Monday, March 24, 2014

A Million Paz Stories

THERE ARE A million Paz stories. It's what happens when you are a larger than life figure and barrel through life with a unique perspective and unmatched drive.

Mike Pasley, 47, died yesterday in Amboy. He was a Quincy guy through and through, and his mark on this community won't be forgotten.

I met Paz in August 1996, during my first visit to Quincy while interviewing at The Whig. They invited me to play softball at the K of C park. As I recall, David Adam pitched and former QU basketball coach Steve Hawkins, who just led Western Michigan to the NCAA Tournament, was the shortstop.

Paz was catching. We were getting beat 18-0 in the third inning when there was a foul popup behind home plate. Paz waddled back to the fence and tried to climb it to make the catch. I thought, geesh. This guy is determined!

Paz was a sports writer for the paper, and nights he worked were always interesting. He'd cover a game and come busting back into the newsroom, look for the nearest open terminal, and start madly pounding out his game story. "Can somebody type up my box?" was his classic comment. Right after I hired Steve Eighinger in sports, Paz came in and did his thing, then suddenly looked up at Steve and said, "Who are YOU?"

Paz always had sayings. Always. He came in all bummed out one night. What's up, Paz? "Ahhhh. She turned off SportsCenter," he said, referring to his girlfriend. His quote about dating? "Once you dip your toe into Lake Pasley, you'll never want to take it out!"

One night he came in holding a stick, or piece of wood. He'd been up to Moberly to watch the John Wood Community College team play, and he'd stomped a hole right in the floor of the old gym. So he kept the broken piece of wood, because "Mitch Richmond played on that court." A week or so later, he came in with another glum look. "Ahhhh," he said, when asked about his prized souvenir, "She threw it away."

Paz became a legend at the old CYO Gym, where JWCC played its home games. He would do the "Paz Stomp" and hold up a fence with a D on it. Paz sometimes had trouble with the whole reporter remaining impartial thing, and the night he got kicked out of the CYO Gym after doing the stomp at the scorer's table and drawing the wrath of the officiating crew is classic.

Paz loved JWCC, and he sent coach Brad Hoyt a congratulatory message last week after the Trail Blazers qualified for the national tournament.

Paz was a huge man when he lived in Quincy, and he was known for falling head over heels on the sidelines while covering football games. One night he got locked out of  a baseball stadium press box. They finally let him in, and when he sat down, his considerable frame broke the chair with a resounding thud. Paz simply got up and asked for another chair, and probably asked how the first out of the inning was made.

I hired his father, Gordon, to work on the sports desk, and the nights they bantered back and forth and pulled out all the stops to get results from the most arcane games and events were amazing. Sometimes I'd get sore from laughing so hard. Or we'd finally have to tell them to pipe down so we could make deadline.

He was so popular at Quincy Notre Dame as the public address announcer that the student section had T-shirts made with the infamous "Paz Posse" logo.

Mike got married and had four daughters, and lived up in Amboy, where he taught at the high school. He collapsed at home yesterday. I wrote a column about him four years ago, when he lost a tremendous amount of weight, and people didn't recognize him when he came back to Quincy for visits. He loved his kids, that's for sure, and talked more about them than his impressive weight loss.

You are in a better place now, Paz. I will never forget your big heart, hilarious outlook on life and drive and passion for sports.

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