COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – J.G. Taylor Spink, often called the voice and conscience of baseball, built a sports publication empire after taking over as publisher-editor of the Sporting News in 1914.
But he is best remembered as the namesake – and first winner – of the grandest award given to baseball writers.
In addition to the Sporting News, Spink also produced The Sporting Goods Dealer, The Baseball Register, The Dope Book, The World Series Record Book, Comedians and Pranksters of Baseball and One for the Book.
One of baseball's most influential supporters passed away peacefully at his home 49 years ago this week on Dec. 7, 1962. He was 74 years old.
Spink was known for his 16-hour work days, his gruff voice and his salty language. He was also sentimental and generous. He fought for the minor leagues as well as the majors and strongly supported baseball in foreign countries and the sandlots.
He developed the Sporting News not only as the "Bible of Baseball," but into an internationally-known sports weekly.
Under his guidance, TSN came to be regarded as the voice of baseball – a platform to which players, officials and fans turned for information and leadership.
Spink was also militant about the best interests of baseball in particular, and honest living in general.
That's why, in 1962, the Baseball Writers' Association of America put machinery in motion to establish an award honoring Spink.
By unanimous vote, the writers approved a resolution calling not only for the establishment of the award but the nomination of Spink as its first recipient.
Mayor Raymond R. Tucker of St. Louis – then home of the Sporting News – was among the first to congratulate Spink on the establishment of the award.
"I am pleased that the Baseball Writers' Association of America has made the fine play that it did," wrote the mayor."There's no doubt that you should be honored not only by the establishment of an award for meritorious service to baseball in your name, but that you should be the leadoff man."
Since then, the Spink Award has been awarded 61 times (sometimes more than once per year) to luminaries such as Grantland Rice, Damon Runyan and Shirley Povich. It is presented annually at Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown.
Jonathan Coe is the fall 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum