The June 12, 1977 issue of Sports Illustrated was a hot commodity in Springfield, and it wasn’t the cover shot of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Bill Walton that was causing the stir.
Mary Jasinski and her mother Rose went down to the Grand Union in the Springfield Plaza that week to pick up the copy. Inside, there was Mary Rose Jasinski in the “Faces in the Crowd” section. Beneath the picture was information on her glorious high school athletic career with the Springfield Cosmos: She won her first 15 games of the season as a softball pitcher, extended an unbeaten streak to 31 games and amassed a record of 60-5 during her four years.
Not only that, she pitched the Cosmos to state titles in 1974 and 1976, and became the first Springfield girls basketball player to score 1,000 points, ringing up 1,121 of them before graduating in 1977. Only Danielle Hunt and Chelsea McAllister have reached the milestone for the Cosmos since.
Holding the SI issue in her hands was thrill enough, but then Larry Coughlin, then-principal at Springfield High School, notified the student body over the intercom that one of its own had made a splash in the national magazine.
That moment, sitting in home room, was a special one for Jasinski. Coughlin’s words were greeted with a big cheer.
“It was a privilege to share it with so many of my friends,” Jasinski said recently from her home in Massachusetts.
She recalled the 1,000-point milestone coming in a home game on an outside shot against Rutland. She called it “the culmination of so many years of shooting baskets in my driveway.”
There is a lasting image for this reporter of a very shaken Jasinski at Hartford High School in the waning seconds of a basketball playoff loss to Burlington. She clearly took it harder than anyone.
“I felt so bad that I didn’t do enough,” she says today.
But it was softball that landed her in Sports Illustrated, and where she helped take the Cosmos to state titles.
The other aspect of her great run on the softball diamond, to Jasinski, was what it did for girls athletics and the community.
“It was just the trail blazing effort,” she said. “It was the way the community supported it. It was embraced by the whole community. There was a sense of town pride.”
When she got to Mount Holyoke College, it was solely basketball for Jasinski on the athletic landscape.
“Basketball was my focus. I was passionate about both sports, but the balance of athletics and academics was important,” said the English major.
Current Springfield softball coach Andy Bladyka graduated with Jasinski from Springfield. They both worked on the high school newspaper, the Green Horn, writing about sports. Jasinski’s column was titled Mary’s-Go-Round. She and Bladyka also wrote for the area newspaper, The Eagle Times.
“I had a ton of respect for her,” Bladyka said. “I was a sports junkie and I was proud to call her a classmate.”
Bladyka also heads up Springfield’s Recreation Department and has a photo in his office of a junior high softball team called the Springfield Rockets that fashioned a 12-0 record. Jasinski is in the photo as a member of that team.
Also, on that team was Mary Beth Birsky. Jasinski and Birsky are two of the members of the charter Springfield Hall of Fame class that will be inducted March 9.
“Mary Beth and I were the two who really liked sports,” Jasinski said. “I would go to her house and we would hang out and shoot baskets.”
Going into the Hall with Birsky and the others will make the induction ceremony all the more special to Jasinski.
“I am proud to be a part of something with such an array of successful people,” Jasinski said.
Following her “Faces in the Crowd” honor, Fall Mountain Regional High School’s then-softball coach Glenn Thompson invited Jasinski to speak at the New Hampshire school’s athletic banquet.
She did and, while they were her peers, the Fall Mountain players were clearly impressed by their guest speaker.
Jasinski was a role model and she had her own role models growing up in Springfield.
“I think role models are important,” she said. “Maureen Barton was a three-sport athlete at Springfield and a little older than I was. She was someone I looked up to and she was kind enough to mentor me.”
She also credits her parents, Victor and Rose, with their part in molding her into the person she became.
Jasinski points out that a young tennis phenom, Jimmy Arias, was one of the “Faces” along with her in that SI issue.
Arias turned pro three years later at age 16, reached the U.S. Open as a 19-year-old and today is a tennis commentator for ESPN International and the Tennis Channel.
Come to think of it, Jasinski has done pretty well in her own right.
She is Senior Associate Dean and Registrar at MIT. Now Mary Callahan, she and her husband Brian have raised two outstanding college graduates and NCAA Division I athletes. Matthew played men’s soccer at San Diego State and made it onto the Major League Soccer draft list. Their daughter, Christina, was a high school All-American soccer player and was named the Boston Globe’s high school Player of the Year before going on to play at Holy Cross.
“Faces in the Crowd” was only the beginning for Mary Jasinski.