HILLSDALE – Sports have always been a big part of Bill Mullaly’s life.
In high school, he played on the 1975 Hudson football team that set a national record with a 72-game winning streak.
He coached an Arizona high school team to back-to-back state softball championships in the 1990s.
And the 63-year-old Hillsdale resident has spent nearly three decades as an MHSAA-registered official in basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball.
Now, he’s giving back to multiple communities and school districts in southeast Michigan by purchasing and donating scoreboards for use at recreation and high school fields.
"Bill is a great example of everything that is right with sports,” said Pittsford athletic director Mike Burger. “He has so much enthusiasm and love for the game. I have known him a long time and can honestly say he is one of the good ones that I have had the good fortune of meeting along my journey.”
Mullaly decided to start his scoreboard campaign a couple of years ago and, so far, has donated a total of 15 scoreboards to seven communities in south-central Michigan, including four in his hometown of Hudson.
“It’s to make the games more fun and more enjoyable,” he said. “I’ve been to two places this spring where they have scoreboards, but they aren’t working. It’s frustrating. It improves the whole game. It’s for everybody, the coaches, the players, the fans. It helps everybody.
“I’ve got a lot of positive feedback. People are grateful.”
Mullaly said he is fortunate to be in a position to help out the communities. His donations have all been to either recreation fields or high schools to which he has a connection, whether it be where he’s from ( Hudson), where he is a substitute teacher (Litchfield) or where he hosts baseball youth tournaments (Concord).
One of the scoreboards in Pittsford is in memory of his mother, Beverly, a 1948 Pittsford graduate.
“Someone said to me a couple of years ago, ‘What’s your legacy going to be?’” Mullally said. “I started thinking about what I can do to make a difference.
“I saw a lot of recreation fields that do not have scoreboards. Most of them don’t. A lot of schools don’t have a scoreboard, in fact. I looked into the price and what it would take to get them and came up with this thing that I’m going to donate scoreboards to parks. I saw a couple of schools that needed them.”
Mullaly purchases the scoreboards, then leaves it up to the school district or community to install them, which sometimes has been a hangup. In Hudson, he enlisted the help of a friend, Bruce Isenhower, and his son, Ryan, a former Hudson quarterback who now owns a construction company. They’ve put up all four scoreboards Mullaly has donated to Hudson.
“It’s more than just buying it, it’s getting it put up,” Mullaly said. “They have installed them, completed the wiring and it’s great. It’s great to have a working scoreboard there. I’m just trying to give back and make a positive difference.”
His first donation was to Concord, which went to the town’s recreation organization.
“They have five fields and three scoreboards,” he said. “It just adds to the game, the experience. Everyone wants to know the score at these games.”
In Hudson, two went to Memorial Park and two to Will Carleton Park, which is home to Hudson’s middle school and junior varsity softball teams.
Last winter his donation went to North Adams-Jerome for a varsity softball field.
“I’ve been there before,” he said. “The thing barely worked, and you couldn’t see the numbers. I wanted to help them out.”
Pittsford has installed one of two scoreboards Mullaly has purchased for the district for its baseball and softball fields. Quincy and Litchfield are using scoreboards donated by Mullaly. He has also donated a scoreboard to Union City.
“A guy was building a new complex two years ago. I said, ‘If you build it, I’ll donate the scoreboard.’ He said, ‘You will?’ I thought it was great what he was doing, and I wanted to be part of it,” Mullaly said.
Most of the signs include the moniker, “Donated by Bill Mullaly – For the Love of the Game,” which is something he and a friend thought up.
“My main focus was to do it for parks that the rec teams play on,” Mullaly said. “They don’t have a booster club or a budget. That’s how it began, but then I started going around to high schools and noticing they need scoreboards too.
“I get some satisfaction looking out there,” he said. “I feel blessed that I am able to do it. It’s neat when you are umpiring a game and you look out there.”
The first scoreboard Mullaly purchased in 2021 cost less than $3,000. They are now running a little more than $4,000 each.
“It’s useful and practical and can last for years if they take care of them,” Mullaly said.
After college, Mullaly lived for 15 years in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where he taught and coached softball. He makes a return visit annually to that area and manages to get on the high school softball umpiring schedule while in town.
He retired as a teacher at Homer Community Schools in 2010. In addition to being a substitute teacher at Litchfield, umpiring and working as an official in other sports, he writes about sports for the Hudson Post-Gazette and Homer Index, two weekly newspapers. He’s done that since 1996. He also is a historian for the Hudson football team and area athletics.
He’s never far from some aspect of sports.
“I’m just trying to give back to the communities, to the sport,” Mullaly said. “I wanted to do something positive.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) A scoreboard donated by Bill Mullaly stands tall at Pittsford High School. (Middle) Mullaly, middle, stands last July with Jo Ann and Watson Clark in front of a scoreboard he donated to Will Carleton Park; the photo was taken during the 22nd David Clark Memorial Baseball Tournament. (Top photo courtesy of Pittsford High School; middle photo courtesy of Bill Mullaly.)