Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dan Graham, 1982 Donruss #455

I just picked up another great book by ESPN's resident baseball stathead, Rob Neyer: Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups, which was published in 2002 and should be self-explanatory. He goes team-by-team and presents their all-time lineups: best lineup, second-best, best single season, best rookie season, best defense, worst defense, biggest busts, "used-to-be-great", and best nicknames. Because I was determined to be patient and didn't want to just skip ahead, I was relieved that the Baltimore Orioles came near the top in alphabetical order.

You can probably guess the all-time O's lineup. Rick Dempsey was at catcher, largely on the strength of his defense, and Bobby Grich stood at second between Eddie and Cal. (That's the only position that might change if Neyer drew up the lineup today. Brian Roberts still might not unseat the defensively superior Grich, but with his doubles power, speed, and on-base skills, it would be a tight race.) One of the eye-openers for me was the catcher for the All-Rookie team, Mr. Dan Graham.

Graham was before my time, as he was out of the majors by the time I was born. My family has never said a word about him, and he hasn't come up in any of the books that I've read about the Orioles. All I knew of him were the slightly goofy pictures on his handful of baseball cards, which have only come into my collection in the last year or two. It's to my detriment that I didn't have the curiosity to flip one of these cards over and read the back.

After going 0-for-4 with the Twins in his first two major league games in 1979, Dan was traded to the Birds for first baseman Tom Chism, a fellow 24-year-old rookie who went...0-for-3 in 1979. That's a funny sort of trade. Anyway, Graham got a fair amount of playing time in 1980 as Rick Dempsey's backup (285 plate appearances in 86 games), and really did play well. He hit .278 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI, placing him fourth on the team in longballs. It seemed that Earl Weaver had found another of his beloved platoons (the righty Dempsey hit .303 vs. LHP, while lefty Graham hit .293 vs. RHP). If nothing else, he had a little pop behind the plate when he wanted to give the Dipper a blow.

But the strike-shortened 1981 campaign was a disaster for Dan. He batted a paltry .176 and his production disappeared: a pair of home runs and eleven RBI in 142 at-bats. He had four errors and seven passed balls in 40 games behind the plate, so it's not like his defense was enough to keep him going. He spent all of 1982 in Rochester before packing his things and going home. Where have you gone, Dan Graham?


night owl said...

That book is fantastic. I bought it 3 or 4 years ago. Completely and totally fascinating.

Orioles Magic said...

That sounds like a great book and I really like that Graham card. All the cards I have of him just show him standing/sitting for a picture.

jacobmrley said...

All the Neyer books are great: the Lineups, the Dynasties, the Bloopers (my favorite) and the Neyer/James pitching book. Even 'feeding the green monster', yet another author diary of a red sox season (this one the disasterous 2001 year) is worth a read.

Listmaker said...

i was 7 years old in 80. my friends and i all loved dan graham. i can't remember the details but i'm pretty sure he was super hot in the spring - maybe even a game winning homer or 2? or a hot streak of a number of homers in a week.

anyway, my memory of him is that for a brief spell during that season, we would argue over who got to be dan graham in our backyard baseball games. he was even more popular than eddie for a few weeks.

as much as i loved joe nolan just a few seasons later, he could never take the place of dan graham in my heart.

dinged corners said...

Kevin, your address hasn't changed, has it?

Kevin said...

night owl and Max - My favorite book of his is still the Blunders book (I think that's the one you mean, Max). He talks about a bunch of historical bad trades, shaky managerial moves, and miscellaneous disasters (like 10 cent beer night in Cleveland).

O's Magic - Yeah, I think my others are all portraits.

Listmaker - Great to hear from someone who remembers Dan Graham's glory days!

Patricia - I thought I replied to your email a few weeks ago. I'll follow up.