Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I miss magazines

I think it's pretty clear that I love periodicals. I reference them quite a bit, from my odes to the Baseball Card Magazines of the past, to references to old Sports Illustrated issues. It's not a mistake that I ended up in newspapers -- well, except for the fact that where I really wanted to end up is in magazines.

In my lifetime I have had subscriptions to Baseball Digest, Time, Life, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Rolling Stone, Ranger Rick, Inside Sports, and probably about a dozen defunct periodicals that I can't remember. I have subscribed to and canceled Sports Illustrated four or five separate times.

I have a deep and abiding respect for The National, a long-gone-yet-briefly-brilliant daily tabloid that was a sports reader's paradise found at the corner gas station during 1990 and 1991.

But there is no magazine that brought me more excitement each and every issue like "Baseball" magazine, known initially as "Baseball Quarterly."

Back in the late '70s, you could get your magazine sports news one of four ways:

1. You could subscribe to Sports Illustrated. SI was terrific. Colorful. It showed up every week. The stories were fascinating, although most way over my head at the time. The problem was SI always went off on tangents about basketball or golf or something really horrifying like yachting. I didn't want to look at pictures of boats. I wanted BASEBALL. So SI was frequently frustrating.

2. You could subscribe to Baseball Digest. Also pretty terrific. It usually showed up every month. It was packed with stories. Like a 100 pages worth. There was also tons of stats and quizzes and factoids. The stories were short, some of them funny, and best of all, it was all baseball. I think BD came to our house for five years straight. The problem was it was small, the pictures were small and everything was black-and-white.

3. You could subscribe to the Sporting News. We used to get issues of TSN at my grandmother's. One of the many periodicals for which she had a subscription. TSN also featured a ton of articles, mostly about baseball. There was always information about EVERY team. Really newsy-type stuff. With good, old-fashioned newspaper ink. And in the back -- oh, the back -- there were boxscores for every team's game for the last TWO WEEKS! And transactions! We'd take some of the issues home from my grandmother's and devour them in the car on the way back. But we never got a subscription. It was too expensive.

4. You could get Street and Smith's Magazine at the start of the baseball season. It had a rundown of all the teams and predictions for how they would do. The whole lowdown. It was cool at the start of the year, but then you forgot about it by the time May rolled around.

And then came along Baseball Quarterly.

I don't remember how we found out about Baseball Quarterly. My guess is we saw an advertisement for it in Baseball Digest.

The concept of a Baseball magazine -- baseball ONLY -- that was almost entirely in full color was SO exciting to us that we simply had to get a subscription.

I'm sure my mother told us to find the cash on our own, we did, and the magazine, lo and behold, actually started coming to our house.

I remember being filled with terrible regret that I missed out on the Ron Cey issue that you saw at the top of the post. I would look at the Baseball magazine ads with previous issues and there Cey would be staring back at me. "You could've owned an issue with me on it, pal," he was saying.

So I settled for the issues that followed.

I remember this one very well. The Steve Garvey poster was the big selling point.

Baseball magazine's main mantra was that it was the most colorful baseball magazine on the market. And it was. Bursting with color. I loved it. Every issue had a full-color poster, too. That was a pretty novel concept at the time. The only time you saw full-color posters in magazines then were in Teen Beat and (*ahem*) Playboy.

The articles were pretty interesting, too. The magazine found its niche by handing out yearly awards to players, and it would get baseball people to pick the awards. The regular feature that I found most interesting is that the magazine picked a Player of the Year, and based their issue around it.

I really loved that.

This issue -- from April 1980 -- was the highlight for me. At the start of a new decade, Baseball magazine -- now an every-other-month venture instead of a quarterly -- picked the all-decade team for the 1970s and Pete Rose as the player of the 1970s. I also remember Baseball magazine predicting the biggest stars for the next decade. (I think that article was printed in black-and-white on that manila-envelope-colored paper that they used back then because, well, color was expensive!)

Not long after that issue, the magazine kind of disappeared. It stopped coming to my house and we found out it was no longer published. I was bummed because I couldn't understand how such a fascinating, colorful magazine wasn't the most popular magazine on the planet.

I later found out that the magazine was started up by Rick Cerrone, a pretty young guy at the time. He would go on to work in public relations at the highest levels of baseball, including working as the Yankees' PR director for 10 years.

I still say Baseball magazine is Cerrone's finest work.

Today, no magazines come to the house with my name on it (my wife subscribes to a couple, but they're nothing I want to read).

There are much fewer magazines available today than there were then. But there are a lot more than I figured there would be.

No matter how many magazines become an internet-only vehicle, there is nothing quite as cool as seeing color images on a glossy page, maybe as you recline on your sofa and lift the pages over your head to view them.

And then stacking the magazines neatly on a table, every once in awhile admiring one from six months ago or so.

I see that the Ron Cey Baseball magazine is available on ebay now. I really should get the issue just to let my 13-year-old self finally calm down.

They really don't make magazines like that anymore. Not in a long time.


  1. So much goodness to discuss there.
    My friend and I were just talking about Baseball Digest. We would read it cover to cover multiple times.
    The National was a dream come true. I worked for a community newspaper in Chicago and we would trade publications, so I got the National daily.
    Back then, magazines, bb cards, the game of the week, TWIB...these were the things that kept us connected.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. I loved Baseball magazine! I think I still have a few issues in a box somewhere. If I remember right, it had "posters" in each issue. I remember having a few on my bedroom wall along with some of the Topps 5x7 cards and a few covers of other magazines.
    I also really miss the old Sporting News magazines. Each summer I would cut out the little "5 free issues" coupons on the back of the Hostess snacks and subscribe to it.

  3. Can I interest you in a subscription to Vine Line magazine? Might be a Ron Cey article somewhere...

  4. Great post! I miss really really miss the Sorting News in it's old traditional format.... when it was almost all baseball. I remember it was a big deal among my friends and I if a team suddenly had a 'new' beat writer doing the team's stroies.

    I read the Hockey News as a kid, too. I think I briefly had a subscription. We'd buy it at Sam's (it was a soda fountain and newsstand, not the megastore) on Franklin Avenue in Nutley, N.J.

    I also loved Sport magazine. Great color pictures. I still have loads of them in a folder somewhere. I'll do a post on them if I can dig them out.

    Oh, and the National was great. Too bad it didn't last long.

  5. Your post reminded me of going to the school library in elementary school and checking out each and every Baseball Digest, one by one.

  6. I used to get Baseball Digest for a couple years as a kid but my favorite was The Sporting News. I started getting it when I was about 8 and kept it up into college. I took a few years off towards the end of college and the first couple years I worked then started up again. I finally cancelled it about a year ago. I am a magazine fan but just no time to read it, they were stacking up. I still get ESPN Magazine but not sure how long that will continue as I only get thru about half of them. Nothing better than hanging out on the couch with a game on and flipping thru a magazine!

  7. Great post. A nice percentage of my posts come directly from ideas I get from my Baseball Digest magazines. The random statistics I find in there is amazing.

    Okay... I'm off to scour eBay to see if I can track down a few of these Baseball Quarterly magazines with Athletics & Padres players featured on the cover.