April 29, 2016
Tributes to Jim Riggs
Close on the heels of the death of Jim Roselle, another giant of Jamestown-area media has completed his earthly assignment. Jim Riggs, former Post-Journal sports editor for nearly 40 years, died Saturday, April 23, at Roswell Park Cancer Institute after a determined battle with leukemia.
Like his predecessor at the P-J, Frank Hyde, Jim, though not born in Jamestown, was immensely proud of his adopted hometown. His love and devotion for the Jamestown Expos and Jammers baseball clubs, the Jamestown Community College Jayhawk basketball squads, and the JHS Red Raider football teams are well-known and documented.
But Jim was equally committed to area sports of all shapes and sizes. Think about the attention The Post-Journal gave to high school sports, youth leagues, and a myriad of other local recreational activities during Jim’s tenure at the editor’s desk. Those high standards are being capably continued under the auspices of Scott Kindberg, Jim’s long-time assistant and ultimately his successor.
On a personal note, I was proud to call Jim a friend for almost four decades. We were the same age. Our spouses were both teachers. We have sons the same age that attended the same schools and sometimes played on the same youth league teams. When I coached girls’ soccer at JHS and would call in the game results to Jim, our conversations were often long, covering a variety of topics in our lives.
As the current president of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, I am thankful for another contribution Jim Riggs made to the area sports community. On a cold and snowy December night in 1980, Jim was one of the original folks who convened to plan for a countywide sports hall of fame. A year later, Jim and Russ Diethrick, among others, incorporated the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. Over the ensuing 35 years, Jim continued to loyally serve the CSHOF as a member of its board of directors and was granted director emeritus status in 2015.
Thank you, Jim, for the many pivotal roles you played in the sports history of our community, but most importantly, for your friendship. Bless you, Sharon, Jimmy and his family. May you rest in peace
by Dan Bjork
Though I have known that Jim has been battling leukemia for a while you never quite accept or appreciate the value of someone’s life and their dedication to the Jamestown community until they pass away. Yes, Chautauqua County has lost a true friend in the world of sports and his continued support of it.
Though I have known that Jim has been battling leukemia for a while you never quite accept or appreciate the value of someone’s life and their dedication to the Jamestown community until they pass away. Yes, Chautauqua County has lost a true friend in the world of sports and his continued support of it.
Let me speak of what he did for golf in the area as I can still see Jim walking the fairways of his beloved Chautauqua Golf Club when I was a member 30-plus years ago, but that is only part of the story. I do believe it was Jim, on one of his first golf assignments, who covered our Southwestern High School state championship in 1975 at Elma Meadows. Then, in his ”All in a Day’s Sports” column, Jim wrote of our state championship 30-year “reunion” in 2005, just a couple of years before our coach, Gene Munson, passed away. I know he wrote this because I framed the article and have it hanging on a wall in my home.
Jim saw the need of a true scratch golf tournament in the area since the game has taken over by handicap and scramble format tournaments and outings. He wisely came up with the format of inviting all the local club champions to play in a scratch tournament at a local 18-hole golf course. The idea has taken off. I have been fortunate to play in this tournament three times. Of course, Jim covered the annual event. Suggestion: Why not name this tournament “The Jim Riggs Memorial Golf Championship”? He loved golf so much and it was his idea!
He covered large local golf events with true vigor, for instance the Junior College Division III championships at Chautauqua, the annual Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament, the professional Nationwide Tour (now Web.com Tour) held at Peek n Peak, and whenever a state championship is held nearby. I have personal recollections for the last three. Through the years I have been fortunate enough to have some success playing and supporting the game of golf. Jim was there at these events taking pictures, notes and asking questions for quotes. He was always candid, wrote quotes I had in the proper context, and treated me more than fairly when things didn’t go my way.
The 1995 New York State Men’s Amateur Championship was, of course, very thrilling. I qualified for the tournament but didn’t advance to the match-play portion of the tournament, so I caddied for my good friend Dirk Ayers. I was able to walk step by step with Dirk all the way to winning the championship, and Jim was there with us seemingly every step as well. Jim covered the “State Am” wonderfully which I still think about often. When Dirk turned pro the following year, Dirk’s first pro tourney was the Nationwide event held at Brierwood Country Club in Hamburg, New York. I was there caddying for Dirk, and there was Jim. Jim was able to keep tabs on Dirk during his years on the Canadian Tour and reported as such. Then when Dirk qualified for his first PGA Tour event, the B.C. Open in Endicott, I was there caddying for Dirk, and there was Jim!
In June 2004, when the Nationwide tour was held at Peek’n Peak, one of Dirk’s friends from the Canadian Tour, Australian David McKenzie, was playing on the tour at the time and he needed a caddy. So I ended up getting the loop for David through talking with Dirk. Nobody really knew about it. Well,
Jim saw me caddying and thought it was interesting, so he talked with me briefly in between holes on the front nine and took some pictures. Jim, being ever so busy during the event, left and we didn’t see him the rest of the day. At the time I saw Jim, David was about even par for the round. Well, David caught fire on the back nine and shot 67 which was only 1 shot out of the lead. That evening my phone rings and it was Jim. He was so excited because now he had a story! We talked for a while and that article is also framed and hanging on my wall at home. Now that the Web.com tour is coming back to the Peek I’m sure Jim would have been there looking for another scoop.
Jim also had a way of helping me. In 1983, before the days of the Internet, Jim caught wind that Mark Tarbrake and I would be attending the U.S. Open at Oakmont CC outside of Pittsburgh (incidentally where this year’s Open will be held). Jim took it upon himself to send me information that only he was able to obtain being a member of the media. Of course, Jim was there, too, covering the event. And, if he was able I’m sure he’d be at Oakmont this year, too.
This is only my experiences with Jim in the small golf category in the whole sports industry. Even though I live in Ohio now, where Jim was from originally, and my competitive juices have weaned off lately (and no more basketball officiating), Jim had a very positive effect on my sports and athletic career. Whenever I’ve been in town and our paths have crossed there was always time for a short chat. They were always short chats because we all know he was always looking for that next story!
I now certainly do appreciate Jim’s life and dedication to the entire Jamestown community. He will be missed.
by Jim Brown
I didn’t work closely with Jim except when he and I were assigned to produce the Daily Olympic Digest for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. He and I drove a delivery van up to Saranac Lake – Ogden Newspapers owned the weekly there. It was our base of operations, and the editor had accommodations for us and several other Digest staffers in a house he owned.
That van only had one seat originally, so we convinced the P-J circulation director that a second seat had to be installed in the cab for safety. We took that thing up there for delivery of the Digests, and we were assigned an old Nissan pickup truck for our transportation needs among the Olympic venues.
I was assigned to do the editing and pagination, using an MDT computer system that ran on 6-inch floppy discs. Jim Riggs spent most of the days going between venues to cover the action, including the famous U.S. victory over the Russian ice hockey team.
I remember Jim Riggs as being a good guy and a solid journalist. I’m sure he’ll be missed.
by Jeff Brucculeri
I was a 13-year old batboy for the Jamestown Expos when I first met Jim Riggs, in 1978. He was the beat writer for The Post-Journal, and working as the official scorer. With his quick wit and my quirky sense of humor we hit it off real fast and quickly became friends.
Jim was more than just a really good friend, he was a mentor and an encourager; he was a big part of the reason I became a member of the media.
To me, Jim was a professional in a profession in which I wanted to be a part. I was so impressed that he had the honor and distinction of covering the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in 1980. Jim was there when the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviet Union, in one of the greatest upsets ever in sports history, and he covered the gold medal game against Finland. I thought it was so cool that Jim was there, and witnessed this first hand.
He had the great job of covering sports for a living. What could be better than that? “I want to do that someday,” I would say. He would reply, “Well, you can.”
That seemed to be Jim’s answer to everything. He was always positive in the way he would encourage me.
I was a lousy golfer, actually and more accurately, I was nothing more than a duffer just starting to play the game in my teens, but he invited me to play with him many times at Chautauqua Golf Club. I had no right to be on that course, except for the fact that my friend Jim, a long-time member, invited me to be there. The only time I might see Jim get a bit irritated with me, was when I was slowing down our pace of play. He liked to play fast and didn’t want to waste too much time looking for errant golf balls. He introduced me to those bright orange golf balls that became popular in the 1980s. He figured if I could see where the ball went, we could play a lot faster. He was right.
Jim was a big fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and once invited me to go along with him to a game in Pittsburgh when the Pens played the Flyers. For me, at that time, going to an NHL game was like taking a trip to Disney World. I wasn’t a fan of either team, but couldn’t believe I was there. That’s a huge cross-state rivalry and I found myself booing just as loud as the next guy at the Flyers goalie, Ron Hextall.
When my mother died in 1980, Jim visited the funeral home, and when my wife and I got married, Jim and his wife Sharon, attended our wedding. He was always there for me.
I remember when I first created and performed as the mascot “Yippee!” for the Jamestown Expos, Jim thought it was silly at first, but soon he would be telling me about how he sat in the press box laughing at my impersonation of the visiting managers, or he would compliment me on my dancing performance on top of the dugout.
When the NCAA Basketball Tournament rolled around, Jim would call me and invite me over to his house to sit, eat pizza, and watch the games all day. It made me feel special, that Jim would let me into his home and share a pizza with me, while watching sports on television. After all, I looked up to him. He didn’t have to be nice to this young kid who just wanted to be like him, but he was.
After I graduated from college, Jim and I became cohorts in the Jamestown media. I was working at WJTN, broadcasting many of the same sports events that Jim covered. I continued to work for the Expos in the summers and he continued to cover the team. We continued to play golf together up until the day I moved to Tulsa in November 1988. I grew up under the mentorship of Jim Riggs and will forever be grateful. I will truly miss him and he leaves a huge hole in my heart.
Jeff Brucculeri is a sports columnist at the Tulsa Beacon and a play-by-play broadcaster for the Tulsa Oilers hockey team.
by Bill Burk
Jim Riggs was a Jayhawk. He was a Red Raider, he was an Expo (before he was a Jammer). He was a Trojan and a Cougar and a Falcon and a Hillbilly. A Cardinal, a Marauder, a Thunderbird and a Bear. He was a husband, a father, a golfer and a gentleman. He was a stoic professional and a meticulous journalist.He wrote sports for The Post-Journal for as many years as I can remember, and he passed away a little while ago. Mr. Riggs stood out for the sheer volume of his work on the page, 30-plus years writing sports, and in the community. I was forbidden by my upbringing to call him anything but Mr. Riggs, and I guess I learned most about him from his ”All in a Days Sports” articles in the paper. Seemed like he’d written his personal opinions in that column since about forever (in older byline pictures he’s styling a Fu Manchu mustache. … Mr. Riggs! What were you thinking?). I always thought that was a good format for him, a way to expose his nature in a way he seemed reluctant to in public. If you didn’t have the fortune to know him on a personal level, ”All in a Days Sports” was a good way to understand what he found important, and probably more importantly, what he considered frivolous.
There are few safer things to say about sports than that Mr. Riggs probably saw it all. I don’t believe much surprised him, no feat large or small, no monumental journalistic angle, no sport sentiment. When you’ve experienced live from Lake Placid the most famous upset in the history of sports, the 1980 Olympic US hockey victory over the USSR, it might be a challenge to get worked up over an overtime high school basketball game. Yet he still seemed to marvel at sports, small and large, the players and the games. When Mr. Riggs got excited about something his speech could become stilted and staggered (more so 20 years ago when I first met him as director of athletics at Jamestown Community College, less so in recent years), a mental binge of images and ideas straining at the bottleneck of communication and speech. He couldn’t wait to share his ideas, to ask his questions, to follow-up, to clarify.
The past tense can be brutal. It takes a lot out of a writer when you have to use it on a real person, someone you knew personally, someone you looked forward to connecting with. Mr. Riggs’ passing is strange to anyone in area sports, disorienting, like the end of a game that didn’t turn out quite right. He famously wore Pittsburgh Penguins and Pirates jerseys, a connection with his favorite professional sports teams. He also wore, during football season (a genial and frustrating poke at Buffalo Bills fans) a Tennessee Titans sport shirt. It never would have dawned on Mr. Riggs that he was describing himself wearing that jersey, a subconscious admission of his stamp on life, and epiphany. To people who cared about him and about sports and journalism in our little sphere of the world, Mr. Riggs was, in every sense of the word, a Titan.
by Jason Bussman
Jim Riggs. Wow. I’m floored by the news of his passing. I haven’t seen him or talked to him in years, yet (last Saturday’s) news caught me completely by surprise. He had a huge impact on the person I have become today. When I first walked into the newsroom at The Post-Journal, I was a naive 21-year- old “I’ve Got the World by the Strings” punk. Jim helped me pull in my energy and tone down my excitement, which has proven to steady the wheel of my life in a way that I can never repay.
I still remember the first day I came to The Post-Journal. I walked over to the sports department, expecting to see it full of die-hard Buffalo fans such as myself. Much to my surprise, there was a Tennessee Titans flag on the wall and a plethora of Pittsburgh Penguins merchandise scattered around the area. I hated both of those teams. And by hated, I mean despised. It was 2002, and the 1999 Titans’ “Miracle Non-Forward Lateral” over the Bills was still too fresh in my brain. And my first hockey game ever was against the Penguins. And Mario Lemieux and company embarrassed my Buffalo Sabres. And then my Dad almost got into a fight. Ever since that moment, I have never called a Pittsburgh Penguins fan a friend. Until Jim.
I could tell right away that Jim and I weren’t going to mesh well. He was a hard-nosed sports news guy and very gruff. He wanted to get his work done, and here I am all lively and full of Buffalo pride, and he dismissed me almost before I opened my mouth.
Then something happened. In the middle of my incoherent rambling about nothing in particular – basically I was just filling the air because I was uncomfortable – I spotted a photograph on Jim’s wall. It was a shot of the Buffalo Bills kicker, Steve Christie, and the hero-of-the-day Frank Reich celebrating the field goal that completed the greatest comeback game in history of the NFL. The ball couldn’t have even touched the netting behind the uprights yet when that shot was taken.
“Sweet photo,” I stated. Jim’s reply wasn’t a thank you or even an ”I know,” it was, “I took that picture.” I still remember my response to him: “Seriously? That’s awesome.” He suddenly got placed on a pedestal, and he never stepped off that pedestal for me. Right in that moment he gained so much respect from me that I can’t even really explain it. In the years to come, I found out that this is a guy who was covering sports during the “Miracle on Ice” United States over USSR hockey game. He was present at the game that followed that game – the one where the USA’s defeat over Finland earned it a gold medal.
I went golfing with him once. It was a charity event at Moon Brook Country Club and we represented The Post-Journal. He used to tell me that he woke up at something ridiculous like 4 or 5 a.m. just to get 18 holes in before work. And he walked the course. Golf carts to Jim were like asking for a Zamboni for a breakaway. It took away from the sport of the game. I made a comment to a colleague the night before that golf tournament that I was going to wear my hockey jersey just like Adam Sandler in “Happy Gilmour.” Jim simply, on his way out, gave me one look and said, “Don’t do that. You don’t want to be that guy.” Those words stuck: from that point on I realized that I never want to be “that” guy. In anything.
Throughout the course of the next six years, Jim showed me how to act in a professional setting. He loved to talk hockey and he loved to talk baseball. He could kill time like the rest of us, but if something needed to get done, it got done first. There was always time to talk after the paper went to the press. And there were no mistakes. I spent many nights where it was only Jim and me at the paper, waiting for the press to print off the first copy so we could check it over before heading home for the night.
When I left The Post-Journal to become an English teacher, I missed the people more than anything. I missed the nightly friendly-fire arguments about sports, the banter back and forth about nonsense. I used to tease Jim that all of his columns were about things that happened 20 years ago, and he needed to write about what happened last week. He always dead-panned his reply and basically informed me that everything worth anything has already happened. The feat happening again is just that: someone repeating a past accomplishment by someone who did it first.
Well, I don’t think there are too many people who can repeat Jim’s accomplishments. He was a one-of-a-kind sportswriter who made a living doing what he loved doing. He will be missed by all who knew him.
by Cal Cederquist
Memories of Jim
He was a good friend.
I first met Jim when we were both starting our careers. He was a young new reporter and I was a young new teacher and coach.
I started my career at little Chautauqua Central School. I was appointed track coach right away and suddenly realized that the school had no facilities for the sport. There was only a baseball field behind the school which butted up against the Chautauqua Golf Club.
To create a place to practice, we would pick up rocks from the Institute’s parking lot and toss them out of the way. Jim, while playing a round of golf, took notice of our efforts. Next thing I know he comes down from the golf course interested in what we were doing. We talked a bit and Jim said he would like to do an article on our team and the obstacles we faced. The kids thought it was fantastic that someone from the paper would take such an interest in them.
Jim wrote a great article and from that point on our team began to get bigger and we realized more success each year. He and the staff took a special interest in our improvement and when we finally reached championship status, Jim wrote another article on our achievements.
Our connection and friendship grew and when our little school was dissolving due to merger, we had one final athletic event in the history of the school just two weeks before the end of the final year. Our boys 1,600-meter relay won the state championship. Jim again took the opportunity to write in his “All in a Day’s Sports” column another article calling us the track and field’s version of “Hoosiers.”
What I’m trying to say is Jim Riggs not only reported the sports, he became part of and enhanced the local sports scene. He definitely was a large part of our team and program’s growth and success due to his genuine interest he took in us. I only hope we were a part of his.
We all go through our daily lives concerned about making a living. But the important thing is to make it a life for ourselves and others. What we remember most is how they touched our lives and how good they made us feel. That was Jim.
Thank you my friend, rest in peace.
by Russell E. Diethrick Jr.
Everything he put out was easy to read, pleasant to read and it was accurate. I never went to a game at the stadium or at Bergman Park and then (the next day) read the results and wonder, ‘Was I at that game?’ Reading his coverage at a baseball game was a lot like Frank Hyde’s. That was always enjoyable. Jim’s written word was always his spoken word. He drew you to him to read what he’d put out, it was pleasant reading, it was accurate reading. He left a special touch on a lot of people.
by Hugh Duckwall
I usually get up on Sunday mornings and look for my Sunday Post-Journal to start my day off, along with a fresh cup of coffee. I was dismayed to open this week’s weekend edition to see the headlines announcing Jim Riggs’ passing. I froze at the sight of the beginning to Scott Kindberg’s column.
The first thing that crossed my mind, once the awareness of the content of the article sunk in, was regret at not taking the opportunity to say goodbye to one of the true “gentlemen” that I had dealt with over my 43 years of coaching , to date. I felt very sorry for myself that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to say “Godspeed!” to a friend that, in my knowledge, never had an unkind or cruel thing to say to any individual. Jim’s friendship, within the confines of our professional relationship, left me wishing that I had taken the opportunities to play a round of golf, have a cup, or just spend more time listening to Jim’s knowledge and humaneness in life’s daily round of inane follies.
As a former member of the professional media, and voting member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, I had dealt with Jim for many, many years in reporting the efforts on many of my teams at Little Valley Central School and the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central’s teams in the various varsity sports I have had the privilege to guide since I began coaching in 1973. In commiserating my efforts in covering the Buffalo Sabres professionally, and the differences in seeing Jim’s coverage of my own teams’ efforts, I realized what a true professional Jim was in his daily coverings and columns. He would take what I “threw” at him and turn my remarks into a clear and concise reporting of what we had accomplished or tried to in whatever sports I was reporting to him that day.
One instance comes to mind after a lopsided defeat at the hands of a local football team, guided by an individual that had formerly been a friend and colleague dating back to our common efforts in coaching together at one of the early Jim Kelly Football camps at St. Bonaventure University in the early 1980s, and who is still a prominent coach in Chautauqua County today.
On this particular day, at a home football game where we were hosting this coach’s varsity team at our field in Little Valley, my team was behind by a 30-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. My former friend decided, after another of his team’s scores, to onsides kick to my team, which was an unsuccessful attempt. I took umbrage at what I deemed to be a very shoddy and demeaning attempt to further embarrass my squad. I expressed myself very clearly and succinctly to the other coach at the end of the quarter and game, and with whom I still have not had a pleasant discussion with to this day!
In reporting the outcome to Jim, which I always did after every game, either home or away, win or lose, Jim picked up my disdain clearly concerning the other coach’s decision, and in the process of our story, convinced me to focus on what my kids did that could be viewed in any positive way that day. He never put into print my frustration or anger over the attempt to demean my kids’ efforts. I never forgot how Jim turned our discussion into the best possible reporting of a disaster.
At that same time on The Post-Journal staff was another wonderful individual, Dent Thorpe, who had the same compassion and skills that Jim Riggs always exhibited. Those two gentlemen were the two finest reporters I have had the pleasure to deal with reporting results, positive and negative, and keeping the stories professional and uplifting for my athletes and their families. I will miss the opportunities to have contact with Jim and to make my days better, just by talking to him. Thank you for the opportunity to express my love and admiration for one of the true ”GOOD” guys of the world today.
by Dick Gallagher
I was just fortunate to be able to interact with him over the years. He was a friend and supporter, a wonderful person who kept so busy on the sidelines. He would be taking pictures, following through taking notes and he was totally focused in. I learned from that. … To me, he was a tremendous asset for the Jamestown community and the football program. Look what The Post-Journal does for kids and all the publicity they give them? Jim has a wonderful legacy, one that will be remembered for a long time. He’s, to me, an icon for high school and college sports coverage and I’m just blessed to be able to interact with him in his lifetime.
Jim was probably at the seat of heaven and Saint Peter said, “Why should you come in?” After 10 minutes of Jim reporting on everything he did in his lifetime, Saint Peter said, “Come on in.” Then Jim said, “I only have one other question: Where’s the golf course.”
by Terry Heslink
It was about this time nearly 40 years ago that Jim Riggs and I met for the first time.
We met in the old Post-Journal building on Washington Street and he was applying for a job as either a sports writer or a photographer. Sports editor Frank Hyde was in need of a sportswriter, there was an opening in the department and Frank hired Jim.
Dent Thorpe and I were manning the phones that night and Jim did a few rewrites, then he took me home. Jim and his wife Sharon lived on Highland Avenue right next to Lincoln Junior High School. At the time, I lived on 94 Lakin Ave.
Jim was a big hockey fan where he was a season ticket holder of the Pittsburgh Penguins when he went to school at Point Park in Pittsburgh.
Also, he liked the Pittsburgh Pirates and Roberto Clemente. He took in several home openers of the Pirates and I was fortunate to go with him once.
As far as football is concerned, he never liked the Pittsburgh Steelers but instead rooted for the Houston Oilers, then of the American Football League. Fullback Bob White was from Jim’s hometown, East Liverpool, Ohio, so that, got him interested in the Oilers.
He stayed interested in the Oilers when they moved to Tennessee and became the Titans.
Jim’s favorite food, without a doubt, was pizza. If he could have eaten pizza every day he would have because he liked it that much.
Jim gave me a microwave many years ago that I still have today and use extensively. I didn’t have one at the time and he knew I really needed it.
Each November or December, I used to go with Jim to the Jamestown High School football banquet, and whenever, I wanted to go see the Jamestown Jammers play it was Jim who would leave my name at the ticket office.
It was Jim that talked me in to coming back to The Post-Journal in January 1997 after my mom passed away the month before, and it was Jim who took me to my rehab classes at WCA Hospital after I sustained a stroke a few years ago. People never knew what Jim had done in regards to helping people through the years.
He won’t be ever forgotten by The Post-Journal. Like Frank Hyde, the man he replaced, Jim was one of a kind.
Goodbye, my friend, it was a pleasure knowing you.
by Wally Huckno
Jimmy was a big part of the Red Raiders. … He’ll be missed. One of the things I always looked forward to was not only the Red Raider accounts, but all the other accounts after he covered the Red Raiders. I’m very saddened by the last year and a half and his struggle.
by Tom Langworthy
I was blessed to become good friends with Jim over the past 10 years, as he was at every game we played up until the end of the 2013 season. He was one of the first people I saw at the end of every game. He was a true professional, but still I knew he shared the variety of emotions I experienced from week to week immediately after our games had ended. He was there during good moments and tough moments – he even saw me shed tears after a tough playoff loss years ago! I will miss our weekly talks during football season and the way he always ended a conversation with the words, “Oooh kayyyyyy.” Rest in peace, my friend.
by Dan Lunetta
I always had such a respect and admiration for Jim. In the years I got to know him in the early part of my career, I always found Jim to be, first and foremost, honest and trustworthy, but I also appreciated he was candid with his sentiments toward any decision we might have about baseball and the team, and his scoring decisions. You could challenge Jim and you could have a thoughtful conversation and there was never any acrimony. It was always mutually respectful. That isn’t necessarily the guideline in this day and age.
Of course, the big difference with Jim to me is he covered sports in my hometown. Whether it was the Expos, JCC or high school football, even after leaving Jamestown, I religiously followed (Jim’s reporting). There was always this endearing relationship because local athletics have always been special to me.
by Keith Martin
Jim Riggs helped provide Jamestown Community College and its athletics program a sense of place regionally and nationally. He was the consummate journalist: he reported objectively on countless games and matches, captured emotion and action on miles of film and several gigabytes of digital memory, and shared the highs and lows of 40 years of Jayhawk athletics to countless readers. Jim was renowned in the National Junior College Athletic Association for his coverage of the Jayhawk program; none of JCC’s NJCAA colleagues had a media presence that compared to the one Jim had developed about JCC athletics.
Jim’s interest in providing the personal side of athletics – through profiles of student athletes and coaches in his “All in a Day’s Sports” columns was genuine and sincere. JCC figured into many of those columns, which provided not just a glimpse, but a full-on look, at what he felt made the Jayhawk program valuable and sustainable. His memory was incomparable; he remembered everything about Jayhawk athletics and the names that made those memories.
From the glory days of the Jayhawk men’s basketball in the 1970s, to the NJCAA College World Series in the 1990s, and to 16 years of the NJCAA golf national championships each June at Chautauqua Golf Club, Jim’s media coverage made every event a national event. Coaches from throughout the east and midwest looked forward to seeing Jim at the golf nationals each year because of the way he treated them and wrote about their teams.
Jim was a JCC alumnus and a stalwart Jayhawk but no one can claim he was biased in his reporting. He was dedicated to making sure credit was given to where credit was due, regardless of the game’s outcome. JCC’s student athletes, alumni, coaches, and supporters benefited from his professionalism, keen insights, and passion for sports, and his legacy will endure.
by Norma Marvell
I was fortunate to share time with three very special men during my tenure of working in the press box (if you could call it working) at Diethrick Park. They all made me feel welcome in an area where the “Good Old Boys Club” prevailed. Jim was always very patient and helpful when I was filling in for Bob Payne, making sure that I got it right. Jim always took the time to answer questions that any of us had concerning why he scored a play the way he did. And there were always some very lively discussions up in our little corner of the ballpark! I learned so much from these conversations.
During the game, Jim would be busy watching and doing his scoring, you would hear his rapid fire typing on his laptop between innings, putting his observations down for his article for the next day’s paper and we kept our eye out for any signals from the umpires indicating a pitching change during the break in between innings for him. We were a team that had each other’s back and enjoyed each other’s company and what we were doing.
Prior to game time, Todd Peterson and I would be upstairs, preparing for the game and cleaning up our work space. Jim would come in with his laptop, camera, a carton of Coke and a big bag of peanuts. He’d put a couple of cans of soda in the freezer compartment of our fridge to chill for during the game and shoot back out of the press box so that he could be down on the field to photograph the game for the next day’s paper. He would signal us from the field so we could enter hits and errors on the scoreboard. At the end of the game, he would rush back down to the locker rooms to get his quotes for his article and forget to pull his soda out of the freezer. Often the next day, Todd would find a can of soda that had exploded in the fridge.
That big bag of peanuts he had brought was shared by all and sometimes used as ammo to throw at Mike Ferguson, our general manager, as he rode around behind home plate on the golf cart. Every time I see a big bag of peanuts now, I’ll smile and think of Jim.
by Brian Mazurek
So sorry to hear of the passing of my longtime friend and co-worker Jim Riggs.
As you may know, especially Scott, I worked with Jim as the assistant sports editor at The Post-Journal for I believe 11-12 years. I was also fortunate enough to have worked with Frank Hyde so you can see I had some great teachers!!
I still have memories of playing golf with Jim and our trips to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the Bills games. Jim absolutely loved the hot dogs served in the press box before the game. I think he usually downed four, if not more!!! We had many a great drives to Orchard Park and we even made trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh for Bills’ coverage. It was great to just talk sports the entire time!!
Unfortunately over the past five years or so, Jim and I never were able to get together. Living in Rochester, he’d come up early and we’d have dinner before the JCC Jayhawks games.
I first got to know Jim when I worked for the Jamestown Expos. We had some great times then. After my second season with the Expos, I was offered a sports writing job with The Post-Journal thanks to Jim putting in a good word for me with Frank Hyde.
I can’t ever remember Jim getting upset or angry with me. Maybe he did, I don’t know, but he never showed it. It wasn’t in his nature. But he is one of the main reasons I still am writing today. I have a passion for writing, and even though my career path led me to work as a New York State Corrections Officer, I still have it.
Though I am retired from Corrections now, I am now enjoying the freedom to write which I do for Buffalo Raceway. I have always loved harness racing and Jim would always allow me to cover big races at Buffalo Raceway or Batavia Downs … no questions asked.
I remember playing golf probably twice a week with Jim along with our racquetball matches at JCC. Jim owned me in golf, like he did most people, but I think I held the upper hand in the racquetball matches.
And I’ll always remember working Friday nights and Jim would work some of those. It was a rare occurrence if we didn’t walk over to the Rusty Nail for a beer while we waited for the paper to go to press.
It’s just a very sad day for me to see that Jim has left us. So many memories.
When my first was born, my son Danny, I think Jim and Sharon were probably the happiest people in Chautauqua County for us. They were that kind of couple.
Jim has touched many people over the years with his great stories, articles and friendships. While he may be gone, he’ll always be with us in so many different ways.
by Todd Peterson
I must have heard that greeting from Jim Riggs at least 10,000 times on telephones or in person during our 34 years of friendship and as I write this, two days after he lost his long and difficult battle with leukemia at the age of 65, I would give almost anything to hear him say it just one more time.
Admittedly, it’s been hard to take this all in. Losing one of your best friends, especially far too soon, is a heartbreaking experience.
Jim was unique in so many ways. He wasn’t loud or boisterous. He lacked any type of ego. He never, ever wanted to be the center of attention yet he drew attention to himself in so many ways as an exceptionally talented writer, photographer, reporter and sports editor for The Post-Journal, a perceptive, intelligent baseball scorer for the Jamestown Jammers/Expos for so many years and as a skilled handler of a golf club, the game that gave him the most joy and happiness.
I always told him he had the perfect life. He would rise early five to six days a week and head for Chautauqua Golf Club and play 18 holes on his favorite course in usually record time. He would then head home and take care of his responsibilities there and head for the newspaper to put the next day’s sports pages together in the evening. I worked for him on a part-time basis there from 1998 to early in 2015 and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher.
I recall dozens of Friday nights and Saturday afternoons when we would drive together to an out-of- town football or basketball game. We would always grab a pizza somewhere (this truly was his main dietary staple!) and I would watch the game from the sidelines while Jim covered the action. After it was over, I would drive home while he wrote the game story on his laptop while listening to quotes from coaches and players on his tape recorder to finish it off. We did all this with a small light attached to the sun visor above him.
I originally met Jim when I was hired as the public address announcer for the then-Jamestown Expos in 1982 (ironically, it was a young Scott Kindberg, who was working for the team at that time who brought me on board) and we all hit it off. For the next 18 seasons, Jim, the late Bob Payne and I held court in the press box at Diethrick Park and I could go on for hours telling stories of the fun we had together.
Jim was always prepared for a game. Nothing was left to chance. His scoresheets were always set up the same, neat and organized. He always used a red pen. I’m the same way in so many respects of how I do things and I think that’s why we got along so well. We continued to work together when I became the PA person at Jamestown Community College for the Jayhawk basketball team for 11 years and he was at the scorer’s table for those games and, of course, he would be on the field covering the Jamestown Red Raiders while I handled the PA duties in the press box on Saturday afternoons from 1989 to 2006.
That was the professional side of our relationship. On a personal basis, I couldn’t have asked for a more loyal friend. Whenever I was dealing with a painful time in my life, and there have been more than a few, he would be the first person there for me, always compassionate and supportive. When I married my wife, Diane, in 2006, Jim was at the ceremony and the reception and, totally out of character for him, he put his arm tightly around my shoulders and told me how happy and excited he was that I had found happiness again. I’ve never forgotten that.
But his generosity was never more evident than when I faced my own medical issues.
I had my second knee operation in 2010 and was recovering at home. It was mid-summer and we had purchased a ceiling fan for the bedroom, but I was physically unable to install it, thanks to crutches. I had casually mentioned to Jim that I’d bought the fan. He showed up at my home the next day out of the blue, tools in hand, and he took care of the matter very quickly. I was totally floored and incredibly grateful.
Then came November of 2013, when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 aggressive prostate cancer. That meant 45 consecutive radiation treatments that left me pretty worn out. Jim not only kept in touch with me, offering his support and encouragement all the way, but he and his wife, Sharon, paid to have our driveway plowed over the winter months so I wouldn’t have to shovel.
That’s some kind of friend.
I was lucky. The course of treatment for my cancer was successful and, happily, I’m free of it to this day, but, ironically, just a few months after I completed my treatment in 2014, Jim received his diagnosis.
Through these many months, we remained optimistic and held out hope that he would somehow beat this. But, when he told me one day that he could no longer swing a golf club because his bones couldn’t take the stress, my heart sunk. At that point, I knew what the outcome would be.
It’s a perfect day outside as I write this. Warm and sunny and the grass is green and beautiful at Chautauqua. That’s where Jim should be … walking up the fairway at a brisk pace, bag slung over his shoulder, wearing a red or white golf shirt and visor and a comfortable pair of shorts, heading to his ball, preparing for the next shot.
It’s how I will always remember him.
So long, my friend. Thank you for 34 years of memories. You will never be forgotten. Rest well.
by Dan Scotchmer
I’ve been blessed to have several great bosses throughout my career at Kent State, Harvard and now M&T, but I likely would have never had those opportunities if it wasn’t for Jim Riggs.
See, Jim took a chance on a precocious high school sophomore when he hired me to be a part-time sportswriter at The Post-Journal. At the time, I wasn’t old enough to have a driver’s license and could only work until 10 p.m. on school nights, which is terribly inconvenient for a sports department. Yet, he still saw enough in me to give me that opportunity.
Jim was immensely talented and not just when it came to the written word. He was also a skilled photographer and was “photoshopping” images together long before there was an Adobe program that allowed you to do it all digitally. Instead, he would spend hours in the dark room, carefully crafting unique images that would adorn the pages of "The Gridiron", The Post-Journal’s annual high school football preview.
In my final two years of high school, Jim and the rest of the staff at The Post-Journal passed along a lot of those skills, which allowed me to set foot on Kent State’s campus confident in my abilities and ahead of my classmates. I was rewarded for that knowledge, winning Best New Talent at TV2 in my first semester and being the only freshman sports anchor during my second. Neither of those things would have happened without my time at The Post-Journal.
After I went away to school, I didn’t see Jim nearly as much; however, I was fortunate enough to reconnect with him inside the wooden oven that is the Russell E. Diethrick Jr. press box after returning to Jamestown in 2013. He would regale those working alongside him with tales of Marquis Grissom, Randy Johnson, Mike Stanton and several other former Jammer greats. He also had more than a few stories about the shenanigans that occurred inside the press box that would bring out his signature laugh and leave everyone else in stitches.
Jim passed away last Saturday at the age of 65, and I will forever be indebted to him for his belief in me. Every compliment I receive regarding my writing ability is a direct reflection of the lessons that he –and the rest of The Post-Journal staff – taught me. Thanks for everything, Jim, and enjoy your view from the big press box in the sky.
by Steve Waterson
On several occasions, Jim invited me to come out and play golf with him. I couldn’t understand why, because I am not a good golfer – at that time, if I broke 100 I was playing well; these days, if I break 120 I’m playing well. Jim asked me to play several times over a period of months, but we couldn’t connect. The one time we managed to arrange an outing, he told me to meet him “at Chautauqua” to play a round. Still being relatively new to the area, I mistakenly went to Point Chautauqua. I think that was the last time Jim asked me to golf with him.