SCOREBOARD

It’s time for farewells; Scoreboard turned off after 31 years

A FINAL INTERVIEW – Long-time Reporter sports columnist Jim Hague (left) did countless interviews over the years, including this one with legendary boxer Chuck Wepner of Bayonne.
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A FINAL INTERVIEW – Long-time Reporter sports columnist Jim Hague (left) did countless interviews over the years, including this one with legendary boxer Chuck Wepner of Bayonne.

I remember the first week after I joined forces with the Hudson Reporter Newspaper chain some three decades ago.

The Hudson Dispatch, a daily newspaper for whom I proudly worked for six years, had just closed its doors, diminishing the chances of covering sports in my home county, an idea that I totally adored. After all, I may have worked for too many newspapers and organizations to count over the last 38 years, but I’ve never lost fact that I’m a Jersey City boy (Greenville section to be precise) through and through. I never get tired of telling people who ask where I’m from that I put my head on a pillow in Kearny these days, but I’m Jersey City born and bred and so incredibly proud of my roots and upbringing. In fact, I wouldn’t change that for the world.

So when the Dispatch folded and a lot of my Dispatch colleagues went on to work for the Jersey Journal, I was left without a voice locally, without a place to express my thoughts and feelings in print.

Except for when reporter Alex Ladd asked me one day out of the blue if I wanted to write sports for the Hudson Reporter.

Ladd had written a story for the Reporter about a college basketball summer league I organized for Jersey City Recreation and we became friendly after that. Ladd called me and asked if I would be willing to come into the Hoboken offices of the Reporter and talk to the publisher at the time Joe Barry about writing sports for the Reporter. I didn’t think the Reporter had a sports section.

As it turned out, the Reporter never had sports before I sat down with Joe Barry to discuss the possibility of writing a weekly column. We agreed on a deal in May of 1991 and the rest, as they say, has been history.

In my first days, assistant editor Ilene Stern said to me that my column needed a catchy name. I couldn’t think of anything. Ilene said, “Scoreboard,” and thus three decades of sports columns and features began to flow on the pages here.

I made sure that I never missed a beat, that I was always going to be the same opinionated, straight forward, pain in the royal rectum that I always was. If I saw something I didn’t like, I wrote it. Sometimes the publishers – first Barry and later David Unger and Lucha Malato, for whom I worked the longest – wouldn’t agree with my words and tell me to tone it down. Other times, they let it flow, thanks to the endless times of support I received from editors-in-chief like Michael Richardson and Caren Lissner.

In 1996, Richardson was looking for a reporter to cover news in Weehawken, North Bergen and Guttenberg. I begged for the opportunity and Richardson gave in, giving me the chance to write both news and sports for the Reporter for 14 wonderful years. The people of those towns, especially Weehawken, treated me like I was one of their own. The residents of Weehawken truly treated The Weehawken Reporter as their own newspaper. That was such a thrill. The people invited me into their homes to conduct interviews, asked me to speak at functions or come to local classrooms to meet and greet students. I was truly treated as a king.

Well, those days have sadly come to an end for good this week, as this is the final Scoreboard column of my award-winning career with the Hudson Reporter.

I’ve spent a good 31 years bringing news and mostly sports to the readers of my home county, where I was born and raised and where I still reside. I have met my endless array of great athletes and great coaches. Some of those have become good friends over the years. Some of those friends are lifelong acquaintances that I so totally treasure.

And I can never even begin to count the events that I had the pleasure to cover and write about over the last three decades here at the Reporter.

Just to name a few, there were all the times that I got to write about one of my boyhood idols Bob Hurley, as he went from being my gym teacher and recreation supervisor in my St. Paul’s of Greenville school to become the most respected high school basketball coach in the entire country, all the way to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. I was there when Hurley received word he was gaining induction at the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis in 2010 and was there in Springfield, Massachusetts later that year to witness Hurley gain his permanent place along side the basketball immortals of all time. You cannot put a price tag on such pride. It would be funny to count how many times over 31 years I’ve written about Hurley and his wonderful family on the pages of this paper. It would have to be in the hundreds.

Or the sense of pride I had has a writer and reporter covering the exploits of my high school alma mater’s football team. I am a proud graduate of St. Peter’s Prep, Class of ’79, and am daily reminded that I am a man for others because of my association with Grand and Warren. Well, I’ve covered four of the five NJSIAA state championships that the Marauders and head coach Rich Hansen won since I joined forces here at the Reporter. The other in 1989 I covered for the Dispatch. But the other four? I was a representative of the Reporter watching my beloved Prep achieve such high standards, including the No. 1 ranking in the state.

I watched and witnessed other great moments over the years, like eight of the 10 state championships that Hoboken won in football under former coach Ed Stinson and the late great Lou Taglieri, or the state titles won by my good friend Vince Ascolese at North Bergen before the Lord called “Saint Vinnie” home nine years ago. God, did Ascolese hate that nickname!

I watched little kids like Kyle Anderson go from a toddler to an NBA superstar and wonder where did the time go? I watched Minkah Fitzpatrick go from a really fast member of the St. Peter’s Prep football team to become a first round draft pick in the NFL and now an NFL Pro Bowl safety.

I saw two kids from the same high school team at Hudson Catholic, namely Jahvon Quinerly and Louis King, get honored as McDonald’s All-American recipients.

I’ve attended countless National Letter of Intent scholarship signings of local athletes going on from high school to college. There were never too many of those to cover, every single one filled with proud athletes, proud coaches and administrators and proud parents. Doing the interviews on signing days never got boring.

And I’ve written 1,116 Athlete of the Week features, asking local high school kids every single question they were ever asked just so I could turn a weekly feature into something they would be proud to attach to their refrigerators at home.

Sure, some kids got honored more than once, but never in a calendar year, so the stories were totally different.

I’ll treasure those moments, those events, those people. No one can take away my memories. They are all priceless.

For the last five years, managing editor Gene Ritchings was the one assigned to make my stories easy to read. I’ve never had an editor handle so much adversity like Gene has done with me. For that, I’m forever grateful.

For more than 28 years, the person assigned to lay out the pages was former graphic artist Pat Spina. Believe me when I say that Pat and I went toe-to-toe on more than a handful of occasions, but the respect was always there.

To the countless others who I’ve worked with at the Reporter, I offer my sincere thanks and gratitude. It was an extended family for sure.

To the aforementioned editors (Kate Rounds was unfortunately omitted above), what can I say? You made my words flow.

And to the readers, the hundreds of thousands of people who sat down to take the time and somehow perceive something out of my drivel, I cannot thank you enough. Without you, there’s no Jim Hague, there’s no Scoreboard, there’s no nothing. You did it. I cherish the readers, even the ones who hate me.

In closing, I’m not dying, I’m not going away. I’ll be doing other stuff, including my blog and the Hudson County Sports Podcast, which has breathed new life into my old blood.

You just won’t have Jim Hague to line the birdcages and the kitty litter boxes anymore. Cheers!

Jim Hague can be always reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog (a lot more entries coming now) at www.jimhaguesports@blogspot.com and tune into the Hudson County Sports Podcast, sponsored always by Stan’s Sports Center of 528 Washington Street in Hoboken, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. This week’s guest is Bayonne Recreation Director Pete Amadeo.