NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Paul Hagen vividly remembers the exact day the baseball bug bit him.

It came in October 1959, when he was at school in East Aurora, N.Y., near Buffalo. His third grade teacher, Miss Fisher, asked which team he wanted to win the World Series.

``What's that?'' he asked her.

She told him it was the baseball championship, and said she was rooting for the Chicago White Sox. He took an immediate interest - and to be contrary, declared he would pull for the other team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hagen kept following the sport and on Tuesday won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for ``meritorious contributions to baseball writing.''

The Baseball Writers' Association of America announced the selection at the winter meetings. Hagen will be honored at the Hall of Fame's induction weekend July 26-29 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

``Congrats Paul Hagen, Bound for Cooperstown as the BBWAA's Spink Award winner. Truly a pleasure my friend talking baseball all these years!'' All-Star outfielder Shane Victorino tweeted.

The 61-year-old Hagen has spent nearly 40 years covering the game. He beat out Jim Hawkins and Russell Schneider in a vote by BBWAA members.

Hagen started his baseball career covering the Dodgers in 1974 for the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram. He later covered the Texas Rangers for 10 years with the Dallas Times Herald and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, then joined the Philadelphia Daily News in 1987. He worked last season for MLB.com.

``Paul has a tremendous affinity and respect for the game of baseball,'' the Phillies said in a statement. ``His incredible work ethic and consistently enjoyable writing style have served our game and its fans very well.''