The Sporting News was the most important and best sports publication that ever was. Sadly, it isn't any longer, nor has been for a long time.
Alfred Henry Spink - founded Sporting News in St. Louis, MO, on March 17, 1886, where it remained until July, 2008. He sold it to his brother Charles Spink in 1895.
Charles Spink was a fabulous owner/editor, and ran it from 1895, until his death on April 22, 1914.
Charles' son John George (JG) Taylor Spink inherited it, and ran it from April 22, 1914, until his death December 7, 1962. He was as fantastic as his Dad had been. During WW II, he had sent free copies to US service men overseas, and expanded it to include many sports, mainly including boxing & football.
Upon his death, it was inherited by Charles Claude (CC) Johnson Spink, who ran it from December 7, 1962 until he sold it January 11, 1977, to the Times Mirror Corporation for $18m. Under terms of the deal Johnson Spink remained as editor and publisher for five years.
Times Mirror Corporation, in turn, sold TSN to Vulcan Sports Media, Inc. in 2000, a holding company owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
American City Business Journals, a Charlotte, N.C.-based publisher of about 40 local business newspapers, acquired Sporting News from Vulcan Sports Media in October 2006 for over $100m. They moved TSN to Charlotte, NC in July, 2008.
Johnson Spink did a respectable, credible job, but was not in the same league as his 2 immediate predecessors, who had been inexhaustible, relentless powerhouse perfectionists. In 1990, the paper stopped running obituaries, which to me was a bitter, devastating blow. That editorial decision caused me to abandon it.
From its inception in 1886 to 1937, it ran only 8 page issues. By WWII, it was up to around 40, during the 70's-80's it often ran up to 100 page issues. Today, it usually runs 68 page issues. Following 122 years of existence as a weekly publication, the magazine switched to a bi-weekly publishing schedule in 2008.
While it started out as a general sports publication, in 1900, it became primarily a baseball newspaper, and hence adopted the moniker, 'The Bible of Baseball'. And it richly earned its title until 1942. In the fall of 1942, The Sporting News incorporated football, boxing, basketball and hockey into its regular lineup, and has kept them there ever since.
The main sports SN currently covers are Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, NASCAR, and NCAA basketball and football, with occasional coverage of other sports.
Policy-wise, TSN initially supported the Players League of 1890 under Al Spink, but later, showing the influence of Charles, opposed it, calling it "outlaw". TSN supported Ban Johnson/Charlie Comiskey's launching of the American League, was a worthy adversary of Commissioner Judge Landis, always supporting AL President Ban Johnson, fully promoted baseball stars such as Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, & Babe Ruth, did not support Joe Jackson's or Buck Weaver's innocence in the Black Sox scandal, and supported the Yankees in disciplining Babe Ruth.
The demise of The Sporting News was not sudden but gradual. And systematic. Charles Claude (CC) Johnson Spink, sold it January 11, 1977, to the Times Mirror Corporation for $18m. When Johnson Spink took control circulation was over 178,000, when he left in January 1982 it was up to about 470,000.
In the 1970's and 1980's, Johnson Spink authorized a massive increase in the number of obituaries. Some issues had a complete page of them. But by May 6, 1991, after the Spink era was long ended, the obituaries in TSN had virtually disappeared from its pages. It ran an occasional, random obit, but the era of having an obit section was long gone. An editorial decision by its later owners.
With the advent of national sports media in the 1980s such as USA Today and ESPN, and of comprehensive web sites run by the major sports leagues in the 1990s, TSN lost this unique role as the only national baseball vehicle. Consequently, it evolved into more of a conventional, glossy sports magazine in both appearance and contents. Box scores disappeared from its pages in the late 1980s, but were still made available to subscribers in a separate publication for an undetermined period of time afterwards. The online SN Today revived the tradition of publishing boxscores in its virtual pages. By 1990, it discontinued its extensive obituaries pages.
In 1996, it incorporated 4 color photos. In 2001, the company acquired the One on One Sports radio network, renaming it Sporting News Radio. The same year, it was purchased by Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc.
In September 2006, American City Business Journals, Inc. acquired TSN and its online division. With the change in ownership, the company ceased most of its book publishing efforts. The 2006 Baseball Guide, a TSN annual in one form or another since the 1920s, was its last. The 2007 Baseball Register, an annual since the early 1940s, was its last. The 2007 Baseball Record Book was only available online, as a download. None of these guides were published in 2008.
By 2000, it sold around 520,000 copies every week, and by 2008 was up to 700,000 issues a week. It is an important publication, but no longer stands out from its competition. It requires its box-scores, obituaries' section & interviews from former players to give it its former historical relevance, uniqueness, continuity & context.
Despite its decline, I must still highly recommend using it as a primary research resource.
Circulation: Total number of copies printed; (Includes paid subscriptions, vendor sales, free distributions, etc.)
40,000 - October 1887
56,500 - February, 1888
60,000 - May 4, 1889
75,000 - 1914
5,000 - 1918
50,986 - 1920
60,000 - 1921
90,000 - 1924
46,592 - 1934
55,000 - 1936
76,570 - 1937
100,000 - 1942
127,404 - September 30, 1947
155,500 - September 30, 1948
199,378 - September 28, 1953
193,497 - September 27, 1954
194,032 - September 29, 1955
190,500 - September, 1956
173,958 - September 29, 1958
176, 466 - September 28, 1959
184,948 - September 30, 1961
178,144 - December, 1962
289,300 - September 29, 1965
306,818 - September 22, 1966
339,590 - September 22, 1967
350,907 - September 20, 1968
370,667 - September 24, 1969
384,699 - September 26, 1972
399,329 - September 25, 1973
396,648 - September 26, 1974
407,184 - September 26, 1975
428,596 - September 24, 1976
434,954 - September 20, 1977
476,623 - September 19, 1978
483,061 - September 17, 1979
470,000 - January, 1982
627,000 - September 16, 1982
727,700 - September 26, 1983
927,500 - September 23, 1985
770,633 - September 27, 1991
758,590 - September 29, 1992
727,823 - September 29, 1993
665,944 - October 18, 1995
690,216 - September 25, 1996
772,933 - September 30, 1998
683,464 - October 18, 1999
738,531 - September 28, 2001
716,597 - September 25, 2002
708,925 - 2003
700,000 - 2008
article on the History of the Sporting News
In 1962, J.G. Taylor Spink was the first recipient of the award that bears his name.
John George Taylor Spink began his journalistic career as a teenage copyboy at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Within months he moved to his father's sports weekly, The Sporting News, and quickly progressed through the ranks until, with his father's passing in 1914, Spink took over as publisher, editor, and advertising manager of the paper. He also wrote weekly columns, stories, and editorials.
Spink's passion for baseball earned him the nickname "Mr. Baseball" and his accomplishments are voluminous. The driving force behind The Sporting News becoming "The Bible of Baseball," it was Spink's idea to send the sports weekly to U.S. troops overseas during both World Wars I and II. Spink's aid was instrumental in uncovering the truth behind the Black Sox scandal. He took over publication of the Official Baseball Guide in the 1940s and was the author of two baseball classics: Judge Landis and Twenty-Five Years of Baseball (actually ghost-written by staff member Fred Lieb) and Daguerreotypes.
Under Spink's direction, The Sporting News not only reported the National Pastime, but helped develop and elevate the game. Opinionated and gruff, yet compassionate and understanding, Spink's contributions are still evident throughout baseball and sports journalism. As Dan Daniel wrote, Spink was "militant for the right thing and the best interest of baseball in particular, and honest living in general."
John George (JG) Taylor Spink:
Born: November 6, 1888, St. Louis, MO,
Died: December 7, 1962, Clayton, MO, age 74
Inherited The Sporting News from his Dad in 1914, and owned, guided the best sports publication ever until his death December 7, 1962. After his death, an award was created for the best sports writers, the Spink Award. It's a lifetime achievement award for the sports writing profession. There is a wing in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame for their plaques. However, some people do not feel that this entitles the recipients of the Spink/Ford Awards to be considered, "in the Hall of Fame".
The impact of a death, (outside one's own family), lies in its consequence. I stand by my opinion that his death was the most devastating to baseball as a whole, based on its impact of its coverage. It is difficult to equal the overall baseball impact of the loss of the guiding light of the sport's most important publication.
Taylor Spink ran The Sporting News, from 1914, to his death on December 7, 1962. Oh unhappy day for baseball when he passed! His successor, Johnson Spink, lacked the greatness to keep up the standards. And all of the sport suffered greatly for the loss of its chronicler.
All deaths are a loss, but some ripple on in their impacts forever. One would have had to be familiar with the paper to understand the profundity of the loss. He could not be replaced, and was not. Baseball was never covered/documented as well since. If it had been, we would have had a constant and continuous stream of interviews with Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Clemente, Kalilne, etc. ever since they retired until they died. But we didn't. And how much the poorer we all are for those never conducted interviews!
We haven't come close to hearing what the best players since 1962 had to say about their sport, up to today. And that would never have been allowed to happen if Taylor Spink had lived. He simply would not have allowed such a devastating blackout of the opinions of its most glittering ornaments.
Essay by David Quentin Voigt
Spink, John George Taylor (November 6, 1888 - December 7, 1962), baseball publicist, was born in St. Louis, Mo., the son of Charles Claude Spink and Marie Taylor. Two years before his son's birth, Charles Spink had abandoned a homesteading venture to assist his brother Alfred in founding Sporting News, a St. Louis-based weekly journal of sporting and theatrical news. Alfred Spink soon left Charles in control of the struggling publication. By concentrating on baseball news, Sporting News soon rivaled New York Clipper and Sporting Life as a leading baseball weekly.
As editor, Charles Spink won local support through his attacks on Chris von der Ahe, the controversial owner of the St. Louis Browns, and national readership through his support of the Players' League in 1890 and his attacks on monopolistic major-league owners during the 1890's. When Spink supported Byron Bancroft Johnson's successful bid for major-league status for the American League in 1903, he gained an important ally.
Taylor Spink spent his early years training to succeed his father as publisher. Since both parents worked on Sporting News, his interest was encouraged, and he was permitted to leave high school in the tenth grade to further his apprenticeship. He served stints as office boy, copy boy, writer, and assistant editor.
Spink attained a responsible position with Sporting News in 1912, at a time when circulation had fallen to 12,000 a week. Blaming his father's ill-advised support of the interloping Federal League for alienating major league officials, he tried to contravene that policy. When his father died April 22, 1914, Taylor, who had just married Blanche Keene (on April 15), cut short his honeymoon to assume the editorship. The Spinks had two children.
Reversing his father's policy, Spink ingratiated himself with the baseball establishment by opposing the Federal League "invaders." Sporting News circulation improved, while that of Sporting Life declined to the point that it ceased publication (1917). For the next two years Spink enjoyed a monopoly of baseball news, but the outbreak of World War I posed a threat to Sporting News. When weekly circulation dropped to 5,000, American League president Johnson, a family friend, rewarded Spink's loyalty by buying 150,000 copies each week for distribution to servicemen.
After the war, baseball and Sporting News prospered. By working seven days a week, Spink made it indispensable, the "Bible of Baseball," the best source for statistics, box scores, records, and coverage of all levels of professional play. To gather detailed information, Spink deployed an army of correspondents and stringers in every baseball town, tirelessly directing their activities by persistent phone calls and telegrams. As a result, by 1942 Sporting News, with its sixteen pages of small type and its colorful headlines, boasted a weekly circulation of 100,000 copies. By then Spink was wealthy, but most of his earnings came from ancillary publications such as Sporting Goods Dealer, yearbooks of baseball facts and statistics, and books and pamphlets on various aspects of the game. Among these The Baseball Register, first published in 1940, annually sold more than 500,000 copies.
Nevertheless, the heart of Spink's publishing empire was Sporting News, which thrived under his fussy leadership. He himself wrote sparingly, delegating even his bylined columns to others. (This was true also of his biography of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.) His strengths were providing imaginative story leads for others to pursue and his martinet style of editorial direction. Unlike his father, Spink supported baseball's status quo, preferring to inform, enlighten, and amuse readers rather than undertake crusades. Both baseball and Sporting News profited from national publicity resulting from the awards and trophies he provided.
When World War II brought another circulation crisis, the baseball establishment again subsidized Sporting News by distributing 400,000 copies weekly to servicemen. But the postwar rise of rival sports and leisure publications threatened the life of a journal devoted wholly to baseball. Spink adapted by converting Sporting News into a lively tabloid and extending its coverage to other professional sports.
After his death at Clayton, Mo., Spink's son became publisher of Sporting News. The journal continued to prosper, but inroads from other sporting publications and his lack of an heir prompted him to sell Sporting News to the Times Mirror Company in 1977.
In my sumpremely humble opinion, here is what would be required for The Sporting News to regain its historical relevance. It would need to distinguish itself from its competing publications.
1. Drop the magazine format, and return to its newspaper format.
2. Go back to its historic weekly format. Two weeks is too long and requires too much coverage.
3. Reinstate both its boxscores and its obituaries.
4. Bring back its interviews with the former superstars of each sport.
5. Keep the color photos.
6. Keep the price at $3.00 for a weekly, and offer an online version for a subscription rate of not more than $30.00. Offer a yearly subscription for the newspaper for $60.00. Keep the number of pages to within 60 pages.
7. When baseball is in season, keep its coverage to not more than half the issue, and have a single column for each team with an established correspondent. That would be 6 pages (5 columns each) for a brief team summary, when in season. Have a half-page article by a former superstar of each sport. Keep its obituaries to one page for all sports.
His entry in Who's Who in Major League Baseball, ----------------TSN's-Rookie of the Year award to Jackie Robinson in 1947.
-ed. by Harold (Speed) Johnson, 1933, pp. 496, pp. 496.-------------------J.G. Taylor-Spink of The Sporting News presented the award.
JG Taylor Spink, Owner/Editor-In-Chief of the Sporting News, 1914-1962.---This shot was taken in 1940.
John McGraw/Taylor Spink,--------------------------------------Taylor Spink, left, with Jack Potter (right) on board ship. Potter, son of a
February 9, 1932--------------------------------------------------one-time co-owner of the Philadelphia Phillies
JG Taylor Spink (Sporting News' boss)/Ban Johnson (AL Pres.), probably late 1910's.
February 2, 1941, Hotel Commodore; New York Baseball writers' dinner;
L-R: New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, Babe Ruth, Ford Frick, Bill Slocum?, Taylor Spink.----------Frances Richter/Taylor Spink: 1912 World Series