KANSAS CITY -- Dick Kaegel, the former Royals beat reporter for MLB.com who spent more than 50 years as a writer and editor, will receive the highest honor given to any baseball journalist -- the J.G. Taylor Spink Award.
Kaegel was named the 2021 winner of the Spink Award in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. 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 in Cooperstown, N.Y. He will be honored along with the late Nick Cafardo, the 2020 recipient, at the July 24 ceremony at Doubleday Field. This year's induction weekend was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kaegel received 183 votes from the 374 ballots cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years of service in becoming the 72nd winner of the award, named for the first recipient, since its inception in 1962. Spink was a driving force behind 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 and who also wrote for MLB.com, received 115 votes. Allan Simpson, the former Minor League executive who founded Baseball America, got 73.
Kaegel received the call from BBWAA secretary Jack O’Connell on Monday night.
“I was stunned,” Kaegel said. “I mean, it’s an incredible honor. But the way I think about it, I was just doing my job.”
Kaegel may have had no peer when it came to versatility over a career that spanned 53 years. In addition to his coverage of the Cardinals for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Royals for the Kansas City Star and MLB.com, Kaegel was editor-in-chief of The Sporting News from 1979-85.
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.
“DK was a consummate pro and a pleasure to work with,” MLB.com executive editor Jim Banks said, “and he always lent a welcome ear to younger beat reporters seeking guidance -- something I definitely appreciated as a manager.
“Dick’s enduring accomplishment while at MLB.com can only be his covering all 162 games during the 2011 season just a few years after receiving a liver transplant while fighting liver cancer. He approached me about it right before Spring Training that year to ask if he could do it, explaining that he wanted to serve as an example to others that they, too, could return to a “normal” life after having a transplant.”
Added Jeff Passan, ESPN's national baseball reporter and former president of the BBWAA's Kansas City chapter: “Dick spent half a century devoting his life to the game of baseball, and it’s only fitting that he’ll grace the museum that recognizes the titans of the sport. The Hall of Fame is a better place with Dick Kaegel, and to know that he’s going to be in Cooperstown this July with his peers in excellence is thrilling and so well-deserved.”
Kaegel’s career took him from the bi-weekly Granite City (Ill.) Press Record in 1964 to coverage of the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch for 12 years and a more than two-decade stint of Royals coverage for the Star and MLB.com. He spent 11 seasons covering the Royals for MLB.com, from 2004 until his retirement in 2014.
“I have so many to thank, from my wife, Betty, who kept me alive all these years,” Kaegel said, “to all the people I worked with ... and all those I competed with over the years. I can’t say enough about what all the writers I’ve worked with meant to me, and that includes Rick Hummel, a close friend and also a winner of the Spink Award.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could be in the Hall of Fame.”
Past winners of the Spink Award who have earned their place in the writers' wing in Cooperstown include Ring Lardner, Red Smith, Jim Murray, Claire Smith and the Kansas City Star's Joe McGuff.