Editor’s note: After his career in professional baseball, Charley Walters became a sports journalist. His column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press is a daily must-read.
FOREWORD BY CHARLEY WALTERS
What I know about Jim O’Hara pretty much is what many others had told me about him when I had the opportunity to be with him, whether it be a boxing match or Sports Hall of Fame function at Mancini’s famed restaurant.
Or watching St. Paul’s godfather in those days, Nick Mancini, and Jim O’Hara chatting at a restaurant table, delighting each other with stories about the great characters they had known, those on the way up and those on the way down.
Jim O’Hara’s many friends boasted about him because they were so proud that they could call him a friend.
What I know about Jim is that he knew a lot about life because he knew so many people and knew about their lives. I would see him at Mancini’s giving counsel to younger people with a sincerity that made them eager to listen. I would also see him empathizing with older people and their challenges because he obviously fought through a lot of the same himself.
I know Jim O’Hara was tough, a champion heavyweight boxer who knew what it took to win. He also was so gracious and humble. People who have fought their way to the top in life usually have those qualities. Jim certainly did.
Most of all, Jim O’Hara was a gentleman – respectful, classy, friendly and understanding. He always stood tall.
Among his missions in his later years of life was to recognize the wonderful athletes that his St. Paul had produced. That still occurs annually through the Mancini’s Sports Hall of Fame. I’ve attended most of those sold-out banquets, and while they’re certainly still a tribute to Jim, his physical presence is greatly missed. But if you look in the back of the room, you can see Jim O’Hara’s spirit there, quietly smiling and nodding, because of what he could do to help others.
As a sportswriter, I would go to Jim regularly to get the truth about upcoming boxing matches. I knew he would tell me the truth about fighters, whether they were qualified or whether some promoter was throwing some guy into the ring for an easy victory. O’Hara wouldn’t allow the latter.
As executive secretary for the Minnesota Boxing Board, Jim could easily spot the phonies, and I relied on him for his scouting reports. If a fighter wasn’t legitimate, O’Hara wouldn’t allow him in the ring.
Jim O’Hara was a man of great integrity. It was an honor to know him.