Frank Graham (writer)
Frank Graham in 1948 covering the Army-Navy football game
|Born||November 12, 1893
Harlem, New York
|Died||March 9, 1965
The Bronx, New York
Cause of death
|Residence||New Rochelle, New York|
|Employer||New York Sun (1915–1943), New York Journal-American (1945–1965)|
|Known for||"Writers wing," Baseball Hall of Fame, 1972|
Frank Graham, Sr. (November 12, 1893 – March 9, 1965) was an American sportswriter and biographer. He covered sports in New York for the New York Sun from 1915 to 1943 and for the New York Journal-American from 1945 to 1965. He was also a successful author, writing biographies of politician Al Smith and athletes Lou Gehrig and John McGraw, as well as histories of the New York Yankees, New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Graham's writing style was notable for his use of lengthy passages of "unrelieved dialogue" in developing portraits of the persons about whom he wrote. Graham was posthumously inducted into the "writers wing" of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1972. He was also posthumously honored in 1997 by the Boxing Writers Association of America with its highest honor, the A.J. Liebling Award.
Graham was born in 1893 in the East Harlem section of New York City. His mother died during child birth, and he was raised by his grandmother and sister. He contracted spinal meningitis as a boy and lost vision in one eye. He completed only one semester of high school at New York's High School of Commerce. From 1909 to 1915, he worked as an office boy for the New York Telephone Company and developed an interest in boxing. He participated in several amateur boxing matches and wrote articles on boxing for Boxing magazine and the New York World.
New York Sun
In 1915, Graham was hired by the New York Sun. He covered the New York Giants' spring training in 1916. While working at the Sun, he became associated with Damon Runyan and Grantland Rice. He remained with the Sun for nearly 30 years. From 1934 to 1943, he wrote a column in the Sun called "Setting the Pace."
In 1943, Graham was hired as the sports editor at Look magazine, a position he held for one year. During the 1940s, Graham also published several books, including biographies of Lou Gehrig ("Lou Gehrig, A Quiet Hero," 1942), John McGraw ("McGraw of the Giants: An Informal Biography," 1944) and former New York Governor and U.S. Presidential candidate Al Smith ("Al Smith, American: An Informal Biography," 1945). He also wrote critically acclaimed team histories of the New York Yankees, New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers that remained in print more than 50 years later.
New York Journal-American
In 1945, Graham was hired by the New York Journal-American. He wrote a column for the Journal-American known as "Graham's Corner" until 1964. Condensed versions of his columns from the Journal-American were regularly featured in Baseball Digest and have fallen into public domain. Links to a number of his better-known columns are set forth below in the "Selected articles written by Graham."
Reputation and writing style
During his career as a sportswriter, Graham was known for his use of conversational dialogue as a device to develop a word portrait of athletes. His use of "unrelieved dialogue" as a writing device was said to be patterned on the work of Ernest Hemingway. In a foreword to a later edition of Graham's history of the Yankees, Leonard Koppett wrote, "He didn't take a lot of notes. He just absorbed what was being said – and what it meant in the right context – and reproduced it in graceful prose and natural speech. It is this style of narration through dialogue that makes his books come so alive."
It was through Graham's use of conversational dialogue that one of baseball's legendary quotes was recorded. Graham reported on a conversation with Leo Durocher during which New York Giants manager Mel Ott and his players walked out of the opposing dugout. Durocher pointed to them and told Graham, "Take a look at them. All nice guys. They'll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last." It was another Durocher conversation recorded by Graham that led to the nickname "Gashouse Gang" for the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals. Graham reported on a conversation between Durocher and Dizzy Dean. When asked if the Cardinals would win the pennant if they played in the American League, Durocher said, "They wouldn't let us in the other league. They would say we are a lot of gashouse ballplayers."
"A gentle man who seemed to walk on the tips of his toes as if he intended to pass through the world without disturbing anyone. ... The copy was pure and so was he. He typed it quickly on the toy machine with the dainty tapping of polite fingers. He frisked the characters of even the rogues for their good traits and cherished them for that. He was an original, this embarrassed poet, who changed sports writing, and brought to it the dignity of folk literature."
Sportswriter Arthur Daley wrote that, at a dinner in the 1940s honoring Graham, Grantland Rice had asked the speakers to blast Graham with "words of scathing condemnation." Giants' manager Mel Ott reportedly "stuttered" and "stammered" trying to find words of denunciation for Graham and finally said: "Dammit, Granny. I just can't, I gotta tell the truth. Frank Graham is the nicest, kindest, gentlest, finest, sweetest and most wonderful person I ever met in my life."
Despite his personal reputation as a gentleman, Graham was attracted to the shadowy underworld surrounding sport. In the "Dictionary of Literary Biography," Edward J. Tassinari wrote:
"[M]any of Graham's pieces reflect the New York ambience of the 1920s and the influences of Runyon and Hemingway in terms of characterization, atmosphere, and dialogue. Graham loved the offbeat, shadowy figures and rogues that dwelt on the fringes of his favorite sports – the gamblers, bookies, struggling horse trainers, and injury-riddled jockeys, and fight managers and promoters hustling for a buck or demonstrating the resiliency to continue in search of that elusive big payday."
Later years and family
Graham developed cancer in 1960. When Graham appeared at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1961 to accept a lifetime achievement award from the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, a UPI reporter covering the event wrote: "[T]he crowd rose to its feet in acknowledgement of one of the top writers in the country. And there weren't many dry eyes among them."
Graham's last column in the Journal-American was published in December 1964. In January 1965, Graham fell at his home in New Rochelle, New York, fracturing his skull. He died several days later at Nathan B. Etten Hospital in The Bronx.
Graham was married to Gertrude Lillian Whipp in 1923. They had four children. In 1981, Graham's son, Frank Graham, Jr., wrote a dual biography of himself and his father titled "A Farewell To Heroes."
Awards and honors
Graham was the recipient of numerous honors and awards for his writing. These include the following:
- In 1957, the Boxing Writers Association of New York presented Graham with the James J. Walker Award for "long and meritorious" service to boxing.
- In 1958, Graham received the Grantland Rice Award, presented each year to the outstanding sportswriter in the United States.
- In 1961, he received the William J. Slocum Award for "long and meritorious service" to baseball.
- In 1971, he was posthumously honored by the Baseball Writers Association of America with its highest honor, the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for distinguished baseball writing. As a recipient of the Spink Award, Graham was posthumously inducted into the "writers wing" of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1972.
- In 1997, Graham was posthumously honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America with the A.J. Liebling Award for outstanding writing about boxing.
Books written by Graham
- "Lou Gehrig, A Quiet Hero" (1942, G.P. Putnam's Sons)
- "The New York Yankees: An Informal History" (1943, G.P. Putnam's Sons)
- "McGraw of the Giants: An Informal Biography" (1944 G.P. Putnam's Sons)
- "The Brooklyn Dodgers: An Informal History" (1945, G.P. Putnam's Sons)
- "Al Smith, American: An Informal Biography" (1945, G.P. Putnam's Sons)
- "Baseball Wit and Wisdom: Folklore of a National Pastime" by Frank Graham and Dick Hyman (1952)
- "The New York Giants: An Informal History of a Great Baseball Club" (1952, G.P. Putnam's Sons)
- "Third Man in the Ring," by Ruby Goldstein and Frank Graham (1959, Funk & Wagnalls)
Selected articles written by Graham
- O'Doul – Frisco's Pride and Pal (Lefty O'Doul), Baseball Digest, November 1946
- Brightest Page in the Book (Joe Page), Baseball Digest, January 1948
- Herb Pennock (Herb Pennock), Baseball Digest, April 1948
- Still the Same Old Gomez (Lefty Gomez), Baseball Digest, September 1948
- They Warred Over Tinker (Joe Tinker), Baseball Digest, October 1948
- Death of a Ball Club: Newark, once greatest, killed by progress, Baseball Digest, February 1950
- He's Their Stanky Now: Polo Grounders take to 'Brat' (Eddie Stanky), Baseball Digest, September 1950
- I'm Palsies With Umps – Frisch (Frankie Frisch), Baseball Digest, January 1951
- Essick: Coast's Star Star-Picker (Bill Essick), Baseball Digest, March 1951
- Mantle of Prodigies for Mickey? (Mickey Mantle), Baseball Digest, June 1951
- Why Did Dolan Make Bribe Offer? 1924 scandal mystery lingers on (Cozy Dolan), Baseball Digest, August 1951
- Harry Heilmann, Truly Great (Harry Heilmann), Baseball Digest, September 1951
- Yogi Knows All Hitters But One (Yogi Berra), Baseball Digest, October 1951
- Old-Timers Day with the Yankees: Why McCarthy quit coaching lines (Joe McCarthy), Baseball Digest, November 1951
- Greatest Fight on a Ball Field: When Dixie Walker took on Senators (Dixie Walker), Baseball Digest, June 1953
- On Seeing Pie Traynor Again (Pie Traynor), Baseball Digest, October 1954
- On Seeing Tris Speaker Again (Tris Speaker), Baseball Digest, November 1954
- He Still Has Little Red Wagon: Pepper Martin, At 50, Belly-Whops Into Third (Pepper Martin), Baseball Digest, November 1954
- Room with Two Great Guys (Red Schoendienst/Stan Musial), Baseball Digest, October 1955
- Everybody Loves Yogi (Yogi Berra), Baseball Digest, January 1956
- The Man's Non-Stop Run: Musial sets exclusive 3,000th hit as goal (Stan Musial), Baseball Digest, July 1956
- Frisch and His All-Stars, Baseball Digest, Jan 1957
- In Which an Old Umpire-Rider Gets Taken for a Ride (Beans Reardon/Frankie Frisch), Baseball Digest, September 1957
- The Big Gap in the Ravine: L.A. mayor's slip of the tongue turns out to be prophetic (Los Angeles Dodgers), Baseball Digest, September 1958
- Are Hitters Asking For It? (Beanball), Baseball Digest, October 1958
- Tony Lazzeri Was Like This (Tony Lazzeri), Baseball Digest, February 1959
- What's So Funny About Yogi? Nothing, especially not his base-running or memory (Yogi Berra), Baseball Digest, June 1959
- Only the First Trade's a Shock (Red Schoendienst), Baseball Digest, February 1960
- The Youngs McGraw Never Forgot: Though he lived only to 30, he became Giant immortal (Ross Youngs), Baseball Digest, February 1960
- Of Grimes and Douglas: They were masters of the spitball (Burleigh Grimes/Phil Douglas), Baseball Digest, February 1962
- There Was Only One Benny Kauff: He was one of the most colorful of all Giants (Benny Kauff), Baseball Digest, February 1962
- The Year Babe Hit His 60: They knew him in hot spots and tank towns (Babe Ruth), Baseball Digest, March 1962
- The Joe McCarthy Method: He was tolerant or harsh, as the case indicated (Joe McCarthy), Baseball Digest, March 1962
- Mickey Mantle, M.V.P. (Mickey Mantle), Baseball Digest, February 1963
- The Making of an Outfielder (Leon Wagner), Baseball Digest, February 1963
- In Holland It's Honkball, Baseball Digest, May 1964
- The Puzzling Giants of '27 (1927 New York Giants), Baseball Digest, August 1964
- "Frank Graham, 71, Writer on Sports: Journal Columnist, in Field Nearly 50 Years, Dies". The New York Times. March 10, 1965. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- Ruby Goldstein and Frank Graham (1961). Third Man in the Ring. Funk and Wagnalls.
- Frank Graham, Jr., A Farewell To Heroes, pp. 72–73.
- Leonard Koppett's foreword to the 2002 printing of "The New York Yankees: An Informal History," published by Southern Illinois University Press.
- Vernon Parker (July 27, 2011). "On This Day in History: 'Nice Guys Finish Last'". Brooklyn Eagle. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- Edward J. Tassinari (2005–2006). Frank Graham from Dictionary of Literary Biography. Thomson Gale, a part of Thomson Corporation.
- Frank Graham, Jr. (1981). A Farewell To Heroes. The Viking Press. p. 300. ISBN 0-8093-2491-1.(quoting from Cannon's tribute)
- Arthur Daley (March 11, 1965). "Sports of the Times". The New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- "Veteran Diamond Scribe Honored: Frank Graham Hailed at Fete". The Washington Reporter (UPI story). January 30, 1951.
- "Frank Graham Rites Friday". The Telegraph. March 10, 1965.
- Frank Graham, Jr. (1981). A Farewell To Heroes. The Viking Press.
- "Patterson, Graham feted". The Leader-Post, Regina, Saskatchewan (AP story). January 27, 1957. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- "1971 J. G. Taylor Spink Award Winner Frank Graham". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
- Michael Katz (January 22, 1997). "Holyfield Rings In '96 Award". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 6, 2011.