Dick Kaegel wins BBWAA’s highest honor

Dick Kaegel, who covered the beats of Missouri’s two Major League Baseball teams for decades, was elected the 2021 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. His career will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s induction weekend July 23-26, 2021 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Kaegel will be honored along with the late Nick Cafardo, the 2020 recipient, at the July 24 ceremony at Doubleday Field. There was no Awards Presentation ceremony last summer following the cancellation of Hall of Fame Weekend because of restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kaegel received 183 votes from the 374 ballots, including three blanks, cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years’ service in becoming the 72nd winner of the award since its inception in 1962 and named for the first recipient. Spink was a driving force of The Sporting News, known during his lifetime as the “Baseball Bible.” The late Marty Noble, a staple of New York press boxes for more than four decades, received 115 votes. Allan Simpson, the former minor-league executive who founded the influential publication Baseball America, got 73.

For versality over a career spanning 53 years, Kaegel may have had no peer. In addition to his coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, Dick served as editor-in-chief of The Sporting News, where circulation spiked during his stewardship from 1979-85. He spent one spring as a player to inform readers about his experience. In an amazing feat of endurance, Kaegel covered all 162 games of the Royals’ season in 2011, just four years after undergoing liver transplant surgery.

Dick’s career took him from the bi-weekly Granite City (Ill.) Press Record in 1964 to coverage of the Cardinals for the St. Louis Post Dispatch for 12 years and a more than two-decade stint of Royals coverage for the Kansas City Star and MLB.com. One spring for The Sporting News he worked out with the Baltimore Orioles of Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer and filed weekly reports. Kaegel edited the magazine with reverence for the game and kept box scores for the entirety of his tenure, a feat of which he is still proud. He served several terms as chair of the Kansas City Chapter of the BBWAA and twice served on the Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee. His wire-to-wire coverage of the Royals in 2011 remains a staggering achievement for any baseball writer.