Football Manager Michael “Baldy” Baldasarri Passes Away at 49

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Managers, Bruce and Baldy, help fill the water during a home game. (Photo/Greg Salvatore)

Jeff Meaney

Managers, Bruce on the right and Baldy on the left, help fill the water during a home game.

Michael “Baldy” Baldasarri is well known around the town of Walpole as the long time manager of the Walpole High Football Team. Baldy’s reign as manager spanned  24 years, roaming the sidelines of Turco Field helping fill water bottles and supporting the football team. He passed away on April 21 at the age of 49.

Baldy was beloved by the football team, which he joined in 1987 as a replacement for Chris “Crash” McClain, and players really got to know him at Camp Matoponi in Maine, Walpole Gut Camp, and most practice days where Baldy and Bruce Smith, another Walpole Football manager, helped to fill up the water bottles. “Baldy used to lift with the team during gut camp and run two miles almost every day while we practiced in the early 90’s,” said Coach Barry Greener. Baldy loved to spend time with the players and coaches, and often, he drew up plays and stored them in his briefcase.

“He basically embodied Rebel Pride. This term that is so often used to reference the underlying spirit of the team and the camaraderie of the team each year, could always be found in Baldy. He bled it. From the clothes he wore to the attitude he always carried towards the team to his heart-felt connection with the team’s success to his thoughts of always looking for supplies and football books to help the coaches, Baldy lived Rebel Pride” said Adam Riegel, a former Rebel captain.

Because of Baldy’s Rebel Pride, he had a close  connection with the players on the team. “Players who had older brothers go through the program came in knowing the role he played while players who were the first in their family had to learn from those around them. Baldy’s undying and tireless dedication was infectious. Players respected him because of this and because of the history connected to his involvement with the team,” said Riegel.

After suffering a concussion sophomore year at camp Mataponi, current senior Captain Kevin Hickey was sidelined for the rest of camp.  During that time, he spent a lot of time with Baldy helping out the team.  “We all got to spend a lot of time with Baldy at Mataponi, and he was always there to lighten the mood and make people laugh.”  Senior Captain Kevin Hickey added, “We are all going to miss him a lot.”

One of Baldy’s favorite hobbies was to make kids laugh. Baldy’s pregame speeches — which consisted of phrases like “Can you smell what the Rebels are cooking?” — were just a few of the ways Baldy made people laugh and put people in a good mood. Another signature Baldy joke was facetiously asking kids why they have a Norwood shirt on, tricking the athlete to see what shirt he was actually wearing. With all the ups and downs of the programs history since 1987 — the five Super Bowl victories, the five year hiatus from a Bay State League Title– Baldy supported the team and the befriended the Football team.

At his funeral on Monday April 25, His sister, Carol Toole, gave an emotional eulogy mentioning how Baldy always looked out  for others and loved to make others laugh. Carol Toole also mentioned how over the years Baldy became a local celebrity, and when walking in the Walpole Center with her brother, she was always accompanied by beeps, waves, and “hey Baldy” being yelled by former and present football players. Baldy would always greet these with a wave.  For the past 24 years, few people have embraced Rebel Pride as much as Baldy, who meant as much to the Rebel Football Program as the program ment to him.  In the history of the program, Baldy ranks as prominent a figure as Coach John Lee and Barry Greener in the Rebel community, so appropriately, Baldy was buried in his Rebel football jacket, orange Rebel cap, and his Super Bowl Ring.

Although Baldy was seen less and less during the course of the 2010 season because of his failing health, his jokes, antics, and adoring smile will be missed by the Rebel Football program.  Whether he was running the Walpole Road Race, competing in the Special Olympics, showing off his 2008 Super Bowl Ring, or spending time with his family in his home on Common Street, Baldy left an indelible mark on not just the football program, but the whole community.