Born in Nashville on September 9, 1892, Dawson Francis “Tiny” Graham had a frame that did not match his nickname. Graham stood 6’ 2”, and his playing weight was 185.
He played with Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, between 1911-1913 where he played second base and centerfield.
The right-hander began his pro baseball career in 1913 with the Appalachian League’s Cleveland Counts (and then the Morristown Jobbers when the team moved mid-season), hitting .370. Morristown released him to the Roanoke Tigers of the Virginia League in 1914, where he hit for a .295 average.
A first baseman, Graham was sold to the Cincinnati Reds by the Roanoke club on July 1, 1914, but was released by the Reds late in the season after playing in 25 games and batting .230 on only 14 hits in 61 plate appearances.
By April of 1915, Tiny was competing with Toronto veteran Tim Jordan for the Maple Leafs’ first base job. Under manager Bill Clymer Graham had 146 hits in 506 plate appearances for a .289 average. The Leafs made a managerial change next season, naming Joe Birmingham to lead the club, and Graham increased his hit production to 164 and his batting average to .294.
Graham played for Toronto again in 1917, this time under the tutelage of future Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie, reporting from his home in Nashville “in excellent shape”. However, Graham’s average slipped to .267, and in the spring of 1918, he was released to Chattanooga of the Southern Association.
A .275 average for the Lookouts did not please Sammy “Strang” Nicklin, president of the club. Reporting to Chattanooga in 1919, Graham sat out the beginning of spring training. Nicklin said he offered the big first baseman had been offered to a Texas League and International League team with no success. Surprisingly, Graham was allowed to umpire the Lookouts’ first inter-squad game.
Eventually signing with Chattanooga, Graham was unconditionally released mid-season. When Nashville’s first baseman Dick Kauffman decided he could make more money playing with a semi-pro team in his home state of Pennsylvania and suddenly left the team, manager Roy Ellam immediately filled the void in the Vols infield by signing Graham.
Graham’s season average was .248 on 86 hits between the two Southern Association clubs.
He played nine seasons in the minors. Interestingly, he did not bat for a higher average than he did his first season, but in his last season, he hit .316 for Oklahoma City in 1921.
Graham retired from baseball after the 1921 season. He returned to Nashville and played with local semi-pro teams and refereed boxing and wrestling matches. Upon his death on December 29, 1962, he was buried in Calvary Cemetery in his hometown.
The Sporting News Player Contract Cards, https://digital.la84.org/digital/collection/p17103coll3/id/69251/rec/1, accessed November 19, 2020.
© 2020 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.