Tuesday May 02, 2017
Meet the baseball fan who's been flushing his buddy's ashes down ballpark toilets
more stories from this episode
Flushing someone's ashes down a public toilet might seem mean-spirited, but Tom McDonald swears it's a tribute.
The retired New York City Transit Authority worker is on a mission to flush the cremated remains of his lifelong friend Roy Riegel down ballpark toilets around the United States. Riegel was both a baseball fan and a plumber.
"For Roy, it's perfect," McDonald — who goes by the nickname "Porky" and has penned thousands of poems about baseball — told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "Somewhere he's roarin' laughin' at this."
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The two of them grew up together in Queens, not far from the aptly named Flushing Meadows, where the Mets play.
"He died on opening day, 2008, the last Mets home-opener at Shea [Stadium]," McDonald said. "I mean, I went to so many Mets games with him. You know, I have a bunch of friends who are big Mets fans, but he was as big a Mets fan as anybody I ever knew."
Riegel's mother, who McDonald has also known since childhood, gave him some of Riegel's ashes after he died. He keeps them in an old peanut can, wrapped in Mets ticket stubs. The tin is stored next to McDonald's World Series highlight videos and his collection of 149 baseball Hall of Fame autographs.
'I go first, get it out of the way, and then I flush, and then I do Roy.' - Tom McDonald
At first, he said, he would scatter the ashes in or near ballparks, spooning a little out from the can each time.
"I went to Pittsburgh. I did it by the water outside the park. I did it at Chicago on the home plate of the old park," he said.
Then he and a friend went to a a game in Minnesota, where he was faced with the dilemma of an indoor stadium.
"I can't do this inside. You know, it sounded weird to me and I didn't know what to do," McDonald said.
"So we went to an Irish pub and had dinner, and as I went to the bathroom, I had the thing in my pocket, and it hit me. I said, 'I know what to do.' And I just did it!"
Since then, he's been spooning Riegel's ashes into toilets all over North America. So far, he's done the deed at 16 ballparks — including the Rogers Centre in Toronto, where he watched the game from the hotel attached to the stadium.
"I used the one in the hotel room, only because it's part of the ballpark. Sort of like a twist on the whole thing," he said.
Like in baseball, there are rules to this oddball tradition. For one thing, the game has to be happening when he does it. What's more, the act itself must be done privately in a stall — no urinals.
"Me, I go first, get it out of the way, and then I flush, and then I do Roy," he said. "There wasn't any, like, mixing."
He said he usually tries to say a few words in Riegel's honour, but starts cracking up before he can get any out.
"It never ceases to get me laughing as I'm doing it," he said.
There are some ballparks he'll never do it in, he said, including Chicago's Wrigley Field.
"No, we're Met fans. We don't like the Cubs, ever since we were kids," he said. "And Yankee Stadium I'm not doing neither."
McDonald has enough ashes left for one more tribute. He hopes to do it at Durham Athletic Park in North Carolina, where the 1988 movie Bull Durham was filmed.
With files from The Associated Press