Inspiring Energy, Enthusiasm, Optimism
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.