By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
St. Thomas, Ont., native Jack Graney has been named the winner of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2022 Ford C. Frick Award, which is presented annually for broadcasting excellence.
With the honour, Graney becomes the first winner of the award to have been born in Canada.
Graney will be honoured posthumously during the Hall’s awards ceremony in Cooperstown during Hall of Fame Weekend, which will take place from July 22 to 25, 2022.
Graney is the 46th winner of the award. He tallied the most points among the eight finalists on the Broadcasting Beginnings ballot in a vote conducted by the Hall’s 16-member Frick Award Committee.
“Jack Graney was a pioneer in the broadcast industry, not only establishing a model for game descriptions in the earliest days of radio but also for blazing a trail for former players to transition to the broadcast booth,” said Josh Rawitch, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in a release.
“In calling Cleveland’s games for parts of three decades after a successful playing career of his own, Graney brought the exploits of future Hall of Famers like Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Feller and Satchel Paige into homes throughout Ohio’s North Coast, becoming as much a part of the fabric of the team as the players themselves. His attention to detail and love for the game made Jack Graney one of the National Pastime’s radio legends.”
Graney’s road to the big leagues began in St. Thomas, Ont., where he was discovered 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 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 would be the first major leaguer to bat wearing a number on his uniform. A scrappy leadoff hitter, Graney led the American League in walks twice (1917, 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 three-baggers respectively. He was also a member of the World Series-winning Cleveland squad in 1920.
After his playing career, 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. The St. Thomas, Ont., native called the World Series for a national audience in 1935 and also broadcast that year’s All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Graney passed away on April 20, 1978. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously six years later. The Canadian ball shrine now presents an annual award named in his honour to a media member who has made a significant contribution to the game of baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
“We are thrilled that Jack Graney is being honoured with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s prestigious Ford C. Frick Award,” said Scott Crawford, director of operations at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. “After an outstanding 14-season playing career with Cleveland, Jack blazed a trail for ex-major leaguers when he became the first to make the transition to the broadcast booth. He skillfully provided play-by-by on Cleveland games from 1932 to 1953 and set such a lofty standard that our annual award for media excellence is named in his honour.
“One of the best things about Jack was that despite his success south of the border, he never forgot his Canadian roots. He regularly returned to his hometown of St. Thomas, Ontario. He passed away in 1978, but we are happy that his granddaughter Perry and her family will be able to celebrate this great honour.”
Unfortunately, Graney’s daughter, Margot Mudd, did not live to see her father honoured in Cooperstown. She died on April 3, 2020 at the age of 98. As recently as 2014, she had returned to St. Thomas, Ont., for her father’s induction on to the city’s Wall of Fame.
“My dad would’ve been flabbergasted by all of this,” said Mudd at the 2014 ceremony in St. Thomas. “He was a very modest person and he was a wonderful father. He was always funny and good-natured.”
In 2014, Mudd said she could recall going to Cleveland games that her father was broadcasting.
“He must have been a very patient man because when he was broadcasting and I was off school, either high school or college, I always went to the games with him,” she told me. “And he always let me bring me a friend and when he went to the ballpark, here were these two giggly girls with him and he was so patient with us.”
His hometown of St. Thomas, Ont., also recently honoured him with a statue at a roundabout on Fairview Avenue at Bill Martyn Parkway. The roundabout is at the entrance to the city’s Doug Tarry baseball complex.
Graney emerged the 2022 Frick Award winner from a final ballot that featured broadcasters whose main contributions were realized as pioneers. The seven other finalists were Pat Flanagan, Waite Hoyt, France Laux, Rosey Rowswell, Hal Totten, Ty Tyson and Bert Wilson.
The 16-member Frick Award voting committee, was comprised of the 13 living Frick Award recipients and three broadcast historians/columnists.
The award is voted upon each year and is named in honour of Frick who, at various times, worked as a sportswriter, a radio broadcaster, the National League president and as baseball commissioner. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970. A list of the previous Frick Award winners can be found here.
To be considered for the award, an active or retired broadcaster is required to have a minimum of 10 years of continuous major league broadcast service with a ball club, network, or any combination of the two.
The Frick Award election cycle rotates annually among Major League Markets (team-specific announcers); National Voices (broadcasters whose contributions were realized on a national level); and Broadcasting Beginnings (early team voices and pioneers of baseball broadcasting). Per the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s news release, the Major League Markets ballot will be reviewed in the fall of 2022 and the National Voices ballot is to be reviewed in the fall of 2023.
Though Graney is the first winner of the Frick Award to be born in Canada, legendary Montreal Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne captured the honour in 2011 and iconic Toronto Blue Jays radio-by-play man Tom Cheek was the recipient in 2013.