Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Baseball's man of firsts: Graney spent retirement years in Bowling Green

  • For 20 years his voice echoed off of many buildings in Cleveland.
    Air conditioning wasn't in homes in many homes and apartments between 1933 and 1953, so on a hot summer day when the ballgame was on the radio, windows were up and Jack Graney was giving Indian fans the play-by-play.
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  • For 20 years his voice echoed off of many buildings in Cleveland.
    Air conditioning wasn't in homes in many homes and apartments between 1933 and 1953, so on a hot summer day when the ballgame was on the radio, windows were up and Jack Graney was giving Indian fans the play-by-play.
    "He was actually, I suppose for a lot of people, the only broadcaster they knew growing up till he retired," Graney's daughter, Margot Mudd, who is living a happy life at 91, said. "I always describe him as a banty little Irishman. He wasn't very tall. He was my father. How do you describe your father?"
    But Graney's entrance to the airwaves was quite historic. That's because no one in the history of baseball had every gone from being a player and continued on in the game in the broadcast booth.
    Born in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, Graney came to the United States after being recruited by baseball scouts.
    "At the time, I don't think there were many big league players from Canada as there are now. They were all hockey players," Mudd said. "They had a little town team, and he did very well. The scouts were kind of looking at him and I think he signed with Chicago to start with. He was sold to Cleveland."
    Cleveland's team was known as the Naps when Graney debuted in 1908, they didn't changer their name to the Indians till 1915.
    However, a year earlier, Graney made his inaugural entrance into the history books.
    During a game against the Boston Red Sox, Graney stepped into the batter's box and faced a rookie pitcher. He had a baby face and the personality of an overgrown kid. His name was Babe Ruth.
    "He was the leadoff man, that's part of it. I'm sure at the time, it didn't mean anything to him. Who knew who this fat kid was? As it turned out he got two hits that day," Mudd said. "People would say to him, 'By the way, you were the first one (to face Babe Ruth). I don't think it really impressed him too much."
    Graney was also the first player to wear a number on his back. A trend that began with a player's spot in the lineup that has since blossomed into a form of baseball identity and immortality.
    Between 1908 and 1922 as a player, all those years with Cleveland, Graney batted .250 with 1,178 hits, 18 home runs and 420 RBIs. In 1920, Graney and the Indians defeated the Brooklyn Robins — who later became known as the Dodgers — in the World Series.
    After retirement he and a friend ran a Ford agency and did well until hit by the Great Depression.
    "Everything went down, like it did for everybody. It was very tough times. We went to Canada and lived with my grandmother for a short time. It was tough for everybody back in those days. I was just a little kid, I can even remember it," Mudd said. "Then he'd fortunately — just when things were looking bad — he auditioned for the play-by-play. No player had ever been a broadcaster. He auditioned and they hired him in 1932 and we were able to eat again."
    Page 2 of 2 - From there, the popularity Graney had as a player, grew.
    "You'd expect with the broadcasting he might be egocentric. He was very much the opposite. I would say to him, 'Somebody says you're such a great broadcaster.' He'd say, "That and a dime will get you a cup of coffee.' He was not a bit impressed with himself," Mudd said. "He was very much in demand as an after-dinner speaker. In fact he traveled all over in the winter time. The ball club would send him out. All over Northeast Missouri really. I remember him going to Erie, Pennsylvania because they got the broadcasts. He had a lot of stories and things."
    Broadcasters didn't accompany the team back in the day either, but Graney found a way to broadcast to the Cleveland faithful. His tactic was watching the news on the wire.
    "Broadcasting ballgames was relatively new — and as I say — there was no equipment to remote in other cities. But it would come in on the tickertape and it would just say so-and-so struck out," Mudd said. "He'd have to fill in, make up what was going on to give it a little color, and he was very good at that because he had played in all those ball fields. He would say this is a short left field or whatever. He would be describing the ballpark and everything. He did a good job with that."
    Graney was with the team when their won their second World Series in 1948. He got a ring that year too as the team's broadcaster. He retired to Bowling Green after retiring from the airwaves in 1953 to be with his daughter and grandchild. The Indians haven't won a World Series since, but Mudd is one of the few to possess both championship rings won by the Indians. Graney died in 1978 and is interred in Memorial Garden Cemetery in Bowling Green.
    He is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and in the 1980s the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame started the Jack Graney Award which is given to journalists and broadcasters who promote Canadian baseball.
    There is some debate that Graney should be awarded the Ford C. Frick Award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. given his significance. That award is given to legendary baseball broadcasters every year. Mudd said she'd like to see her father get the award, but it probably won't happen.
    "Not enough people remember him," she said.
    The year Mudd thought her father would the award, it was decided Bob Ueker would be the recipient instead.
    Ueker is the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, but ironically enough, was the voice of the Cleveland Indians in the "Major League" movies.
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