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WILL MCDONOUGH | 1935-2003

He gave TV rules a rewrite

It was a quirk of fate that Will McDonough died while watching Thursday night's ''SportsCenter.''

That's because McDonough was a major inspiration for ESPN's John A. Walsh, who is credited with making "SportsCenter" a leader in daily television sports journalism.

"He was the first one to help me realize that print journalists could make the transition to electronic media," said Walsh, senior vice president and executive editor of ESPN.

Walsh was a consultant for CBS's "The NFL Today" pregame show in the mid-1980s when McDonough was hired.

"He was a friend and mentor," said Walsh. "He was an inspiration to me every time we got together."

McDonough wasn't the first print journalist to walk through the door of a television studio. Globe colleague Bud Collins beat him to it by a year or two, and continues to have a distinguished career as the preeminent tennis columnist/analyst of his time.

But when McDonough followed Collins's path, succeeding in spite of many doubters, the media world was changed forever. Before McDonough went to work for CBS, the line between print and electronic journalists was a wall. He knocked it down.

"I was the pioneer nationally, but Will was right behind," said Collins. "Tom Winship [then editor of the Globe] wasn't hot on the idea. TV and print had an adversarial relationship in those days."

Indeed, in the `70s, Globe baseball columnist Peter Gammons regularly referred to the electronic media as "barking dogs" in print. That was before his own professional odyssey took him from the Globe to Sports Illustrated, back to the Globe, and then to ESPN.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King, one of the many to follow that path paved by McDonough, said, "When I got hired to work on `Monday Night Football' in 1994, the first thing I did when I got home was to sit down, and handwrite a note to Will, telling him I never would have gotten that job if it weren't for him. I told him, `You're the Jackie Robinson of our profession, and I never can repay you.'

"It's a debt of gratitude I never could repay. There are so many people coming into the business now who had their ways paved by Will. When I was covering the Giants for Newsday in 1985-87, I can't tell you how many times he'd take me aside or call me and give me a tip. He knew so much more about my own team than I did it was humbling.

"And that's a scene that I've seen hundreds of times since -- Will at the winter meetings taking someone from the Mesa, Ariz., paper and asking if he could help them out and offering to introduce them to someone who could help them."   Continued...

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