As the Runyon award grew in stature, one nagging criticism was that the honor had never gone to a conservative writer.
The award never was intended to be political in nature. The Runyon honored “sharp and vivid writing” regardless of the writer’s political bent. Still, some were upset that writers such as Carl Hiaasen and Seymour Hersch had won, and no comparable conservatives had done so.
That changed with the selection of George Will. The late Jean Tool played a pivotal role in Will’s selection. He was the first to advocate for Will and made a persuasive argument one year when he served as a Runyon judge.
Jean also knew Will personally. They got to know one another back when Jean was the Colorado GOP chairman and Will served as an aide to Colorado Sen. Gordon Allott.
In the end, it was Will’s writing that won the award. Anyone who has read his weekly column for Newsweek knows what an elegant, clear-as-daylight prose style he has.
His books on baseball, such as the classic “Men at Work,” made him a more-than-deserving winner of the Runyon. After all, Runyon first made his mark as a writer by covering baseball in New York City.
Will gave a great speech that night, which at his insistence, we did not videotape or record. That’s a pity. He delivered an excellent talk that was an equal measure of politics and baseball. He talked about how his political world view was formed, in part, by his tragic but endearing loyalty to the Chicago Cubs.