by Jim Riggs
August 14, 1999
Married To Sports For 25 Years
The Baseball Hall of Fame and August also mean something for my wife, Sharon, and I because Cooperstown confirmed that Sharon had married a sports nut.
Before meeting me, sports was simply a section of the newspaper she tossed aside. She had no way of knowing that her husband’s name would someday be in that section or that she would end up learning more about sports than she wanted to.
The first year we dated, Sharon became quite a hockey fan because I had a Penguins season ticket while attending college in Pittsburgh. By the end of Sharon’s first hockey season she could explain icing, offsides and an offsides pass to newcomers to the sport.
It’s no wonder that on the top of our wedding cake we didn’t have the traditional plastic bride and groom. Instead, we had two little stuffed penguins.
Sharon was also introduced to my main sports interest - baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, her first visit to a Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium was a boring shutout loss to Don Sutton and the Los Angeles Dodgers on a chilly night in April. Sharon never really got into baseball like hockey, but I recall she rushed home from her first-year teaching position in the fall of 1972 in time to see Bob Moose fling his memorable wild pitch in the deciding game of the National League Championship Series.
That cost the Pirates a berth in the second straight World Series. It also cost Sharon a chance to attend her first World Series because I already had tickets.
In the fall she was still trying to figure out why a man who grew up in Ohio and now lived in New York had always been a Houston Oilers fan. But she soon was seeing Columbia blue oil derricks everywhere, the infamous logo for the Oilers, which is now gone along with the team name.
Those were the main three spectators sports Sharon had to contend with. But, when it came to participating in sports, as we dated and through marriage, she has had to accept my “mistress”- golf.
I now pass the century mark in rounds of golf early in the fall and fortunately most of the rounds are played when Sharon is at work, or she is asleep when I tee off at dawn.
Sharon has no interest in playing golf and doesn’t like watching it on television, but she did become an interested spectator at tournaments.
She’s always enjoyed attending the LPGA Corning Classic and also got to check out a round of the Women’s US Open at Oakmont Country Club. A highlight of her golf viewing career was in 1989 when she witnessed the final-round of the U.S. Open when Curtis Strange became the last repeat winner in the event.
The more we dated, the more I noticed sports weren’t as important to me anymore as spending time with Sharon. I didn’t mind missing an occasional Pirates game on the radio and I know something was up on New Year’s Eve of 1972 when I learned that Roberto Clemente had been killed in a plane crash and it didn’t devastate me.
Then I really knew something was going on in January 1973 when I extended one of my visits home to see Sharon and skipped a Penguins’ home game despite having a season ticket.
The “condition” became worse and I cut down my rounds of golf and even quit playing for a whole year. By 1974 it was “terminal” and I gave Sharon an engagement ring. However, I even worked that event around baseball.
The date was April 5, her birthday, and I had planned for us to go out to dinner where I would give her the ring. However, the Pirates were opening the season at St. Louis that night.
Back then, opening day of the baseball season was like a holiday for me and in the 1970’s some Pirate road games were broadcast on an Erie television station. If that opening game was on television, it would have started at 8:30 p.m., which would have left plenty of time to go to dinner and still watch the game. So that led to another plan.
I pictured us sitting on the couch at Sharon’s house watching the game and after a few innings I was going to give her a box of Cracker Jack. When she found the prize envelope, inside would be her engagement ring.
What a romantic! And what a great way to still get to watch the game! However, that plan wasn’t necessary. I contacted the Erie television station and learned it would not be broadcasting the opening game. That meant I didn’t have to try to pull off the Cracker Jack surprise.
Four months later we were married on Saturday, August 17.
The wedding was at 3 p.m. Game of the Week, so I recall catching a few innings of it before heading to the church.
That night we headed off to start our honeymoon in Cooperstown. Yes, it is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and we did visit it one day.
But Cooperstown had plenty of other attractions which made it a great site.
However, I can still see the amazed face of one of my co-workers as he exclaimed. “You went to Cooperstown on your honeymoon!” We also made a stop in Toronto on our way back. And no, we didn’t visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The first seven months of our marriage were filled with plenty of sports with trips to Pirates and Penguins game and the usual sports television viewing. But then sports really took over in April 1975 when I was hired at The Post Journal.
It started with covering golf tournaments in the summer followed by high school football game in the fall. Then things really picked up. When Sharon and I met, I always said basketball was the major sport I like least.
But that winter I was sometimes covering six high school and junior college basketball games a week. I was always working at night which was not convenient. We usually passed each other as I left for work and Sharon returned home from teaching.
However, it became very convenient when our son was born because I was with him in the day and Sharon was with him at night.
It was about then that Jamestown returned to the New York-Penn League and minor league baseball consumed our summers.
When I became the sports editor in 1979, my hours changed, but were still unusual. Instead of working at night and coming home around 3 a.m., I was starting work around 3 a.m. However, it meant I was home at night if I didn’t have a game to cover, which wasn’t too often.
“Do you have a game tonight?” became a common question from Sharon, especially during the NY-P League season.
Long home stands for the Jamestown Expos and then Jammers could be rather taxing and more than once I headed to the ballpark after a heated exchange at home.
The most memorable was in 1988 during the playoffs. After the opening game here I was to leave for the next game in Oneonta.
“If you go to that game (in Oneonta), you don’t have to bother coming home,” was the last thing I heard as I left the house. Yes, I went to the game. And yes, I came home.
Being married to a sportswriter can be rough and Sharon has weathered the storm well. A hundred times I’ve heard her say in frustration, “I hate your job.” However she knows I love it and she only makes that statement on “one of those bad days.”
Now we’re going through another adjustment with The Post-Journal becoming a morning newspaper. That means after nearly 20 years, I’m back to working at night.
And that will be the case on Tuesday, which is our 25th anniversary. Sharon and I will have a celebration dinner, but earlier than normal because I am covering a Jammers home game that night.
It only seems fitting.
After 25 years Sharon doesn’t deserve another ring; she deserves a medal.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.