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WILL MCDONOUGH | 1935-2003

McDonough truly was an influence

PHILADELPHIA - When you wander through the visages of your life, there are people you will always remember. Those who were kind to you. Those who said something or passed along some wisdom that will stay with you forever. Those who always had your best interest at heart. Those you idolized and respected.

When I was awoken this morning with the sad and shocking news that colleague and friend Will McDonough had passed away at his home late Thursday, I did that walk through my own life and my career as a sports journalist, and as you will hear often in the days, and weeks to come, Will touched an influenced many people, including yours truly.

For those of us who fancy ourselves as sports reporters first and sports writers second, Will McDonough was our Babe Ruth.

He was the standard of excellence we all wanted to reach.

In my opinion, he was the greatest sports reporter there ever was.

For a sports reporter the biggest rush is to break a big story, and over a career that spanned more than 40 years in a passionate sports market like Boston, nobody came close to reporting the biggest stories of our time first and as accurately as Will McDonough.

No sports reporter developed sources, or had more influence with the movers and shakers of Boston sports more than McDonough. Every move a Boston sports team made had to be thought out; and you'd better have your thoughts together precisely and without a hitch, or they knew McDonough would be there to scrutinize and analyze it.

There was no reporter who had his instincts for situations and for people. He could spot a phony or a fraud a mile away. He could smell a rat better than anyone.

There are two things Will McDonough did for me that I will never forget and I will be eternally grateful to him.

In the late 1980's when I was writing baseball at the Quincy Patriot Ledger, McDonough, a Hingham resident and an avid reader of the Patriot Ledger, acknowledged that I was on a good run. I was breaking stories on the Red Sox that the Boston papers didn't have. Leigh Montville had left the Globe for Sports Illustrated. Dan Shaughnessy moved into his column spot from baseball. It was then that McDonough walked into sports editor Don Skwar's office and said, "This is the guy you have to hire."

And years later when I left the baseball beat and was assigned to cover the New England Patriots, one of the first things McDonough did was meet with his friend and confidant Bill Parcells, who was coaching the Patriots and told Parcells, "Make sure you take care of my guy."

There were so many nuggets of wisdom he threw my way.

Even after 25 years in the business, when, as recently as last week, we shared a by-line on Parcells going to Dallas, I was still in awe that my by-line was next to McDonough's.

I feel a true loss for his children.

I have known Sean McDonough, the superb Red Sox broadcaster, since I covered him as a teenager on the Hingham High tennis team. Sean and I spent many years together on the Red Sox trails and I am honored to be a part of his radio show on WWZN. But I know how much Sean loved his dad. I know that Will was his hero; not just for his greatness as a sports reporter, but because he shaped Sean as a very caring, generous person which we see in his work for the McDonough Foundation which benefits charities for children.

The only other McDonough child I know well is Terry, a superb scout for the Baltimore Ravens. Every time I speak to Terry, I feel I'm speaking to a young Will McDonough. He's got the tough exterior, but a heart of gold, just like his dad.

And really as we reflect on Will's life in the days to come, it's not so much the many stories he broke, the thousands of people he knew, the hundreds of awards he won, that we should dwell on.

What's really important about this special man was that he was a Hall of Fame husband and father. He was a Hall of Fame friend.

God speed, Will.

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