HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – If Hawaii had a sports soundtrack, Jim Leahey’s voice would undoubtedly be the one doing the play-by-play.
For decades, his calls for sporting events drew listeners and viewers into the heart of the action.
He had a special talent for it.
“The words you use come from reading, reading, reading, reading, reading and it doesn’t have to be sport it can be anything because then you can compare and contrast. This ball is Aloha – home run. This ball is Aloha,” he once said in an interview.
“I remember working with him for so many years. There were times when something happened over the course of a game. He would describe something and I was about to jump in to say something and he would grab my arm and basically say, ‘No. Let the crowd speak,'” said Artie Wilson, a friend and broadcast partner.
Leahey’s signature style utilized his command of the English language, which always painted a vivid picture, and he was meticulous in his preparation.
“He spent hours and hours and hours preparing for every game and color coding this and that – a tremendous amount of preparation. I remember walking past his desk and saying, ‘Do you really have to do all that to make a game?’ And he looked up and at me and said, ‘No, you don’t have to. Only if you want to do it right,” sports reporter Larry Beil said.
Leahey followed in the footsteps of his father, Chuck, who pioneered Hawaiian sports on the radio. But Jim took the family business to another level. He was a master storyteller on radio and television.
“He kept you in the game, but there were times when he could suddenly talk about the Great Wall of China and you were like, ‘This is amazing! How does Jim know all this?’ said sportscaster Neil Everett.
Leahey has worked for KGMB, KFVE and OCSports and co-hosted The Leahey & Leahey Show on PBS with his son Kanoa.
He was the voice of UH athletics for over 40 years.
“Every big call that went on for the University of Hawaii or other sporting events, Jim Leahey, that was the voice you heard,” Wilson said.
His work earned him awards. He has been named Hawaii’s sportscaster of the year 19 times and is a member of the UH Athletics Hall of Fame.
He wasn’t selfish with his talent. He helped build the next generation of sports broadcasters.
“He was a great mentor for me personally,” said Beil. “I really feel like I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been around Jim.”
“How blessed we have been in Hawaii to have Jim in our lives for as long as we have had him. And I think Jim Leahey would say how blessed he was to have Hawaii in his heart for as long as he has,” Everett said.
Leahey graduated from the St. Louis School and the University of San Francisco.
He was husband, father and grandfather.
“I respected and admired Jim so much for loving his wife Toni,” Wilson said. “Hawaii lost a legend today. I lost a friend When I get older I value friends even more and losing Jim is a great loss for me. A great loss.”
“I’ve always believed in three things. One is always be yourself. Always be yourself. This talent was given to you. Don’t try to imitate someone else. Second – never lie. Never tell a lie when you play game after game, and three and you’ll get this. Never trust broadcast management.” Leahey joked in that early interview.
When he retired, Jim Leahey said he just wanted to walk away quietly.
It’s pretty hard when you’re a legend.
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