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07/30/06 8:18 PM ET

Ringolsby's career heads home

Longtime beat writer given Spink Award for achievement

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Tracy Ringolsby's desire to become a baseball writer was evident very early in life. How many parents would allow a son to play hooky so he could go to a ballgame? That's what Ringolsby's mother did in 1959 when Tracy, then 8, had a chance to attend a National League pennant playoff game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Braves.

Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck, president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, relayed the story at Sunday's Hall of Fame induction ceremonies about how Mrs. Ringolsby wrote a note to the teacher saying to please excuse her son for missing school because "when he grows up, he's going to be a baseball writer."

Both of Ringolsby's parents have passed on, but their only child has done them proud with a career that is still going strong, and which resulted in his receiving the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."

Ringolsby, 55, has been covering the Rockies for Denver's Rocky Mountain News since the club's inception following stints with four other teams -- the Rangers for The Dallas Morning News, the Royals for The Kansas City Star, the Mariners for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Angels for The Long Beach Press Telegram.

Ringolsby started out with the Kansas City bureau of United Press International and was in the federal courtroom in Kansas City in December 1975 for the first day of testimony in the Andy Messersmith-Dave McNally case that resulted in players gaining free agency.

Ringolsby was also one of the first writers to concentrate on scouting and player development. In 1981, he helped found Baseball America, a publication solely devoted to those areas at the outset, and helped give it early credibility. He has worked tirelessly to have scouts recognized in the Hall of Fame.

Ringolsby's father, a one-legged man known as Big Tracy, loved the game his son grew up to chronicle.

"My dad was 6-foot-2, had a 52-inch chest, a 32-inch waist and weighed 140 pounds because he had lost his leg when he was run over by a train when he was 6 years old in 1919," Ringolsby said. "He never realized he had a hardship or a challenge. Things that happened made him stronger and to enjoy living and being alive. You know, he was a catcher. He said his learned to have great control because if the ball got by him the runners would get from first base to second quicker than he could hop to the backstop."

Unlike many baseball writers who come from urban centers, Ringolsby was reared in Cheyenne, Wyo., where he and wife Jane re-settled two years ago. Ringolsby is easy to spot in any press box because of his trademark cowboy hat. Referring to Wyoming as a "naive" place, Ringolsby was raised with a code "where you judge people by who they are and not what they are or what they can do for you."

Ringolsby acknowledged his BBWAA colleagues, many of whom were in the crowd. "The only reason I'm standing up here is because I've had you guys for 31 years as a support group," he said. "To have you guys vote me this award meant a lot to me, but more than any honors I've received because of your support your friendship is what's important."

"[Former commissioner] Bart Giamatti used to say baseball is similar to life in that you start at home plate and work your way back to home," Ringolsby said. "Putting a franchise in Denver meant that I had a chance to prove that I could keep a job, that I didn't have to leave town every three years, that I could come back to the Rocky Mountains where I grew up. It meant with my wife's permission we were allowed to move back to Cheyenne and just make the 125-mile commute every day."

Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.