May 31, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
In a historic photo displayed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame that features Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Cy Young, Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie, Canadian Jack Graney is the star.
“How can this be?” you ask.
Well, it’s because Graney, a St. Thomas, Ont., native and outfielder with the Cleveland Naps at the time, is the only player who’s in the photo twice.
Yes, if you look closely at the classic panoramic photo (below) that was snapped of the Naps and a team of all-stars from the other big league clubs at a benefit game for the family of Naps ace Addie Joss at League Park on July 24, 1911, you’ll see Graney twice. He is both third from the left and last on the right.
Joss had died suddenly at age 31 on April 14 of tubercular meningitis, leaving his wife and children behind with little financial security. So, the benefit game was organized to raise money for them.
But just how did Graney manage to appear in this photo twice?
Well, at that time, a panoramic photo was taken with a specialized camera that employed a long roll film. And to capture a lengthy line of players like this, the camera would slowly pan from left to right.
It’s believed that after the camera had slowly panned past Graney on the left side that the playful outfielder then snuck around the camera person and rejoined the line on the far right – a gag that made an already legendary photo even more memorable.
How legendary is this photo at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown?
Well, Hall president Josh Rawitch has devoted an entire wall to it in his office.
“We were looking for something unique to cover a whole wall, so I had that photo blown up,” said Rawitch. “It’s probably 12-feet long . . . And when I have people come into my office, I share with them the story behind the [Addie Joss benefit] game and just how unique this photo is. There are just so many elements to it.”
Rawitch explains to visitors that this photo highlights one of the first major league all-star events. He also points out that Cobb is pictured in a Cleveland jersey because his Detroit Tigers jersey didn’t arrive on time. But he usually saves the story about Graney being in it twice to the end. He explains to them how Graney was an outfielder with Cleveland who was the first to bat against Babe Ruth and later became the first player to become a broadcaster. Then he points out that Graney is in the photo twice.
“In my mind, it sums up in one single photo a million different things but also just gives you an idea of the sorts of photos we have in our collection,” Rawitch said of the photo’s appeal. “People all know who Walter Johnson is and who Ty Cobb is, but they might not know who Jack Graney is.”
Hall of Fame senior curator Tom Shieber knew about this photo even before he started working at the Hall in 1998. On top of being on the wall in Rawitch’s office, this photo is featured in the Hall’s “Picturing America’s Pastime” exhibit and its companion travelling exhibit.
Shieber has shown the photo to many visitors over the years.
“There’s a lot to this photo,” he said. “Setting aside the historical context, it’s a beautiful image. Beyond that, the stories that it tells are myriad. You’ve got the story of the tragedy of Addie Joss passing away in the spring of 1911. The effort of the ballplayers, the owners of the Cleveland ball club and the American League executives to stage a benefit for Joss’s widow and two children.
“Then there’s the who’s who of the lineup – not just the all-stars on the right side, but some of the greats playing for Cleveland on the left side, like Cy Young and Joe Jackson and Nap Lajoie and Jack Graney. And then yes, there’s the other story you can tell about panoramic photographs and the fact that you can play this trick [that Graney did].”
Shieber says the photo also appeals to visitors who aren’t passionate baseball fans.
“Sometimes I’m giving tours and not necessarily everyone on the tour is interested in the baseball aspect of the image or the big names, but the story of this photo goes well beyond baseball,” explained Shieber. “And every time I’ve shown this photo to people – for those who do not know about the trick [that Graney pulled] . . . and explain what is going on and how a panoramic camera works . . . it always gets a laugh.”
As noted earlier, after parts of 14 seasons as an outfielder with Cleveland, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for Cleveland from 1932 to 1953. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presents the Jack Graney Award each year to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
Graney passed away in 1978 but he was honoured posthumously with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.
His granddaughter Perry Smith travelled to Cooperstown and made the acceptance speech on his behalf. Smith is also well aware of this photo and treasures it.
“Several years ago, my husband Ernie and I visited the Hall for the first time,” said Smith. “We had asked to see the information they have about Jack in their archives, so we were invited into the back room where we had to wear white gloves to handle the clippings and other items they have about Jack. That’s when they asked us if we had ever seen the photo. Someone from the Hall took us upstairs to the photo gallery where it is displayed. I asked if it would be possible to get a copy. They very kindly said that normally they charge $65 to copy any photo, but because this was one of their favourites (due to Jack being in the picture twice, as well as many famous players), they offered to give us one for free. They sent it to our home where we had it framed, and we proudly have it hanging in our living room in Florida.”
Smith discussed the photo again with Rawitch last summer prior to her speech on behalf of her grandfather on induction weekend. She says the gag her grandfather played in the photo is consistent with the man she remembers.
“Jack had an Irish sense of humor,” said Smith. “He had a happy disposition and did not complain about things. So, it would be totally in his character to be in the photo twice. As I said in the acceptance speech, he was always telling jokes.”
And Graney’s sense of humor, and his starring role in this legendary photo, has provided Hall staff and its visitors with many chuckles over the years. It has also given the trailblazing Canadian outfielder and broadcaster a sacred spot on the Hall president’s wall.
“I not only have one photo of Jack Graney in my office, I have two,” joked Rawitch.