Throughout a 45-year journalistic career, Larry Whiteside broke barriers and set precedents. On Sunday, he will posthumously set another, during the Hall of Fame's induction ceremonies. Whiteside will enter the writers' wing at Cooperstown as the 2008 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented annually for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. Lawrence W. Whiteside will be the 59th recipient of that award -- and the third African-American, behind Wendell Smith in 1993 and Sam Lacy in 1997.
A respected reporter who spent 31 years of his career with the Boston Globe, Whiteside served dual callings by heeding obligations to his beat and to his race. He spent his breakthrough career making it easier for other African-Americans to follow. Whiteside passed away due to complications of Parkinson's disease on June 15, 2007 -- six months before being elected for this honor by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the majority of whom had personally experienced his warmth, helpfulness and professionalism. Whiteside's widow, Elaine, and their son Tony are expected to be in Cooperstown to accept the honor bestowed on the sportswriter. Among the most heartened by Whiteside's election was Commissioner Bud Selig, who was the owner of the Brewers when Whiteside, who had moved to Milwaukee in 1963, began covering the team transplanted from Seattle in 1970. "I say this with all of my heart: I loved Larry Whiteside," Selig, who once unsuccessfully tried to hire him to head the Brewers' public relations department, said when Whiteside's election was announced. "He was a great journalist. A great man." Foremost, Whiteside was a great pioneer. Born in Chicago on Sept. 19, 1937, he graduated from Drake University in 1959 and landed his first job later that year with the Kansas City Kansan. In 1971, he took it upon himself to assemble and circulate among editors a database of qualified black journalists. At the outset, the so-called "Black List" had nine names -- by 1983, it numbered more than 90. His many beneficiaries had an impressive trailblazer to follow. When Whiteside moved to Boston and onto the Red Sox beat in 1973, he became the only black reporter regularly covering Major League Baseball for a major daily. In 1980, having met the 10-years-on-the-beat qualification, he became the first black Hall of Fame voter. Now, he is about to come full circle. Not that Whiteside ever played favorites. He befriended and eternally held out a helping hand to everyone. Scores of young reporters going through the Globe's doors had their entry softened by Whiteside's soothing voice, giving advice or direction. This reporter, like countless others, experienced first-hand the man's goodwill. He would offer rides in his car, either to a hotel or to Logan Airport, to a young traveling reporter intimidated by Fenway Park's dark postgame surroundings. And, oh how he could write. The lead of Whiteside's story after Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the one in which the ball, and Boston's dreams, trickled through Bill Buckner's legs: "The Miracle Mets have returned to Shea Stadium. And the demons of 68 years' worth of failure will haunt the Red Sox for at least another day."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.