With all due respect to Jack Graney, the award the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presents to a member of the media that has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada could be renamed the Bob Elliott Award.
No writer or broadcaster has supported baseball in our country as passionately and skillfully as the venerable Toronto Sun columnist.
Earlier today, Elliott was recognized with the Jack Graney Award at a ceremony in St. Marys, Ont.
“When I have a question about baseball, I call Bob Elliott,” said veteran TV sports personality, Mark Hebscher, who emceed the ceremony. “His stories not only tell you what happened, they tell you why it happened . . . He’s the only source I need.”
Steve Simmons, a colleague of Elliott’s, shared similar sentiments in a column published in today’s Toronto Sun.
“Any baseball writer can tell you that Adrian Gonzalez is leading the American League in just about everything,” wrote Simmons. “But how many can tell you that 35 Canadians were selected in the most recent Major League draft and that 11 have already signed big league contracts – and knowing Bob, he probably has a home number, an e-mail address, and a scouting and coaching contact for all of them.”
Upon accepting his award this morning, the modest Elliott offered a touching speech about the bond that baseball creates between fathers and sons.
“Field of Dreams was the No. 1 movie in Sweden,” said Elliott, who received a standing ovation at the end of his speech. “People said, ‘How can it be the No. 1 movie in Sweden when they don’t even have a team?’ The answer is, it’s not a movie about baseball, it’s a movie about fathers and sons.”
Like many youngsters, Elliott was introduced to baseball by his dad. Born in Kingston, Ont., in 1949, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Bob, and grandfather, Chaucer, both of whom were superb baseball players.
A young second baseman who had difficulty hitting the curve ball, Elliott planned to continue the family tradition of attending Queen’s University when he was offered a full-time sports writing position with the Kingston Standard in 1966. However, it wasn’t until he was writing for Ottawa-area newspapers that he would receive his first Major League assignment – the Montreal Expos’ 1978 home opener.
“The Mets won 3-2, Skip Lockwood got the win, Rudy May took the loss, and Tom Grieve homered,” noted Elliott in a press release issued by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame last December.
The award-winning scribe joined the Sun newspaper chain as the Blue Jays beat writer in 1987. A widely respected reporter and news breaker, Elliott is best known for shining the spotlight on Canadian players.
His website (www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com) tracks the top Canadian draft candidates, college players and minor league players.
“Ìn 1998, there were 66 Canadians in the minors – today there are well over a 100, and another fifty-plus on independent professional teams,” said Elliott in the Hall of Fame release. “In 2000, there were 490 kids playing in U.S. colleges. Today there are more than 700.”
Elliott has also penned three books, including the bestseller “Hard Ball” about George Bell in 1990, “The Ultimate Blue Jays Trivia Book” in 1993 and “The Northern Game: Baseball The Canadian Way” in 2005.
Family is very important to Elliott. In his speech, he spoke lovingly of his wife, Claire; son, Bobby; daughter, Alicia and his sister, Elizabeth. On top of being a proud father and esteemed writer, Elliott is also one of the most respected baseball coaches in Ontario.
“This is a very nice honour,” said Elliott from the podium on Saturday. “My parents would’ve been proud today.”
About Jack Graney:
Jack Graney’s road to the big leagues began in St. Thomas, Ont., where he was born and recommended to the Chicago Cubs by fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Bob Emslie. After a season in the Cubs organization, Graney was sold to Cleveland, where he would evolve into a steady, dependable outfielder. His big league resume boasts a number of firsts. When Graney walked to the plate in a game against the Red Sox on July 11, 1914, he became the first batter to face Babe Ruth. Almost two years later, on June 26, 1916, he would be the first major leaguer to bat wearing a number on his uniform. A scrappy leadoff hitter, Graney would lead the American League in walks twice (1917 and 1919) and in doubles once (1916). The speedy Canuck also finished in the top 10 in triples in 1913 and 1916, with 12 and 14 respectively. He was also a member of the World Series-winning Indians squad in 1920.
Following his playing career, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for the Indians from 1932 to 1953.
Previous Jack Graney Award winners:
1987 – Neil MacCarl – Toronto Star
1988 – Milt Dunnell – Toronto Star
1990 – Austin “Dink” Carroll – Montreal Gazette
1991 – Joe Crysdale & Hal Kelly – CKEY
1996 – Dave Van Horne – TSN & CIQC
2001 – Tom Cheek – Toronto Blue Jays
2002 – Ernie Harwell – Detroit Tigers
2003 – Allan Simpson – Baseball America
2004 – Jacques Doucet – Montreal Expos
2005 – Len Bramson – TBS Sports
2009 – Ian MacDonald – Montreal Gazette
2010 – Bob Elliott – Toronto Sun & canadianbaseballnetwork.com
*This article was created with files from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame: www.baseballhalloffame.ca