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THE Sporting News
Roy Blount Jr.
March 17, 1986
The Bible of Baseball hits 100 next week, and when the author visited the newspaper's archives in St. Louis, he passed through the looking glass into a wonderland of sacred relics and mythology
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March 17, 1986

The Sporting News

The Bible of Baseball hits 100 next week, and when the author visited the newspaper's archives in St. Louis, he passed through the looking glass into a wonderland of sacred relics and mythology

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Mac Farlane has a stack of three-by-five cards, on which is recorded every time anybody hit for the cycle in the big leagues before 1977! Mac Farlane thinks all this is as neat as I think it is.

"Look at this," he says. He shows me a photograph taken around 1879, of the Providence Grays and the Boston Nationals lounging in shallow rightfield at the Messer Street baseball field in Providence. He points to one of the Grays.

"Paul Hines," he says. "Got hit by a pitch in the ear and turned deaf as a haddock. Invented the electrical acoustical cane. Sometimes, in the dark, deaf people have trouble getting their balance. Hines invented the electrical acoustical cane [Mac Farlane repeats this term with pleasure] so he could get a feeling of where he was. I don't know whether I ought to tell you how he died."

"Oh, come on."

"Got caught shoplifting. He was teched at the time and had the walk-arounds. He was as old as the hammers of Hades. He didn't know what he was doing. Shock of it killed him."

I'd never heard anybody say "old as the hammers of Hades" before. I am in a place where baseball is as old as the hammers of Hades, and as fresh.

I am in heaven.

March 17 is the 100th anniversary of The Sporting News , the weekly tabloid published in St. Louis that stood for decades as the Bible of Baseball, but in recent years has restructured itself into a condensation of the week's news in all major sports. For 91 years The Sporting News was owned by the Spink family, who devoted it to the idiosyncratic gratification of themselves and everyone else who was obsessed with baseball. In 1977 it was sold to the Times Mirror Company, which has more than doubled the paper's circulation, to 711,000, by appealing (in the words of Sporting News chief executive officer Richard Waters) to "the yuppie group and on up." The Sporting News is still baseball's publication of record: Every major league box score since 1886 has been printed—with strict triple-checked accuracy—in its pages. There is talk now of dropping the box scores so that the eight pages they take up will be available for (in editor Tom Barnidge's words) "really dynamite feature stories."

But who wants to dwell for long upon contemporary publishing practices when we can contemplate mythological figures? Recently I spent a week in the offices of The Sporting News on Lindbergh Boulevard in St. Louis and I kept gravitating toward its historical storehouse, where Mac Farlane keeps the sacred relics, the temple jewels, the idols' eyes.

It doesn't look like a shrine. Things are lying around or stuffed away and Mac Farlane has to dig them out for you. But that is exactly what Mac Farlane loves to do, when the moment arises.

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