Paul Hagen left East Aurora when he headed to college decades ago, but it was Miss Fisher, his third grade teacher at Parkdale Elementary School, who asked which team he was rooting for in the World Series and inspired the sports writing career that put his picture on a wall in the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.
“You can say I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had a lot of great coincidences,” said Hagen, 62, speaking by phone from his home in Glen Mills, Pa., this week.
On July 27, Hagen went to Cooperstown to receive the Baseball Writers Association’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award for his contributions to the craft during his 40-year career, which included a 25-year stint at the Philadelphia Daily News. The induction honor, which Mayor Allan Kasprzak traveled to witness, comes with a listing and photo in the journalism “Scribes and Mikesmen” exhibit at the Hall of Fame.
“The one regret I had was that my parents couldn’t see,” Hagen said. “I know they’d be really proud.”
He remembers how they, the late Dan and Elynor Hagen, helped encourage his interests by getting him a chemistry set, renting a violin and then, eventually, what helped with his true vocation: buying the gloves and balls he needed to play with friends on the backyard’s makeshift baseball diamond.
He first connected with the sport when he was about eight years old and Miss Fisher’s 1959 Series’ pick – the White Sox – led him to say he was rooting for the opposite, the Dodgers. Soon after he spied “The Pee Wee Reese Story” about the Dodger’s short stop at the library.
“It’s the first book I ever remember reading,” Hagen said. “It really solidified that I liked baseball.”
He followed that thread to college work at the Ohio University paper and then to a career that included covering the Dodgers for the San Bernadino Sun in California. Two years ago, he took a buyout from the Philadelphia Daily News and is now covering the game for Major League Baseball website at mlb.com.
The best part of getting a listing in the Hall of Fame? Being recognized by his peers, as they are the ones who voted for him to win. And, how happy and proud his wife and children were for him.
“I enjoyed those two parts probably more than anything else,” he said.
Also this week:
• “Rockstoration Celebration,” 6 to 9 p.m., Friday: A celebration of the restoration of the stone wall around the Roycroft Campus. Dave Miller of Dive House Union band, a recent competitor in the International Blues Challenge, will play while a barbeque dinner, beer and other refreshments are served at the Roycroft Power House on South Grove Street. Tickets are $20. For more information or to make a reservation go to www.roycroftcampuscorporation.com or call The Roycroft Copper Shop at (716) 655-0261.
• The East Aurora Village Board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at Village Hall, 571 Main Street.