John Gladstone Graney
Left Fielder, 1908, 1910-1922
Broadcaster (Radio), 1932-1944, 1946-1953
Height: 5' 9" Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Acquired: Purchased, 9-1-1907 (Wilkes-Barre)
Left Via: Release, June 1922
Graney had two lengthy careers with the Indians. He broke into the big leagues under manager Nap Lajoie, finished his playing career under manager Tris Speaker 12 years later, and after a decade away from the Indians, became the first player to become a broadcaster in the new radio medium, becoming popular with an entirely new generation of Cleveland fans.
Graney was born in St. Thomas, Ontario in 1886, and from an early age showed great skill in several sports, but especially baseball and hockey. While playing semi-pro ball in 1917, he was discovered and signed as a left-handed pitcher by the Chicago Cubs, but would never make the major-league club. After finishing the 1907 season with Wilkes-Barre of the New York State League, he was sold to Cleveland.
The following spring (1908) he reported to Macon, Georgia, Cleveland's spring training grounds. He was a cocky rookie, calling even veterans by their first names, something that simply wasn't done at the time. Graney had a very good fastball, but little control of it; after throwing a couple innings at the major-league level, he missed a month after breaking his finger on a line drive. He eventually returned to the big-league club, but after throwing wildly in an intrasquad game (including hitting Lajoie in the head), he was shipped to the minors:
"Here's a rail ticket to Portland [Lajoie said]. I figure anybody as wild as you belongs in the Wild West."
-The Pitch That Killed
In Portland, Graney would walk 111 batters over the remainder of the season (217 innings), and in the following season would walk batters at the same rate. Part-way through through the season, his manager decided that he'd be more valuable player in the field, and sent Graney to the outfield. His performance as a hitter earned him a ticket to Cleveland's spring training in 1910, and he made the club as its regular left fielder.
Because of League Park's unusual dimensions (think of League Park's outfield as the polar opposite of Fenway Park, with a very high fence in right field and a huge left field), Graney's range and arm was more valuable in left. Had he played in a normal park, he probably would have been a right fielder.
Graney was an unusual hitter for his era. He was a very patient hitter, preferring to work a pitcher, perhaps understanding first-hand the frustrations that come with batters laying off a pitcher's offerings. He was know as "Three-and-Two Jack," as most of his at-bats tended to end up at a full count. Graney would lead the league in walks twice (1917 and 1919), and most seasons collected more walks than strikeouts. His approach went against the grain in the Deadball Era, which was characterized by aggressive line-drive hitting.
Jack was the first player to face Babe Ruth in the major leagues when he led off the game against the pitcher on July 11, 1914. He'd also be the first player to appear in a major-league game with a number on his uniform when he led off the game on June 26, 1916. He was fixture in the outfield from the end of the Lajoie era to the beginning of the Speaker era, most of the time a solid regular. His best season came in 1916, when he posted a 116 OPS+ and co-led the league in doubles (41) in 1916.
Graney's peak came during some lean years, and by the time the Indians were contenders again with Speaker, Coveleski, and Chapman, Graney was on the downside of his career. He lost his starting job to Charlie Jamieson in 1920 after missing some time with tonsillitis, and would serve as pinch-hitter/platoon player for the Tribe's championship season.
Graney and Ray Chapman were close friends; Jack was Ray's roommate on the road, and he and "Chappie" were two of the regulars in the team's singing quartet. So when Ray died after being struck in the head by a pitch in August of 1920, he took the tragedy as bad as anyone on the club. He "wept openly and bitterly" after hearing the bad news, and fainted upon seeing Chapman's body at a public viewing. He and Speaker allegedly got into a fight over the location of the funeral; Chapman was a Protestant and Speaker objected to having the service held at a Catholic church. That objection allegedly led to he and Graney and O'Neill (both Catholics) fighting, and neither Speaker nor Graney would attend the service. Years later, Graney would be as bitter over Mays' pitch as ever:
"People ask me today if I still feel Mays threw at Chappie. My answer has always been the same - yes definitely."
-Deadball Stars of the American League
Graney would play a couple more seasons with the Indians, then went to the minors to be a player/manager with Des Moines in 1922. After the season, Graney retired and opened a successful Ford dealership in Cleveland. He eventually moved into investments, and would lose everything in the 1929 stock market crash.
That's when he turned to broadcasting; he was hired by Cleveland station WHK to broadcast Indians games. From 1932 to 1953, with only a short hiatus in the mid-40s, he was radio voice of the Indians. From his obituary:
His philosophy was a simple one. "I just try to follow the ball," he would say, "and leave fancy words to the others."
But there was a lot more to it than that. Graney never lost his love or enthusiasm for baseball, and that came across the air. When he talked you could smell the resin in the dugout, hear the sweet, clean crack of ball against bat, and dream of being a big leaguer.
Graney didn't try to embellish. He just told you what he saw. He never knocked the players, or grumbled that the games were too slow. He always had his eye out for a bit of humor and he'd tell you something funny with a chuckle.
But basically he was a straight baseball detail man, with an unconsciously unique style. Who can ever forget it: "There's a hot smash toward third. Keltner comes up with the throw to first. He's out," Or, "It's a h-i-g-h popper." The way he said it you knew it was really high.
Graney was fixture in hotel lobbies on the road, and was a favorite of both players and managers. When Bobby Avila had trouble adjusting to a new culture and language, Graney took him under his wing. He was also a close friend of Ted Williams.
Jack moved with his wife Pauline to Missouri after retiring from broadcasting to be near their daughter. Jack Graney died in 1978 at the age of 92.
|162 Game Avg.||162||645||544||82||136||25||9||2||49||17||82||57||.250||.354||.342||.696||101||5||14|