Milwaukee: Famous for Beer and Tall Baseball Players???
Over the years Milwaukee has been known for a number of things it produced, most famously beer. But how many of us knew Milwaukee was the home of the tallest–and perhaps the two tallest–baseball players in the land in 1884?
This story starts with a story in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat of April 12, 1884, which stated O.R. Casey, the center-fielder of the Minneapolis club of the Northwestern League, was the tallest man playing ball in the country, at 6 feet 4 1/2 inches. The Milwaukee Sentinel of April 21, pointed out the tallest player was actually Graham of the Chicago Reserve team, standing 6 feet 7 1/2 inches. The Sentinel stated Graham was a Milwaukeean and formerly an employee of the Wisconsin Central Railway Company.
This story sent me a-searchin’. Graham was Harry W. Graham. He worked in the freight-auditing department of the Wisconsin Central, and played for their baseball team in 1883. [The only city directory I could find Harry W. Graham in was the 1883 directory, which gave his employment as W.C.R.R. and his residence as 725 Franklin–which later would be re-numbered as 1451 No. Franklin.] According the the January 1, 1884, Milwaukee Sentinel Graham played in 12 games for the Railway team. In these games the paper reported he went to bat 53 times and was only put out 21 times; scored 32 runs, had four home runs, ten triples, eight doubles and 11 singles (O.K. this adds up to 33 hits, either way he hit over .600!!). Graham was the team’s catcher, a position “which he filled with great credit, capturing the long fouls and tips with ease, and his base throwing was perfect, as the number of outs at second base will testify.”
A new major league–The Union Association–as being formed, and some National League clubs and minor league teams were fielding these Reserve teams to gobble up players to prevent them from signing with the Union Association. The Chicago National League team signed Graham in December 1883, to play on their Reserve team. Albert Spalding, president of the Chicago club, was quoted as saying of Graham: “He is 6 feet 7 inches high, and comes here with a splendid reputation as a ball-player. He is big enough to play well, surely, and if he only turns out to be as good as he looks I shall be satisfied.” The Sentinel reported even at 6 feet 71/2 inches Graham was “quick as a cat in all the points of the game.”
Harry Graham started 1884 with the Chicago Reserve team , as a first-baseman, playing “a beautiful game, both on the base and at the bat” according to the Cleveland Herald. By June the Reserve teams around the country were folding and Graham was not signed by any professional club, National League, Union Association, or minor league.
Some footnotes to this story
Two other Milwaukee players signed and played for the reserve Chicago Colts: Tommy Lee, a pitcher and Doug Young, a catcher.
O.R. Casey is Orrin Robinson Casey, 25 years old in 1884. He had played 9 games with Detroit in the National League in 1882, then a few seasons in the minors.
Another player who played professional baseball in 1884, in Milwaukee with the minor Northwestern team, and then the Milwaukee Union Association team, was Anton Falch. Falch, at 6 feet 6 inches, was also taller than the stated height of O.R.. Casey’s 6 feet 4 1/2 inches. [Anton Falch has a story in the archives of this site.]