St. Marys Len Bramson's first job in the media was as editor of the Hockey News from 1950 to 1957, but it is his long list of contributions to Canadian baseball that warrants the presentation of the Jack Graney Award in a pre-game ceremony at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
The Jack Graney Award is presented by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum to a representative of the media who has made a significant contribution to the game of baseball in Canada through their life's work. It is not necessarily presented annually. The Hall received letters of endorsement from Peter Bavasi, Paul Beeston, Tom Cheek, Jacques Doucet, Paul Godfrey, Buck Martinez, Vicki McKee, Susanne Rayson, Gord Stephen, Mike Trenton and Paul Williams.
"Len Bramson is the primary reason why so many Canadians have been able to follow their teams in two languages for all these years," said Tom Cheek, who is planning to be at the Rogers Centre for the presentation. "Len would never be the type to say it, but all of his friends and associates in the industry know it."
A half-century ago, Bramson worked with the Quebec Provincial League in Sherbrooke. He soon joined the Montreal Royals and one of his early promotions drew more than 40,000 fans for the 1960 home opener for the Montreal Royals. Bramson, who is described by his supporters as innovator, a visionary and a pioneer, developed a plan to amalgamate the French and English radio rights of the Expos under one banner, which was unique in its time and virtually unthinkable today. He negotiated directly with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to obtain the rights to the MLB All-Star game, playoffs and World Series to ensure that all of Quebec as well as all of Canada could enjoy every play of every game.
Bramson came to Toronto before the Blue Jays did, and ensured that the Blue Jays would be heard from coast to coast in Canada. His Telemedia Broadcast Services (TBS Sports) was composed of forty stations and was the largest radio network in MLB both in coverage and in number. He also set up a baseball-only company for Foster Hewitt called HewPex Sports Enterprises.
Bramson believed that radio was the single-most enduring, sustaining and penetrating marketing tool a baseball club could use to spread its message and build a following, and he weaved baseball broadcasts into the fabric of Canadian lifestyle. To this day, Lenny Bramson's passion for baseball is as strong as it was back when he was blazing trails for the game that truly was meant for radio.
Among his hiring's was Early Wynn, Cheek, Jerry Howarth, Tommy Hutton and Buck Martinez. He also gave a national platform of English and French radio networks to Jacques Doucet, Dave Van Horne and Tommy Hutton.
Bramson feels that his peak was in the mid-eighties, when he held the rights to the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts and the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was then that he landed Joe Bowen as the Maple Leafs radio play-by-play man.
"I am truly honoured to receive this very meaningful award," said Bramson from his Toronto home. "I am pleased to be recognized, but really, it was the excellent team of people that worked for me that brought success my way."
"I never knew Jack Graney, but I did know that he was excellent at what he did," added Bramson. When asked about Tom Cheek, Bramson called him "one of the best baseball broadcasters in the history of the game, a helluva gentleman and a good family man."
Bramson resigned from TBS Sports in 1990 to become president of The Movie Network for about five years, and since then he has acted as a consultant from baseball to the Breeder's Cup.
Bramson, a Navy veteran, is married to Sandy. His two daughters, Alexandra and Samantha, both work in Australia in the communications business, having learned the ropes from dad.
''Len was an innovative pioneer, and the fruit of his labour has been a tremendously positive effect on literally millions of baseball fans across Canada and beyond. This award was created for guys like him," said Hall president & CEO Tom Valcke.
Past Jack Graney recipients include:
1987 Neil MacCarl (Toronto Star)
1988 Milt Dunnell (Toronto Star)
1990 Austin "Dink" Carroll (Montreal Star)
1991 Hal Kelly & Joe Crysdale (CKEY)
1996 Dave Van Horne (TSN & CIQC)
2001 Tom Cheek (The Team Radio)
2002 Ernie Harwell (WXYT Team 1270)
2003 Allan Simpson (Baseball America)
2004 Jacques Doucet (Expos French Radio - CKAC)
2005 Len Bramson (TBS Sports)
Note: Jack Graney, who was born in St. Thomas, Ontario, had a career of "firsts". He was the first major league batter to face Babe Ruth (1914), the first player to bat wearing a number on his uniform (1916), the first Canadian to pinch hit in a World Series game (1920), and he became the first former player to broadcast a baseball game on radio. The well-known media personality broadcasted Cleveland Indians' games from 1932 to 1953. He was inducted in to the CBHFM in 1984.
ST MARYS 4 July 2005
2005 SUMMER CAMPS for Boys & Girls
* Week-long camps (drop off Sunday, pick-up Saturday), including accommodation & meals
* Focus on baseball FUNdamentals, swimming, soccer & tennis, trip to SkyDome
* Social Justice and Cultural Awareness programs incorporated
* Baseball Celebrities to take part