Jack Graham, first base and outfield
Padres: 1948, 1950-52 Jack Graham, first base and outfield. Born: 12-24-16 Padres: 1948, 50-52 Tony Lazzeri hit sixty home runs for Salt Lake City in 1925 to establish the Pacific Coast League record. In 1948, Jack Graham, son of former big leaguer Peaches Graham, was on a pace to shatter that mark. On July 25, Jack had already hit forty-six round trippers, but he was beaned in Los Angeles. He ended up with forty- eight for the year and was named the leagues’s Most Valuable Player. Jack was third in the American League for homers in 1949.
[Jack Graham, interview by Bill Swank and Bills Capps, 15 February 1995, transcript notes.]
When I was a kid, my Dad would take me to ballgames, but I preferred to watch the planes at a nearby air field. I’d help around the planes and some of the pilots would take me up. I wanted to be an Army aviator. In ’33, when I started high school, I got interested in baseball, but I learned to fly, too.
I came to San Diego as part of the Jack Harshman deal. You know when you’re in the process of doing something, you don’t even realize how important it might be. That was probably my greatest claim to fame. I had forty-siz [home runs] in July and it was a Sunday in L.A. It was the second game of the double header and the ball would go into the shade. The hitters were in the shade and the pitcher was in the sun. The pitcher knocked me down, but didn’t knock me out. Earl Keller [sportswriter] told me that I would be the MVP if I came back, but I had a hemorrhage in my middle ear. Every time I’d look at the ball, I’d get a little dizzy. He [Red Adams] didn’t throw that hard. He pitched me high and inside to keep me off the plate. The funny story behind that was that Rip [Collins, manager] approached me, because I got hit twice earlier up in San Francisco. He said that he noticed I was getting tired. He told me to take off and just visit my family in Long Beach. I could get some rest and I’d be OK. The reflexes weren’t working and he noticed it, but I vetoed it. You wanted to play in L.A. If you couldn’t hit a home run at Wrigley Field, you couldn’t hit ’em anywhere! Every player has his year and that was mine.
I got my glasses in 1950, because I was either landing [my plane] two or three feet above the ground or bouncing it. With glasses, everything was great. But, when I put them on to play baseball, I had to change everything. The ball had been fuzzy but now it became smaller. I just lost my stroke and couldn’t get around on the inside pitch. But, it was great for me to hit in San Diego. I was a dead pull hitter and the wind blew off the bay to right. They’d fly out.
Bill Starr was a pretty astute guy. In ’51, I think it was, he sent me a contract. I said I wasn’t going to sign it; I needed more money. I said, “Give me $25 a month more.” He said, “Sign it or not!” He knew I couldn’t do anything about it, so I just signed it. But, in ’48, when I came from the Giants, I had a $6,000 guaranteed major league contract. Because we played the longer schedule in the PCL and I won the MVP, I made more money than if I’d been in the majors. It really worked out good for me that time.
I was rooming with Max West in 1950. I liked to get up early and go for breakfast. I loved that crispy bacon, but I can’t eat it now. Max said, “What the hell you doin that for? Call room service!” So, I did and they wheeled it in. I said, “This is great!” And that’s what I did from then on.