Dick Kaegel named 72nd winner of BBWAA Career Excellence Award
In that time, Kaegel chronicled legends, champions and Hall of Famers – all en route to a place in Cooperstown for himself.
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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