John Lott named winner of Canadian ball hall’s Jack Graney Award

John Lott. Photo: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

December 1, 2021

Official Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame News Release

St. Marys, Ont. – Longtime National Post writer John Lott has been named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s 2021 Jack Graney Award.

The St. Marys, Ont.-based shrine presents this award annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.

“John Lott was masterful at writing in-depth, human interest features for the National Post and The Athletic for more than two decades,” said Jeremy Diamond, chair of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors. “He is widely respected by his colleagues and peers for the high standards he set as a writer and as a person. He is known for his sensitivity and to many, he was considered the conscience of the Blue Jays’ beat. We’re proud to honour him with this award.”

Born in 1944 in Gettysburg, Pa., Lott grew up on his family’s farm a few miles from town. He developed a passion for baseball when he seven years old when he started playing catch with his Uncle John. His uncle built a batting tee out of pipe fittings and a radiator hose and taught him how to swing level and hit line drives.

“By the time I reached my late teens, however, it was clear my dream of major-league stardom was rapidly fading,” wrote Lott in his retirement column for The Athletic in October 2020. “But by then I had another dream, which I never talked about because it seemed outlandish for a kid stuck on the family farm in 1960. My ambition was to cover a major-league baseball team. Forty years later, I finally did.”

Lott caught the Journalism bug when he was named co-sports editor of his high school newspaper. After he graduated from Penn State University, he moved to Ontario and began his professional Journalism career in 1969 when he served as a general reporter for the Newmarket Era, a community newspaper, until 1975. He then moved on to a position as the editor of the Aurora Banner newspaper from 1975 to 1980.

In 1980, he was appointed Journalism coordinator at Centennial College in Toronto and he taught there for more than 20 years. But his passion for baseball never waned. In 1998, he launched the TruNorth Baseball website, which focused on Canadian players and Blue Jays prospects whom he interviewed during his summer travels to minor league venues in Canada and the U.S. The site was in operation for three years.

His work on TruNorth Baseball helped him land a freelance position, covering the Toronto Blue Jays, for the National Post in 2000. In 2004, he took early retirement from teaching to focus on his new career as a baseball writer with the National Post. He would excel in that position for 16 years, while also finding time to co-author, along with Shi Davidi, the 2013 book, Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays season.

Beginning in October 2016, Lott, also a talented photographer, was the senior baseball writer for The Athletic Toronto. While in that role, he was named the winner of the 2018 Sports Media Canada George Gross Award for outstanding sportswriting.

He continued to pen memorable articles for The Athletic and mentor young reporters until his retirement in October 2020.

Looking back, Lott counts among his career highlights, covering Carlos Delgado’s four-home run game (September 25, 2003), Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in his first playoff game with the Philadelphia Phillies (October 6, 2010) and the Jose Bautista bat flip game (October 14, 2015).

“When Scott Crawford called to tell me I’d been chosen to receive the Jack Graney Award, I was floored,” said Lott. “The previous week I’d watched the virtual induction speeches of the two previous winners, Ken Fidlin and Dan Shulman, and marveled at their long and distinguished careers. My reaction to Scott’s news was that I don’t belong in the same league as those guys, whom I know and respect. I still feel that way, but I’m also deeply grateful that the selection committee felt I was deserving enough to be included in the elite group of previous winners. This is a wonderful coda to a career in baseball that brought me great pleasure, good friends and the luxury of never having to buy a ticket to a ball game.”

Details about the presentation of the 2021 Jack Graney Award will be announced in the coming months.

Born in St. Thomas, Ont., Jack Graney was a scrappy leadoff hitter in the big leagues for Cleveland. His big league resume boasts a number of firsts. When he walked to the plate in a game against the Boston Red Sox on July 11, 1914, he became the first batter to face Babe Ruth. Almost two years later, on June 26, 1916, he was the first major leaguer to bat wearing a number on his uniform. After hanging up his spikes, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for Cleveland from 1932 to 1953.

Previous Winners of the Jack Graney Award:

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 – Montreal Expos

2001 – Tom Cheek – Sportsnet 590/The Fan

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 – Sun Media &

2011 – W. P. Kinsella – “Shoeless Joe” novel adapted to film “Field of Dreams”

2012 – Jerry Howarth – Sportsnet 590/The Fan

2013 – Rodger Brulotte – Montreal Expos, Toronto Blue Jays

2014 – Richard Griffin – Toronto Star

2015 – Serge Touchette – Le Journal de Montreal

2016 – Larry Millson – Globe and Mail

2017 – Alison Gordon – Toronto Star

2018 – Jeff Blair – Sportsnet

2019 – Ken Fidlin – Toronto Sun

2020 – Dan Shulman – Rogers Sportsnet, ESPN

2021 – John Lott, National Post, The Athletic

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