This time on The Cooperstown Case, we’re going to do something a little different.
Instead of talking about a player, we’re going to delve into the world of journalism.
Because writers are people too.
In fact, some writers are even Hall of Famers.
Every year (since 1962 and excluding the strike-shortened 1994 season), the National Baseball Hall of Fame recognizes one sports writer with the J. G. Taylor Spink Award. The award is given “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing”. Spink (1888-1962) was actually a writer from St. Louis himself, and one of four St. Louis beat writers in the Hall of Fame. The other three are Bob Broeg, Rick Hummel, and J. Roy Stockton.
Other notable recipients of the award Wendell Smith, Sid Mercer, Peter Gammons, just to name a few.
However, there is one writer who spent well over 30 years covering baseball who is not a recipient of the award, yet is revered by his colleagues nationwide.
And that man is the late Joe Strauss.
First, I must address that Strauss passed away on December 28th, 2015 after a battle with leukemia. He was 54 years old. I am not stating this for the sake of sympathy votes or opinions. Quite the contrary. Posthumous inductions happen all the time in sports. Nevertheless, it will be a shame that he won’t be there in person to receive the honor… should his family finally receive that call.
Now, if there’s one thing about Strauss that truly stands out, it’s his high regard from his peers, as stated earlier.
“Joe was really the type of person and professional that the more you were around him, the more you got to know him and appreciate everything about him,” said Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, a Hall of Famer in his own right and former manager of the Cardinals for most of Strauss’ time as the beat writer in St. Louis. “His talent. His intelligence. His work ethic. He was very dogged in his approach.”
After his passing, sports editor Roger Hensley shared his sentiments and admiration for his late friend as well.
“Joe was certainly capable of writing a column that would pull at your heartstrings, and did so on many occasions,” Hensley said. “But when it took a strong voice to deliver something Joe felt the readers and fans of our local teams needed to hear, he pulled no punches. Joe didn’t dance around a touchy topic, he hit the hole. When you finished reading a Joe Strauss column, whether you agreed or not, there was no doubt you knew where he stood. And knowing Joe, there’s no other way he would have it.
“A beautiful writer, a hard-nosed reporter, an even-handed columnist, and more than all of that, a great friend,” Hensley continued. “I will miss Joe immensely.”
Strauss didn’t join the St. Louis Post-Dispatch until 2002, but he was far experienced in baseball journalism before that. He had already been a longtime writer for the Baltimore Sun and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His career began writing for the Gwinnett Daily News, being their daily beat writer for the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, as well as the University of Georgia.
In 1983, Strauss he joined the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the elite writer society in which MLB Awards such as the Cy Young Award, MVP Award, and Manager of the Year Award are voted on.
A good majority of Strauss’ baseball writing career came at the hands of being a beat writer for the Cardinals, Braves, and Orioles. In 2012, Strauss was promoted to sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a position his held until the day he sadly passed away.
Will his extensive career and notable resume lead to receiving a spot in the Hall of Fame?
Only time will tell.
(Photo Credit; Chris Lee/Post-Dispatch)