Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine was the brainchild of Mike Shannon and the result of a literary partnership formed in the fall of 1980 between Shannon and William J. Harrison; both of whom were living in Covington, Kentucky, at the time.
Although Spitball debuted in the spring of 1981 as a baseball poetry journal, it quickly evolved into a broader literary magazine that included baseball short fiction, prose, art, and book reviews. While Spitball was published irregularly in the beginning, the magazine eventually became a quarterly and maintained that schedule for several years. Recently, Spitball has become a bi-annual, publishing issues in the spring and fall of each year.
In 1983 Spitball established the CASEY Award to honor the authors and publishers of the best baseball books published each year. The CASEY was the first award of its kind, and it is widely recognized as the most prestigious award that a baseball book can be given. The CASEY Award winner and finalists are recognized at the CASEY Awards Banquet held every year (late February-early March) in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Spitball was brought to a wider audience in 1988 when Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) published The Best of Spitball, an anthology of the best stories, poems, art, and interviews published in the magazine up to that point.
Seven years after Jim Harrison died, Spitball underwent a dramatic transformation. In 1992 William J. McGill, Mark Schraf, and Steve Cummings brought new life and energy to the magazine as partners and editors, and under the guidance of new art director Donnie Pollard the magazine was totally re-designed. One key development was the introduction (at the suggestion of Mr. Cummings) of regularly-appearing prose features, such as "Card Blanche" and "Brushes with Baseball"; while a second was the decision to make Mr. Pollard Spitball's permanent cover artist.
Today, Spitball remains one of the most unique and engaging magazines published in the country, as well as the second-longest running periodical devoted exclusively to baseball.
For further reading:
May 5, 1986 - Sports Illustrated. In Sideline column. "Sports Fans of a Literary Bent Will Surely Want to Catch this Spitball," by Nicholas Dawidoff. (History of the magazine; excerpt from Jim Palana poem.)
Feb. 4, 1987 - The Wall Street Journal. "Baseball Is a Game of Hits, Runs, Errors and Lyrical Poetry," by Jolie Solomon. (Appearing on the front page of the Journal, this in-depth article attracted over 300 new subscribers and the attention of Simon & Schuster which led to the publication of The Best of Spitball; it included a review of the magazine's origins, a review of the 1987 CASEY Banquet, and a profile of Mike Shannon. Drawing of MS.)
Dec. 28, 1990 - Sports Collectors Digest. "Spitball celebrates its 10th anniversary," by David Craft. (Profile of MS; history of the magazine; history of the CASEY. Photo of Spitball issue #32, All-Star Author card of MS.)
May 2, 1993 - Sunday News (Lancaster, PA). " 'Spitball' tossed at readers," by Bill Fisher. (Full-length story on Bill McGill joining the magazine; excerpt of "I Saw Rod Scurry" by Mark Schraf; reprint of "Ballgloves" by Ron McFarland. Photo of B McG.)
June 1995 - Inside Sports. "The Great Works of Homers," by Dennis Tuttle. (Profile of MS; history of the magazine; list of CASEY Award winners. Photo of Spitball issue #47.)
Feb. 22, 2005 - The Cincinnati Enquirer. "The Casey Award: Back in Covington: Year's Best Baseball Book Deserves a Gala," by Mike Rutledge. (A preview of the 22nd CASEY Awards Banquet and a return of the affair to Covington's Carnegie Arts Center. Photo of Mike in Spitball cap & jacket holding copy of Leigh Montville's winning book, Ted Williams: the Biography of an American Hero.)
April 19, 2013 - Sports Collectors Digest. "CASEY Awards Honor Veeck Book as the Best," by Greg Peterson. (A full report on the 2013 CASEY Banquet, the 30th Anniversary of the Award, and the appearance and acceptance speech of Paul Dickson, who won his CASEY for Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick.)
April 16-30, 2013 - Baseball America. "Award Honors Baseball's Top Titles" by James Bailey. (History of magazine and especially of the CASEY Award in recognition of the Award's 30th anniversary; list of all CASEY winners; photo of Mike and Paul Dickson at 2013 CASEY Banquet).