Dick Kaegel named 72nd winner of BBWAA Career Excellence Award

Written by: Craig Muder

Dick Kaegel has been the eyes and ears of Missouri baseball fans for six decades.

In that time, Kaegel chronicled legends, champions and Hall of Famers – all en route to a place in Cooperstown for himself.

Kaegel was named as the 2021 winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award on Tuesday, Dec. 8, for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” Kaegel becomes the 72nd winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award, first presented in 1962.

“You never expect this,” Kaegel said. “I worked at this for a long time, as a beat writer, columnist, editor – all the different things that you do in the newspaper business. I always enjoyed it. I just wanted to do my job and do it well.”

Kaegel will be honored at Induction Weekend 2021 in Cooperstown. Both Kaegel and the late Nick Cafardo, the 2020 BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner, will be honored during Induction Weekend following the cancellation of the 2020 Induction Ceremony.

“It will be nice to share the weekend with (Class of 2020 member) Ted Simmons, the guy who was my go-to guy when I covered the Cardinals,” Kaegel said. “He was a guy who always seemed to have answers.”

The BBWAA Career Excellence Award winners are celebrated every day in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Scribes and Mikemen exhibit.

Like Spink, Kaegel ran the Sporting News during his career. But before and after, Kaegel covered some of the best baseball Missourians have ever seen – first with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and then with the Kansas City Star.

Kaegel started his career with the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat while in high school in southwest Illinois before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. He worked his way to St. Louis in 1968, joining the staff of the Post-Dispatch.

Kaegel covered the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch for 12 years, eventually earning the job as the paper’s executive sports editor. But eight months into that position, Kaegel became the managing editor of the Sporting News, then based in St. Louis and for which Kaegel had served as an associate editor from 1965-68.

In 1981, Kaegel became the editor of the Sporting News, a position he held until the summer of 1985.

Kaegel stint at the Sporting News marked in many ways the glory days of the publication, when readers waited impatiently for the Thursday mail when the weekly copy of TSN arrived. In the days prior to the internet and with ESPN just getting a foothold on the cable TV landscape, the Sporting News delivered the inside info of the day – especially on the baseball beat.

Assembling a topflight stable of writers, Kaegel prioritized coverage of the National Pastime.

Kaegel moved on to the Kansas City Star and the Royals beat in 1988, staying with the paper until 2003. He finished his career at MLB.com, famously covering every one of the Royals’ 162 games in 2011 four years after receiving a liver transplant following a cancer diagnosis.

One of Kaegel’s favorite memories in his long career came on the Royals’ beat.

“One of the best was the night George Brett got his 3,000th hit in Anaheim,” said Kaegel, referring to the game of Sept. 30, 1992. “We were covering the game with the late Gib Twyman (columnist for Star). Brett had an injury, sore shoulder or something, and he went into see the doctor. Gib and I decided to play (1970s TV detectives) Starsky and Hutch. We went into the doctor’s office to see what was going on, and Brett comes out with a big smile, and said ‘What are you guys doing here?’ We said: ‘We want to see if you are playing.’”

Brett got four hits that night, including his milestone 3,000th. Kaegel got one of thousands of stories from his time on the beat.

Kaegel, who has twice served on the Hall of Fame’s Eras Committees that consider long-retired players as well as managers, umpires and executives, retired following the 2014 season.

A total of 374 ballots were cast in the BBWAA Career Excellence Award voting by BBWAA members with 10-or-more consecutive years’ service. Kaegel received 183 votes, 68 more than runner-up Marty Noble, a longtime writer for Newsday and other outlets. Allan Simpson, the founder of Baseball America, was the third finalist.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

BBWAA Career Excellence Award Winners

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