Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Man with the Golden Touch

In the grand scheme of things, I know nothing. Oh sure, I think I have things all figured out—some days more than others. But, whenever I try to think of the world, the Universe, God's creation, I truly get freaked out.

It is bigger than I am. God is too amazing, too huge, and too omnipotent for a mere human like me to stay one step ahead.

I often think that this amazing play that God is writing is similar to a soap opera. In a Soap, something may happen last July, which helps to explain what happens six months from now.

I'm not sure if the writer's know in advance or figure it out as they go, though. God, I believe, has a little better handle on things than the writers of "As All My Children Turn the World's Hospital."

Well, I'm about to tell you about the story of Danny Gearin. It's a two part story. Part one is how his touch forever changed my world. The second part is about how his touch changed the worlds of many.

In the fall of 1976, I was a wide-eyed freshman at David Prouty High School. I had long brown hair to about my shoulders, which was the rage in the mid 70's in Spencer.

As I walked down the crowded halls of dear old DPHS, I was dwarfed by the throng of kids in the hallway. At about 5'0" tall, I was clearly the Little David in which represents David Prouty to this day.

As I hustled to Mrs. Rivers' English class, a hand reached out from the office of the Athletic Director and touched my scrawny shoulder. I looked up and saw a man with a bald head and a gentle, kind smile. He was wearing a plaid sport jacket and khaki slacks.

He squeezed my shoulder with his big, wrinkled mitt.

"Hey kid. You like sports?" I remember being startled until I saw who it was.

I recognized Mr. Gearin as the school A.D.

"Yes, sir." I said it in a tiny pre-pubescent crackling voice (or so I suspect).

"Can you write?" he continued.

I lied and said yes.

"I need you to be at the football field tomorrow for the Prouty-Millbury game. You're our stringer. I need you to call the Worcester Telegram and Gazette office and tell Gus Gushe who you are."

For the next four years, I didn't miss a high school basketball or football game. Like the post office, I sat through wind and rain and autumn snow and never missed calling in stats, buzzer beaters, and long touchdown runs. I covered cheerleading tournaments (rode on the bus with the cheerleaders, I might add).

I also ended up having my own weekly sports column in the local paper, The New Leader, and twice had cover story pieces.

Once I wrote about Mike Pecha, an independent truck driver and his plight to survive as diesel fuel rose to almost a dollar a gallon...(yes, $1.00 for a gallon of diesel...1978). I also wrote about small town farmer Ken Adams and his plight to survive due to state regulations which controlled the price that he could sell milk for.

Gearin's golden touch sent me to Syracuse University where I majored in newspaper journalism and met the greatest friends that a guy could ever ask for.

In the mid 90's, I published my own magazine for three years, and now, I do what I love and write for the Bleacher Report. I even believe that Danny's touch will be instrumental, as I wait for a call from in hopes of landing the greatest job this guy could ever hope for—a gig with the Red Sox.

Yes, Danny Gearin's firm touch upon this 13-year-old boy's shoulder forever changed my life.

When Danny passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack during my senior year of high school, I wrote a good bye piece entitled "Only The Good Die Young". Danny was good.

But, my life wasn't the only life that Danny changed.

See, 53 years ago today, "Little Danny" Gearin's touch changed the lives of more than just me, when tiny Assumption College of Worcester took on, then perennial power-house, Holy Cross.

The following is excerpted from a story which appears in the Assumption College Intercollegiate Athletic Brochure to this day.

It was Assumption's grandest moment on the court . . .

"Little Danny Gearin, a home-grown product, perpetuated the greatest upset the auditorium has ever known last night when he blithely swished home a free throw after playing time had expired, to shove Assumption College's perky upstarts to a 69-68 victory over Holy Cross." It was March 7, 1957 - 50 years ago!

Worcester Telegram Sports Editor Paul Johnson's memorable first paragraph said it all. Assumption College, a school with barely more than 100 students, knocking off the former N.I.T. and N.C.A.A. champions from across town. It was then, and still is today, the single most important date in Assumption College athletics history.

When the tornado ripped through the old campus on June 9, 1953, the rebuilding process began immediately. It was the idea of then President Rev. Armand Desautels, A.A. to give scholarships for basketball in the hope it would help raise awareness and much-needed funds. By 1957, the College had relocated to a brand new campus and the basketball team finished 21-1 as the premier small college team in New England.

The Greyhounds chose to play in the Pete Houston Appreciation Day doubleheader in lieu of advancing to their third straight regional tournament. The games benefited Houston who suffered a head injury earlier in the season and twice required brain surgery. The funds collected helped defray medical costs.

"Gearin's free throw-and he might well have stifled a yawn before shooting, so calm was he at the line-was the climax of a dramatic evening of basketball in front of more than 3,000 fans."

....... And the drama unfolded over the waning minutes as the Hounds crept back in, down 68-64, with 1:53 left. Gearin's rebound and left-hand hook shot cut the gap to two. With 25 seconds left O'Brien hit his fourth straight jumper over a Goba screen to tie the game and set the stage for Gearin's post-buzzer heroics.

Gearin's heroics may have been foreshadowed by the season opener, when he swished a jumper at the buzzer to give the Hounds a rousing 57-56 overtime win at Providence College. It was one of Assumption's most impressive years, as the Greyhounds would never again beat both Providence and Holy Cross in the same season.

So, I sit and wonder if Danny is overlooking us all today. His protege of sorts is busily typing at the computer and thinking of how Danny's touch changed his life...

And I suppose his teammates are sitting in their living rooms at 15 different parts of the Globe telling their grandkids how Danny Gearin's touch changed their lives too.

Danny...wherever you are...Swish. Swish.

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