Jack Graney blazed a trail from the diamond to the broadcast booth, setting a standard that would be followed for generations to come.
Graney, the 2022 Ford C. Frick Award winner, was a gifted left-handed amateur pitcher who joined the Cleveland Naps in 1908, pitching two games before spending most of the rest of the season in the minors. Converted to the outfield the next season, Graney returned to Cleveland in 1910 – becoming a regular for the next decade. A disciplined hitter, Graney led the American League in walks in both 1917 and 1919 and appeared in three games off the bench in the 1920 World Series, helping Cleveland defeat Brooklyn for the title.
Graney made history as the first to bat against Babe Ruth in the big leagues (1914) and the first 20th century big league player to appear at bat with a number on his uniform (1916). Ending his big league career in 1922 with 1,178 hits and a .354 on-base percentage, Graney went into the automotive sales industry.
Then in 1932, WHK-AM began broadcasting Cleveland games and hired Graney, who is now widely considered to be the first former big league player to broadcast a major league game. For the next 22 years – except for 1945, when network radio broadcasts pre-empted local programming – Graney called games for a variety of Cleveland stations, including WHK, WGAR, WJW and WERE. Teaming with several partners, including 1997 Frick Award winner Jimmy Dudley, Graney’s meticulous descriptions of the action on the field and the elements of the ballpark brought the game to life for those who had never been to League Park or Cleveland Stadium.
Graney called the World Series for a national audience in 1935 and also broadcast that year’s All-Star Game in Cleveland.
He passed away on April 20, 1978.
Jack Graney played in the big leagues for 14 seasons before transitioning to the broadcast booth. He is widely recognized as the first former big leaguer to broadcast a major league game. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)