In my book Links, published in 1989, I wrote the following: “When thinking of people I have met through golf, I reflect on my friendship with Canadian writer Trent Frayne … our first walk together at Augusta led to a friendship I treasure.”
That was true then, and it’s true now. Goodbye, my friend. DAVE PERKINS, TORONTO STAR Regarding Trent Frayne, he was the last of that grand generation of Canadian sports writers, with Milt Dunnell, Scott Young and Jim Coleman, who passed along so much to the many who followed them to the keyboard. Trent always knew exactly who had written what and shared praise generously. An email from Trent, nodding to a theme or even a well-turned phrase, was the epitome of approval in the newspaper business around here, at least in the games dept. When Trent was at the top of his game, it went without saying his stuff was the best in the sports section; most days it was the best in the paper, period. Some days he even was the best writer in his own household, which is the highest praise of all. He would have waved away the cliche, but his passing truly signposts the end of an era like no other. I am sad to hear of his loss. Anyone who appreciates the written word should be.
I was aware of Trent Frayne’s much celebrated standing in the world of journalism long before we became close neighbors for more than twenty years in Etobicoke. Besides earning a living writing about the world of sports, we had something else in common. Trent wrote a book in 1959 about the first 100 years of Queen’s Plate history. I wrote one 25 years later called The Plate: A Royal Tradition.
During the mornings when Frayne would call the house to get the coffee pot on as he was on the way over with fresh muffins from the local bakery, we’d discuss the intriguing and controversial merits of the two books as well as the Blue Jays, Leafs and Argonauts. Our morning coffee sessions didn’t always go well as Frayne disliked cats, and Harry would invariably jump up on Trent’s lap and be ushered to the floor with a “scoot, animal.”
I first met Trent in 1966 when The Globe and Mail assigned me to cover thoroughbred horse racing at Woodbine. The affable author/columnist was employed by the Ontario Jockey Club in its publicity department. One story he loved to tell about himself involved horse owner and hockey icon Conn Smythe, who felt Frayne’s knowledge of horse racing was limited, and would say, “Frayne, you don’t know the difference between a stud and a tie pin.” Trent later went on to write an acclaimed book on Northern Dancer.
We never shared press boxes at major sporting events. Our association was basically social, rarely professional except when he requested research data from my large baseball library. He might be writing a piece for Maclean’s re the merits of the DH rule, which we disagreed (I disliked the DH) or which pitcher was the first true one-inning save specialist. We often discussed Joe DiMaggio. We had both interviewed him, Frayne in 1941 and I after DiMaggio had retired.
We both belonged to the Skyline Health Club. Trent was in his 80s and still played tennis on a daily basis. He would often, unsuccessfully, attempt to entice a neophyte like myself into a match on the club’s pool tables, where he spent many afternoons with his cronies. One of the great experiences of our association was his invitation to join his author friends at Bregman’s on Yonge Street for monthly breakfasts. The round table authors often included Joey Slinger, Martin O’Malley, Sen. Keith Davey, who always wanted to talk baseball, Jack Rabinovitch, Allan Abel, Lorne Rubenstein and Avie Bennett. I was a good listener in this company.
To the end, before leaving his home on Hillcroft Ave., Trent was the most dapper person at our local shopping plaza, a cover from GQ men’s magazine. He had a wry sense of humour and a curmudgeonly attitude re: the current state of the world of sports. He “pooh poohed “much of the glitz that surrounded a modern sports event. He loved his grandchildren, often taking them for walks past my place on Haliburton Avenue.