Spink Award winner Charley Feeney passes away

Longtime New York and Pittsburgh scribe documented four decades of baseball history

March 19, 2014
1996 J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner Charley Feeney. (NBHOF Library)

He called everybody “Pally” because he wasn’t good with names and didn’t want to offend anyone. But Charley Feeney was more than a nice guy. He was a baseball literary legend.

Feeney, the 1996  J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, passed away on March 17 at the age of 89.

Feeney came from a newspaper family. His father, Charles A., uncles Harry and John were long-time police reporters working the Brooklyn beat from the 1920s until after World War II.  He was born in Brooklyn and raised in Glendale, Queens.

Before the war, Feeney started his career with the New York Sun as a messenger. He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and served in the South Pacific as a radioman on the destroyer escort USS Cloues and later on the carrier Essex. Discharged in January of 1946, he took a job at the Long Island Star-Journal. He spent next five years working the desk and covering local boxing.

His two big breaks came in 1951. In the late winter of ’51, Feeney was assigned to sub for the college basketball writer. During the game he overheard other writers and fans talking openly about the fact that the games were fixed. Thinking this was common knowledge, Charley included it in his report on the game. In doing so, he became the first reporter to break the story about biggest college basketball scandal in history. Three weeks later, the fixing became public.

The second break came in August of ’51 when the Star Journal assigned Charley to cover the New York Giants pennant drive with the promise that if the Giants won the pennant he would get the regular Giants beat. Oddly, Feeney never saw Bobby Thomson’s pennant winning “Shot Heard Around The World”. Here’s the story as Charley told it.  “I missed it, I was in a runway outside the Dodgers clubhouse. I was going to cover the winning team’s locker room. I’ll never forget this big guy was in front of me, blocking my view. When Branca got strike one on Thomson he yelled “Thata boy Ralphie.” Then on the next pitch, he starts screaming, “We did it! We did it!” He turned around hugged me and lifted me in the air. I didn’t find out about Thomson’s homer until I went into the Dodger locker room, thinking they won. I spent 40 years looking for that guy to ask him what the heck he was rooting for.”

Feeney covered the Giants until they left for San Francisco after the 1957 season. He moved to the New York Journal American and covered the Yankees and New York Football Giants. He left New York in 1966 going to Pittsburgh to cover the Pirates for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. He retired in 1987.  

He was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Bea. He is survived by his brother Arthur, sister in law Janet, sister Marie Cronin, nephew Kevin S. Feeney and nieces Melissa Feeney-Hughes, Noreen Chassen, Laura Congemi, Patricia Cronin and Kathleen Phillips.