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WILL MCDONOUGH | 1935-2003

Impossible man to replace

I'm sitting at my desk at the Globe and it's Friday and the chair in the cubicle on the other side of the file cabinet is empty. Someone has placed a long-stem rose on the empty chair.

It's not right. Will McDonough's supposed to be sitting there, making calls and typing another column into his computer. Friday was always Willie's day, especially in the ''retirement'' phase of his career.

Of course, we all know he never could really retire. He loved it too much. He loved afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. He loved talking to the kings of sport. And he loved chatting up the college co-ops who would take his spillover calls. Willie was always great to the young people trying to break into this business. I remember that because I was once one of those young people and he always talked to me like I was one of his kids. I was ''Danny.''

Where to start? In a few short paragraphs, how does one encapsulate a 44-year sportswriting career that made Willie the most widely read and best-known of all the people who've worked at the Globe? A great athlete in his youth, Willie was the guy who punched out the lights of an NFL defensive back when the player tried to give him some grief after a game. Willie's the only guy who could tell the co-ops, ''Tell O.J. to hold on line 2, I've got the Commissioner here on line 1.''

He was the ultimate reporter - get the news, get it quickly, and present it clearly. He had more sources than Woodward and Bernstein. He was also a guy who really knew what was happening on the field, court, or ice and you were lucky if you got to sit next to him. And all the newspaper/magazine reporters who went into radio and TV owe a debt to Will McDonough. Willie was the first newspaperman to add substance to the style of television sports. Former Globe columnist Mike Barnicle called him the undefeated heavyweight champion of the Globe.

He was tough. And above all, he was loyal.

Willie went out with guns blazing, emptying both barrels on Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino last Saturday. We were all looking forward to the sequel in today's paper. No sequel. Willie died Thursday night. Watching ''SportsCenter.''

When Thurman Munson died suddenly in 1979, the Yankees cleaned out his locker and never gave it to another player. It's still empty.

We should do the same thing here in our locker room. Leave Willie's cubicle empty. We all know there'll never be another like him and he can't be replaced.


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