Tag Archives: Nap Lajoie

Cobb to Cubans to Limbless Wonders

The sports page of the March 19, 1910 edition of the Nashville American included a story about exhibition games the Nashville Volunteers would be playing at Sulphur Dell in the weeks to come. Most games were scheduled with major-league clubs: a three-game series each with the Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn, two games each against the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland and Boston of the American League, and a game against Detroit. Buffalo of the Eastern League would visit for a single game on April 9[1].

The array of baseball wonders playing on those teams included future Hall of Famers: Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford of Detroit, Eddie Collins of the Athletics, Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, and Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown of the Cubs, and Nap Lajoie of Cleveland.

To conclude the exhibition schedule, a game against the visiting Cuban Stars would be held on April 12; the club would be comprised of players from Cuba and possibly other Latin American countries. It is unknown whether the game had been scheduled as a curiosity, or as a slow down to the quality of play afforded major-league teams before Nashville delved into the Southern Association season.

With some uncertainty, it appears this visiting Cuban club was formed in 1899 by Cuban baseball magnate Abel Linares, taking on the name “Cuban Stars” in 1905[2]. The March 1 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune reported a letter had been received from Linares the previous day stating his club would “sail for the states right after the close of the Cuban season on April 28”[3]. However, a team of “Cuban Stars” did arrive in New Orleans on March 31.[4]

For whatever reason, the game did not take place. Sports writer Allen Johnson of the American felt the fans had their fill of the special preseason games, and chose to report a special event that would take its place: boxing, on April 11. But not just any boxing.

Matches were scheduled “among the representatives of the colored race strictly”. The main event was to include “Kid” Ditmore, and “Kid” Dilihaunty; but almost eerily, there was mentioned a bout between “two old-time black fighters, each of whom now has but one leg.”[5]

Johnson’s account, under the heading “Clever Bouts in the Dell”, stated 1,500 people attended the fight and “some good bouts were put up by the dark fight fans of this city”. In the best satire he could muster regarding the one-legged pugilists, he wrote “This fight was very amusing while it lasted, but Chambers gave out in the second round”.

To add insult to injury, Johnson describes the participants as “limbless wonders”. Even though it was a sign of the times, it could be argued that this was an example of how quality sports reporting degenerated in only a few days into a wonder of its own.

© 2017 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[i] Nashville American, March 18, 1910, p. 5.

[2] Burgos, Adrian (2011). Cuban Star: How One Negro-League Owner Changed the Face of Baseball. New York: Hill and Wang.

[3] Chicago Daily Tribune, March 1, 1910, p. 15.

[4] Hartford Courant, April 5, 1910, p. 14.

[5] Nashville American, April 11, 1910, p. 8.

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Born Here, Played Here, Died Here: Nashville’s Dawson “Tiny” Graham

Dawson_CINREDBorn in Nashville on September 9, 1892, Dawson “Tiny” Graham had a frame that did not match his nickname. Graham stood 6’ 2” and his playing weight was 185.

The right-hander began his pro baseball career with the Appalachian League’s Cleveland Counts (and then the Morristown Jobbers when the team moved mid-season), hitting .370.[1] He was released by Morristown to the Roanoke Tigers of the Virginia League[2] in 1914 where he hit for a .295 average[3].

A first baseman, Graham was sold to the Cincinnati Reds by the Roanoke club on July 1, 1914. He was released by the Reds late in the season after playing in 25 games and batting .230 on only 14 hits in 61 plate appearances.

By April of 1915 Tiny was competing with Toronto veteran Tim Jordan for the Maple Leafs’ first base job[4]. Under manager Bill Clymer Graham had 146 hits in 506 plate appearances for a .289 average. The next season the Leafs made a managerial change, naming Joe Birmingham to lead the club and Graham increased his hit production to 164 and his batting average to .294.

Graham played for Toronto again in 1917, this time under the tutelage of future Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie, reporting from his home in Nashville “in excellent shape”[5]. However, Graham’s average slipped to .267 and in the spring of 1918 he was released to Chattanooga of the Southern Association.[6]

Hitting at a .275 clip did not please Chattanooga president Sammy “Strang” Nicklin, although Graham had enlisted in the Army on July 31st.  He was discharged on December 3 soon after World War I ended. Reporting in 1919, Graham sat out the beginning of spring training while Nicklin offered him to Texas League and International League teams. However, Graham was allowed to umpire the Lookouts’ first intra-squad game.

Eventually signing with Chattanooga he was unconditionally released mid-season, but was signed on July 12 by the Vols during a July series between Nashville and the Lookouts. First baseman Dick Kauffman had suddenly left the team, deciding he could make more money by playing with a semi-pro team in his home state of Pennsylvania.[7] Manager Roy Ellam immediately filled the void in the Vols’ infield by signing Graham.

His season average was .248 on 86 hits between the two Southern Association clubs.

In his nine seasons in the minors, Graham never hit for a higher average than he achieved during his first season, although in his last year he hit .316 for Oklahoma City. Graham retired from baseball after the 1921 season with a career .291 average.

Upon his death on December 29, 1962 he was buried in Calvary Cemetery in his hometown.[8]

(c) 2014 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1]Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 15, 2013

[2] Sporting Life, January 24, 914

[3] Baseball-reference.com

[4] Sporting Life, April 24, 1915

[5] Sporting Life, April 21, 1917

[6] The Sporting News, March 7, 1918

[7] Nashville Banner July 13, 1919

[8] Ancestry.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014

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