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Frick nominee Graney a 'man of many firsts'

Indians' radio voice from 1932-44, '46-53 was first player to transition to booth
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Having former players in the broadcast booth is a standard part of baseball these days. They can speak from first-hand experience, offering knowledge and insight from a unique perspective. There was a time, however, when this was not common practice.

Jack Graney helped alter that aspect of broadcasting history, playing a role in his candidacy for the 2019 Ford C. Frick Award.

CLEVELAND -- Having former players in the broadcast booth is a standard part of baseball these days. They can speak from first-hand experience, offering knowledge and insight from a unique perspective. There was a time, however, when this was not common practice.

Jack Graney helped alter that aspect of broadcasting history, playing a role in his candidacy for the 2019 Ford C. Frick Award.

When Graney joined the WHK team in 1932 to broadcast Indians games, he became the first former player to have a regular role in a radio booth. That fit right in with the rest of Graney's career, which included a number of firsts throughout his time as a player for Cleveland.

"He was a man of many firsts," said Jeremy Feador, the Indians' team curator.

When Babe Ruth reached the Majors for the first time as a pitcher, Graney was the first batter to step into the box to face him. When Cleveland wore uniform numbers on its sleeves in 1916 -- becoming the first club to don digits -- Graney was the first one to the plate. At some point, a former player was going to transition to broadcasting. Graney just happened to be the first.

Graney is among eight finalists for the 2019 Frick Award, with the winner being announced on Dec. 12 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas and then honored in a presentation during the July 19-22 Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. Besides Graney, Connie Desmond, Pat Flanagan, Harry Heilmann, Al Helfer, Waite Hoyt, Rosey Rowswell and Ty Tyson are on the ballot.

The eight candidates are all deceased and fall under the Broadcasting Beginnings category, which is featured every three years in accordance with the Frick Award election cycle. Eleven living Frick Award recipients and four broadcast historians/columnists will vote on the award, which is based upon "commitment to excellence, quality of broadcasting abilities, reverence within the game, popularity with fans, and recognition by peers."

"He's overshadowed by a lot of other names," Feador said of Graney. "Hopefully, he can get his recognition."

Graney -- born in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, in 1886 -- was sold to the Cleveland Naps in 1907, reached the Majors the following years and spent 14 years with the ballclub. Graney came up as a pitcher, but later transitioned to the outfield, hitting .250 in 1,402 career games for Cleveland. He was a member of the 1920 Cleveland team that won the World Series.

For many years, Graney had a bull terrier named Larry that would appear in team photos, and served as a mascot for the team.

"I love that part of Graney's story," Feador said. "It's such a quirky aspect."

Following his playing career, Graney operated a Ford dealership, but he fell on hard times in the wake of the stock market crash in 1929. Three years later, Graney was offered a spot in the radio booth and he went on to spend 21 years (1932-44, '46-53) broadcasting Cleveland games. In 1948, Graney and Jimmy Dudley (a Frick Award winner) called the Indians' World Series triumph over the Boston Braves.

Many Indians fans can swiftly share a favorite call of current radio voice Tom Hamilton, who is entering his 30th season in the booth. Hamilton's roaring voice is not only on the radio, but can be quickly accessed online or via social media. That is obviously not the case for Graney, but historic accounts note that he spoke with sincerity and enthusiasm for the game.

Graney died at the age of 91 in 1978, and he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in '84. In 2012, the Indians inducted Graney into the team's Distinguished Hall of Fame for non-uniformed personnel.

The Indians are hoping the Nationall Baseball Hall of Fame is next.

"Bob Feller, Larry Doby -- those guys have sticking power. Their stories are more well-known," Feador said. "It's important to get stuff out there, so people are more aware. We have this rich history. One of the double-edged swords of having such a long history is some guys might get overlooked that shouldn't be overlooked.

"It's a point of pride. In our press box [at Progressive Field], we put up a big mural to highlight our broadcasting history. Having Jack being the first, being able to change from player to a broadcaster, it kind of goes to show that he wasn't a one-faceted talent."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

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