Tonight, the entirety of Noise Nation, past and present, mourn the loss of one of our own. We learned this afternoon of the passing of Nation member and sports enthusiast James “Diamond Jim” Johnson.
The obituary (please go read it HERE–the photo above was taken from that page) mentions his love for the IronPigs. Indeed, he was a fixture at the games. I would often go early on Thursdays for Happy Hour so that I could sit and chat with him in the Bud Light Trough. But his fandom went far beyond the IronPigs as he was also present at most Phantoms games, wearing a custom black jersey with “Diamond Jim” on the back. Despite grief from security, he was also at each and every SteelHawks game at the PPL Center, and was a supporter of the Philly Force back in the early days of the Noise Nation fan group.
Diamond Jim always had something cool or funny to say about the team or the game. If there was anything negative, it was always framed in the hopes that things would get better. Often I’d be alone when stopping by at baseball or hockey to say hello–but he’d always ask about others in the group, Dan, and “PoPo”–his nickname for DiPro.
Here’s my favorite Diamond Jim story:
Often, we invite players, coaches, media, team employees and others to tailgates. Many of these tailgate parties are held after games rather than before, so that these folks can attend. As for players, they don’t usually come–they have so little time to themselves and they don’t need to be caught on a cell photo with a bunch of knuckleheads like us. But we’re careful about that too, so that’s why you might not have heard this story before or seen many pictures of the tailgates on social media.
Following the last game of the 2013 baseball season, we hosted a “good-bye Coca Cola Park” tailgate in the parking lot as we usually do following the final daytime home game of the season. After a while that day, 1B/3B/DH Josh Fields arrived, parked his truck, and begin passing out samples of his home-made “hooch.” Josh had this apple concoction which, in a dixie cup, resembled a spit cup, but tasted like apple pie and was probably about 90 proof. As folks were receiving and enjoying their samples, Josh’s name was being whispered to those in attendance who didn’t know who he was. This is where Diamond Jim comes in–
Upon hearing Josh Fields’ name mentioned, Jim exclaims, “JOSH FIELDS? I HATE THAT GUY. HE NEVER SIGNS ANYTHING!”
Of course, just like in any sitcom, Josh happened to be standing right behind him at the time. As calm as can be, Josh says, “What do you want me to sign?”
I can’t really remember what happened next because I was laughing so hard, but I think Josh went to his truck and grabbed some of the discarded stuff he had gathered in the clubhouse before he came out, signed it, and begin giving it out to Diamond Jim and others in attendance.
So tonight I’m pouring one out for Diamond Jim. All theses games–IronPigs, Phantoms, SteelHawks–and I’m never really worried about going by myself if no one else wants to go, because I know there will always be folks like Diamond Jim around to talk to. Now, there’s one less–and we’re all worse for it.
Rest in peace Jim. Thank you for your service in Vietnam. Thank you for making the fan environment better wherever you were. Thank you for our happy-hour conversations. We’ll miss you.
And wherever you are, if you have the chance to get us a Governor’s Cup or a Calder Cup–I know you will.
Services for James Johnson, Jr are tomorrow at Downing Funeral Home in Bethlehem. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made c/o the funeral home to help defray funeral expenses.