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Misc General General Archive Jim Gintonio: Cleveland Fan Forever
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

0000GintonioClevelandOn a day that the world seemed focused on the story of fictional man's life after cancer diagnosis, the reality of it hit close to home for me, here in Phoenix.  Jim Gintonio passed away on Sunday, and the news actually stung a bit, but the immediate social media eulogy only confirmed what I already knew; Jim is a great man that won't soon be forgotten.  Officially, he covered the Phoenix Coyotes for the Arizona Republic, Phoenix's flagship paper, until he retired after the 2012 season.  Unofficially, he was a guy like me, a guy who enjoyed life in Arizona very much, but his heart was always in the Cleveland sports mindset.

The fact that he was a sportswriter is almost secondary to who he was as a human being; I follow the Coyotes, but it was never the words he wrote on paper about sports that intrigued me about the guy.  It was his roots in Lorain, his love for the Tribe and the Browns, and the way we clicked in dialogue, even if it was only of the online variety.  Perhaps it's this, this friendship that complete strangers could have with one another, that make sports so great. 

000CoyotesJim and I were brought together by some snarky comments made on the Facebook page of Arizona Sports 620's John Gambadoro a few years back, and it wasn't until I decided to send Jim a friend request that I learned he was a beat writer for the city's big rag.  He accepted my request, liked my statuses, wished me a happy birthday every year, and even commented on some of the stuff I posted about the Tribe.  In other words, he was a good Facebook friend, and one that also despised the Steelers, to boot.  I thought about him a lot, how he was a member of the Church of Colavito (not a real thing), so anytime I saw something that was Rocky-related, I'd pass it along.

As little as I ever doubt my position as a die-hard fan of the Cleveland sports landscape, Gintonio, like many of our elders, was the type of fan that made you want to be a better fan.  The Indians last won a title a few weeks before his first birthday, but he did get to enjoy Cleveland's last title during his senior year at St. Mary's in Lorain.  Any word spoken ill of Jim Brown, even to drop him as far down as #2 on the all-time lists, was interpreted as blasphemy by one of Cleveland's greatest fans.  These days, the internet makes us so vulnerable to outside fan bases, and creates this unneccessary obsession with winning titles, but Jim always struck as someone that just enjoyed the games, even when he wasn't particularly enjoying the beat.

The last few years of covering the Coyotes were not easy days for Gintonio; they were days filled with uncertainty about the future, which opened the door for a lot of unjust vitriol towards Jim in his assumed role as an ambassador for hockey in Phoenix.  Being a pro, he took it all in stride, occasionally calling out the "Peggers" (Winnepeg-ians?) for reminding us all how hockey doesn't belong in Phoenix.  I always wanted to ask him how he would compare losing a hockey team he covers to his hometown losing their beloved football team in 1995, but now I'll sadly never have the chance.  Arizona didn't lose the Coyotes, at least not yet, but there was always an undertone in his fight that went beyond civic pride, as if he were doing what couldn't be done for his beloved Browns.

000ball000RockygloveMaybe that's just me speculating, talking the guy up because I liked him, but there aren't any smoke and mirrors to it.  He was just a likable guy, and I think a recent exchange on Facebook, related to Colavito, really illustrates all you need to know about what Jim Gintonio meant to people in his life.  In March, he posted a picture of his Colavito model glove, which brought on conversation about how much Jim liked the Rock, and one of the commenters mentioned that he had a ball signed by the former Indians and Tigers outfielder.  He mentioned that they needed to talk deal, and Jim shyed away from this proposed deal, until the man stated, "Jim, simply, THE DEAL is this.  You message me your mailing address & I'll send the ball to you.  Capice?".  It's also worth mentioning that Jim was a proud Italian-American, which explains part of his love for Colavito, and his joy in sharing the picture of the ball with Rocky's signature on it a week later.

Sunday night, mentions on his Facebook and Twitter feeds read like a "Who's Who?" in the Phoenix sportswriting media, as well as from his colleagues around MLB (he also covered the Diamondbacks) and the NHL.  There's a recurring theme in all of it, not just goodbye, but that he was a great man, one that always had time for people.  He had time for me, whenever I had a question for him, about his beat or my own aspirations in this business, he did what he could to help out.  He was never too big time for a nobody like me.



000JGintonioI guess the last thought on my mind, as I reflect on the small percentage of Jim's 65 years that I knew him, was this last week.  While I do not know the severity of his last week with us, I hope his mind was not at all focused on the baseball team he loved so much, considering the 6-game losing streak in what I couldn't possibly refer to as "critical games" in this context.  After going down 5-0, the Indians fought back to win 6-5.  That doesn't make things easier for the Gintonio clan tonight or this week, but I get the feeling Jim would have really liked that they won.

He just strikes me as the type of guy would appreciate that.  Hopefully, I've done him and his life justice in these words.  I never did actually meet him in person, but I'm still sad.  I can't believe these thoughts have to be written in a past tense.  I know we lost a good one today.



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