcells on 1510 AM that season, and had just had a public war of words with the Red Sox Larry Lucchino in his final columns. McDonough was a pioneer, becoming the first NFL reporter to take his act to television pregame shows.

The loss of McDonough was felt throughout the Boston sports media world.

There were other notable passings in the sports media world this decade. Another that really touched a lot of people was the suddenly, untimely death of Hartford Courant Patriots beat reporter Alan Greenberg. Greenberg’s death sparked off an organic outpouring of tributes to him and his like here on BSMW, and sports media people from around the country emailed in their thoughts and memories of Alan. This post from that week has links to the pages of tributes received after Greenberg’s death.

Sadly the person who first told me about Alan’s death was Dan Pires, who died himself just over a year later, also much too soon. Pires was extremely popular in Foxborough and on the Patriots beat, a huge family man, and by all accounts, a loyal and cherished friend.

Another pioneer we lost this decade was Larry Whiteside – the long time Boston Globe baseball writer, who died in 2007. In the 1970’s he was the only African-American reporter covering a major league baseball team on a daily basis for a major metropolitan newspaper. He was honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the baseball Hall of Fame and was the creator and keeper of “The Black List” of African-American reporters and copy editors designed to aid sports editors in helping hire black journalists. Nick Cafardo had some thoughts on a great man.

Television sportscasting legend Don Gillis passed away in 2008 at the age of 85.  

TV (and radio) Play-by-play legend Curt Gowdy died in 2006 at the age of 86.

Longtime Globe sports columnist  Clif Keane, the original Poison Pen died in 2003.

Earlier this year, we lost longtime Bruins voice Fred Cusick at the age of 90.

John Callaghan – longtime sports anchor for channel 7 died in 2008 at the age of 81.

George Bent – a pioneer in the world of sports radio, from the 1960’s to the 1980’s died in 2007.

Dick Radatz – the most dominant relief pitcher of the 1960’s, who went on to become a regular on WEEI and on various sports television shows, passed away in 2005.

I know I’ve forgotten some…there’s one name…another long time sports writer here in Boston, that passed away this decade, and for the life of me, I can’t think of it.

Who have I missed on this list?

EDIT: Here’s a few additional names as pointed out by readers:

Ernie Roberts, former Globe Sports writer and editor, died earlier this year.

Legendary Red Sox radio voice Ken Coleman passed away in 2003.

Legendary Red Sox TV voice Ned Martin died in 2002, while returning home from the Fenway Park memorial service for Ted Williams.

(How in the world did I forget Coleman and Martin?)

  • KF

    Will McDonough was the best. The sources he had were incredible. Always an entertaining read, he had Roger Clemens pegged as a fraud a decade and a half before anyone else.

    Besides the great McDonough, Dan Pires was absolutely phenomenal. Dan was a buddy of mine who always had excellent information in the New Bedford Standard Times. He had great sources within the Pats and was a helluva guy, very funny. If you knew him, he had that knack of making everyone feel important. I miss Dan. Can’t believe he’s been gone for 1.5 years.

    • jjmcs1

      McDonough’s passing led the way to the Sox firing Sean McDonough. The Sox front office was pissed at Will over siding with Joey O’Donnell in the bidding war and they never forgave him. The moment Sean’s contract was over the let him go. Ask anyone close to the situation willing to talk– the two are directly linked.

  • mandb97

    I never understood why McDonough was hammered for breaking the story that Parcells was leaving just a couple of days before the Super Bowl. He was doing his job. This was nothing like Tomase who went with a fraud story. Parcells told him he was going to the Jets. It was McDonough’s job to report it. My guess is that the players knew what was going on. I will say this that that Super Bowl was probably the worst game Parcells ever coached.

  • Tony

    My only beef with McDonough was that he got too personally involved with the people he covered. For instance, it was clear during the Kraft/Parcells affair that he was siding with The Tuna, even though both sides were being equally stubborn and both sides were to blame for that mess.

    He also shilled one too many times for the John Harrington/Dan Duquette Red Sox in the late 90s and early 2000s, and was way, way too close with Jeremy Jacobs, turning a blind eye to the fact that the C.M. Burns of the NHL was personally killing professional hockey in Boston.

    But nobody could ever match his sources, that’s for damn sure. His information was unreal.

  • Mike

    You missed Ernie Roberts, who invented the “thoughts” column back in the 70’s. Died this past year.

    • Bruce

      Good one, thanks!

  • Angry Old Bastard

    when Shank kicks the bucket will we wax poetic about him too?

    • Char

      Vampires are immortal.

  • http://[email protected] billy bob

    you forgot john tomase

  • Brian

    One of the things I remember about Will McDonough’s passing was driving to work and hearing D&C break the news on ‘EEI that morning, and then flipping over to 1510 only to hear Mike Adams telling stories about selling cars at Waltham Ford. I flip back to D&C for a while and then over to WBZ and Gil Santos is talking about it. I flip back to 1510 and Adams is still talking about himself and selling cars. This went on for about a good 40 minutes as I flipped back and forth until Adams finally mentioned it. Such a glaring mistake where Will was so closely identified with 1510 at the time where he had his own show in addition to being a regular guest on Sean McDonough’s afternoon show. Amazing that Adams still has a job in radio.

  • LJ Sandwich

    I think you forgot Eddie Andelman and Anthony Pepe…

  • NASCL

    Norm Resha

  • Dave F

    Ned Martin

  • AlexB

    Greenberg from the Courant

    • Bruce

      He’s mentioned pretty prominently in the post.

      • jjmcs1

        Alan Greenberg was awesome — I loved his relaxed style. Intelligence and a great approach.

        • http://www.soundslikefrank.com George Lyons

          I had the pleasure of knowing Alan and his lovely family in the early 2000’s – I had a cleaning service and he was a client. Alan was a very down to earth, thoughtful and intelligent guy who could talk about much more than sports.
          It was shocking to hear that he died so suddenly and some years later, my heart goes out to his wife and young children.