Magazine Man

J.G. Taylor Spink

There is no question that for much of the 20th Century The Sporting News was the premier baseball magazine. It did other sports too, but it’s forte was baseball. It promoted the sport, did its own awards, including a once prestigious MVP award. Its editor sat on the Veteran’s Committee for the Hall of Fame. Ultimately, he had the Hall of Fame’s award for baseball writing named for him, the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.

John George Taylor Spink was born in 1888 in St. Louis, His uncle, a sports writer and one of the directors of the St. Louis Browns founded The Sporting News in 1886. The original magazine featured mostly baseball information. In 1899, J.G.’s dad took over the magazine and ran it until his death in 1914. At that point Taylor Spink became the editor, a job he held until 1962. The younger Spink was a huge baseball fan, but also understood the value of covering other sports. While not de-emphasizing baseball, he made certain that other sports, notably boxing, were given space in the magazine. He also gave a major boost to college football by beginning to follow it in his magazine.

But the centerpiece of the publication remained baseball, with box scores and stats featured along with stories about the teams and players. And by 1947 that included Jackie Robinson. It’s tough to determine Spink’s attitude toward Robinson. On the one hand, his comments about Robinson as a player are glowing, culminating with the awarding of the first Rookie of the Year Award, which was sponsored by Spink’s magazine. On the other hand, Spink’s seems to be less impressed with the “social experimentation” aspect of Robinson’s career. I don’t mean to imply Spinks opposed the “social experimentation”, but that he found it secondary to Robinson’s abilities as a ballplayer.

By 1953, it was generally acknowledged that the existing “Old Timer’s Committee” of the Hall of Fame was in need or reform. Spink had a reputation as a knowledgeable baseball man that he was chosen as chairman for the newly formed Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee. He would hold the position into 1959.  Although there are differing opinions on how well Spink’s committee did, he is acknowledged as instrumental in getting Bobby Wallace (a St. Louis man) elected and as influential in getting a number of other players picked for the Hall. You can take a look at the players selected by the Veteran’s Committee in the mid to late 1950s and make your own decision as to how good they were.

He continued to run his magazine until his death in 1962. With his passing, the Hall of Fame, which had for some time, been looking for a way to honor sportswriters established the J.G. Taylor Spink award for those writers. Spink won the initial award in ’62. The award winner’s names are displayed in the Hall library, so the winners, although honored, are not technically members of the Hall of Fame. Additionally, the Topps company, maker of baseball cards, sponsors a minor league player of the year award named for Spink. That’s quite a set of honors for a man who never played the game.

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One Response to “Magazine Man”

  1. keithosaunders Says:

    I remember that the cool thing about the Sportning News was that you could get boxscores from every team for the entire week. This was back in the days before everything was so readily available online or in expanded sports sections.

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