Charlie Graham

The one year he ventured to the East Coast to play, Charlie Graham suffered through one of the worst seasons any Boston baseball team has ever experienced. Graham spent the rest of his lifelong baseball career in the West, and transitioned from player to manager to become a very prominent and successful team owner.

Charles Henry Graham was the son of Irish immigrants Patrick Graham and Catharine Toner Graham. He was born in Santa Clara, California, on April 24, 1878. Patrick worked as a teamster in Santa Clara at the time of the 1880 United States Census. He and Catharine had six children at the time, with Charles the fifth-born. Charles attended Saint Clare’s Grammar School. He later graduated from Santa Clara College in 1898.

He is listed with a playing weight of 180 pounds and was 5-feet-11. He was right-handed.

Charles himself first played ball for San Jose in 1896, but only in three games (he was 3-for-10). He then disappears from the historical record for a couple of years until he resurfaced with San Jose in 1899. SABR member Carlos Bauer reports that Graham spent 1897 and 1898 studying in Santa Clara, and offers the educated opinion that he may have played for independent clubs in the area.1 He did catch for the varsity team at Santa Clara – and then taught Greek and Latin at the college for the first year after his graduation.2

Graham didn’t impress the second time around in California League play with San Jose; he hit for a .207 average in 111 at-bats over 30 games. In early August of 1899 Forest D. Lowry wrote a harsh appraisal in Sporting Life: “Graham, late of San Jose, has retired from the base ball business, and, better still, he has taken [Edward] Leake with him. The latter was surely a frost, while the former could not play the game at all.”3 Another report said that Graham “is not fast in any capacity.”4

The criticism did not dissuade Graham. When the 1900 season began, he had signed with the Pueblo, Colorado, ballclub in the Western League – though the Sporting Life correspondent turned his nose up at the Western League in general, and Graham in particular:

“It is indeed interesting to know that the California League is one of the fastest organizations of its class in America. We rank far ahead of the Western League at least, if that is a recommendation, for the reason that the latter organization is drawing upon some California players altogether too slow for the article of base ball we demand. Note the signing of Andrews, Anderson and Graham for instance and it will occur to the reader that these men could not get engagements on this coast. Graham, an amateur, was discovered by Kid Hulen and the latter insists that the new find is plenty fast enough for the Western League. This young player has had no experience in professional circles save for a limited engagement with San Jose, where he played right field for that team. He did not score a success as a fly chaser and the readers of this paper will recall where the writer mentioned that fact several months ago. He closed his short career by finishing third among the outfielders, but was never accused of taking any chances on. hard drives. Besides being slow on his feet and weak at the bat, he appeared unable to judge high flies. Some say he had a great habit of shirking plays to keep his error column down.”5

Graham played first base for manager Billy “Kid” Hulen – who had “discovered” him while serving as Santa Clara’s coach – and, though Pueblo finished in last place, Graham hit a respectable .276 in 100 games. After the Western League season ended, Graham came to Stockton in the California League and worked as catcher (Hulen had been the catcher at Pueblo) in 27 late-season games. Sporting Life may have begrudged Graham some credit as a catcher: “In Stockton, the new additions are doing well. Graham is putting up a good game behind the bat.”6 At bat, he hit for a .169 average; while catchers of the day were prized far more for their defensive skills, this was still subpar for offense.

Ultimately, though, the Sporting Life correspondent was won over by Graham’s work as catcher. In November he wrote, “ ‘Graham’s wonderful catching has been one of the features of the close of the present season,’ says a local paper. Evidently this man has improved wonderfully, indeed, within the last year. A season ago he played in the outfield, and was positively the poorest fielder in the league.”7

In 1901, Graham first played for a San Francisco team, the California League’s San Francisco Wasps. He played in 100 games again, catching in 87 of them and playing a bit of first base and outfield, and hitting for a .194 average with an estimated 22 runs batted in.8

It may have been the Hulen connection that brought Graham to Sacramento for the 1902 season, but in early July Hulen was released from the team and Graham given was his first leadership position: He was named team captain and worked as player/manager.

He finished the 1902 season having played in 152 games, with a .207 batting average, 23 stolen bases, and an estimated 35 RBIs. Then – still player/captain with Mike Fisher’s Sacramento club in 1903 (through Sacramento’s team was now in the Pacific Coast League), Graham upped his number of games played to 178 (California leagues often had very long seasons) while improving his average to .268. He’s credited with driving in 56 runs. With the extra games, he increased his stolen-base total to 25 for 1903.

Graham switched to Tacoma in 1904, following Mike Fisher, and served as captain there, too, one reporter asserting, “The success of Tacoma’s pitching staff is largely due to Captain Charlie Graham’s clever catching and coaching. Graham appears to be ripe for major league company.”9 In the first half of the season, Graham was second in the league in batting with a .340 average, but he tailed off badly and after 149 games was down to .246.

The Graham-led Tacoma Tigers won both halves of the ’04 season and the PCL pennant by 7½ games over Los Angeles, then beat LA five games to one (with one tie) in the best-of-nine playoff.

The Detroit Tigers drafted Graham, but he preferred not to go to Detroit, and the National Board, which ruled on player disputes, backed Graham up, since he was a nonreserved player and therefore exempt from the draft. This pleased Tacoma immensely, and seems to have been fine with Graham: “It is known that Graham has no desire to play with Detroit, as he has good business prospects here, and, furthermore, Tacoma is paying him a nice salary,” a Sporting Life correspondent wrote.10 Graham hit .204 in 158 games in his second year with Tacoma (1905). The Pacific Coast League did have long seasons, and November baseball was not unusual. On November 9 and 10 the Los Angeles and Tacoma teams played a 14-inning and a 13-inning game, and there was still some passion – in the November 10 game, Graham was ejected from the game and fined $25 for disputing the umpire’s decisions.11 This disputation may have been an aberration; Sporting Life had commented in midseason: “It is a pleasure to say something nice about Charlie Graham, the captain and the real manager of the champion Tacomas. This quiet young fellow is a credit to the game in every way, and he is one of the very few catchers in this league who plays inside ball.”12

The “champion Tacomas” comment referred, of course, to the 1904 campaign. In 1905 they finished third overall, but qualified for another playoff matchup with first-place Los Angeles. This time, the results were a mirror image of ’04: LA won, five games to one with one game again a tie.

Graham made time that season to marry Clara Frances Black, on June 26.

His catching had caught the eye of scouts and Boston Americans owner John I. Taylor took an active role in going after Graham, personally negotiating with him and succeeding. “While the exact figure has not been given out, it can be said that Graham will get the highest salary ever paid a minor league player upon his first appearance in major league company,” Sporting Life said.13 In the 1970s Graham’s son Robert located a letter among family papers that outlined a $600-a-month salary, and covered Graham’s round-trip travel expenses.14 The letter was from Hi Baggerly, a sports editor in San Francisco who relayed Taylor’s offer to Graham. Baggerly wrote, “Boston is a fine club and Jimmy Collins is one of the best men in the business. If you are thinking of going into the big league I consider this a tiptop offer, and I would advise you to accept the same.”15

Graham had taken some money from the New York Giants “in advance before he left that team in the lurch” and, per ruling of the National Commission, then the major leagues’ governing body, had to refund it to the Giants before his signing with Boston could become official.16 That was only fair.

Boston needed a new catcher, as the team seemed certain to be losing Lou Criger; as it happens, he played only seven games in 1906. It was seen as a coup to get Graham. Some considered him “the best catcher in the minor leagues” at the time.17 In fact, there had even been word that several major-league clubs were thinking of buying the whole Tacoma team as a way to acquire Graham, pitcher Bobby Keefe, outfielder Lou Nordyke, and infielder Tommy Sheehan.18 All four made the majors.

Graham came to Boston with good advance notices. “Graham is one of the headiest catchers in the business, and it was his great generalship which won the pennant for the Tigers. He is not much with the bat, but he is an excellent backstop and has a fine wing,” Sporting Life wrote.19 Tim Murnane, the veteran Boston Globe sportswriter, wrote, “Much is expected of Graham, from the Coast League, who is said to be a man who can catch every game if necessary.”20 The Globe said Graham might have been given a salary of as much as $3,000.21

Though probably shaken to some distraction by news of the disastrous April 18 earthquake that leveled much of San Francisco, Graham started the season really well, but seemed to run out of steam, and then missed more than a month in June and into July, having been given permission to travel west to California after his wife became ill – though a report from California in the latter half of June asserted that he’d “deserted” Boston and would seek permission to play for a team out west. The team had been dissatisfied with Graham’s work, and Bob Peterson took over most of the catching duties, but he fell short, too, so Charley Armbruster became the main man behind the plate.22

Was his wife ill, or was Graham “homesick”?23 A 1972 letter from Graham’s son Robert said that the quake and fire in San Francisco had distressed Clara Graham deeply and that she wanted to return home from Boston to be with her relatives.24

Graham apparently always said that catching Cy Young had been his greatest thrill in baseball, but the 1906 Boston Americans maybe weren’t a team one would want to come back to; before he left, Boston had lost a record 20 games in a row from May 1 through May 24. Boston wound up 1906 with a 49-105 record, 45½ games out of first place. And even Cy Young was a 20-game loser (13-21).

Would Boston have wanted Graham back? Probably. He’d acquitted himself well enough, batting .233 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 30 games and 90 at-bats. He’d drawn 10 bases on balls and had a .330 on-base percentage. He’d hit much better than any of the other five men who caught at one point or another during the 1906 campaign. Concern for his wife, and perhaps a reluctance to leave a city that was in such desperate shape after the earthquake, may have been persuasive. Just crossing the country by rail required a week.

It was perhaps a bit of a moot point; by early August Graham had signed with the Sacramento club in the California State League. Graham was considered a “contract jumper” and remained on Boston’s list well into 1907 even though he was playing in California for the Sacramento club. He hit just .130 for Sacramento in 18 games during 1906 but then hit .301 in the 44 games he played for the team in 1907.

There was no animosity between the Boston team and Graham. In fact, Graham began to do scouting work for Boston.

Graham’s offensive statistics plummeted again in 1908, to .222 in 55 games; he even played some at second base, as well as at first and in the outfield. After the 1908 season there were negotiations to try to bring Sacramento into “organized baseball.”

On January 22, 1909, Graham represented Sacramento at a meeting of the Pacific Coast League and was awarded a new franchise in the league.25 At the same time, he continued to serve as a scout for the Boston Red Sox.26

A look at Graham’s personality was provided in an article in the July 25, 1909, Los Angeles Times. It said he was a “man of considerable property. He would just as soon be running an automobile garage or a grocery store; only he happened to invest in a baseball team instead, and he has to go along to catch for the team to see that the factory hands are doing their work.” He was named an outlaw “but the baseball trust made him see the error of his ways and he not only came back into the fold himself, but brought back his whole team of prodigal sons with him.” Apparently Graham’s demeanor was unrelentingly serious – even grim – “nothing light or frivolous.”27

Graham played in 101 games for the new PCL team, batting .228. The team, still managed by him, finished fourth. The 1909 season had begun without a California State League team in the California capital, but on July 19, the league’s team in San Francisco had moved to Sacramento.

In 1910 there were again two clubs in Sacramento – and both of them were run by Graham. Sporting Life reported: “Charlie Graham, Pacific Coast League representative of the Sacramento Club, will control both Coast and State League clubs in his city, consequently he will be busy this Winter securing his players.”28 Carlos Bauer explains that in 1910, the California State League was formally a PCL minor league, and the Sacramento club was called the Baby Senators (the PCL team from Sacramento being the Senators).29

Charles Graham served on the schedule committee. His Coast League team finished in last place, at 83-128 and a distant 39 games from first place. Graham put himself into seven games; he collected his final hit as a ballplayer, the only hit he had all year. He was 1-for-16 (.063).

Rather than acrimony after Graham departed Boston abruptly, and indicative of an ongoing close relationship with Red Sox owner John I. Taylor (the Boston team had taken on the “Red Sox” name in December 1907), it was Taylor who sold Graham his interest in the Sacramento club.30

Graham announced his retirement on November 6, 1910, left his career as a player behind, and focused on the business of running the ballclub. Taylor and the Red Sox helped out, effectively making Sacramento a farm team. On one date in February 1911, the Red Sox trimmed their roster and sent nine players to Sacramento.31

Graham managed Sacramento through 1912, but then left to pursue other business interests, hiring Harry Wolverton to take over as manager. “Charley Graham, the man who has piloted the Sacramento team for several seasons, is to quit and to indulge in business for himself,” Sporting Life reported. “Graham was one of the most popular men in the Pacific Coast league and his determination to retire from the game is causing a lot of weeping.”32 Graham retained an ownership stake in the team.

Near the end of the 1914 season, Sacramento moved to San Francisco and became the short-lived Missions. Graham was drawn back in due to the financial straits of the ballclub. He worked to try to save the team, and headed a group that intended to buy it and install it in Sacramento in 1915 but it was not to be.33 It wasn’t until 1918 that there was again a PCL team in Sacramento. When it was formed, Graham was named secretary. But another opportunity beckoned.

Graham had devoted himself almost full time to his automobile business and electrical contracting work until he returned to the business of baseball in 1918. The San Francisco Seals came up for sale, and Graham joined to buy a share of the team. He purchased the Seals with Dr. Charles Strub, George Putnam, and Thomas J. Stephens (who acquired a 20 percent share). Strub knew Graham because he had played for Graham at Santa Clara.34 Graham took over as field manager of the Seals partway through that season, on July 1. As co-owner of the club, he managed the Seals through the 1922 season, and was listed as a vice president. The first year was a struggle, of course, since the Coast League – like all of baseball – closed down partway through the season – they played 103 games and suspended operations on July 14, 1918. With the World War over, the team drew a league-best 350,000-plus fans to Recreation Park in 1919, helping right the financial ship.

From that point forward, and even until the week he died, Graham was actively involved in running his ballclub – making deals and all. Because of his active role as manager and owner of his team, The Sporting News upon his death more or less characterized him as the Connie Mack of the West Coast.35

While Graham managed the Seals, the club struggled to improve. From a fifth-place finish (in the six-team league) in the truncated 1918 season, the team finished sixth in 1919 (in what had grown to an eight-team league) and was much further from first place. The Seals improved to fourth place in 1920 and to third place (just two games out of first) in 1921. Along the way, Graham became president of the ballclub.

In early January 1922 Graham forthrightly stated his opposition to the baseball draft. He felt his opinion was the same as that of residents of the city: What sort of team would San Francisco have in the coming year? Had the draft been in operation, he would have had to sell five or six players to realize greater value rather than see them drafted and getting perhaps 10 percent of their true value.36 There were league battles over the next couple of decades, with Graham always right in the middle – deposing the president of the PCL in November 1923, shifting franchises around, altering playoff formats, and the like. He was active nationally as well, for instance serving in December 1931 with Warren Giles, then president of the Rochester Red Wings and later president of the National League, and San Antonio’s Harry Hammond on a special three-person committee to consider a “drastic reorganization” of the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs.37

As for playing baseball, 1922 was a good year for San Francisco; the Seals won the pennant. Graham was in charge and Dots Miller was the manager. The Seals won Coast League pennants in 1922, 1923, 1925, and 1928, and then again in 1931 and 1935, and – lastly under Graham’s leadership – in 1946.

It wasn’t always easy, and 1922 had seen Graham suffer the terrible loss of his youngest son, Joseph, when the 4-year-old boy had run in front of an automobile.

A considerable source of income for the team came from selling off its better players to major-league teams. With all their success in the standings in the Roaring Twenties, and feeling expansive, the club’s owners committed to plans to build a new ballpark, Seals Stadium. However, the Depression hit with double-barreled blows – the financing to build the park was based on valuations that had deteriorated, and attendance was understandably down. Strub lost a considerable part of his holdings, and Putnam died. It was all up to Graham.

The park was built and winning the pennant in its first year, 1931, certainly helped, but the Depression was in its depths the following years – attendance in 1932 was only 40 percent of what it had been in 1931, and remained there until it ticked up in 1935 when manager Lefty O’Doul won the pennant again. It wasn’t until 1937 that the team drew 200,000 again. Graham expressed pleasure midway through the ’37 season, and took a truly long view: “I can remember in the days when they said the bicycle would ruin baseball. Then they said it was the automobile that was killing off the fans’ interest. But baseball is having its greatest season since the depression. It’s survived the bicycles and the automobiles and I think the game is going to come back greater than ever in the next few years. … When the fans have money and you give them a show, baseball will never want for patronage.”38

Graham was so pleased that on November 2, 1937, he announced he was rehiring Lefty O’Doul as manager “from now on.” In effect, as a New York Times headline indicated, he’d hired him for life. And O’Doul even got a good raise.

The Sporting News extolled Graham for his business acumen: “The heavy mortgages on the Stadium kept Graham busy scraping together cash to remain in operation. He accomplished this with some of the most skillful financial tight-rope walking in the history of the Coast league. His genius for discovering and developing young players helped him time and again. He sold Joe Marty to meet one set of bills and Joe DiMaggio to settle another year’s debts. Dom DiMaggio and Bill Lillard lifted the mortgage temporarily and George Metkovich was another Samaritan.”39

Dominic DiMaggio had been named league MVP the week before his November 1939 sale to the Red Sox. He was the third DiMaggio to have his contract sold to a major-league team. Amusingly, when The Sporting News reported Dom’s sale, it observed, “But, alas, and regretfully, too, Graham is now all out of DiMaggios.”40 Perhaps in keeping with his concern for ballplayers, it was understood that the $40,000 purchase price would probably be shared with the player, with Dom receiving perhaps $10,000 of the price. The Seals also – importantly – were to receive two players.

Graham called out the New York Giants as being particularly “dumb” in player acquisition, saying that they had first call on, but passed on signing, Paul Waner, Frank Crosetti, Lefty Gomez, and Joe DiMaggio. In the DiMaggio case, the scout who looked him over for the Giants rejected him, saying he “didn’t like the way Joe wore his uniform.”41

There was the occasional bizarre deal, too. On March 15, 1933, the Seals traded “a case of mammoth Santa Clara prunes” to the Memphis Chickasaws to acquire first baseman Jack Fenton.42 It worked out well for Graham; Fenton, who played ten seasons in the minor leagues, hit a career-best .315 in 174 games. How big a hit the prunes may have been we do not know. Graham had earlier suggested that clubs work harder to trade players, even significant numbers of players, just to keep fresh faces on the team and keep fans from becoming bored.43 In September 1934 he argued for the adoption of a livelier baseball in order to pump up the offense.44

Prunes were probably not involved when Graham sent Lefty Gomez to a sanatorium “to fatten him up for the market before he sold him to the Yanks.”45

Graham was able to keep the team afloat throughout the Depression and World War II – no easy task. Finally, at the end of the war, Graham was able to find two people to help share his burden in Paul I. Fagan, who purchased a one-third interest in the team, and Graham’s own son, Major Charles J. Graham, who returned from overseas to become general manager. The war effort had rebuilt the economy and in 1945 the Seals drew 468,000. The first full year of the postwar period saw the Seals pull in 670,000 – record attendance for a minor-league club.

At least in part, Graham was able to find as many talented young players as he had because “Uncle Charlie” had welcomed semipro teams to play benefit games at Seals Stadium and even “fostered a program of insurance for the semipros that provided them with hospitalization. He threw open the park to high-school, grammar-school, CYO, and American Legion games, even though it cost money.” He said, “Baseball has to help support sandlot ball. Where else are we going to get our players?”46

He had lost his wife, Clara, in October 1939. She had rarely missed a Seals game, and among the many baseball people attending the funeral were Lefty O’Doul, Dominic DiMaggio, and Joe Cronin. There were three Graham children who survived – Mrs. Clare Smith, Charles J. (later the team GM), and Robert, who became a Jesuit priest.

Graham’s own relationship with O’Doul had endured. Lefty was a San Francisco native and had first pitched for the Seals as a rookie in 1917 and, save for a stretch in the Navy, worked for them through 1921. His 25-9 season for the Seals in 1921 set the stage for his sale to the New York Yankees. Graham and O’Doul remained in touch (Lefty played in the PCL for four years in the mid-1920s and – after he’d converted to become an outfielder – played for the Seals again in 1927, batting .378). Returning to the major leagues with the Giants and then the Phillies, he won two National League batting titles in 1929 (batting .398 for the Phils) and 1932 (.368 for the Dodgers). Graham hired him to manage the Seals beginning in 1935; O’Doul didn’t hesitate to insert himself into a (declining) number of games over the first six years of his tenure as manager.

“Lefty became almost another son to Graham. They never had a contract. When Charley wasn’t making money, O’Doul received little, and sometimes nothing. When there were profits, O’Doul shared accordingly, until in the last two years he became possibly the highest paid manager in minor league ball,” wrote Jim McGee in Graham’s obituary in The Sporting News.47 O’Doul managed the Seals through 1951.

Graham kept busy after his wife died. In November 1939 he announced that he had called for a survey of smaller California cities so that the Pacific Coast League could consider setting up a new circuit of Class C or Class D teams.48 The PCL did continue to act like a third major league with its own minor-league teams; in February 1941, for instance, Graham announced that he would farm out 30 or more rookies, 18 of them to a new California State League farm team in Bakersfield.49

From 1941 until his death, Graham also served as president of the Association of Professional Ballplayers of America. As the organization’s secretary/treasurer, Dick Beverage, explained in November 2012, “Graham was elected president of the Association in 1941, succeeding Walter Johnson.  Graham had never served on the board of the Association prior to his election in 1941.  He was not too eager to serve again in 1942, according to the minutes of the nominating committee, but was persuaded to do so in view of the beginning of World War II and the uncertainty of the times.50

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, all of baseball considered shutting down, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous letter giving the “green light” urged baseball to continue, as something encouraging morale for Americans. The PCL stayed open, though more than once before the 1943 season Graham said he didn’t think that season would be played, after night games had been banned for fear of the lights providing targets for Japanese bombers. He did make it clear that throwing one switch could bring about blackout for the whole of Seals Stadium and that it was “as good a bomb shelter as can be found in this locality.” The team was prepared to issue blackout checks – as they did with rain checks – should a game need to be called.51

Graham was on the committee representing postwar planning for both major- and minor-league baseball.

During the war, and as early as 1943, the United Automobile Workers union initiated demonstrations calling for racial integration in professional baseball. Graham’s response was reported to consider it a “touchy problem” but that he felt he “would be in a position to give negro players a chance after the war” and “suggested that prejudice be broken down first in the official government departments and the Army and Navy.”52

Graham was able to navigate a still heavily mortgaged ballclub through the war years, thanks to his ability to sell developing players. He promptly stocked up on overage and 4-F athletes and ever worked to ensure that the team would have enough baseballs to be able to play. He worked to draw fans to the ballpark, saying, “We may be first or we may be in the cellar, but we’ll be interesting either way.”53 The Seals finished second in 1944, and then won the seventh game of the PCL playoffs, beating Los Angeles.

Keeping it interesting in 1945, Paul Fagan hired a dance orchestra to play “a little hot-cha and sweet and low” at the stadium. It seemed to have the effect of speeding up the games a bit, too.54

In early 1945 Graham entered into a working agreement with the New York Giants that provided the Giants with first option on players the Seals had signed. Inking the agreement netted Graham another $50,000.55 It was a change for Graham, who had fervently argued in the past for prohibiting such affiliations. His sale of individual player contracts in the open marketplace had brought him $965,500 before the deal, he explained, but it seemed as though circumstances had brought about the end of an era.56

In the postwar period Graham pushed hard for the PCL to become officially recognized as a third major league, and was strongly opposed to the American or National League placing franchises on the West Coast. This effort intensified in 1947 and early 1948, talking about breaking the long-term agreement that defined the PCL as a minor league, giving draft rights to the major-league teams. Graham demanded, if nothing else, an “arbitrated price” for drafted players so they were not claimed by the big-league teams for amounts that could be as little as 20 percent of actual value.57

When the Seals began to sink in the standings in the second part of the 1947 season, some four months after Jackie Robinson had first integrated the National League, Graham was said to be seeking Sam Jethroe and negotiating for him through Abe Saperstein, the promoter and owner of the Harlem Globetrotters.58 Had he acted earlier, the Seals might have been the first PCL team to add an African American player, but they were not.

Death arrived for Graham at 4:15 A.M. on August 29, 1948. He was 70 years old. He had indeed worked for the Seals up to being admitted to Notre Dame Hospital in San Francisco, two days beforehand, for what seemed to be food poisoning, and was then diagnosed as an intestinal flu. Pneumonia quickly developed and he was placed in an oxygen tent.

On the day before he was admitted, Graham had written a “critical and sarcastic letter” to the Pacific Coast League president, Clarence “Pants” Rowland, upset that Rowland had ordered a replay of the end of a protested game against Oakland.59 The Seals were in first place on the day he died.

Postscript: Pursuing an entirely different career path was Father Robert Graham, S.J., who received his doctorate in political science and international law from the University of Geneva and became an important Vatican historian for more than 30 years. Father Graham – as indicated by some of his correspondence in his father’s Baseball Hall of Fame file – was a determined historian, and he became best known for his careful work documenting the role of Pope Pius XII during the years of the Third Reich. Graham defended the pope’s work against many critics who felt the church should have been more outspoken against Nazi rule. He worked as an editorial writer on the Jesuit weekly America for more than 20 years.



In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Graham’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball,, and were also sources.

Statistical information from the California League and the California State League was compiled by Carlos Bauer and graciously provided for this biography. Thanks to Bob Hoie for reading over this biography, and for encouraging me to include a fuller appreciation of Father Robert Graham.



1 E-mail to author from Carlos Bauer, October 19, 2012.

2 The Sporting News, September 8, 1948.

3 Sporting Life, August 5, 1899.

4 Sporting Life, September 9, 1899.

5 Sporting Life, April 7, 1900.

6 Sporting Life, October 13, 1900.

7 Sporting Life, November 10, 1900.

8 All California League and California State League statistics are as offered by Carlos Bauer; in the case of RBIs, which were not compiled officially at the time, they are estimates which he says are “based on a modified version of the Bill James formula.”

9 Sporting Life, August 27, 1904.

10 Sporting Life, October 22, 1904.

11 Sporting Life, November 25, 1905.

12 Sporting Life, July 8, 1905.

13 Sporting Life, October 14, 1905.

14 Letter from Robert A. Graham, S.J., to Joe Simenic dated May 8, 1972, and contained in Graham’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

15Undated latter from Baggerly to Graham, contained in Graham’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

16 Sporting Life, November 25, 1905.

17 Sporting Life, October 7, 1905.

18 See Sporting Life, August 5, 1905.

19 Sporting Life, February 3, 1906.

20 Boston Globe, February 11, 1906.

21 Boston Globe, March 1, 1906.

22 The June 23 Sporting Life used the word “deserted.”

23 Sporting Life, October 13, 1906.

24 Letter from Robert A. Graham, S.J., to Joe Simenic.

25 Los Angeles Times, January 23, 1909.

26 Boston Globe, January 29, 1909.

27 Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1909.

28 Sporting Life, December 4, 1909.

29 E-mail from Carlos Bauer, November 3, 2012. He further informs: “The league folded in June. There was no Cal St Lg in 1911, but in 1912 the league came back with different principals backing the league. I think Graham might have had a hand in the Cal St Lg franchise because several players that season played with both Sacramento clubs.” One can find in the January 25 Los Angeles Times, for instance, news of a special meeting of PCL directors the day before in which there is discussion of San Jose forming a franchise in the CSL and then a process of player selection; after San Jose’s Browne Willis had selected, he was “followed by Charles Graham, who selected from the remaining players enough men to form the nucleus for his Sacramento State League team.” Eight players Graham had selected were named and the opinion was expressed that “Graham has much the better of the selections.”

30 Story datelined December 19, 1911, in Sporting Life. The November 18 issue had first reported the sale. As it happens, Taylor apparently sold only a portion of his stake in Sacramento, for it is reported that he retained “controlling interest in the club.” Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1911.

31 Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1911.

32 Sporting Life, December 24, 1910.

33 See, for instance, the December 30, 1914, Los Angeles Times.

34 Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1918.

35 The Sporting News, September 8, 1948.

36 Los Angeles Times, January 6, 1922.

37 New York Times, December 2, 1931.

38 Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1937.

39 The Sporting News, September 8, 1948. The Dom DiMaggio deal, for instance, netted Graham $40,000, according to the November 16, 1939, Sporting News.

40 The Sporting News, November 16, 1939.

41 Hartford Courant, July 4, 1939.

42 New York Times, March 26, 1933.

43 Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1933.

44 Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1934.

45 Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1935.

46 The Sporting News, September 8, 1948.

47 Ibid.

48 Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1939.

49 Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1941.

50 E-mail from Dick Beverage, November 5, 2012.

51 The Sporting News, January 1, 1942.

52 Pittsburgh Courier, May 15, 1943.

53 The Sporting News, June 8, 1943.

54 The Sporting News, April 26, 1945.

55 Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1945. More detail is provided in The Sporting News of February 1, 1945.

56 Christian Science Monitor, February 3, 1945. It is perhaps worthy of note that for one year, 1942, the Seals were listed as an official farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Not until 1951, three years after Graham’s death, did they have an affiliation with another team.

57 Washington Post, January 26, 1948.

58 The Sporting News, August 6, 1947.

59 The Sporting News, September 8, 1948. See also the August 26 Los Angeles Times.

Full Name

Charles Henry Graham


April 24, 1878 at Santa Clara, CA (USA)


August 29, 1948 at San Francisco, CA (USA)

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