by Gordon Brunskill
February 22, 2000
Jachym Set to Join County Hall of Fame
He was not a big star on the gridiron or basketball court, he never played professionally and his most memorable accomplishments have had nothing to do with the world of sports.
But while he may question the validity of the honor, there is little doubt the selection committee has made the right choice.
Tonight in Jamestown that committee will reward him for his contributions to the athletic world with the honor of becoming a member of the county's hall.
He will join three other people - the late Les James, Lloyd Moore and the late Lou Brown, also of South Dayton - for the ceremonies at the Holiday Inn in Jamestown at 8 p.m.
So what is so special about the 80-year-old Jachym, who grew up in South Dayton?
Maybe he earned the honor for his work as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, or maybe for his ownership for three years of the Jamestown Falcons, or maybe it is for his being a 40 percent owner of the Washington Senators. But if that is not enough, Jachym also deserves the honor for his contributions to the world of golf - and not just here in Western New York, but across the country. He took up the sport seriously nearly half-a-lifetime ago and is now an honorary lifetime member of the PGA - becoming only the fifth person ever to receive the honor. The others are Dennis Walters, Gary Player, Gerald Ford and Bob Hope.
And those are just a few members of the good company he keeps.
He has knocked around the fairways of America with plenty of familiar names, including Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, Mark O'Meara, the late Payne Stewart and his favorite golfer - Arnold Palmer - not to mention a few foreign stars like Bernard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and defending Masters' champion Jose Marie Olazabal.
He usually only attends two tournaments a year - the PGA and the Ryder Cup - and he has witnessed 18 of the latter. Most of them were as an American observer. On every hole of every Ryder Cup tournament there is an American and European observer along with a referee who makes sure the competitors play fairly.
You cannot beat those seats.
It is not a bad life for a man who once covered City Hall and the Dunkirk police for the Observer.
For five months in 1941 Jachym was a beat writer for this paper and six years earlier wrote a weekly sports column called the "Sports Mail," inspired by one of his childhood heroes, famed sportswriter Grantland Rice.
After he graduated from South Dayton, he attended the University of Missouri where he played baseball and earned a bachelors degree in journalism. He also worked for the newspaper in Jefferson City, Mo., where he was assigned to do a story on a man working for the St. Louis Cardinals organization named Branch Rickey - who later ran the Brooklyn Dodgers and helped integrate baseball with his signing of Jackie Robinson.
Jachym thought his association with Rickey might have ended when he left Missouri after graduation and returned to South Dayton. But Rickey tracked him down and asked him to be a scout for the Cardinals.
So every day Jachym would wake up on the family farm at 6 a.m., get into Dunkirk to track down the stories at City Hall or the Police Department before the press would run at 12:30 p.m. Then from 1-11 p.m., he would check out the area diamonds and run baseball schools and try-out camps for the Cardinals.
It gave him a busy summer, but he had no complaints.
Late in 1941, however, the world changed for everyone and Jachym did his duty, joining the Marine Corps. He spent nearly five years in the First Marine Division, fighting all over the Pacific including Guadalcanal and New Guinea.
When he returned home he did something you might not expect from an ex-Marine still in his late-20s - he bought a baseball team. With a few thousand saved up and rest borrowed he bought the PONY League Jamestown Falcons for $12,000. He owned the team for three years before selling it to the Detroit Tigers. After the sale he joined the Tiger organization as assistant farm director, doing some scouting and making sure the team's 10 farm clubs were run properly. He traveled all over the country, from Ohio to Alabama to Virginia to Michigan making sure the young players were being treated properly and that they had a chance to make it to the big club.
Before the year was over, though, Jachym was back in the ownership racket - holding 40 percent of the Senators.
So how can a 29-year-old man achieve such a status so soon? By using his talents. John Jachym is proud to be a "people person."
"The biggest thing is I know people," he said. "I have never has a problem raising money. They come to me for financial advice. I tell them, 'Money is easy to raise.'"
"There are no shortcuts to success. Believe me - I would have found the shortcuts. There really is little difference between people who are successful and people who are not successful. The rest is just application."
Jachym was unhappy with his situation, however, and sold his stake in the team a year later. He had been encouraged by several people, including Rickey and then Major League Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, to hang on to his share of the club and Jachym could take over when managing partner passed away.
Jachym said he "would have felt like a ghoul waiting for him to die," and passed up the chance. Until he took up golf at age 43, it was his last association with the world of sports.
He went on to find success in other ventures, including working in investment banking for Blunt, Ellis and Co., was vice-president for A.G. Becker and Co. and a senior partner at John J. Jachym and Co., all in Chicago, and was C.E.O. of Kratos, Inc. in San Diego. And after all that he says he has no regrets about leaving the national pastime.
"I enjoyed my years in baseball," he said. "You can't look back. That's the past in my life. You've got to go forward. You don't want to have rancor, you don't want to have bitterness. That's a terrible way to go through life."
He still keeps his ties to Western New York, too. He has helped endow an annual scholarship at Pine Valley for a graduating senior and every year he and his wife, Audrey, also a South Dayton product, return to meet the newest scholarship winner and catch up with past winners.
"We haven't had a bad one yet - they've all graduated from college," he said. "To see how these kids blossom out is amazing. We didn't have anything like a scholarship when I was at South Dayton."
He also spends every summer at Chautauqua Institution - playing golf of course.
Despite a ripped muscle in his back, Jachym does not plan to be sidelined much longer from the links at his home these days in - where else? - Village of Golf, Fla. Yes, that is the actual name of the community on the state's east coast, south of Palm Beach.
But he is back home tonight, and do not let his modesty fool you - he truly does deserve this honor. It really has been a Hall of Fame life.
"I have mixed emotions," he said. "I don't think my qualifications entitle me, but it is a great honor. I tend to be supercritical of everybody, especially myself. The worst thing a person can do is be ungrateful. I am very happy to be selected."
Welcome home, John Jachym.
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.