Sale of Sporting News Sparks Memories

By Pollack, Joe | St. Louis Journalism Review, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Sale of Sporting News Sparks Memories

Pollack, Joe, St. Louis Journalism Review

First it was Tom Mix and his Wranglers, and a secret decoder ring, available by mail from a place called Checkerboard square in a city called St. Louis, in exchange for some Ralston box tops, making cereal palatable to a grade school kid. Then it was the Sporting News, which also came from St. Louis. In my high school days, it was a broadsheet (full-size) newspaper, and my friends and I would stand in the rear of Schifrin's Candy Store and Newsstand on Flatbush Avenue to read it, checking batting averages and standings of Brooklyn Dodger farm teams from Class AAA Montreal in the International League to Class D Cairo, Ill., in the Kitty (Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee) League.

The Schifrins didn't mind much because their son, Joe, was a high school classmate of ours, and he and George and Sandy and Jerry and I hung out together. Jerry, however, was a St. Louis Browns fan and shareholder. His father had bought him one share of stock after the Browns won the pennant in 1944 and went public in hopes of raising some money.

Later, in the spring of 1948, as a pre-journalism, would-be sportswriter freshman at Mizzou, I wrote a term paper on the Sporting News for an English composition and rhetoric class. I sent a letter to John George Taylor Spink, owner, publisher and editor, informing him of my project. In return, I received a torrent of material, including books, a subscription and an invitation to a baseball game. The letter was signed in the unreadable scrawl that was one of Spink's many trademarks.

The term paper is long gone; even a packrat such as I can't keep everything, but the memories are strong, from the first time I rode the rackety elevator to the seventh floor of 2018 Washington Ave. and crossed the old, creaky, rutted wooden floor to visit the jowly, gnarled, gravel-voiced, profane, cigar-chewing little man in the corner office.

I saw him a few times a year, even introduced him to my father, a baseball fan from the days before World War I. The two men got along fatuously, swapping old stories. When my father retired, Spink was shocked. He was of the old school, where people worked forever. But dad sent him postcards from Tokyo, and from Paris and Rome, and Spink would send them along to me, with a carbon of the thank-you note he had sent to dad. My folks traveled a lot by ship in those days, and I remember a letter Spink sent to the president of United States Lines, a man he somehow knew. Spink said he didn't understand Samuel Pollack, because he sailed on small ships, but he wanted all courtesies extended to his friend.

Dad often recommended retirement and travel to Spink, but it fell on deaf ears; Spink was a man so dedicated to his work that when he took a rare evening off and went to the Muny Opera, it was a real event when he stayed beyond intermission. Sometimes he left at the overture, recalling a phone call he had to make. The portable phone was invented too late for him.

Spink was one of the last of the personal journalists. He inherited the Sporting News from his father and uncle, who founded it in 1886. He left it to his son, Charles C. Johnson Spink, named for an elder Spink and for Ban Johnson, a sportswriter who founded the American League. All have died, and Johnson's widow, Edythe, former mayor of Ladue, is the sole survivor.

And now the Sporting News is leaving, too. It's being sold by the Times Mirror Corporation, which bought it from Johnson Spink in 1978. It was one of a trail of acquisitions (including C. V. Mosby, a technical publisher based here) that seemed to reach an end at the feet of Mark H. Willes, chairman and chief executive. It now seems time to divest (Mosby went two years ago, for some $415 million; some 700 people reportedly lost their jobs) its "underperforming assets," a superb piece of corporate double-speak to obfuscate "properties that just don't make enough money."

The Sporting News, known as 'the Bible of baseball" for its massive coverage of professional baseball teams, with complete statistics and weekly "letters" from a group of correspondents across the country, came to accept other sports the way baseball came to accept African-Americans very slowly.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Sale of Sporting News Sparks Memories


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.