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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ron Kaplan: The end of The Sporting News as we know it?

Even long lost members of Spinks family look to the heavens for an answer!

image

The memory was brought to mind by a piece by Samir Husni, aka “Mr. Magazine” about TSN‘s decision to move from a bi-weekly to a monthly publication. He’s mostly concerned with the ethics of subscription fulfillment (or the lack thereof) as the magazine undergoes the transition. Seems TSN is trying to shortchange their readers by cutting back on the remainder of issues they’re allowing based on how much of the subscription remains because the cover price will be increasing substantially. How the mighty have fallen.

TSN, which has gone through numerous incarnations in the last several years (currently under the auspices of AOL?), used to be considered “The Bible of Baseball.” I used to buy it because they had recaps of every game from the previous week along with the box scores. Then it was just box scores. Then they were gone. Suffice it to say, it is lo longer the sports publication of my youth.

Repoz Posted: November 13, 2011 at 01:39 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball geeks, business, history, media, memorabilia

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   1. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 13, 2011 at 02:51 PM (#3992462)
J. G. Taylor Spink died 49 years ago, and he took the soul of TSN with him. If Kaplan started reading it in the late 60's, he'd already missed its real glory days. Imagine an illustrated version of the pre-Murdoch Wall Street Journal that was devoted exclusively to baseball, and you'll have a idea of the quality of the paper that Spink & Co. put out every week.
   2. Tricky Dick Posted: November 13, 2011 at 03:06 PM (#3992469)
When I was a young Astros' fan, Scipio Spinks was supposed to the be the next great pitcher. That picture brings back long ago memories.
   3. AndrewJ Posted: November 13, 2011 at 03:52 PM (#3992483)
J. G. Taylor Spink died 49 years ago, and he took the soul of TSN with him. If Kaplan started reading it in the late 60's, he'd already missed its real glory days. Imagine an illustrated version of the pre-Murdoch Wall Street Journal that was devoted exclusively to baseball, and you'll have a idea of the quality of the paper that Spink & Co. put out every week.

It was the switch to all-sports coverage in the 1960s that helped inspire former TSN baseball folk like Bob Davids and Cliff Kachline to start SABR in 1971.

I used to buy it because they had recaps of every game from the previous week along with the box scores. Then it was just box scores.


Back in the day, TSN had box scores for the minor leagues as well.
   4. Champions Table Posted: November 13, 2011 at 04:29 PM (#3992488)
Back in the day, kids would gather in sandlots for pickup baseball games, and all of the game's heroes steered clear of substances other than milk and cookies, and tickets cost two bits, and they sure didn't have all these TV commercials, I can tell you that much ...
   5. salvomania Posted: November 13, 2011 at 04:50 PM (#3992492)
When I was a young Astros' fan, Scipio Spinks was supposed to the be the next great pitcher...


As a young Cardinal fan at the time, I was convinced that his broken leg changed the balance of power in the NL East for the remainder of the '70s...
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 13, 2011 at 05:07 PM (#3992496)
It was the switch to all-sports coverage in the 1960s that helped inspire former TSN baseball folk like Bob Davids and Cliff Kachline to start SABR in 1971.

In fact TSN began covering football, basketball and boxing beginning in 1947, from September or October through March or April, in an 8 page insert section variously called "The Quarterback" and "The All-Sports News". And while its coverage of those sports was nothing compared to their baseball coverage, it still had up to a dozen articles a week, including many profiles and feature stories. What you may be referring to was the decision to move that seasonal coverage in the main part of the paper, which took place at some point after Taylor Spink's death in 1962.
   7. AndrewJ Posted: November 13, 2011 at 05:13 PM (#3992501)
What you may be referring to was the decision to move that seasonal coverage in the main part of the paper, which took place at some point after Taylor Spink's death in 1962.

That's much more accurate. In the mid-1960s, TSN stopped running its two- or three-paragraph baseball historical/statistical items, which were written by a number of eventual SABR founders.

One of the nicer benefits of a SABR membership is access to PaperofRecord.com's Sporting News archive. Nice to be able to save some of those pages as PDFs to my hard drive.
   8. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 13, 2011 at 05:59 PM (#3992519)
One of the nicer benefits of a SABR membership is access to PaperofRecord.com's Sporting News archive. Nice to be able to save some of those pages as PDFs to my hard drive.

Now if only they'd make it easier to log into the goddam SABR website. SABR needs to allow a user to stay permanently logged in on his own computer, in the same way that BTF does. I have the User ID I was assigned in March, and a password that was just changed this morning, and I still run into a stone wall. It makes me grateful for the closet space that I have to store my 1944-62 SN issues.
   9. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 13, 2011 at 06:17 PM (#3992528)
Ah, forget that last comment. I'd been using my assigned UserID, and didn't notice the new policy of telling you to log in with the e-mail address instead. I'm glad it's Sunday so I can forgive myself.
   10. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: November 13, 2011 at 07:32 PM (#3992565)
I guess I understand the affection for TSN

But it's been dead for 30 years.
   11. Dan Evensen Posted: November 14, 2011 at 01:20 PM (#3992884)
I couldn't pass this thread up.

Back in the day, kids would gather in sandlots for pickup baseball games, and all of the game's heroes steered clear of substances other than milk and cookies, and tickets cost two bits, and they sure didn't have all these TV commercials, I can tell you that much ...

Yeah, yeah -- there's too much nostalgia for the perfect past in the game, I know. Seriously, though, get a SABR membership, go to Paper of Record and start downloading TSN from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In fact TSN began covering football, basketball and boxing beginning in 1947, from September or October through March or April, in an 8 page insert section variously called "The Quarterback" and "The All-Sports News". And while its coverage of those sports was nothing compared to their baseball coverage, it still had up to a dozen articles a week, including many profiles and feature stories. What you may be referring to was the decision to move that seasonal coverage in the main part of the paper, which took place at some point after Taylor Spink's death in 1962.

Technically, TSN also covered football back in the early 1900s. There was a page or two at the back for football coverage during the winter months. I think that stopped before 1910.

If I weren't in China, I'd go visit Andy and check out the collection. PDF scans just aren't the same as actually seeing the magazines with your own eyes.

I guess I understand the affection for TSN

But it's been dead for 30 years.


It's also been getting progressively worse. Despite its many flaws, TSN in 1991 was still a lot more interesting than it is today. I was actually a little bit excited about its daily sports newsletter a few years back, until I found out that the spring issues were dominated by the NFL draft and that the online baseball articles were actually shorter than the game recaps from the 1930s. Frankly, I'm amazed that it is still being published, considering how poorly it has been managed.

Seriously, though, I would give anything to have the sort of coverage that TSN provided in the 40s and 50s. The articles were excellent, the illustrations were first rate, and the baseball coverage was very thorough. BBTF and internet discussion is a poor substitute.

Somebody really needs to write a biography of J. G. Taylor Spink. Again, if I weren't working in China, I'd take the project on myself. Frankly, I believe that Spink has had more influence on our collective understanding of baseball history than anybody else.
   12. zonk Posted: November 14, 2011 at 02:30 PM (#3992898)
I guess I understand the affection for TSN

But it's been dead for 30 years.


At least for me -- USAToday really played a big part in killing TSN.

Back in the pre-internet days, it was really difficult to get in-season statistics of any breadth. TSN was truly "it" -- even the big papers didn't publish stats for crap. The Trib had Cubs/Sox stats on weekends, and I think they used to also run a horrid league wide compilation that was poorly formatted, only included 'qualifiers' (pro-rated minimum IP and ABs for pitching and batting titles) in a big, ugly list. TSN had nice, neat, team-by-team, all-inclusive -- though 2 weeks old -- stats for every team. For the longest time, it was the only way to get good, league-wide numbers in-season.

Then - USAToday came along and began publishing team-by-team AL on Tuesday, NL on Wednesday -- and in fact, they even offered a Tues/Weds subscription IIRC once rotisserie leagues took off.

That was the end of my TSN subscription.

Kids today, with their daily updated BBREF and Pi -- we had to walk 3 miles uphill both ways in the snow to get to the mailbox to get Ron Hassey's two weeks dated stats.
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 14, 2011 at 03:03 PM (#3992907)
TSN was still a lot of fun to read in the late 80s/early 90s when I read it. It was still the ONLY place I knew of to get full minor league stats. I think the internet ultimately killed TSN. They competitive advantage was in providing info that was not being provided, and once that info was available everywhere, there was no compelling reason to read TSN anymore.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 14, 2011 at 03:20 PM (#3992912)
If I weren't in China, I'd go visit Andy and check out the collection.

Just sold all of my duplicate issues, but I still have a complete run from 1944-62 that you're welcome to go through anytime you're back on the East Coast. Once Taylor Spink died, it gradually began to shed all the features that'd made it distinctive, beginning with the substitution of photographs for cartoons on the the front page.

Somebody really needs to write a biography of J. G. Taylor Spink. Again, if I weren't working in China, I'd take the project on myself. Frankly, I believe that Spink has had more influence on our collective understanding of baseball history than anybody else.

No question about that, and I'd put him right up there with Babe Ruth and perhaps Branch Rickey in terms of people who were truly irreplaceable in baseball history. Under his editorship, The Sporting News was the pre-expansion equivalent of Baseball America, ESPN, the MLB network and mlb.com all rolled into one.

-------------------------------------------

At least for me -- USAToday really played a big part in killing TSN.

Even by 1982 The Sporting News was a shell of its former self, but those USA Today box scores and team-by-team stats certainly caused many a Sporting News subscriber to ask themselves why they needed it.

-------------------------------------------

I think the internet ultimately killed TSN.

It was certainly the final nail in the coffin.
   15. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: November 14, 2011 at 03:31 PM (#3992917)
I had subscribed a couple years ago when they were offering subscriptions for 6 cents an issue. I paid for years worth of issues. Well, apparently they backstabbed us subscribers. Do they really think this move will help them survive, or are they just trying to "meet" their responsibilities before officially going under?

http://mrmagazine.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/sporting-news-magazine-fuzzy-math-a-sign-of-the-times-or-just-a-last-gasp/

She also told me that the new cover price of the magazine will be $8 and the Nov. issue will be a double issue with a $16 cover price, so the magazine is doing me a favor by rounding up by remaining $4.60 and sending me one issue with the $16 cover price.”
   16. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 14, 2011 at 03:46 PM (#3992924)
TSN took over the venerable Street & Smith's yearbooks, and I still buy several of them. Hopefully those won't disappear.
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 14, 2011 at 03:57 PM (#3992930)
They still publish S&S Baseball yearbooks? The last time I saw one of those was about 10 years ago, replaced with some sort of a fantasy baseball preview.
   18. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: November 14, 2011 at 04:50 PM (#3992986)
I had no idea the Sporting News was still going.
   19. Hack Wilson Posted: November 14, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3993022)
I subscribed to the Sporting News until one of the Spinks wrote an editorial that the individual teams should not be allowed to show their games but MLB would get more $$$ showing one game. So on Saturday instead of being able to see the one afternoon Cub game a week I would be home, the only game I could see, but refused, was, for example, Yankees v. Red Sox. I cancelled my subscription and wrote that I didn't give a flying ### about the owners maximizing revenue and wondered if they would be subsidizing his paper.
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: November 14, 2011 at 05:48 PM (#3993033)
When was that? It sounds more like Taylor's son, C. C. Johnson Spink, who ran TSN after his dad died in 1962 until 1977, when he sold it to the LA Times-Mirror.
   21. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 14, 2011 at 05:50 PM (#3993036)
They still publish S&S Baseball yearbooks?

Under the TSN name. TSN just slapped their name on Street & Smith's product.

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