A walk that started with a postgame crossing of the Ohio University basketball court in December 1971 concluded in Cooperstown for Paul Hagen.
When Hagen left the Ohio Bobcats locker room to file his postgame story for the Athens Messenger, Phil Fuhrer, an Ohio University journalism alumnus who had worked with Paul just a couple years earlier, flagged down Hagen to offer him a job covering the Los Angeles Dodgers for the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram.
Just two months later, Hagen began his career covering baseball, starting in February 1974 with the Walter Alston-led Dodgers. That team had captured Hagen’s interest as a third-grader growing up in East Aurora, N.Y., a Buffalo suburb, when a report on Pee Wee Reese served as the incubation ground for Hagen’s road to Cooperstown.
“My dad took me to Bisons games at the old Offerman Stadium,” Hagen said. “It was a stereotypical story of dad taking me to games, but the irony was that at the time, the Bisons were a Phillies Triple-A farm team. So I was seeing guys like Bobby Del Greco, Pancho Herrera and Bobby Wine.
“Back then, the International League was truly the international league, and you’d see these amazing date lines like ‘Havana’ and ‘Montreal.’ It all seemed so much more exotic than Syracuse or Rochester.”
Hagen’s pursuit for covering the game was fostered in his Buffalo youth, writing for the high school paper, while reading the game coverage and columns of Cy Kritzer and Larry Felser. After a “skirmish” with a high school football coach who felt that Hagen’s coverage for the local town paper following a 37-0 loss was not positive enough, Hagen knew that he wanted to be in journalism.
Hagen’s interest in the game may have been fostered in the East Coast, but his cross-country progression helped him refine his craft. Following a three-year stint with the Sun-Telegram covering the Dodgers from 1974-76, Hagen joined the Dallas Times-Herald from 1977-84, covering the Texas Rangers, before moving across the Metroplex from 1985-87 with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
In 1987, Hagen relocated Hagen to Philadelphia to cover the Phillies for the Philadelphia Daily News. Hagen joined the staff of MLB.com in 2011.
2013 J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner Paul Hagen (David Bergman/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)