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Goodbye, Fred (For Now)
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Man, Freddy Mac lost and/or misplaced everything!

When you travel with a team for seven or eight months out of the year, you become like family. You know each other’s traits and habits.

And after over a dozen years on the road with Fred, everyone knew that he misplaced everything. Laptops, iPads, travel bags -- everything. And that he didn’t like seafood and that he sometimes lost his cool on the golf course.

And we also knew that nobody had a bigger heart or more passion than Fred. Nobody worked harder or was a better, more consistent pro.

On a late-night flight in the middle of long road trip, while the rest of the Cavs family was crashed out or binge-watching “Breaking Bad,” Freddy Mac would be going through clips, hi-lighting a story about Buddy Hield in the Sacramento Bee. When the family – including players – went grumbling into the United Center for morning shootaround on a cold December day, Fred – well-coiffed as always – would be wide-awake and ready to rumble.

We lost that part of our family on Monday afternoon when Fred McLeod passed away at age 67. And it really hurts.

Fred was born and grew up in Strongsville and was as passionate a Cleveland sports fan as there is. He wore it proudly. His license plate read “HOM3R.” He threw his shoe at the TV when the Tribe lost the ’97 World Series. He’d probably be cheesed if he knew I had a .gif of him yelling “THAT’S BULLS*T!!” during an NBA game on my phone. But that’s what we all loved about him: Freddy Mac was “Cleveland vs. Everyone” long before they put it on a t-shirt.

Fred was heading into his 14th year as the play-by-play man of the Cavaliers and was with the Pistons for 22 seasons. Over the course of his prolific career he’s covered several championship squads – and he got to call his hometown team’s title-winning moments in 2016.

At 23, Fred got his start when WJW’s Jim Mueller noticed him, dressed in a yellow polyester suit, lugging his own camera equipment and doing his own interviews at the PGA Championship at Firestone.

(Those of us who know Fred know that the only thing that’s changed about him is the yellow suit.)

Fred was doggedly determined to get the full story. If he wasn’t, no one might actually believe the Cal-Stanford “Play to Beat the Band” finish actually existed.

Fred was working for a station in San Francisco at the time and covering that now-famous contest. Again, in typical Fred fashion, he made sure that his cameraman shot until the end.

"I always had to fight game traffic to get back to the studio, but I always liked to live on the edge a little bit anyway, so I said, ‘Just continue to shoot because you never know what might happen," Fred recalled. "It was arguably the most famous play in college football history and we’re the only ones who had it."

Universally respected in the NBA and the sports world, Fred was an even better person than he was a broadcaster.

Fred was generous with his talent and his experience. He was always willing to listen; to lend a hand. He loved people and genuinely wanted to help. He was passionate in everything he did.

He and his wonderful wife, Beth, were more than just a couple – they were a team. And the entire Cavs family grieves for her loss.

Fred McLeod went at the top of his game, doing what he loved. He reached incredible heights in his professional career and was the play-by-play man of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers when they won the World Championship and snapped a 52-year curse.

But even more than that, he had a wife who loved him. He got to see his kids grow up and succeed. He got to hold his grandchildren.

It’s heartbreaking that he won’t be there, in his usual spot at Cleveland Clinic Courts – on the folding chair alongside practice – when Training Camp starts this month or that he won’t be next to Austin Carr – taking shots in the ribs – when the season tips off in October.

One thing Fred loved as a broadcaster more than anything was telling a story. And when we tell his, it’ll be one for the ages.

I like to think that wherever Fred is right now, the Cavs, Browns and Tribe never lose and he never hooks his tee shot into the woods or comes up short on a putt. And when he misplaces his laptop, it just shows up out of nowhere wherever he goes next.

See you in the next life, Freddy Mac.

We love you.

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