Charles “CJ” McCarthy could list the Heisman Trophy award winners year by year, name Manchester’s top high school athletes and explain the best way to lay down a bunt.
The lifelong Manchester resident loved — and pretty much knew — everything about sports and spent much of his life around them.
McCarthy, who worked for the New Hampshire Union Leader for more than 40 years as a sports reporter and sports editor, died Wednesday at age 69 after a period of declining health.
“CJ understood sports like few people did and he took that knowledge to the paper and helped make our sports pages what they were — very good pages,” said former New Hampshire Sunday News City Editor Jim Adams, who started at the company about the same time as McCarthy.
McCarthy, a 1970 Manchester Memorial graduate, played football, winning a state championship in 1969, and hockey for the Crusaders. He coached youth baseball and Catholic Youth Organization basketball and was a Heisman Trophy award voter for more than 30 years.
McCarthy’s favorite sport to follow was whichever his stepsons Ryan, Chris and Tim Day were playing while growing up. Ryan Day, who was a star quarterback at Manchester Central, is the head football coach at Ohio State University.
“That was his love, that was his passion was us,” said Chris Day, 41, who lives in Hampton.
McCarthy was a quiet, level-headed coach and when he spoke, people listened, said Chris Day, who played CYO basketball at St. Catherine’s for McCarthy and head coach Tommy Dickson. Tim Day still remembers the sign McCarthy gave in North Manchester Little League for him to bunt.
“I was always good at bunting and drag bunting and I remember he always used to do this thing where he’d look at me and he’d pull his ear and that was like his sign to me saying drag bunt and I did it all the time,” said Tim Day, 38, who lives in Andover, Mass. “He was always just very calm and a great coach and people really liked playing for him.”
McCarthy, who received the New Hampshire sportswriter of the year award from the National Sports Media Association in 1975, was also passionate about his profession and working for the Union Leader. Chris Day said McCarthy worked hard and always looked forward to his next shift.
Joe McQuaid, former Union Leader president and publisher, and now editor-at-large, said McCarthy loved being part of the newsroom and admired coworkers like John Hussey and Bob Donahue.
“I remember him always saying, ‘I just love doing what I’m doing,’” Chris Day said.
As a reporter and editor, McCarthy knew what kind of stories interested sports fans both locally and statewide, said his friend and former Union Leader coworker Pat O’Neil.
“When he was writing, it was must-read if you followed local sports,” O’Neil said. “The bigger the game, the bigger the article and CJ was right there in the middle of it.”
Richard “Nip” Provencher, who coached the Memorial indoor and outdoor track teams from 1984-2009 and still volunteers with the programs, described McCarthy as a sports enthusiast. Provencher, 72, went to Memorial with McCarthy. The two became friends after high school and used to live across the street from each other.
McQuaid called McCarthy a walking encyclopedia of local sports knowledge. Chris Day said McCarthy rarely missed a question when the two watched Jeopardy! together.
“(He was) caring, had a big heart, a great passion and knowledge of sports and just a supportive person,” Chris Day said.