George W. Kirchner — just "Kirchner" to many — began his Lancaster New Era career as a paper carrier in 1921. He had no idea his name would become representative of "the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a local sports figure," as Sunday News sports editor Bill Fisher wrote of his friend in 1987. But during his 1929-1965 tenure as the New Era's sports editor, Kirchner solidified a tremendous influence on the Lancaster sports scene by virtue of his writing and his activities in the community, such as founding the New Era (now LNP) Tournament in youth baseball.
Kirchner, who died at age 57 in 1965, and George Crudden organized the Lancaster Sportswriters and Broadcasters Banquet in the 1940s and by 1950 developed the idea of lauding an area sports figure for his or her "outstanding lifetime contribution in sports." That year, the first winner was Charles "Uncle Charley" Mayser, the longtime wrestling coach and AD at Franklin & Marshall College. The banquet was not held in 1951 and 1952, but in 1953 Leon Duckworth became the second winner. Since then, more than 70 individuals have gotten the nod, including Kirchner himself, posthumously in 1966, the same year the award was renamed in his honor.
After the Sportswriters and Sportscasters held their last banquet in 2001, the organization began presenting the Kirchner Award at the Old Timers Athletic Association banquet starting in October 2002. In 2012, the Lancaster County Sports Hall of Fame began presenting the award, a year after changing its name from the Old Timers Athletic Association. Some local sportswriters and sportscasters still participate in the voting. In 2023 the Hall of Fame board clarified that this award is representative of the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a local sports figure for a body of work achieved in Lancaster County.