Perhaps the nationís
first sports magazine, American
Turf Register and Sporting Magazine (1829), was devoted to
horseracing. In 1831, William Trotter Porter founded what became the
leading sports paper of the antebellum years, Spirit
of the Times (and bought the American
Turf Register in 1839). He
promoted horseracing, pedestrianism, yachting, rowing, and, in the
1850s, baseball, for which he is credited with publishing the first box
scores. But baseballís
main publicist was the New York
Clipper, established by Frank Queen and Harrison Trent in 1853.
The Clipper hired Henry
Chadwick as the first baseball writer and statistician, and defended
prizefighting, which was deemed too violent and corrupt for polite
society. (By the 1870s, the Clipper
was one of the top three sports journals.)
As early as the 1830s,
newspapers in New York and Philadelphia reluctantly reported the results
of horse races and prize fights. The
latter particularly gained press attention in the 1850s with the 1853
match between Yankee Sullivan and John Morrissey, the 1855 murder of
boxer Bill Poole, the 1858 Morrissey-John Heenan bout, and the 1860
championship between Heenan and Thomas Sayers.
Editors like Horace Greeley of the New
York Tribune denounced the immorality of prizefighting on the
editorial page, while allowing the sport amble space in the paperís
After the intermission
of the Civil War, the games began again, becoming more popular than
ever. In 1866, James Gordon
Bennett Jr. assumed from his father the editorship of the New
York Herald, the nationís highest-circulation newspaper.
The 25-year-old Bennett was an avid sportsman who introduced polo
to America and made sure that his paper reported athletic competitions.
Most metropolitan dailies, though, did not follow his lead.
Horseracing continued to
spawn interest and magazines, but lost ground to other sports over the
postwar decades. Hunting
and fishing enthusiasts turned to Forest
and Stream (1873), whose editor, Charles Hallock, organized the
International Association for Protection of Game (1874) and promulgated
standards for game laws (1875). In
1877, Irish-born Richard Kyle Fox took over the lurid scandal sheet, National
Police Gazette, and initially continued its emphasis on crime and
sex. However, when the
paperís coverage of the 1880 Paddy Ryan-Joe Goss prizefight boosted
circulation to 400,000, he quickly transformed the publication into the
nationís best-selling sports paper.
In Philadelphia, Francis
Richter hired correspondents from around the country to contribute news
to The Sporting Life (1883),
which specialized in baseball but covered all sports. The Sporting News
(1886) was an erratic rival which did not achieve dominance until after
World War I. In the
mid-1880s, prompted partly by Foxís success with the National
Police Gazette, Joseph Pulitzerís New
York World and Charles Danaís New
York Sun outdid Bennettís previous efforts to incorporate sports
into a daily newspaper. Pulitzer
hired the first newspaper sports staff, and he and Dana both initiated a
sports page in their papers.
In the 1890s, sports
journalism fully permeated the newspaper business.
Early in the decade, most major dailies followed the lead of the World and Sun by hiring a
sports staff and publishing
a sports page. Randolph
Heart went further at his New York
Journal by developing the modern sports section and employing
writers who were experts in specific sports.
In Chicago, baseball journalists, such as Finley Peter Dunne of
the Chicago News, jettisoned the restrained sport reporting of the past
for lively, vivid narratives. Even
refined publications like Harperís
Weekly hired a sports editor (Caspar Whitney).