Tom Gage, the Detroit News’ traveling beat writer on the Tigers for 36 years, was elected the 2015 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
He 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 24-27, 2015, in Cooperstown, N.Y.
In the closest vote since the mail-ballot process began in 2002, Gage was named on 167 of the record 463 ballots, including one blank, cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years’ service in becoming the 66th winner of the award since its inception in 1962 and named for the first recipient. Spink was a driving force of The Sporting News, known during his lifetime as the “Baseball Bible.”
The late Furman Bisher, who wrote more than 15,000 columns in a 59-year career for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, finished second with 161 votes. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, a major voice on baseball in New England and nationally for 34 years, was third with 134 votes.
The six-point margin between first and second place as well as the 33-point gap among the three candidates were the closest in voting history. The previous closest result was in 2002 when Hal McCoy won out over Murray Chass by 25 points, 171-146. Peter Gammons had 111 votes that year. The 60-vote separation among those three writers had also been the narrowest before this election. Chass and Gammons were elected in subsequent years.
Candidates were chosen by a three-member, BBWAA-appointed committee and announced during the All-Star Game meeting July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis. Voting was conducted in November.
John Kieran, who won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in 1973, used this typewriter during a career that featured a stint covering baseball for the New York Times from 1922-27. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America handed out the first Spink Award in 1962 to J.G. Taylor Spink, former editor of the Sporting News.
Gage has covered major-league games in 54 ballparks, has written more than 11 million words on baseball and covered more than 5,000 games, including five no-hitters. His output included daily notes, gamers, plugs, writethrus – all on deadline – plus social media responsibilities; three dozen years on the beat without a sick day, including a night game in Boston after undergoing a morning root canal.
On an off-day between Games 2 and 3 of the 1989 World Series after Oakland beat San Francisco in the first two games, Tom’s lede read, “All that can save the Giants now is an act of nature that renders Candlestick Park unplayable.” An earthquake occurred the next day, delaying the World Series for 10 days.
Gage’s strength has been the freshness and flow of his writing, aiming to appeal to the hardcore fan’s family as well as the hardcore fan. He has been Michigan’s Sportswriter of the Year twice and won numerous other awards at The News and at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the paper where he started.
Gage has served as longtime chairman of the Detroit Chapter of the BBWAA and on the screening committee that formulates the annual Hall of Fame ballot. Asked why he has not yet written a book, Gage said, “Because I write the equivalent of two books every season.”
2015 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Tom Gage of the Detroit News. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)