Saturday, January 20, 2007

Remembering Tom McCormack

Longtime Register sportswriter Tom McCormack passed away at age 77 yesterday. Tom was truly one of a kind. Gruff on the exterior, he was actually caring and kind; a brilliant writer, an intellectual and without a doubt one of the funniest men I've had the pleasure of knowing.

I grew up reading the Register sports page every morning. Tom was the paper's baseball writer, so I read just about everything he wrote. But I knew nothing of the man behind the byline until I started working at the paper. It was my first night as a part-time editorial assistant in the sports department. My job was basically to take high school scores over the phone, and I was overwhelmed. The phones were ringing off the hook, and I had just received a 5-minute crash course on the confusing computer system. It was 1995, but the computer network was running on technology from roughly the early '70s.

Needless to say, I had no clue what I was doing. A few minutes before deadline, I answered a call. The gravely voice on the other end only said, "Is Southern in the system?"

"Excuse me?" I replied.


Of course, I had no clue at the time that Tom had just filed his Southern Connecticut story and was calling to see if it had showed up in our computer system. I guess looked fairly baffled, because one of the more experienced guys asked who was on the phone. I said "It's Tom McCormack, and he's, umm, upset." That got a few laughs as I transferred the call to someone else.

Tom retired about eight months later, but oddly that's when I started to see him around the office all the time. He was doing freelance stuff almost everyday, and you always knew when he arrived. You'd hear his unmistakable voice boom something like, "The sky is the color of death, and Connecticut drivers don't have their headlights on!"

Tom loved food, and I mean loved it. He always talked about his most recent meal. And it seemed like he knew every greasy spoon on the eastern seaboard. I was traveling quite a bit covering Yale sports, and Tom would always ask where I was headed that particular weekend.

"Going to Colgate, Tom."

"Phil's Diner, Route 17. Try the MEATLOAF!"

Tom was also notorious for arriving several hours early to events he was covering. I remember a men's and women's basketball doubleheader at the University of New Haven a few years back. Tom was writing the women's game at 4:30, I was writing the men's game that started at 7. I got a call around 3:30.

"Chipper! I'm at UNH, where are you?"

"Tom, your game hasn't even started yet."

"Well, make sure you don't eat before you come over," Tom said. "They have a six-foot sandwich and chocolate chip cookies the size of manhole covers!"

Tom, you will be missed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm gonna miss Tom. I'll always remember him from covering UConn soccer, seeing him at seemingly all the games, enjoying the food, of course, but you could tell that he also enjoyed covering the games.

We didn't talk a lot, but I remember introducing myself to him and hearing about how the press box at the New Haven Coliseum was named after him. He had a great sense of humor, since at the time, the place was on the verge of being closed.

"I've got the plaque they put on the press box in my trunk", he said with a bit of a smile.

My most lasting memory of him will be that he always said hello.

Goodbye, Tom.

-Zack Singer
UConn CLAS '06

January 20, 2007 11:37 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just learned of Tom's passing. Tom grew up with my father, and was in the accident which resulted in Tom meeting Marilyn.

Tom was truly an entertaining man. I can recall many stories that Tom told in my younger days, including his views on wrestling, basketball, and bringing Boston writers covering the Yankees through the South Bronx in the late 70's.

My condolences to Marilyn, Bobby, Gary and Tucker.

Frank Scott

March 04, 2007 6:29 PM 

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