COOPERSTOWN, NY – Writer Tim Kurkjian and the late Jack Graney, the first former major league player to transfer to the broadcast booth, were honored Saturday by the Baseball Hall of Fame for their contributions to the game.
Kurkjian received the Baseball Writers Association of America’s Career Excellence Award. He began his career in 1979 at the Washington Star and two years later was the Texas Rangers beat writer for The Dallas Morning News. Four years later, he returned to his native Maryland and joined The Baltimore Sun, covering the Orioles for four years. He then spent seven years as a senior baseball writer at Sports Illustrated.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Kurkjian, who switched to broadcasting at ESPN in 1998. “This has been the most overwhelming, overwhelming experience of my life. That love for the game, without any grace or talent, has carried my career . It was a privilege to cover the game 40 years ago, and now 40 years later, it’s still a privilege. Baseball is the greatest game.”
Graney was posthumously honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for his broadcast, but he began his career in the Cleveland outfield and was the first major leaguer to hit against Babe Ruth (1914). He ended a 14-year playing career in 1922 and after a stint in automobile sales was hired in 1932 by Cleveland radio station WHK to call games. He spent 22 years calling them for various stations and is now widely regarded as the first former major league player to broadcast a major league game.
Graney, who also called the 1935 World Series for a national audience in 1935 and the All-Star Game that year in Cleveland, died in 1978.
Granddaughter Perry Smith spoke on her behalf.
“If Jack were here today, he would never tell you about his accomplishments,” he said. “He was such a humble man. And he was probably embarrassed by praise. That’s how Jack described his career. She said, ‘I always tried. give an honest account to the fans. It was a tremendous responsibility. And at all times I kept in mind that I was the eyes of the radio audience. I tried to do my best and hopefully my best was good enough.”
Also on Saturday, more than 50 Hall of Famers participated in the annual Parade of Legends. Chairs were lined up four deep on Main Street more than four hours before the parade began. Inside the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery, several fans dressed in Red Sox gear stopped to take pictures at the site of the former Red Sox slugger’s plaque. David Ortiz, affectionately called Big Papiit will hang after its induction.
Thousands of Red Sox fans lined the downtown route, many wearing Big Papi’s No. 34 on their backs and about 20 carried a Dominican Republic flag and chanted “Papi! Daddy!” Several souvenir tables were set up with Ortiz’s red and blue induction jerseys.
Ortiz is just the 58th player selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. He is part of the seven-member class of 2022 that will be inducted on Sunday.
Three-time hitting champion Tony Oliva and 283 game winner Jim Kaat will join Ortiz on stage.
Also getting their due on induction day: Dodgers great Gil Hodges, who led the New York Mets to their first World Series title in 1969; Minnie Miñoso, star with the Chicago White Sox in the 1950s; Buck O’Neil, who played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues and was a tireless advocate for the game; and Bud Fowler, a pioneering black player who grew up in Cooperstown in the 1860s and played in more than a dozen leagues.
Freelance writer Ken Powtak contributed.
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Tim Kurkjian, Jack Graney honored by Baseball Hall of Fame
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