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Thread: The Sporting News

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    The Sporting News

    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

    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-01-2012 at 12:42 AM.

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    While browsing my files this morning, I came across this interesting article.
    The Sporting News, June 21, 1975, pp. 5.


    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-15-2009 at 05:22 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    Alfred Henry Spink - founded Sporting News in St. Louis, MO, on March 17, 1886, where it has been ever since.
    The Sporting News was sold to American City Business Journals Inc. a couple of years ago. It is now headquartered in Charlotte, NC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macker View Post
    The Sporting News was sold to American City Business Journals Inc. a couple of years ago. It is now headquartered in Charlotte, NC.
    That's right, Macker. I wrote this a while ago. But I remember that Steve Gietschier wrote in his Meet The Sports Writers profile:

    "When the Sporting News moved its editorial offices from St. Louis to Charlotte, North Carolina, in July 2008, the Research Center was dismantled, its holdings boxed up, and its staff discharged."

    Boy do those words give added meaning to 'end of an era.'

  5. #5
    According to Voigt,
    AL President Johnson purchased 150,000 copies weekly for distribution to servicemen during WWI and "baseball" distributed 400,000 copies weekly during WWII also for servicemen. Those numbers seem incredible to me. Re WWI he reports that circulation had fallen to merely 5000 copies.

    According to WSJ,
    "During WWII the two major leagues bought as many as 25,000 copies a week of a special edition ... This form of subsidy continues but baseball's weekly purchase (at a cut rate) has shrunk to about 2500 copies ..."

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    Griffith's Bat and Ball fund sent 150,000 copies of the Sporting News to servicemen during WWI in total, not weekly.

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    From The Sporting News: A History of the Baseball Bible:

    The first issue of The Sporting News measured 17 by 22 inches, sold for 5 cents or if you wanted to bet on it's survival then $2.50 per year, and was published March 17, 1886, by 31-year-old Al Spink, a St. Louis Browns executive who was instrumental in the purchase of Sportsman's Park with the colorful Chris Von der Ahe. The Sporting News would be published by the Spink family for just over 90 years. They were a colorful bunch, that's for sure.

    I previously referred to The Sporting News as "The Bible of Baseball" and while it would earn this moniker in time at its beginning it reflected Al Spink's interests and covered cycling, shooting, billiards and even theater. Boxing coverage would also be a big part of the 19th century Sporting News, but baseball was The Sporting News bread and butter from the start.

    As soon as September 1886 The Sporting News would include sketches of the St. Louis Browns players on its cover with the banner headline "St. Louis Browns -- Champions of the World". For the most part these earliest editions of The Sporting News appeared at first glance the same as any newspaper--the cover was filled by text.

    It should be noted that as successful as The Sporting News was, it was not the first sporting paper, and it did have formidable competition from the start in The Sporting Life, founded by Francis Richter in 1883. While The Sporting Life originally noted the arrival of The Sporting News with approval very soon they were accusing Spink's paper of copying The Sporting Life's style. Spink replied that indeed, their advertising columns were very similar, except that The Sporting News had so many more ads!

    The Sporting News was pretty much a one-man operation involving Al Spink at first, with Al handling tasks as varied as balancing the books, soliciting advertising and overseeing the editorial content, but this soon proved too much for one man so Al brought in his little brother Charles Spink in 1887 at a $50 per week salary.

    Even though his baseball knowledge was initially limited, Charles jumped at the opportunity and quickly helped boost circulation with a sample-copy campaign. Circulation stood at about 40,000 in October 1887 and had risen to 56,500 as soon as February 1888. Advertising requests were so heavy that The Sporting News would expand five times in 1888, growing from 8 to 12 pages.

    This was followed by a brief drop in circulation when in 1890 The Sporting News broke the story about the player's revolt and backed the new Player's League. They had made the wrong choice and the public let them know it. Charles Spink was taking over the magazine little by little all throughout the 90's as Al persued other interests. Al Spink would depart for good in 1899 with A.J. "Joe" Flanner taking over as editor and Charles Spink holding the title of publisher. With Al out the door The Sporting News adjusted its coverage and focused entirely upon baseball.
    From W.E. Kelsoe's A Newspaper Man's Motion-Picture of the City:

    Mention is made elsewhere of the Spink family. William M. Spink, the oldest of the boys, remembered by old-timers as telegraph editor and sporting editor of the Globe and the Globe-Democrat in the Seventies and early Eighties and later (until his death) with the Chronicle, was a national authority on sporting matters generally. He had been an expert telegrapher before engaging in newspaper work. His brother, Alfred, now Mr. A. H. Spink of Chicago, came to St. Louis early in the Seventies and his first newspaper work here was as correspondent for New York papers. Then he worked for the Post, the Post-Dispatch and the Missouri Republican, in turn, as a reporter, and later was, first, telegraph editor and then sporting editor of the Republican. He was one of the early sporting editors of the Chronicle and held a like position on the Post-Dispatch for eight years. Al Spink was the founder of the present Sporting News of St. Louis and of the morning World, started in 1902. He was one of the organizers of the St. Louis Browns of 1882 and of the American Association (baseball) that year. For many years he was actively interested here in baseball, horse racing and other sports. The third brother, the late Charles C. Spink, devoted his newspaper activities to the management of the Sporting News, which is now owned and conducted by the widow, Mrs. Marie T. Spink, and son, John G. Taylor Spink, now prominent in sporting matters. The three newspaper brothers mentioned had two newspaper sisters, the wives of, respectively, William H. Hicks and George T. Lanigan, both newspaper men. Mr. Hicks I remember well. We called him "Billy Hicks," but I never worked with him. I think he was on the Globe-Democrat or the Post-Dispatch and my allegiance then was to "Old 1808" (Missouri Republican).
    From Mark Cooper's piece on Al Spink:

    While an executive of the Browns, Al Spink published the first issue of The Sporting News in 1886, a weekly eight-page publication, 17 by 22 inches. The paper sold for five cents, $2.50 per year. In the inaugural issue Al wrote in an editorial: “It is the custom when a journal of any class is thrust upon an all-confiding and unsuspecting public to launch out into a lengthy editorial as to what the newcomer will do and as to the aims and objects. Now, for various reasons, TSN intends to ignore this custom and let its readers guess at hat its aims and objects are. One thing we must do, however, is thank the hundreds of kind friends who have wished us God speed in the new enterprise.” An inside column of short items bore the caption “Caught on the Fly,” a heading still found in the paper.

    In September, 1886, the paper, in recognition of the Browns’ World Series victory over the Chicago White Stockings, brightened page one with sketches of all the St. Louis players, proclaiming “St. Louis Browns-Champions of the world.” The older sporting weekly the sporting Life, published in Philadelphia, became aware of the new competition in St. Louis. When Sporting Life accused The Sporting News of copying its style, TSN responded: “The cruelest thing a Philadelphia contemporary can say is that we imitate his newspaper. He is right. Our advertising columns are very much like his except we have so very many more advertisements.”

    Al Spink was a great editor, but a poor businessman. Realizing his inadequacies, he hired his younger brother Charles, for $50 a week, to become business manager. Success followed, and in the May 4, 1889, issue, TSN reported reaching a half million readers weekly with its 60,000 circulation.

    In 1889 Al’s intimate association with players allowed TSN to break the story of the impending players’ revolt that led to the formation of the Players’ League. The story headline read: “The Brotherood/Every Man but Anson Pledged to Jump The League/The Greatest Move in the History of the National Game.”

    During 1890 Al wrote a melodrama titled derby Winner, and took the play on the road, leaving all responsibility for The Sporting News to his brother Charles. Because TSN backed the Players’ League, National League clubs and advertisers (particularly Spalding) withdrew editorial and advertising support from the paper in favor of Sporting Life, and Al returned from his unsuccessful attempt in the theater to find circulation and revenue declining with a vengeance. He christened his paper The Sporting Death, and reported that Jack Glasscock, active in the players’ organization, was actually spy for the club owners.

    Al also lashed out at his old benefactor Chris Von der Ahe, whom he called “J Christ von der Ahe.” Brother Charles resumed control of TSN, decreasing costs and increasing circulation.

    In 1894, Al began to lose interest in The Sporting News and, in dire need of finances, sold all his stock to Charles. Al opened a racetrack at this time but continued to work for TSN. Finally, in 1899, he left the paper for good. In 1910 he moved to Chicago and published his book The National Game, a history of the early years of baseball. In 1921, while a columnist for the Chicago Evening Post, he authored a three-volume set titled One Thousand Sport Stories. At his funeral in 1928, baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis gave the eulogy.
    One thing that I would question from Bill's post is the statement that Al Spink and TSN were oppossed to the Player's League. My recollection from reading the archives is that the opposite was true and the sources above claim that TSN took a pro-players editorial stance. Sadly, since Google swallowed up Paper of Record, I can't figure out how to check the archives and verify this.

    Also, the history of the management of the paper is a bit more complicated than saying that Charles Spink bought the paper from Al in 1895. I believe that there was tension between the two brothers dating back to 1887 when Al first brought Charles in. The differences between the two, which were business related at first and eventually became personal, culmiated in Al leaving the paper in 1890 for a short period to pursue other interests. When he rejoined the paper, it was only for a brief time and then he was basicly forced to sell his interest to Charles. For all intents and purposes, Charles Spinks was running TSN from 1890 until his death.

    The older brother, William Spink, is hardly ever mentioned but was an outstanding baseball writer. He was a pioneer sporting editor in St. Louis with the Globe-Democrat and his work breaking the baseball gambling/fixing scandal in St. Louis in 1877 is probably the finest baseball writing I've read from the era.
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

  8. #8
    Why should the Sporting News still need to focus on baseball when Charlie Weis and Pete Carroll are misunderstood but really great people. We need to constantly be reminded of that, week after week after week even in April. That's tough work for any magazine, and I'm glad the Sporting News has taken up that fight.

    The phrase when pride still mattered comes to mind. I wonder where somewhere along the line The Sproting News stopped thinking it did.
    Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Alex Sparky
    Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
    Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
    Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
    Robin JEDI

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    Quote Originally Posted by hubkittel View Post
    One thing that I would question from Bill's post is the statement that Al Spink and TSN were opposed to the Player's League. My recollection from reading the archives is that the opposite was true and the sources above claim that TSN took a pro-players editorial stance. Sadly, since Google swallowed up Paper of Record, I can't figure out how to check the archives and verify this.

    Also, the history of the management of the paper is a bit more complicated than saying that Charles Spink bought the paper from Al in 1895. I believe that there was tension between the two brothers dating back to 1887 when Al first brought Charles in. The differences between the two, which were business related at first and eventually became personal, culminated in Al leaving the paper in 1890 for a short period to pursue other interests. When he rejoined the paper, it was only for a brief time and then he was basically forced to sell his interest to Charles. For all intents and purposes, Charles Spinks was running TSN from 1890 until his death.

    The older brother, William Spink, is hardly ever mentioned but was an outstanding baseball writer. He was a pioneer sporting editor in St. Louis with the Globe-Democrat and his work breaking the baseball gambling/fixing scandal in St. Louis in 1877 is probably the finest baseball writing I've read from the era.
    Wow. Nice job! Outstanding work, Jeff. I got the part about TSN opposing the Players' League from TSN themselves. I believe it was 1939, when the Hall of Fame was opened, TSN gave a history of their founders. That is one of the things that they claimed about themselves.

    Perhaps they were referring to when Charles took over and changed their policy, after the Players' L. failed. I don't know. But thanks to your investigative reports, I just went back and revised and corrected myself. Thanks for the great head's up!

    But your contributions here are outstanding, Jeff! Kudos and thanks for supporting this thread so magnificently!! I really appreciate it. Love good documenting from a content guy. I'm aware that anything relating to early St. Louis baseball is right in your wheelhouse.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-13-2009 at 12:43 PM.

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    By the way, Jeff, have you seen Chris Von der Ahe and the St. Louis Browns By J. Thomas Hetrick, and how do you assess it?

    Is the scholarship there? Maybe you should write your own book on early St. Louis baseball. You seem to have the knowledge and a good writing style.

    Worth a shot?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by hubkittel View Post
    The older brother, William Spink, is hardly ever mentioned but was an outstanding baseball writer. He was a pioneer sporting editor in St. Louis with the Globe-Democrat and his work breaking the baseball gambling/fixing scandal in St. Louis in 1877 is probably the finest baseball writing I've read from the era.
    scandal in St Louis - does this refer to St Louis hiring the Louisville "fixers" for the 1878 season, or a different scandal?

  12. #12
    A parallel scandal. The accusation was that several St. Louis players had sold a game, Joe Battin and Joe Blong being the chief suspects. The Louisville case is far better known because the officials there made a point of pursuing the matter, and then George Hall was foolish enough to make a confession, whereas the St. Louis allegations were never pursued.

    I think the details are in Ginsburg's book on game fixing, and you can find them on Jeff's website if you dig around a little.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    By the way, Jeff, have you seen Chris Von der Ahe and the St. Louis Browns By J. Thomas Hetrick, and how do you assess it?

    Is the scholarship there? Maybe you should write your own book on early St. Louis baseball. You seem to have the knowledge and a good writing style.

    Worth a shot?
    I've read Hetrick's book and have had the pleasure of exchange emails with him discussing VdA. Generally, I'd say that his book is a good one and worth your time. It's basicly the only book of its kind out there (with the possible exception of Jon David Cash's Before They Were Cardinals-which I highly recomend). My problems with it stem from the fact that Hetrick tends to take the VdA stories at face value and uses them as a source without placing them in context. I tend to get a bit frustrated with the accepted portrait of VdA as some kind of ignorant buffoon who lucked into a good situation with the Comiskey-led Browns. In the end, I was disapointed in the book because it perpetuates the myth of VdA rather than plowing new ground with a much needed reinterpretation of VdA's career. But that's more a comment on me and my tastes rather than on Hentrick's book.

    As to a book on early St. Louis baseball, it's a work in progress. I'm still trying to figure out how to write it without having it turn into a three volume epic that no one would want to publish or read. And I appreciate the complement on my plodding writing style (and your kind refusal to comment on my inability to spell).
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beady View Post
    A parallel scandal. The accusation was that several St. Louis players had sold a game, Joe Battin and Joe Blong being the chief suspects. The Louisville case is far better known because the officials there made a point of pursuing the matter, and then George Hall was foolish enough to make a confession, whereas the St. Louis allegations were never pursued.

    I think the details are in Ginsburg's book on game fixing, and you can find them on Jeff's website if you dig around a little.
    That's a pretty good summation of the situation. I'd add that there seemed to be a general culture of corruption surrounding the Brown Stockings in 1877 that involved not only the players but the manager and one of the umpires that the club had hired. There were lots of accusations flying around although some have to be taken with a grain of salt when you consider the sources and the general predisposition of the era to yell "fix" whenever anything odd went down or you had a problem with a player.

    I appreciate the plug for the website and will say that I covered the subject over something like ten days early in March of this year to the point where it felt like I was beating a dead horse. I'm much too lazy to dig out all the links for you guys but since I talked up William Spink's piece I will link to that (a two parter, here and here).
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
    The phrase when pride still mattered comes to mind. I wonder where somewhere along the line The Sporting News stopped thinking it did.
    I think you can trace the decline of TSN to two things.

    The first was when C.C. Johnson Spink sold out to Time. TSN stopped being a family run business and became just another cog in a corporate machine. You see it all the time when a small business sells out and the quality of the product declines under new management.

    The second thing was when the paper stopped publishing every box score. For the one-time Bible of Baseball, this was arch-heresy and the end of everything TSN once stood for. I can't exactly remember when that was but I had long since stopped reading the paper (which I used to subscribe to and read religiously) and moved on to Baseball Weekly, whose sad decline followed the same arc as TSN's.

    And I should also add that when TSN stopped being an actual newspaper and morphed into some weird magazine-type thing, it was really, really over.

    I know that we're witnessing the rapid collapse of the newspaper industry and that we're actually rather blessed by the information revolution that we're living through but, for those of us of a certain age, the decline of papers like TSN and Baseball Weekly that we grew up with and loved is a rather sad event to witness.
    Last edited by hubkittel; 05-13-2009 at 10:14 PM.
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by hubkittel View Post
    As to a book on early St. Louis baseball, it's a work in progress. I'm still trying to figure out how to write it without having it turn into a three volume epic that no one would want to publish or read. And I appreciate the complement on my plodding writing style (and your kind refusal to comment on my inability to spell).
    Reasons I think you should keep plugging away at writing your own book.

    1. You're one of the only writers I know who doesn't knock der Ahe. That alone gives you a different perspective worth investigating.

    2. Few others are interested in shedding light on 19th Century baseball in as great a detail as you seem capable of.

    3. You seem to also have a grasp on how the Spink brothers controlled public opinion on St. Louis baseball in the early days, and their take on Chris Von der Ahe is the one that has come to predominate in our later readings of that day.

    So, all in all, I think your in-depth chops need to ventilate in a printed book. Am I persuasive? Are you taking the bait? Hope so.

    Keep plugging my friend. Bound to get there sooner or later, Jeff. Hope its sooner for the sake of documenting early baseball!

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    Quote Originally Posted by hubkittel View Post
    I think you can trace the decline of TSN to two things.

    The first was when C.C. Johnson Spink sold out to Time. TSN stopped being a family run business and became just another cog in a corporate machine. You see it all the time when a small business sells out and the quality of the product declines under new management.

    The second thing was when the paper stopped publishing every box score. For the one-time Bible of Baseball, this was arch-heresy and the end of everything TSN once stood for. I can't exactly remember when that was but I had long since stopped reading the paper (which I used to subscribe to and read religiously) and moved on to Baseball Weekly, whose sad decline followed the same arc as TSN's.

    And I should also add that when TSN stopped being an actual newspaper and morphed into some weird magazine-type thing, it was really, really over.

    I know that we're witnessing the rapid collapse of the newspaper industry and that we're actually rather blessed by the information revolution that we're living through but, for those of us of a certain age, the decline of papers like TSN and Baseball Weekly that we grew up with and loved is a rather sad event to witness.
    Amen. I still remember the first time I saw USA Today's Sports Weekly on the cover. I've never given USA Today a dime since.

    Sadness.
    "The value of a stat is directly proportional to how good it makes Steve Garvey look." -- Nerdlinger

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    how the Spink brothers controlled public opinion on St. Louis baseball in the early days
    This is an interesting subject that I don't think has been given enough attention. I really didn't give it much thought until I read a fascinating article by James Brunson about Henry Bridgewater and the Black Stockings of St. Louis. Brunson is an art historian and is interested in how the 19th century black athlete was represented in contemporary artwork and language (and I think he has a book coming out on the subject in May). In his article he wrote the following:

    Throughout the 1870's, the white press' coverage of colored baseball declined. In 1878, when the Globe-Democrat reported only games the sports editor "deemed sufficiently interesting," colored clubs became the first casualties. In 1876, newspapers reported over thirty games; in 1877, only three contests appear in print, among them the Black Stockings vs. Our Boys (the "Blacks" won 6 to 4). Colored clubs disappeared from the sports pages until 1881. Of course, the Red Stockings, Brown Stockings, and Empires received coverage. And sports editors devoted attention to white business and trade nines. Coverage seems to have been based on their social and business relations with newspapers. This exclusion represented only part of a strategic plan, that being the desire of the professional league to control labor, eliminate the numerous teams competing for attention (the Globe-Democrat identified over 200 nines in the city), and consolidate the market.

    In the Mound City, guardians of baseball high culture-the Spink brothers, the McNeary brothers, Gus Solari, and Christopher Von der Ahe-wielded the civic clout and socioeconomic control to push an exclusionary agenda.
    Brunson's interpretation of baseball events in St. Louis during the 1870's and 80's is absolutely fascinating and unique. While he doesn't necessarily agree with me, I think he's making the argument that there was a group of men in St. Louis (that certainly included William and Al Spink) who were attempting to organize and control the St. Louis baseball market.

    The Spink brothers didn't just see themselves as newspapermen but as baseball men as well who were involved in the serious business of the "upbuilding" of the game. They weren't just reporting the news but attempting to influence the market. They were as much advocates as they were journalists.

    In 1875, at the beginning of the openly professional era in St. Louis, the Spink brothers and the Globe-Democrat were overtly pro-Red Stockings and actually mocked the Brown Stockings as outsiders and hired guns. The following year, they argued against the formation of the National League, decried it as an oppressive monopoly and supported efforts to form another league that would compete with the NL. Their editorial stance almost certainly had an impact on the Brown Stockings support and attendance. In 1877, William Spink, with his reporting on the gambling/fixing scandal, helped kill the club.

    Once the Brown Stockings folded, the Spink brothers helped pick up the pieces and were instrumental in the organization of a new, independent Brown Stocking club. The worked with Solari and Von der Ahe to keep professional baseball alive in St. Louis and their labor paid off when the club joined the American Association in 1882.

    TSN, under Al Spink, naturally took a pro-Browns editorial stance. Spink had played a large role in the creation and management of the club and, more importantly, the club was winning. Once the Browns started losing in the 1890's, the paper, under Charles Spink at this point, viciously turned on Von der Ahe and never missed an opportunity to mock, humiliate or criticise him. It was week after week and year after year of Chis Von der Ha Ha Ha! the ignorant buffoon who was so dumb he built waterslides at his ballpark. Even though VdA had been involved in baseball for almost 20 years at this point, the paper portrayed him as someone who was completely ignorant of all aspects of the game. While this anti-VdA editorial stance was almost certainly a ploy to sell papers, the constant mockery and the open forum for any and all VdA criticism had a major impact on the man's historical legacy. By the time VdA's finances collapsed in the late 1890's, TSN was more then willing to help essentially run the guy out of town. They had spent almost ten years preparing the St. Louis baseball public for that moment.

    I honestly don't believe that there's a way to overstate the influence and importance of the Spink brothers and TSN on the history of St. Louis baseball.
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

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    Quote Originally Posted by hubkittel View Post
    I honestly don't believe that there's a way to overstate the influence and importance of the Spink brothers and TSN on the history of St. Louis baseball.
    What you say is very interesting to me. I agree that TSN became a powerful instrument of public opinion.

    I have read that it supported the owners in maintaining a segregationist stance and when Branch Rickey finally brought Jackie Robinson on board, TSN tried to belittle its significance and said it wouldn't amount to much.

    I would like to see if anyone can find such an opinion in TSN's editorial opinions.

  20. #20
    From my point of view Brunson seriously underestimates the practical complexities of relations among the various strata of clubs in St. Louis and other cities. But he's looking at the matter from the perspective of the black clubs, and if the people with control of the ball fields and sports pages all drew the color line, it might well look like a conspiracy to them.

    But, Jeff, do I understand you are implying that the accusations against Battin and Blong may have been a deliberate ploy on Spinks' part to undercut the Brown Stockings? And was the other league you mention the organization that was shortly formed as the International Association? I must say, the IA was a competitor of the NL's in the fond imaginings of people associated with the St. Louis Reds but never in the minds of most of its members.

    I must say, I know Al Spink's work primarily through the early years of TSN, and judging by that I am not a fan. He could brag all he wanted about circulation and column inches of advertising, but if providing quality baseball coverage was the standard by which baseball papers were to be judged, then Sporting Life was far, far ahead of TSN in the late 1880's.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    I would like to see if anyone can find such an opinion in TSN's editorial opinions.
    We would have to figure out how to access TSN at Google News Archive first. Does anybody know how to work that thing?
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beady View Post
    From my point of view Brunson seriously underestimates the practical complexities of relations among the various strata of clubs in St. Louis and other cities. But he's looking at the matter from the perspective of the black clubs, and if the people with control of the ball fields and sports pages all drew the color line, it might well look like a conspiracy to them.
    Brunson certainly brings a unique point of view and I'm looking forward to reading his book. It's interesting to filter basball history through some of his interpretations. I think a lot of us are approaching the material from the same perspective-we're basicly talking amongst ourselves, influencing each other and leading the conversation in a certain direction. It's a good idea to have someone who's essentially an outsider like Brunson come in and take a fresh look at the material. It helps to look at the material with a fresh pair of eyes.

    But, Jeff, do I understand you are implying that the accusations against Battin and Blong may have been a deliberate ploy on Spinks' part to undercut the Brown Stockings?
    Is that a bad thing?

    I think the evidence supports the idea that Battin and Blong were guilty. My point about Spink helping to kill the Brown Stockings has more to do with the fact that the story broke at the exact same time that the club was revealing the depths of their financial problems and attempting to raise funds. It was the combination of the club's economic problems and the revelations about Louisville and Battin/Blong/et al. that put an end to the club rather than a deliberate plot on the part of Spink.

    Having said that, he was pushing an anti-Brown Stocking/pro-Red Stocking editorial policy throughout this period. I don't remember seeing any 10,000 word essays about Joe Blong in 1875 when accusations about him were flying around rather liberally.

    And was the other league you mention the organization that was shortly formed as the International Association? I must say, the IA was a competitor of the NL's in the fond imaginings of people associated with the St. Louis Reds but never in the minds of most of its members.
    Off the top of my head, L.C. Waite of the Reds was pushing some kind of scheme in 1876 when it became clear that the NL was going to shut out the minor clubs. I think the idea started out as a reorganization of the National Association and then, the next year, turned into the International Association movement. Certainly it all came to nothing but the Globe, and Spink, was again supporting the Reds point of view that they, and the other clubs outside the NL, were an aggrevied party being preyed upon by monopolistic forces. Al Spalding actually took notice of the paper's stance and wrote a very long letter to the editor (Spink) arguing against the criticism the League received from the Globe.

    I must say, I know Al Spink's work primarily through the early years of TSN, and judging by that I am not a fan. He could brag all he wanted about circulation and column inches of advertising, but if providing quality baseball coverage was the standard by which baseball papers were to be judged, then Sporting Life was far, far ahead of TSN in the late 1880's.
    Sporting Life was a heck of a good paper and I can't criticise it. Their coverage of the Von der Ahe collapse and the process by which the Robisons came to St. Louis was outstanding. I will say, in Al Spink's defense, that TSN had great coverage of the local St. Louis baseball scene in the mid to late 1880's. As the paper grew, the coverage of the local amateur scene decreased but it's a valuable source of information. I'll also say that I think William Spink was a better writer than Al.
    Last edited by hubkittel; 05-14-2009 at 07:55 PM.
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by hubkittel View Post
    We would have to figure out how to access TSN at Google News Archive first. Does anybody know how to work that thing?
    So far, the online archives are, as yet, still unavailable, ever since Google took them off-line.

    Hopefully, they will put them back online soon. I hope.

  24. #24
    I recall reading coverage of a local colored team in the Louisville Courier-Journal during 1875(?), nothing like thirty games but it was a surprise to me both because I didn't guess that any team existed and because I have heard that newspapers generally ignored them. I think I recall reading some of the same in a Cincinnati newspaper during 1875 or was it 1876?

    Those newspapers did not continue coverage as I hoped, which I interpreted as the effect of the National League. After the NL organized with clubs in Louisville and Cincinnati the local baseball coverage focused on those NL clubs. My own survey was narrow, a look at 1875 and 1876 only, in the leading (ie the one available) newspaper from each city.

    I am not local to Louisville or Cincinnati and I wouldn't know how to pursue the subject, during the narrow time period, except by finding more newspapers in a local public library.

    Were there "lesser" newspapers in St Louis that continued to cover the Black Stockings?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wendt View Post
    Were there "lesser" newspapers in St Louis that continued to cover the Black Stockings?
    That's a good question and I personally don't have an answer for you. But the research, as always, is ongoing. All the references that I've found to 19th century black baseball in St. Louis has come from the Globe except for an 1867 reference in The Atlantic Monthly.

    Checking the notes in Jon David Cash's book, the Globe and the Chicago Tribune were his main sources on the subject. It will be interesting to see what sources Brunson used for his book.
    check out This Game of Games, my blog on the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis

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