The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced today that trailblazing former Blue Jays beat writer, the late Alison Gordon, is this year’s recipient of the Jack Graney Award, an honour bestowed “annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.”
Per the release:
“Alison Gordon was a courageous pioneer who broke down barriers for female sports reporters across North America,” said Scott Crawford, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s director of operations. “On top of her bravery, she was also one of the most talented writers ever to work the Toronto Blue Jays beat. We’re proud to honour her memory with this award.”
Gordon, who passed away in 2015, was the first woman to ever to be issued a Baseball Writers of America card (the card actually read “Mr. Alison Gordon” because at the time there was no option for anything else). Hers was an achievement, and a struggle, that went underappreciated for far too long. This honour itself has been much too long coming. But especially in the years since her death, Blue Jays fans have truly begun to understand what an incredible pioneer we had in our midst, and still have in our history, which has been great to see.
Significant credit for this has to go to writers like our own Stacey May Fowles, who wrote a beautiful piece this summer, stumping for Gordon to be added to the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence. And Rachael McDaniel, whose work often appears at BP Toronto, but who wrote an incredible, personal piece about first discovering Gordon’s work, and her story, back in September for the Hardball Times. Both of those pieces are well worth revisiting today.
Rachel’s piece quotes the following passage from Gordon’s book Foul Balls, giving a great look at what a talented writer she was:
The ghosts all come out on opening day, lurking happily in the outfield corners, floating through the dugouts, raising small eddies of red-clay dust around second base, settling into the bleachers with the flesh-and-blood paying customers.
They are the ghosts of baseball and gather wherever the game is played, not just in historic venues like Comiskey Park and Yankee Stadium. They even come to modern horrors like Exhibition Stadium on the shores of Lake Ontario. They don’t even have to go through customs.
Some of the ghosts are dressed in baggy flannel uniforms with their stirrup straps barely showing an inch of white over their polished black shoetops. Others wear dark jackets, high collars and ties, and straw boaters on their heads. The women have fox-furs draped across their shoulders and hats with a jaunty tilt. They sit incongruously among their rude modern counterparts who use language once reserved for the locker rooms under the stands, but in all their hearts is the same joy.
“Our family is very appreciative of this award. Alison would perhaps be surprised to be remembered after all these years, but proud to find herself in such distinguished company as the past winners of the award,” said Charles Gordon, Alison’s brother, who was a longtime columnist for the Ottawa Citizen. “While much attention was given to her struggles as a pioneer among women sportswriters, she herself was motivated most by her commitment to good writing and her love of the game. Both of those came through strongly in her work.”
Per the Hall, here is a full list of those to have won the award, which is named in honour of Jack Graney of St. Thomas, Ontario, who was the first big league batter Babe Ruth ever faced, the first major leaguer to wear a number on his uniform, and the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, where he was Cleveland’s play-by-play announcer from 1932 to 1953:
1987 – Neil MacCarl – Toronto Star
1988 – Milt Dunnell – Toronto Star
1990 – Austin “Dink” Carroll – Montreal Gazette
1991 – Joe Crysdale & Hal Kelly – CKEY
1996 – Dave Van Horne – Montreal Expos
2001 – Tom Cheek – Toronto Blue Jays
2002 – Ernie Harwell – Detroit Tigers
2003 – Allan Simpson – Baseball America
2004 – Jacques Doucet – Montreal Expos
2005 – Len Bramson – TBS Sports
2009 – Ian MacDonald – Montreal Gazette
2010 – Bob Elliott – Sun Media & canadianbaseballnetwork.com
2011 – W. P. Kinsella – “Shoeless Joe” novel adapted to film “Field of Dreams”
2012 – Jerry Howarth – Toronto Blue Jays
2013 – Rodger Brulotte – Montreal Expos, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 – Richard Griffin – Toronto Star
2015 – Serge Touchette – Le Journal de Montreal
2016 – Larry Millson – Globe and Mail
2017 – Alison Gordon – Toronto Star