Jim Hague, a legend who was Observer sports journalist for 20+ years, dies aged 62; Observer Athlete of the Year will be named in his honor

Hague interviewing a Lyndhurst HS player Photo courtesy of Rich Tuero

Editor’s note: This story is still evolving and will be updated over the next few days. Last update adds comments from Jim’s St. Prep 1979 classmate,  former St. Peter’s Prep Principal and current Xavier High School President John R. “Jack” Raslowsky II and comments from former NJ Gov. James E. McGreevey.

James F. “Jim” Hague, of Kearny, originally and forever a Jersey City boy, who ascended from being a high school stringer in his days at St. Peter’s Preparatory School to become one of New Jersey’s most celebrated sports journalists — including his spending 20+ years as a sports reporter at The Observer newspaper — died Sunday, June 11, 2023.

He was 62.

And while many of us sit here today thinking, “Damnit, 62, he was too young,” and Jim certainly was too young, boy did he ever pack so much life into those years, whether it was on the basketball courts in Greenville, at courtyard or in a classroom at Grand and Warren, in the halls of Marquette in Milwaukee, in the upper deck at Mets games at Shea Stadium, in the Blue Seats at Madison Square Garden as he screamed for his beloved New York Rangers or anywhere the Rams went, (he never knew the Rams in Cleveland but his fandom spanned) from Los Angeles-Anaheim, to St. Louis, and now back to Los Angeles and wherever they played on the road any given NFL Sunday.

Jim grew up on the streets of the Greenville neighborhood of Jersey City and went to school at St. Paul’s, also of Greenville. From September of 1975 until June 1979, he found his footing after the loss of his beloved dad while he was a student at St. Peter’s Prep. And it was the beginning of his becoming what so many of you have learned over the years — he was true example of the Jesuits’ Men for Others mantra.

Then he went to Marquette and when he came back to Jersey, he began his full-time career as a sports journalist. He worked for so many well-known news agencies that it would almost take an entire story to list them all, but he truly made his name as a scribe at the now-defunct Hudson Dispatch. Among some of the other noted newspapers and agencies: The Morristown Daily Record, the Associated Press, the now-closed Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers, the Dorf syndicates and others.

Hague and Feorenzo, circa 2012.

And in 2002, it was The Observer’s Lisa Feorenzo who hired Hague to be this newspaper’s sports reporter, a position he held for 20+ years, until he retired in 2022. Feorenzo says she is devastated by Hague’s death.

“Jim brought a whole new light to The Observer newspaper with his unmatched coverage of local sports,” Feorenzo said upon learning Jim had died. “He helped these kids build their future, whether it was in the simple, yet amazing stories he wrote, or with the Athletes of the Week and Athletes of the Year, he did so much for these teenagers.

“His knowledge of sports — wow. It went so far beyond the local area. In all the years he was with us, he never missed a week of coverage, even in the summer when so little, other than sports camps, were ongoing. We never could have dreamed of what we were getting when he joined us.

“Our sympathies and love go out to his wife, Mary. We all loved him so much and this is a sad day in our lives. May Jim rest in peace in God’s eternal embrace.”

For his dedication and passion to this area, Feorenzo also announced moving forward, the Athlete of the Year awards and the recipients will be known as The Jim Hague Observer Athletes of the Year.

His cohorts loved him

We begin this portion with words from James C. “Jim” Horan, who in 1970 graduated from St. Peter’s Prep, then went to Marquette to study journalism (notice a pattern there?) and then returned to Prep in 1974. Horan has remained at Prep to this very day and now serves as vice president of planning and principal giving. As he did for decades, Horan became many Prep men’s first journalism teacher — as was the case for Hague in the 1978-79 school year.

Horan said Hague was a rare kind of alumnus of St. Peter’s Prep because his impact was felt for decades, far beyond his days at Grand and Warren.

“Very few graduates of Saint Peter’s have been as passionately proud of their Prep diploma as Jim was, and through both his infectious personality and his prolific sports writing career, he was both well-known and admired by fellow alumni of many generations,” Horan said. “As we all know, Jim ‘lived’ in the world of sports, and he was as enthusiastic about a local freshman team’s winning season as he was about a stunning state championship game at MetLife Stadium. That said, especially in Hudson County, he was both a pundit and an everyman, seemingly always on the scene and quickly churning out compelling copy. His passing is not only a loss for Saint Peter’s Prep, but also for Hudson County’s many athletes who have lost their most reliable chronicler.”

Next, we turn to John R. “Jack” Raslowsky II, who, like Jim, was a 1979 Prep graduate. Raslowsky, Jim’s dear friend, holds the distinction of being the first-ever lay principal of the school, having taken over in the summer of 1992. He spent 10 years at the helm and is currently the president of another Jesuit powerhouse, Xavier High School in Manhattan.

The two often got together in their post-Prep days and Raslowsky took part of his day to reflect on his friend.

Jim Hague understood, profoundly understood, the power of stories.  He told a lot of stories. He told a good story. And he was the main character in many stories. He loved stories. He loved stories because his stories were always about people. People playing sports, coaching sports, watching sports. Players, coaches, trainers, sports writers, fans and friends of the game.

“He loved stories because he loved people. The athletes he covered. The reporters he wrote alongside,” Raslowsky wrote. “His Prep classmates. The Jesuits at St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette. Fr. A. His family and friends. Most of all he loved Mary. Devotedly. Profoundly. In all his strength and weakness.

“Hague loved people because he profoundly understood and experienced the love of God. I always knew this, but these last months at Saint Barnabas and Kessler were for me graduate study with Jim Hague on the wonders and glory of God.

“In all the thousands of stories through the years, and all the people he knew and loved, Hague saw the face of God, a God he loved dearly, a God present to him in the Eucharist, a gift and grace he cherished beyond measure.

“Jim Hague was called home by the Lord on the Feast of Corpus Christi, the feast of the body and blood of Christ. The Christ that nourished him, fed him and loved him. The Christ who was ever-present in the stories Jim wrote and the people he loved welcomed the big guy home. His family, his friends and his readers can acclaim, ‘Thanks be to God for Jim Hague.’ We will never forget him.”

One of Jim’s many colleagues and friends in the sports-journalism world is award-winning scribe Michael Vaccaro, currently a world-renowned columnist at The New York Post. Vaccaro took time to reflect on the life that was Jim Hague’s.

Jim and his beloved wife, Mary Costello.

“I’ve been a sportswriter for 35 years and I have never met another person who felt as deeply about a place — Jersey City, and Hudson County — and a vocation — lending a powerful voice to its athletics and athletes —as Jim<” Vaccaro said. “Not an exaggeration. Not hyperbole. Jim cared meticulously about his beloved home’s history and was every bit as vigilant in recording its contemporary triumphs and tragedies.  And he did so with a voice that was powerful and absolutely unique. Jim’s imprint and impact will be felt forever. And anyone who ever spent even five minutes in his company was instantly impacted by that larger-than-life personality.

“For me, when I was new to New Jersey he was amazingly gracious and generous in educating me in every way possible. A good day was always when I’d arrive to cover a high school football or basketball game and he was there also. That was always going to be a tremendous couple of hours. I’m going to miss my friend but I’m in also going to miss his commitment and tireless passion for the things that truly mattered to him — his family, his Mets, his Rams, Jersey City and the Marquette basketball team.”

Vaccaro was hardly the only sports personality to chime in. He was the first of many, in fact.

Brian Costello, also of the New York Post, is the Jets’ beat writer. In addition to sharing their love for sports, Brian also shares a last name with Jim’s beloved wife, Mary, though they are not kin.

“This phrase gets overused, but Jim Hague was truly one of a kind,” Costello wrote of his friend. “A true Jersey original. I’ll always remember his kindness to me when I was a young reporter. RIP Jim.”

Now, here are the words of Tom Gulitti, who for many years covered the New Jersey Devils for The Bergen Record and who now covers the National Hockey League and the Washington Capitals at nhl.com.

“RIP to a larger than life NJ media legend Jim Hague,” Gulitti wrote. “Buck Showalter once called him ‘a human eclipse’ and his personality was even bigger. If you knew Hague, he undoubtedly made you laugh many times. I worked with him when I started in New Jersey many years ago and our paths crossed many times after that. Condolences to his family and many friends.”

Jack Curry, of the YES Network, is an alumnus of Hudson Catholic High School, also of Jersey City. Though Jim’s Prep and Hudson are bitter rivals in the sports and academic world, it mattered now one bit when Curry recalled his friend’s death.

“Jim Hague was a giant, literally and figuratively, as a NJ sportswriter,” Curry said. “If you wanted to know anything about Hudson County sports, especially in Jersey City, @ogsmar (Jim’s Twitter handle) was the source. Hope he & Ed (Faa) Ford are arguing sports right now. RIP, my friend.”

Next is the man who would end up becoming The Observer’s current sports journalist, Jason Bernstein. When Hague decided he was ready to call it a career last year, we didn’t even have a chance to ask him who we could call to take over. Hague got the ball rolling immediately, and without prompt, to bring Bernstein in for an interview.

While Jim had many passions, few were greater than his love for the Rams and Mets.

Bernstein, like Hague, is a workhorse, covering countless schools and athletes in the area magnificently. We had no idea what we were getting in Bernstein — and yet somehow, Jim knew we had no choice but to hire Jason — a decision we were fortunate to have made.

“The term larger than life is overused sometimes, but when it comes to Jim Hague, especially in Hudson County and North Jersey as a whole, the amount of people and connections Jim had in the area was truly unmatched,” Bernstein, who also works for NJ Advance Media and The Jersey Journal, wrote. “Whether you agreed or disagreed with what Jim wrote, his distinctive writing voice, the willingness to make his opinion known and his passion for the subject, made his articles and columns an absolute must-read.

“As a fellow sportswriter who covered primarily Hudson County, I always made sure to check The Observer and Hudson Reporter websites on the days his articles were posted to see what he had to say and what stories I may have missed out on.

“Whether it was books, newspaper articles, columns, public address announcing and later, podcasting, there might not have been a harder working sports writer in the area than Jim Hague. His presence will be sorely missed and the void he leaves is surely impossible to fully replace.”

And how about this — even a former Jersey governor — also a disciple of Jersey City — weighed in.

“Jim Hague, a son of Hudson County, dedicated sports writer, Marquette and St. Peter’s Prep, supporter of recreation for youth opportunities and second chances and a great plain-spoken writing style that made sense of it all,” Gov. James E. McGreevey said. “May he rest in God’s grace.”

The athletes and coaches loved him, too

Though Jim’s colleagues have already felt the loss of a legend, so, too, have the athletes.

Take, for instance, one of Kearny’s greatest-ever soccer legends, Tab Ramos.

“Thank you Jim Hague,” Ramos wrote in Twitter. “I’m sure Tony Meola and John Harkes would agree you and The Observer kept our connection to Kearny, Harrison and all of North Jersey. Big loss … RIP.”

Rich Tuero is the head football coach at Lyndhurst High School. Hague often spoke of Tuero, especially after the coach and his wife, Koriann, personally fundraised for, purchased and delivered each and every one of his a players championship rings the team earned — but couldn’t get otherwise because they were in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — after winning a state championship in the prior fall (2019-2020).

Tuero fondly recalled Jim in a social media post today.

“North Jersey sports lost an absolute legend. Jim Hague was truly a great man that dedicated his life to helping young athletes get their due diligence,” Tuero said. “He truly enjoyed covering these kids and promoting all of their successes. God bless you, Jimmy. May you rest in peace.”

Last but hardly least, we close with words from Richard Hansen, who for many years was the head football coach at St. Peter’s Prep — he retired from that a few years ago — and who continues to serve as the school’s athletic director as he has since the late 80s.

“Jim was an icon in New Jersey and Hudson County. He was a talented man who cared about high school sports, kids and the people he called friends,” Hansen said. “He was a longtime friend, someone I admired and trusted. I have so many Hague stories — I’ve played them over and over in mind and I will hold onto those memories. I’ll miss him dearly. All of us at Prep will miss him. Hudson county lost a great one.”

Anyone wishing to send tributes and/or photos of Jim Hague, which will be kept forever on theobserver.com, may send them to editorial@theobserver.com.

Wake information for Jim Hague announced

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Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.