James (Jim) H. Warsaw ’06 (1948-2009) was recognized worldwide for his pioneering work in the sports industry. In 1928 his father, David Warsaw, founded Sports Specialties Corporation, which was the first company to sign a licensing contract with a professional sports team. While creating and manufacturing sports souvenirs at his Chicago-based company, he came up with the idea for ashtrays in the shape of Wrigley Field and selling them to Cubs fans. He approached Cubs owner Phil Wrigley for permission to sell them at Wrigley Field and won him over when he agreed to pay him a "royalty" on every ashtray sold. As his business grew, so did his ideas. In addition to the ashtrays, David patented a miniature ceramic baseball player, whose head bounced on a small spring. Today, this doll is known around the world as the "bobble-head doll".
Jim entered the family business in 1969 along with his brother Robert. Together the Warsaw family grew Sports Specialties into the world's leading licensed sports headwear company. In 1963, Sports Specialties became the first official licensee of the National Football League and was the first to be named as an official championship locker room headwear supplier for special sports events such as the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, All-Star Games, and the NCAA Final Four. During the 1970s, Jim headed company offices in Hong Kong, Manila, and Chicago and from 1981 to 1993 he served as president. Under Jim's leadership, Sports Specialties secured the first "Authentics" license agreement in professional sports when the NFL "ProLine" was created in 1984. In addition, the company's signature 100% wool sized caps, The "Pro", were the first contracts for "on field" authentic headwear for the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, and the 1992 Olympic Basketball Dream Team, as well as more than 80 countries in the International Baseball Association.
Like his father David and his mother Anne, Jim always had great vision and a commitment to the community at large and higher education. It was these same strengths and commitment to young people that inspired him in 1993 to support the launch of the James H. Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, his alma mater. The educational foundation for the center was nurtured during his undergrad years at the UO, and its growth was fostered by Jim's vision of a center whose values are based on passion, integrity, and leadership.
"With the passing of Jim Warsaw, the University of Oregon lost a great friend and a true source of inspiration," noted former University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer in 2009 after Jim's passing due to Parkinson's related causes, a disease he battled publicly for more than a decade. "Jim had an irrepressible energy and a spirit that made you believe anything was possible. We are indebted to Jim for his strong commitment to Oregon. Our hearts go out to the entire Warsaw family at this very difficult time. The entire University of Oregon community will very much miss its good friend Jim Warsaw."
In addition to being a dedicated friend of the Lundquist College of Business and the University of Oregon, Jim served on many boards across the country, including the Los Angeles Sports Council, the Giving Back Fund, the University of California, Irvine Athletic Advisors Board, the National Board of Governors of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, the Brain Imaging Center at the University of California-Irvine College of Medicine, the Byron Scott Children's Charities, and more. He also founded the James H. Warsaw Foundation to Cure Parkinson's Disease, cofounded the Cure Parkinson's Program at the Giving Back Fund, and was a leading national patient advocate to cure Parkinson's Disease.
"The Warsaw Center was his passion and the students his pride," noted Paul Swangard, Warsaw Center managing director. "He worked tirelessly to assist hundreds of students enter the sports industry and through them will have a lasting impact on the business he loved."
Jim's energy, enthusiasm, and optimism will always be an inspiration to all.