Bill Conlin's talent as a writer took him from his native Philadelphia to points around the globe – covering all sports in between.
His love of baseball, however, always brought him back to the National Pastime. Today, that passion has brought Conlin to Cooperstown.
The 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, Conlin has chronicled baseball for more than 45 years as a beat writer and columnist. Conlin also covered marquee events like Wimbledon and the Olympics during his career, but his heart was never far from the diamond.
"Covering the other events gave me the opportunity to appreciate that (I) loved Major League Baseball more than anything," Conlin said. "Baseball is like an artichoke: You keep peeling away the layers almost infinitely and come across a new facet of the game. I know there's one game I've never seen before: It's out there waiting for me.
"If you go to the ballpark every day expecting to be amazed, you probably won't be disappointed. Games are like snowflakes: No two are alike."
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Conlin graduated from Temple University in 1961, Conlin began his journalism career at Philadelphia's Evening Bulletin before moving to the Daily News in 1965. A year later, he took over as the Phillies' beat writer at the Daily News – holding that job for 21 seasons. During that time, Conlin's work became nationally known to readers of the Sporting News, where Conlin served as the National League columnist.
In 1987, Conlin became a columnist for the Daily News – a position he still holds today.
"I was on the beat for 21 years, and that and the column has taken me to a whole lot of baseball – big games and World Series," Conlin said. "I thought I knew a lot about baseball when I started, but (former Phillies manager) Gene Mauch showed me how little I knew.
"I've always been a great fan of the game story. All that is presented is a blank sheet of paper, and you never know what is going to turn out at the end of the story. Day after day after day, you think about what you have to do."
Working for an afternoon paper at the Daily News, Conlin relished the opportunity to go beyond the basic "who-what-why" game story.
"I was fortunate to be an afternoon paper writer – my great advantage," Conlin said. "With more time – a deadline that was 5 a.m. – I could write something that more resembled something like literature. It was more of a magazine approach."
From his seat in the press box, Conlin has seen and covered generations of Hall of Famers – from Henry Aaron and Willie Mays to Don Sutton and Mike Schmidt.
But the Spink Award – given annually by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for meritorious contributions to baseball writing – gave Conlin a chance to reflect on the people who inspired his journalistic fire.
"When I heard I had won the Spink Award, I went through the press release and clicked off the names of former winners," Conlin said. "I immediately got goose flesh when I realized that my name would be in the same (exhibit at the Hall of Fame) with Ring Lardner, Shirley Povich and Dick Young – who was one of my idols in Brooklyn. Those are the giants of the sportswriting industry.
"It really hit home that you had to be fairly special to make the list."
2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner Bill Conlin (Philadelphia Daily News/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)