He rubbed the ashes tenderly into the asphalt of the schoolyard at Public School 70 in Astoria, where the two had played pickup baseball, football and roller hockey. He smudged them proudly onto a marker on Lower Broadway commemorating the city’s ticker-tape parade for the Mets after their 1969 World Series victory. He dusted them onto Shea’s original home plate location, which is designated by a marker in Citi Field’s parking lot.
But scattering the ashes at some stadiums posed problems. Mr. McDonald’s first attempt, at a Pittsburgh Pirates game in 2009 at PNC Park, was met with a gust of wind, recalled Adam Boneker, 46, a friend who has accompanied Mr. McDonald on many of his trips to ballparks to dump the ashes.
“It was awkward,” Mr. Boneker recalled, adding that they resolved to try it at a Minnesota Twins game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis but, once there, realized that an indoor stadium was not an appropriate setting.
Afterward, at a nearby Irish pub, a frustrated Mr. McDonald excused himself to use the bathroom. He returned smiling and declared triumphantly, “‘I just took care of Roy,’” Mr. Boneker recalled.
Mr. McDonald had flushed the ashes in the bathroom.
“Right there, it hit me,” Mr. McDonald said. “After that, it just took on a life of its own.”
In the years that followed, he — often with Mr. Boneker — flushed ashes in stadiums in Arizona, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore and elsewhere.
In Cleveland, Mr. Riegel’s ashes were flushed at both Progressive Field and at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, because Mr. Riegel was a devout rocker. In Chicago, Mr. McDonald flushed them at a White Sox game but not at a game of the Cubs, the Mets’ old National League nemesis.
“It’s funny — not in a joke way — but funny that it was exactly like Roy would have wanted it,’’ Mr. McDonald said.
Over the years, a wide circle of Mr. McDonald’s friends have gotten updates on the latest disposals.
“It became kind of an inside joke: What’s the best place for Roy’s ashes?” said Mr. McDonald, whose friendship with Mr. Riegel stretched back to Pack 65 of the Cub Scouts and through adulthood as the fun moved into local bars.
Mr. Riegel was “a major partyer,” Mr. McDonald said, and “walked that tightrope between genius and insanity.”
The fast life caught up with him, and he died at age 48 on April 8, 2008, the day of the home opener of the Mets’ final season at Shea. Mr. McDonald attended the game without Mr. Riegel and returned home to find out his friend had died.