Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Writer June Callwood and husband Trent Frayne after services for Frank Shuster at Holy Blossom Temple. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Writer June Callwood and husband Trent Frayne after services for Frank Shuster at Holy Blossom Temple. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Remembering a sports writing great Add to ...

BRIAN WILLIAMS, CTV-TSN Trent Frayne was a truly great journalist. However he was so much more. Years ago we were both involved in the CBC show Celebrity Tennis being taped at the Inn and Tennis Club near Parry Sound. We received word that the Toronto Mayor's limo had been involved in a minor accident nearby.

More related to this story

Trent and I drove to investigate. It was not serious and there were no injuries however it turned out the investigating OPP Officer's son was involved. Trent walked over to the officer and said--"don't be angry. Embrace him. I lost my son in a highway accident."

He had that rare combination of ability, decency, compassion and class.

Truly one of a kind.

STEPHEN BRUNT, Rogers Sportsnet

Trent Frayne – “Bill” – was a sharp, elegant, witty writer and a sharp, elegant, witty human being. He was part of Canada’s greatest generation of sports columnists, with Scott Young and Milt Dunnell and Jim Coleman, but even in that august company, his unique voice stood out. He had a remarkable subtlety, even when he was hammering home a point, or letting you know who the bad guy was. Rare are writers so light on their feet. He was also a colleague, a friend, a mentor, and a professional role model. Stepping into his shoes at The Globe and Mail remains the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done, and receiving those distinctive, short, sweet and absolutely-to-the-point notes of encouragement (and, occasionally, constructive criticism) from him over the years meant more than any award.

They don’t make them like that anymore.

Safe journey, Bill.

ALLAN MAKI, THE GLOBE AND MAIL

If there was ever a Mount Rushmore of Canadian sports writers, Trent Frayne would be up there with his face locked in that impish smile.

He was a master at his profession and could take you places and make you laugh with his polished touch – like the time he began a column by listing all manner of actors, singers and famous people then asking what they had in common with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The punch line? “None of them can hit left-handed pitching.”

That was vintage Frayne – wry, witty, a writer who could carve a subject to pieces with deft strokes instead of bludgeoning it to a pulp the way so many others did, and still do.

The newspaper industry has changed dramatically since Frayne’s writing days with The Globe and Mail. The news comes faster and more furious now; readers’ attention spans grow shorter by the tweet. But what remains of newspapers in their shining moments is what Frayne stood for, what he delivered unfailingly – a depth of subject matter, a point of thought and writing so sweet you could recite it like poetry.

Trent put out a book years back dubbed Trent Frayne’s All-Stars. It was a collection of Canadian sports writing and it featured many fine pieces. But it was clear to every scribbler included in the book who the real all-star was, the guy you wanted to emulate but knew you never could – although, if you’d pressed him he probably would have admitted his own shortcomings.

Trent Frayne couldn’t hit left-handed pitching, either.

TOM MALONEY, SPORTS EDITOR, THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The phone rang.

"Hello," said the smooth, gentle voice. "This is Trent Frayne."

At the time, I was trying to find my way in hockey-crazed Toronto as a newly branded sports columnist with a baseball and basketball and football background. It wasn't going all that well, or so I thought every night while trying to find sleep. Maybe he sensed the insecurity.

He was already a Hall of Fame columnist and no matter what subject he chose to write about, and no matter the length of the piece, the quality of his smooth, intelligent, literary prose would seduce a reader from the opening sentence to the closing.

"Mr. Frayne," I said.

Why would Trent Frayne be calling me? Pregnant pause.

He described a breakfast club: Every month or so a group of sports writers would meet at a diner over eggs and coffee, and talk journalism. Free wheeling, lively, no-holds barred, he explained.

And he invited me to join.

I didn't know what to say.

Pregnant pause, again. Me?

"I'm honoured," I said, while thinking, wow.

As an aspiring sports writer, you look at the best in the business – at The Globe, Allen Abel ... Trent Frayne ... Stephen Brunt – and maybe attempt to imitate their styles. How hard can it be, right?

Ultimately comes a realization: You thrive or wilt on your own talent, because theirs is unique. It can't be replicated.

I got shipped to Calgary, and never did join the breakfast club.

So, we're going to start it again. In honour of Trent Frayne.

Single page

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories