Thursday, October 13, 2016

Erie Sports Will Never Be The Same

Erie sports lost a legend, and I lost a friend October 13th when Jim LeCorchick passed away at the age of 69. I always considered Jim to be a big-time talent in a small-town market. If he was in New York City, he'd have been Don Imus. If he had been born in Washington, D.C. instead of Erie, he'd have been Norman Chad. But Erie was his home, and it turns out the only one who could call him away from our city was God himself. I've never met anybody with a quicker wit or deeper knowledge of sports than James R. LeCorchick.

Instead of me using my own words to describe him, let me share with you a few of my favorite Jim LeCorchick stories -- there are too many to write in one sitting -- from the many angles I knew him.

Erie's Flagship Sports: Flagship Sports was a monthly newspaper created in 1991 by Jim and Tony Peckich, the General Manager of the Erie Wave World Basketball League team. At the time, I was working for the Wave as a public relations assistant and writing for the Gannon Knight student newspaper, so I lent some of my knowledge and elbow grease to the cause. To put the pre-season football issue to bed, Jimmy and I worked into the wee hours of the morning. Instead of complaining about such a long day, Jimmy got funnier as the night wore on. I recall laughing so hard at some of his comments that I was actually on the floor laughing and crying. If you thought Jimmy was funny on the air, you should have heard the guy off the air.

Erie Wave: The Wave was declining as Flagship 1530 (now Sports Radio 1330) was being launched in 1992. Jimmy hosted an afternoon sports talk radio show then, and he turned the WBL's shoddy treatment of the Erie franchise into can't-miss talk radio. League commissioner Dr. John Geletka decided to move several Erie home games to Pittsburgh which made our sports community -- especially Jimmy -- hopping mad. Geletka refused to face the public about his decisions, so Jimmy took the public to him. At some point during each show for several weeks in a row, Jimmy would call the WBL office live on the air and ask to speak to Dr. Geletka. And every time he'd be put on hold, told by the receptionist that the commissioner was occupied, and asked to leave his phone number and a message. It was such compelling radio -- Is this finally the day the commissioner comes out of the dark? -- that people driving out of the radio signal range would pull off the road until the call was complete.

SportsLook Magazine: From 1993-98, I owned and co-published SportsLook Magazine, and Jimmy was a catalyst behind the publication. He wrote a column every month (we put it on the front page the first two years to give the magazine credibility) and also invited me to appear on his radio show each month to discuss that month's issue. Jimmy was easily distracted, and often during these conversations he would give me a hand signal to keep talking and would leave the room. Not just for a second -- he would walk down the hallway for one or two minutes before popping back into the studio. Even when he stayed in his chair, he would often tackle a crossword puzzle as I talked. One spring, as I was previewing our high school baseball/softball issue, I misspoke -- and Jimmy made me pay for it. I was making the case that the local media provides less coverage of spring athletes even though they work just has hard as the football and basketball players. Referring to the winning Iroquois softball team's efforts, I said "these girls really put out." As soon the words came out, I realized what I had said, and Jimmy raised his head from his crossword puzzle and stared right at me. I spent the next 30 seconds (it seemed like 30 minutes) trying to dig my way out of my verbal pothole. Jimmy never stepped in to save me; he just smiled wryly as I backpedaled. When I finally stopped talking, Jimmy paused and said, "I've got to see these girls play!" before pointing at me and laughing.

Gannon Radio: Jimmy and I called Gannon games together during one of Jerry Slocum's seasons in Erie. We traveled to a few away games together, the most memorable being a Saturday afternoon game at Division I University of Detroit. I drove, and to keep both of us busy I brought my 1990 Continental Basketball Association media guide for Jimmy to read through and comment on. He was like a kid in a candy story, gushing over talented players from years gone by.

Gannon had a player on the team named Bobby Bossman, who was supposed to be sharpshooter from Strongsville, Oh., but Bossman struggled mightily from the field. Jimmy and I were critical but kind during the broadcasts but frustrated with Bossman's shooting ability off the air. During the Detroit game, Bossman pulled up at the right elbow and line-drived a shot off the lower right corner of the bankboard. I described it on the air just as "missed badly," and Jimmy never commented because play continued. During our drive back home, both Jimmy and I were quiet when I asked him, "How about that shot by Bossman?" He responded quickly and loudly, "Oh my God -- I was just thinking about that. Did he drop kick that thing? It wasn't even close! I mean it never even got 9 feet high let alone 10! Bobby Bossman!" I laughed while Jimmy cackled for the next few minutes. Jim didn't like it when his team lost, but he could always find the humor in defeat.

Jimmy was a one-of-a-kind who will never be replaced. Over the years, my phone would ring when he called me just to check in or confirm or deny a local sports rumor he had heard. I'm really sad I won't hear his voice anymore.

I will pay tribute to him going forward, though. In fact, I've been doing that for years. When I send emails to folks outside Erie, I often conclude with, "Thanks & have a tremendous day!" Many have responded that they love the word "tremendous" -- it just makes them smile for some reason. Well, you know who I took that word from.

My sincere condolences to the LeCorchick family, especially his children, Lindsey and Jeff. I know from several of my conversations with him how proud he was of them. His passion for sports was great, but it couldn't hold a candle to his love for his kids.

17 comments:

  1. We all have our memories of James R but most of all lets remember him in our prayers.

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  2. Loved listening to him. Big loss for Erie and Gannon fans. He will be missed.

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  3. One thing I've always LOVED about most Gannon announcers... they've never been "homers", especially Sean and Jim. They always would get excited about a "big play" for either team (they were definitely a little more enthusiastic for Gannon as expected, but fair!) Jim, however, was hilarious because sometimes listening you'd think he was announcing for the other team :) Not saying that in a mean way either, it was honestly funny. He would just rip Gannon (no one in particular... the team as a whole) to pieces over bad plays. Whomever does the color aside Sean's play by play will NEVER be able to replace Jim, but I hope they can be at least half the announcer/entertainer he was. RIP #JamesR

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  4. RIP Jimmy

    How interested was Jimmy in the Erie Sports Scene? Well, back in 2006 and 2007 my son played for a very powerful Our Lady of Peace CYO basketball team.

    Covering all the sports Jimmy covered over the years, there he was, on many occasions, sitting in the stands observing the best in Erie CYO basketball on more than a few winter Sunday evenings.....always "holding court", deep in discussion and observation.

    Rest in Peace Jimmy.......nobody was a bigger fan ever of local Erie sports.

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  5. Longtime local radio engineer John Kleiner posted on Facebook something Jimmy regularly said that I always found hilarious. Jimmy said Erie's favorite word was "free," and if a business was giving away free dog crap, there would be an incredibly long line and someone would insist on getting an extra one.

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  6. Your story about female athletes was in poor taste. Especially if as you say you had many more to choose from.

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    1. really?! Out of that beautiful tribute to an Erie sports legend - THAT is the one thing you took away from it? I'll leave it at that as I do not want to turn a truly tremendous memorial into a sideshow.

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    2. Political correctness gone amok within a beautiful tribute section to a friend we have all lost.

      Seriously, Maureen??

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    3. omg people....relax....thats funny

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  7. Lighten up Maureen. Its just a story from the past. You mind must be in the "Oh, I don't know where?". My 1st thought on the "really put out" meant effort as all athletes are expected to do in practice and more so during any contest.
    That's part of today's problem people are over sensitive on menial things

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  8. Excellent job Mr. Roddy. Jim was a legend in Erie sports. I could listen to him or Billy Kalbaugh for hours and never stop laughing.

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  9. Thank you, sir. I loved listening to James R in the morning and in the evening. He was a treasure and will be missed.

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  10. (Off topic), but Jimmy would be interested in this subject:

    Are athletics in potential jeopardy with the storm clouds brewing daily regarding the PSAC teachers/professors strike?

    Food for thought..

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    1. Coaches said that they would be on the job during the strike. Actually, the strike was settled yesterday.

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    2. Thank Goodness, "Golden".

      ---------------

      Main topic at Plymouth Tavern last evening at the bar: Jimmy. Separate conversations as well.

      Missed by all.

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  11. Say what you like about Jim but you could never say Jim was not Jim. He never put on any phony front Jim was Jim take him or leave him. It was this honesty that I liked about him.

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  12. Way,way,way back Jimmy had the great Pete Franklin on his show out of Cleveland Ohio who would rip the hearts out of any Steeler fan that had the guts to talk to him. Well after the interview with him Jim asked if he could open the phone lines to his callers. I think that show was one of the best shows I listen to ever with Jim and Pete tag teaming any callers that where Pittsburgh fans. I was laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my eyes. This in course was when both reams where good and Jimmy would spend the whole show on the Browns. This was just one of the many great stories of my time listening to his many shows. He would get callers who had no real knowledge of a subject and he would let them vent and he would go back and forth with them and never cut them off the air no matter how wrong they were. That was just Jimmy's style.Jim had the answers to most questions that other did not have. All this took place before Google as well. Taking a line from Bob Hope ...Thanks for the memories!

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