I was so happy to receive the news this morning that Jerry Howarth, the longtime radio voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, has been named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2012 Jack Graney Award presented annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
This is great news for those of us who appreciate outstanding baseball radio broadcasters and great human beings.
“Jerry Howarth is the voice of summer for thousands of Canadians,” said Scott Crawford, the Hall’s director of operations. “In his 32 seasons on Blue Jays’ airwaves, he has set the standard for play-by-play commentators in our country. And not only is Jerry Howarth a great broadcaster, he’s an outstanding citizen who does a lot for his community. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honour.”
Now heading into his 33rd season in the Jays’ radio booth, Howarth, who became a Canadian citizen in 1994, has called more than 5,000 games for the club. He and his wife, Mary have two grown sons, Ben and Joe, and he is the junior varsity basketball coach at Etobicoke Collegiate High School in Toronto. He was inducted into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and is active in several charities, including the Special Olympics.
For 23 seasons, Howarth teamed with Tom Cheek, who won the Jack Graney Award in 2001, on Blue Jays radio broadcasts. Cheek is this year’s winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award, an award that I hope Howarth will soon win.
Howarth said, “I am very honoured to be named the Jack Graney Award winner for 2012 joining a long list of notables including the gentleman who brought me to Toronto, Len Bramson, and the other gentleman I worked with in the radio booth for years in Tom Cheek. That makes this award particularly special for me.”
Born in St. Thomas, Ont., Jack Graney was a scrappy leadoff hitter for the Cleveland Indians. His big league resume boasts a number of firsts. When he walked to the plate in a game against the Boston Red Sox on July 11, 1914, he became the first batter to face Babe Ruth. Almost two years later, on June 26, 1916, he was the first major leaguer to bat wearing a number on his uniform. After hanging up his spikes, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for the Indians from 1932 to 1953.