By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
This September, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will release a list of candidates qualified for the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award in 2016, and this autumn, the ball hall will take to social media in an attempt to grant fans access to vote on who receives the honors during a ceremony slated for next summer in Cooperstown.
Bestowed annually amongst broadcasters deemed to have made major contributions to the game of baseball, the Ford C. Frick award, named after the individual who gained notoriety while serving as Babe Ruth’s ghostwriter for most of the 1920’s, was established in 1978 and since its inception, has been accepted by some of the games greatest including Red Barber, Mel Allen, Joe Garagiola, Ernie Harwell, Harry Caray and the renowned long-time voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers Vin Scully.
In a few weeks, those responsible for selecting the nominated voices of summer will be releasing a list of individuals who comprise the “Dawn Era” of baseball broadcasting. The years in which many of the industries greats spent their time glued to a ticker tape whilst their clubs were on the road, seamlessly recreating the unmistakable sounds of a ball game from within a closed studio, all the while describing the teams play on the field in rich detail.
Of the many silver tongued luminaries up for nomination this fall, perhaps St. Thomas, Ontario’s Jack Graney best embodies the individual qualities required for this prestigious honor.
Longevity: Prior to becoming the first major leaguer to stand in the batter’s box against the then pitcher Ruth in 1914, Graney’s career in professional baseball formally took flight as a farmhand within the Chicago Cubs chain during the 1907 season. After switching both positions and Major League organizations, he enjoyed an impressive 14 year career in the show ahead of becoming the first player to fully transition from the dugout to the press box in 1932.
Continuity: From 1932 to 1953, this former south pawed hurler’s voice was synonymous with Cleveland Indians baseball. Over the years, Graney was on hand for some of Cleveland’s most memorable moments including both Bullet Bob Feller’s No Hitter on Opening Day, 1940, and the Tribes second World Series title in ‘48. For the record, he was also manning left field when the Tribe secured their first Series beating the St. Louis Browns nearly 30 years earlier.
Honors: When Dizzy Dean’s “Gashouse Gang” St. Louis Cardinals squared off against Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and the rest of a potent 101-win Detroit Tigers squad in the 1934 series, CBS approached Graney to cover the games for their network. When the inaugural commissioner, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, caught wind of their decision, he swiftly vetoed the deal, basing his grounds off the fact that, in his mind, a former player could not cover the games impartially.
Not one to stand idly by as professional baseball’s head arbitrator decided his fate, Graney wrote Landis in an attempt to plead his case to the hard ruling figure. Using a letter comprised mainly of his strong ethic as a professional broadcaster, Graney was able to reach Landis through his words, thus resulting in a retraction from the MLB office.
Mere months removed from the turmoil between Graney and Comish Landis, the voice of the Tribe was asked to cover the third annual Mid Summer Classic in, fittingly, Cleveland. Later that season, he was again approached to work the series that fall. Naturally, he accepted both assignments.
Fan Appreciation: Bob Dolgan of the Cleveland Plain Dealer once wrote that “When he (Graney) 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.” Like many of the era’s greatest, Graney was able to paint a vivid portrait of the games happenings for those tuned in outside of the ball park as his experience, outlook and impartial demeanor behind the mic quickly endeared the one time Indian to those from Ohio and abroad.
“Short on ego and long on talent, his voice dripped with sincerity and crackled with vitality.” continued Dolgan, sentiments that many who followed Graney’s nightly broadcasts could agree with wholeheartedly.
Recognizing our countries finest talent at all levels of the game, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame honored Graney by naming an achievement after the trailblazing broadcaster in 1987. Presented to those in the media who have made outstanding contributions to the game of Baseball in Canada, the Jack Graney Award serves as Canada’s response to Cooperstown’s Ford C. Frick Award decoration.
In the past, influential scribes and broadcasters such as Neil MacCarl (Toronto Star), W.P. Kinsella (Shoeless Joe), Tom Cheek (Toronto Blue Jays Radio), Jerry Howarth (Blue Jays) and Richard Griffin (Toronto Star)) have taken home the Graney honors.
Two summers ago, Cheek, who worked 4,306 consecutive Blue Jays games between 1977 and 2004, was recognized by the National Hall of Fame with 2013’s Ford C. Frick Award.
With your help this fall, perhaps Graney will join him in 2016.
Given his track record, in relation to the criteria and fact that 2016 will recognize the “Dawn Era” of baseball broadcasting, it’s hard to imagine a more deserving individual.
Voting begins this September and can be found via the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Facebook page.
- Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)