John Lowe wins 2023 BBWAA Career Excellence Award

In the closest vote since the mail-ballot process began in 2002, John Lowe narrowly edged out the late Gerry Fraley to be elected the 2023 winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award. Lowe will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Induction Weekend July 21-24 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Of the 382 ballots, including four blanks, cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years’ service, Lowe was named on 137 in becoming the 74th winner of the award since its inception in 1962. Just two votes behind Lowe at 135 was Fraley, who died in 2019 at age 64 after a nearly 40-year career as a beat writer in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas. Bruce Jenkins, a baseball writer and columnist for almost half a century for the San Francisco Chronicle, was third with 106 votes.

The two-vote margin between first and second place as well as the 31-vote gap among the three candidates were the closest in voting history. The previous closest result was in 2015 when another Detroit writer, Tom Gage, won out over Atlanta’s Furman Bisher by six votes, 167-161. Third-place Dan Shaughnessy of Boston was third that year with 134 votes. He was elected the next year. The 33-vote separation among those three writers in 2015 had also been the narrowest before this election.

Candidates were chosen by a three-member, BBWAA-appointed committee and announced during the All-Star Game meeting July 19 in Los Angeles. Voting was conducted in November.

Nattily attired in his blazer, collared shirt with tie, creased trousers, leather shoes and straw hat, Lowe roamed press boxes, fields and clubhouses from 1979 through 2014, the last 28 of those years as the Tigers beat writer for the Detroit Free Press. Lowe sought insight from trusted sources in both clubhouses, resulting in clearly written stories that explained the sport in rich detail. Lowe wrote with nuanced perspective, the direct result of countless conversations that equipped him with the knowledge to explain late-game drama on tight Eastern time zone deadlines.

He covered Angels home games for the Los Angeles Daily News before taking over the Dodgers beat at that paper from 1981 to 1984. After two years at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lowe came to Detroit where during his tenure was credited with creating the Quality Start statistic for pitchers that remains a measuring stick.

Lowe covered more than 300 postseason games, including 147 in the World Series. He also chronicled Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games record in 1995 and the culmination of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase in 1998.

Lowe, who served as national BBWAA president in 2010, had a ready answer when asked at airports if he was traveling for business or pleasure: “Business, but it’s a pleasure.”

Previous BBWAA Career Excellence Award Recipients:

2022 Tim Kurkjian; 2021 Dick Kaegel; 2020 Nick Cafardo; 2019 Jayson Stark; 2018 Sheldon Ocker; 2017 Claire Smith; 2016 Dan Shaughnessy; 2015 Tom Gage; 2014 Roger Angell; 2013 Paul Hagen; 2012 Bob Elliott; 2011 Bill Conlin; 2010 Bill Madden; 2009 Nick Peters; 2008 Larry Whiteside; 2006 Rick Hummel; 2005 Tracy Ringolsby; 2004 Peter Gammons; 2003 Murray Chass; 2002 Hal McCoy; 2001 Joe Falls; 2000 Ross Newhan; 1999 Hal Lebovitz; 1998 Bob Stevens; 1997 Sam Lacy; 1996 Charley Feeney; 1995 Joseph Durso; 1993 Wendell Smith; 1992 Leonard Koppett, Bus Saidt; 1991 Ritter Collett; 1990 Phil Collier; 1989 Jerome Holtzman; 1988 Bob Hunter, Ray Kelly; 1987 Jim Murray; 1986 Jack Lang; 1985 Earl Lawson; 1984 Joe McGuff; 1983 Ken Smith; 1982 Si Burick; 1981 Bob Addie, Allen Lewis; 1980 Joe Reichler, Milton Richman; 1979 Bob Broeg, Tommy Holmes; 1978 Tim Murnane, Dick Young; 1977 Gordon Cobbledick, Edgar Munzel; 1976 Harold Kaese, Red Smith; 1975 Tom Meany, Shirley Povich; 1974 John Carmichael, James Isaminger; 1973 Warren Brown, John Drebinger, John F. Kieran; 1972 Dan Daniel, Fred Lieb, J. Roy Stockton; 1971 Frank Graham; 1970 Heywood C. Broun; 1969 Sid Mercer; 1968 H.G. Salsinger; 1967 Damon Runyon; 1966 Grantland Rice; 1965 Charles Dryden; 1964 Hugh Fullerton; 1963 Ring Lardner; 1962 J.G. Taylor Spink.