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Some Thoughts About My Friend Jim Caple

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Terrible news came down yesterday afternoon, as I learned that my friend and former ESPN colleague Jim Caple had died on Sunday. He was only 61 — just two years older than me. His family says he’d been dealing with ALS and dementia. I had no idea, so the news came as a shock.

If you read Uni Watch on ESPN back in the Page 2 days, you were probably familiar with Jim’s byline, because he was one of the founding P2 writers. His main beat was MLB, but he also covered tennis, the Olympics, the Tour de France, and more. He was a serious reporter who could do nuts-and-bolts sportswriting with the best of them, but what made him special was an absurdist sensibility that often came out in unexpected ways, like when he and his wife, Vicki, participated in the International Wife Carrying contest, or when he got a manicure/pedicure with Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, or when he biked up the brutal French cycling climb Mont Ventoux, or when he posed naked on a bicycle to spoof ESPN The Magazine’s “The Body” issue. Looking back at some of his work, I’m reminded of how ESPN, and sports media in general, used to be much funnier, much more able to laugh at sports and at itself, in ways that seem almost alien now.

Another thing I see in Jim’s work: joy — so much joy. He certainly wasn’t blind to all the nonsense in sports (or in the larger world), but he was always able to sift through all that nonsense and find ways to be playful, to harness his curiosity, to have fun. As someone who sometimes takes things too seriously, I always admired that about him and tried to learn from it (although I fear I still have a ways to go).

Jim lived in Seattle, so I didn’t see him that often. During the time when our ESPN tenures overlapped — 2004 through 2017 — I would typically see him once or twice per year, usually at “all hands” editorial meetings up in Bristol. I became friendly with lots of ESPN editors over the years, but Jim was the one fellow writer who I really connected with. One time he flew in to NYC the day before one of those Bristol meetings and crashed at my place, and then we took my car up to Connecticut the next day (stopping at my favorite hot dog joint along the way). He was always good company, whether in the car, at the office, at a bar, or anyplace else.

Like any good colleagues, Jim and I tried to help each other out. When he had a uni-related question that related to a story he was working on, he’d come to me. In October of 2011, when I was working on an ESPN piece about athletes who wore their wedding bands on the field, I was trying to get a quote from Texas Rangers pitcher Matthew Harrison, who wore his wedding ring on his necklace, but the Rangers were in the playoffs and their PR guys were too busy to deal with such a frivolous-seeming inquiry. Jim was covering the ALCS on-site for ESPN at the time, so I asked him if he could approach Harrison for me and get a quote, which he did. I remember one time I ran up to Yankee Stadium to help him out with … honestly, I don’t remember why. I just remember he needed me for something, so of course I said yes. Who would say no to Jim?

Jim was a pro’s pro, but most of all I valued his friendship and, especially, his no-bullshit humanity. As much as anyone I’ve ever known, he seemed to have his head screwed on right, with a really healthy sense of priorities. On more than one occasion, I was confronted with a tricky situation and thought to myself, “What would Jim Caple do here?”

I last saw Jim in 2019. I don’t recall why he was in town, but we met up at one of my favorite Manhattan spots and had a few beers and a bite. I feel like we had the bartender take a photo of us together, but I haven’t been able to find it. I remember that we talked about our years at ESPN, and also about what the future might hold for the next chapters of our careers and our lives. We didn’t know that Jim had so few chapters remaining. I miss him already, and the world already feels emptier for his absence. R.I.P., buddy.

Comments (40)


    I’m sorry for your loss personally. I’m sorry for our loss professionally and as a consumer of strong sportswriting and sports journalism. You confirmed what shone brightly in his work … that he had to ability to take what he did seriously without ever taking himself too seriously. Goodness know the industry – and many others – need all the Jim Caples it can get.

    Thanks for the tribute.

    Sorry for your loss Paul, but that was such a wonderful tribute. I honestly wasn’t familiar with Jim’s work, but you paint such a vivid picture of him that I now feel like I know him.

    I saw the news late last night. So shocking, and sad. I was absolutely plugged in to Page 2 when it launched during college, for me. I’ve been following your work ever since, but Jim was always one of my favorites, too. This was a lovely tribute.

    A beautiful remembrance, Paul. Was trying to process this last night when I saw the news on Twitter (X, sure, whatever) and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt such a sense of loss. Maybe it’s a reminder that we’re all getting older, maybe it was a wave of nostalgia for Page 2. But you’ve helped me crystallize my thoughts. It’s not about those things: it’s about the loss of fun and whimsy. Jim’s writing always had that sly humor, a sense of whimsy and a tacit recognition that he was writing about “the candy store of life.”
    I only knew Jim Caple through his writing but I will miss him because he never took sports, or himself too seriously.
    My condolences to you, Paul, and to Jim’s family and friends. May his name always be remembered for a blessing.

    My condolences for your loss, Paul. I was stunned when I saw the news he passed last night. I fondly remember his writing at Page 2.

    I grew up reading Jim’s work on Page 2 (right next to yours, Paul!), and I was always drawn to how much fun he had with his writing, and how much he could pack into a story or a column without it ever feeling cramped. His work is one of the strongest pulls that led me to journalism.

    I never did cross paths with him personally or professionally, but I ended up knowing many people who did (including one who I married), and have to say that I’ve never heard anything but the most glowing praise for Jim’s character. Even though I’ve known his death was coming for a little while, it hasn’t made it any easier to process. Paul, I’m sorry that you’ve lost a friend.

    I deeply respect people who can and choose to wade through the BS in the world and find ways to have fun (and more importantly, poke fun) anyway. Seems Jim was one of those dudes. RIP sir.

    Back in the heydey of Page 2, the three columns that i had to read were always Uni-Watch, Simmons, and Caple. I hadn’t thought about him in years, but it was very sad to hear this news yesterday. I’m very sorry for your loss Paul as you were closer to him than any of us. But its sad that none of us will get to read new stories from Jim.

    RIP Jim Caple. I appreciate your tribute to your friend. It seems the world could use more like him in and outside of the sports media realm.

    Before moving on to ESPN, Jim Caple was the Minnesota Twins beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He was fantastic at that job and it was great to see him go on to further success. It’s terribly sad that we’ve lost him at too young an age.

    Beautiful tribute, Paul. I always enjoyed reading Jim’s Tour de France coverage, and I remember reading several of the whimsical columns you mentioned. Reading his work made following sports more fun. A huge loss for all of us. May his memory be a blessing.

    Sad to hear of the loss of Jim Caple. He was a great writer, solid in his MLB coverage and irreverent in his everyman meets sports beat. Page 2 was a great sport on the ESPN website.

    Wonderful tribute. How I miss those terrific ESPN Page 2 days with you, Bill Simmons, and Jim Caple. All 3 writers were a must read for any sports fan. You said it perfectly. There was so much joy in Jim’s writing. I recall laughing and sharing some of his wonderfully absurd articles. You definitely don’t see that joy in sports writing anymore.
    RIP. I think I will have to search for some of Jim Caple’s best articles to re-read. He will be missed.

    Your wonderful tribute to Jim makes the loss hit home even that much more for me. My deepest condolences to you, Paul, and to all of Jim’s loved ones.

    Such a great tribute. You nailed it on the head, regarding sports and its lighter side. Everything is hot takes and sp heavy handed. I miss P2 and its tangential takes on the sports we love. My condolences to the Caple family, yourself and the writing community.

    I am very sorry for your loss. Loved reading Jim’s stories in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

    I remember him first as the Twins beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, but especially for his ESPN stories. His voice was remarkable and will be missed. Your remembrance of him was simply lovely, Paul. Peace to you and all who knew Jim.

    Sad news, Paul. I read about it yesterday but had forgotten that you two were friends. Sorry for your loss.

    I’s also forgotten how damn funny his International Wife-Carrying column was. I read it again just now and laughed again. Great stuff.

    Sorry for your loss of a good friend, and thank you for sharing this tribute with us. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

    I briefly met Jim as a baseball loving kid growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska while he was covering the Midnight Sun Game, leading to this article: link

    At the time I remember being wowed by his celebrity (“an ESPN writer in Fairbanks!”), but he couldn’t have been more gracious with his time.

    I went to the same high school as Jim, R.A. Long in the little town of Longview, Washington. There weren’t a whole lot of famous alumni from there, but when I was a budding sportswriter myself it was everything to know that an RAL grad was one of the names I recognized at ESPN.

    Jim was truly a Lumberjack Legend, he even showed the small town a little love in a Page 2 piece (link) that I’ve revisited many times over the years as one of my all-time favorite reads. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy lives on through his nephew, Christian Caple, who covers the University of Washington.

    Moving and eloquent tribute, Paul. I never met Jim but lived through his work and loved reading him. Had wondered what happened to him. RIP

    Paul, you’ve got to give Barstool Sports a real try. Best place I’ve found in sports media for laughing at sports and itself. Yeah it has some boorish aspects. IMO can’t keep yourself from enjoying something just because it has a few offputting aspects. Gotta enjoy life!

    No love for Stoolsample?

    What’s next, someone suggesting that you should check out fellow sports-slop outhouse OutKick?

    I love Caple. What a gut punch. He grew up in SW Washington like me. He was such a wonderful reporter. Agree he was so funny. God bless you both.

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