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Broadcast legend Jim Leahey announces retirement

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL/CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Sports anchor Jim Leahey at the Honolulu Quarterback Club 62nd Annual Banquet of Champions held at the Empress Chinese Restaurant in 2009.

Jim Leahey, who painted a vivid word picture of Hawaii sports for listeners over 60 years as the state’s most recognizable radio and television broadcaster, confirmed his retirement.

“Yes, it is official,” Leahey, 75, told the Star-Advertiser today.

Leahey first disclosed his intention over the weekend at a roast for long-time boss and broadcast partner Rick Blangiardi.

“I just want to quietly go away,” said Leahey, whose final segments behind the mic came as the play-by-play broadcaster for University of Hawaii baseball on KKEA radio last month.

“I enjoyed working with Josh Pacheco and Scottie Robbs, but I’m 75 years old now and don’t want to take a position from guys who are coming up and working hard,” Leahey said after conferring with his wife, Toni.

“It has been a lot of seasons, a lot of memories,” said Leahey, who began working alongside his father, Chuck, in the 1960s and later teamed up with his son, Kanoa.

In the course of a career that saw him alternate between radio and TV — and sometimes do simulcasts across both platforms — Leahey has appeared on KGMB, KIKU, KHNL, KITV, KHET and cable. He also did preseason NFL Seahawks games for a Seattle station.

When Blangiardi took over independent station KIKU (which became KHNL) and masterminded a deal to televise UH sports on a scale of more than 100 events a year, he hired Leahey to do play-by-play. “Some years I was doing as many as seven different UH sports a year,” Leahey said. “It was great.”

A highlight? “The 56-14 victory over Brigham Young (in 1989),” said Leahey said. “BYU came in arrogant, as always. After what was it —not winning for 10 straight years against BYU? — damn that was good. I think it was the best game that UH ever played. The sound, the excitement of that crowd, is something you’ll always remember.”

In his call of the game, Leahey exclaimed, “This is better than statehood!”

Now, Leahey said, “It is time to sail along into the sunset, to take my leave. It is part of a natural progression.”

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