Thursday, October 8, 2009

William Spink's Obituary

Before we start into the 1876 regular season, I thought I'd pass this along:

William M. Spink, the well-known newspaper man, died last night of typho mania, after an illness of three weeks duration. Mr. Spink was born in Montreal, Canada, May 26, 1848, and was, therefore, 37 years of age. At 10 years of age he learned telegraphy, and at 12 he had charge of the telegraph office in the House of Parliament at Quebec. When 16 years old he went to Chicago and engaged in the service of the Western Union Telegraph Company, receiving a first-class operator's pay. Subsequently he achieved a national reputation as one of the fastest "receivers" in the country. Operators who worked with him assert that no telegraph writer in the country was fast enough to make him "break." At one time he was the only receiver on duty at night in the Western Union office in this city, which now runs a night force of over fifty men. In 1870, when the telegraphers' strike occurred, he was in Cincinnati and was Secretary of the Telegraphers' Protective Association. When the strike ended in failure he was black-listed, and it was then that he turned his attention to newspaper work and became a reporter on the Cincinnati Chronicle. In 1873 he came to St. Louis and accepted a position as a reporter on the St. Louis Globe. When the Globe and Democrat were consolidated, in 1875, he was appointed telegraph editor of the Globe-Democrat, which position he occupied with marked ability for seven years. During these years he also acted as sporting editor of this paper, his untiring industry, systematic methods and wonderful speed as a writer enabling him to handle both departments with apparent ease...and his sporting column was by odds the most interesting and complete that was published in any daily paper in the country. Unlike a great many sporting reporters, his work was not limited to one specialty, for he handled the running and trotting turf, base ball, cricket, field sports, billiards, athletics and pugilism with equal facility and ability. In 1883 he had charge of the Globe-Democrat's "Flood Expedition" down the Mississippi, which furnished the Readers of the Globe-Democrat with exhaustive and interesting reports of the effects of the high water of that year between Cairo and New Orleans. Subsequently he was city editor of the Globe-Democrat, but was not connected with the paper for two years. The deceased leaves a widow. He will probably be buried on Thursday.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 1, 1885

William Spink was one of the first baseball writers in the Midwest. Going to Cincinnati as a telegrapher, he left the Western Union Telegraph Co. to work on the Cincinnati Gazette and then moved to St. Louis, where he joined the Missouri Democrat. When the Globe merged with the Democrat, Spink took over as telegraph editor and during his spare time developed the sports page for the Globe-Democrat. He covered all sports and was regarded as one of the top writers of his day because of his versatility. He is credited with naming the Cincinnati team the "Reds" in 1896, first to tag the St. Louis team the "Browns" and the Chicago team the "White Stockings."
-Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 2, 1885

Hat tip to Bill Burgess for the photo and Daily Eagle obit. And in case you're interested, typho-mania is a form of manic-depressive psychosis that is more commonly referred to as Bell's mania. The symptoms include a sudden onset of overactivity, marked sleeplessness, a great push of speech with statements that are disconnected at times by reason, disconnected and poorly systematized delusions, transient hallucinations, and the appearance of confusion that can be suspended long enough to answer direct questions. According to an 1934 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, "(the) course of the illness is from three to six weeks, with a fatal termination in a large percentage of cases, apparently from cardio-vascular failure due to overactivity."


James E. Brunson said...

Great story! One of my favorite sporting characters of the era. Here's a book and biopic waiting to happen...

Jeffrey Kittel said...

He's turned into one of my favorites as well. I can't believe that it's taken me this long to dig up his obit.