Alone in a recording studio, with only pieces of telegraphic ticker tape in his hand, nobody could re-create the feel of a baseball game like Jack Graney.
Graney, the radio and later television broadcaster for the Cleveland Indians from 1932-53, worked much of his airtime in an era when mikemen did not accompany teams on their road trips. But as the first professional ballplayer turned broadcaster, Graney could often evoke his photographic memories of American League ballparks to paint tangible scenes for his listeners.
“When he talked you could smell the resin in the dugouts, feel the clean smack of the ball against bat and see the hawkers in the stands,” wrote Bob Dolgan of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He made baseball sound like a sport.”
A native of St. Thomas, Ont., Graney was an outfielder and career .250 hitter over 14 seasons with the Indians. He experienced a number of firsts in the game, including being the first batter to face Babe Ruth as a pitcher in 1914, and the first to appear in a regular season game with a uniform number two years later. In 1920, Graney would help Cleveland capture its first World Series championship.
After retiring from the playing field in 1922, Graney briefly managed a Western League team in Des Moines, Iowa, and then opened a Ford dealership in Cleveland. When the Great Depression struck, Graney was nearly broke and in need of additional work to support his family. He joined radio station WHK in 1932, taking the bold step as the first former ballplayer to step into the broadcast booth and blazing a path for many greats like future Frick Award winners Jerry Coleman, Joe Garagiola and Bob Uecker.
Former Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek won in 2014.
Graham McNamee, Bert Wilson and Graney emerged as the top three fan selections in the online voting at the Hall of Fame’s website and Facebook page in September and October.
They join others, chosen by a Hall of Fame research committee, to form the 10 National Pastime’s pioneering voices named as the finalists for the 2016 Ford C. Frick award, presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The finalists for the 2016 Frick award are: Harry Heilmann, Al Helfer, France Laux, Tom Manning, Rosey Rowswell, Hal Totten, Ty Tyson, Graney, McNamee and Wilson. All candidates are deceased.
The winner of the 2016 Frick Award will be announced on Dec. 9 at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., and will be honored during the July 23 Awards Presentation as part of the July 22-25 Hall of Fame Weekend 2016 in Cooperstown.
The 2016 Frick Award ballot reflects the 2013 changes in the selection process where eligible candidates are grouped together by years of most significant contributions of their broadcasting careers. The new cycle continues with this year’s Broadcasting Dawn Era, which features broadcasters whose main body of work came from broadcasting’s earliest days through the mid-1950s.
The three-year cycle for the Frick Award began in 2013 with the High Tide Era, which featured candidates whose most significant years fell from the mid-1980s to the present and resulted in the election of Eric Nadel as the 2014 Frick Award winner. In the fall of 2014, Living Room Era candidates – whose most significant years came between the mid-1950s and the mid-1980s, with Dick Enberg being named the 2015 Frick Award winner. In the fall of 2016, candidates will again be considered from the High Tide Era.
Final voting for the 2016 Frick Award will be conducted by a 18-member electorate, comprised of the 14 living Frick Award recipients and four broadcast historians/columnists, including past Frick honorees Marty Brennaman, Dick Enberg, Joe Garagiola, Jaime Jarrin, Tony Kubek, Tim McCarver, Denny Matthews, Jon Miller, Eric Nadel, Felo Ramirez, Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, Dave Van Horne and Bob Wolff, and historians/columnists Bob Costas (NBC and MLB Network), Barry Horn (Dallas Morning News), Ted Patterson (historian) and Curt Smith (historian).
To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous major league broadcast service with a ball club, network, or a combination of the two. More than 20 broadcasters were eligible for consideration for the award based on these qualifications for 2016.
Spent 17 years behind the mic for the Tigers from 1934-50 following a 17-year big league career that saw him win four American League batting titles en route to Hall of Fame election in 1952.
Detroit Tigers’ Harry Heilmann - BL-3133-75 (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
Called games for 23 seasons for the Pirates (1933-34), Reds (1935-36), Yankees (1937-38, 1945), Dodgers (1939-41, 1955-57), Giants (1945, 1949), Phillies (1958), Colt .45s (1962) and Athletics (1968-69). He also called Mutual’s Game of the Day from 1950-54 and called 14 no-hitters.
Worked for 18 seasons with the Browns (1929-43, 1948) and Cardinals (1929-43, 1945) and also called network games for CBS (1933-38) and Mutual (1939-41, 1944), appearing behind the mic for six World Series (1933-38) and eight All-Star Games (1934-41).
Went from announcing lineups and batteries from the playing field for the Indians to their broadcast booth, starting in 1928 on Cleveland’s WTAM. He partnered with Graham McNamee to call 10 straight World Seres, called the first eight All-Star Games and was behind the mic for the first Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 1939.
National radio voice for Westinghouse (1923-25) and NBC (1926-35), calling 12 World Series while becoming one of the first nationally recognized radio voices.
In 1925 was given a watch by the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates that read, “most faithful fan.” When the Pirates finally decided to broadcast all of their home games over KDKA radio, they decided to go with their number one fan on the air. Called games for the Pirates for 19 seasons (1936-54), captivating fans with his down-home language and unrelenting team support.
Worked for 21 seasons on Cubs (1924-44) and White Sox (1926-44) games, calling five World Series and broadcasting the Mutual Game of the Week for six seasons (1945-50).
Spent 22 seasons in the Tigers’ broadcast booth (1927-42, 1947-52), providing the first account of a Tigers game from Detroit in 1927.
Called Cubs games for 12 seasons (1944-55), beginning his career with WMT in Chicago while calling games from a Wrigley Field rooftop behind the center field bleachers.