The late sportswriter Jim Riggs was a mentor and a friend

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 our local newspaper, The Post-Journal, covering the team 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.

James Riggs III 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 sports writer. My friend Jim succumbed to the effects of Leukemia on April 23, following a 16-month battle with the dreaded disease.

To me, Jim was a professional. He became the sports editor of the Jamestown newspaper at the end of 1979, and 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 the private 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 Pirates and Penguins and once invited me to go along with him to a game in Pittsburgh when the Pens were playing 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.

I remember when I first created and performed as the mascot “Yippee!” for the Jamestown Expos, Jim thought it was a silly idea, 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 that just wanted to be like him; but he was.

I was just as surprised as anyone when I was asked to be a walk-on with the Jamestown Community College basketball team. Jim was shocked, but he said, “You can do it.” You see, I didn’t even play on my high school basketball team. Jim was kind enough to take photos of me in my uniform, just like the rest of the team. Jim covered the team until he retired in 2014, and although he didn’t attend JCC, but he was a charter member of the Jayhawks Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.

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. He will be dearly missed by many and leaves a huge hole in my heart.

ROUGHNECKS SHUTOUT

A couple of defensive breakdowns turned into goals, as the Tulsa Roughnecks FC were shutout, 2-0, by the Portland Timbers 2, Saturday night at ONEOK Field.

Portland’s first goal came in the 22nd minute, as Tulsa’s Matt Whatley made a stop on a play at the top of the penalty area that bounced off his leg and went to Kharlton Belmar who took a shot from just outside the penalty area.

Portland then scored four minutes later, as the Roughneck’s Mason Grimes tried to clear a ball that went to Andre Lewis of the Timbers. Lewis dribbled around a defender and shot the ball into the upper right corner of the goal.

Tulsa will begin a four game road swing with a match at San Antonio this Saturday. The next home match for the Roughnecks will be on May 21 against St. Louis FC.