If you happened to read the transactions section on December 8th, 1979 you probably would have missed it. The previous day, the Detroit Pistons fired their General Manager, a guy named Dick Vitale. At the winter meetings in Toronto, the Montreal Expos pulled off a big trade for Ron LeFlore, who would lead the N.L. in stolen bases in 1980.
Just after that was this note:
MINNESOTA (AL) – Traded infielder Dan Graham to
Baltimore for first baseman Tom Chism.
Between the two of them, Graham and Chism had a total of seven big league at-bats and zero hits.
“It looks like deals like this are the only ones you can make these days,” Orioles G.M. Hank Peters told the media. They’re unencumbered, uncomplicated.”
Graham was playing winter ball in Venezuela when he heard he news and he was thrilled. He was buried behind 1979 Rookie of the Year John Castino at 3rd, Ron Jackson at 1st and Butch Wynegar at catcher. A trade gave him a new start and he was ready to take advantage of it.
Once Spring Training rolled around, Graham immediately impressed people with his bat. He put up 20 or more homers in three different seasons in the minor leagues, but after his batting average slipped to just .213 in 1979, the Twins felt he was expendable while the Orioles saw potential.
He hit .346 to begin the year in Rochester and got the call to the big leagues in May and collected nine hits in his first 16 at-bats, including home runs in his first two starts.
Player of the Week
After a rough June, he caught fire in July, hitting .302 and driving in 20 runs in just 15 games. The highlight of the month was a three game series against the Twins where he went 6-11 with two homers and 13 RBI, earning him Player of the Week honors.
Graham became so popular in Baltimore that among the items up for bid at the Orioles charity auction, along with a pair of jockey shorts signed by Jim Palmer, was a 30 minute fielding practice session with the new slugger.
The new star hit three more homers in just 13 August games, and as the Orioles battled the Yankees for the A.L. East flag, Graham hit .313 with six homers in 80 at bats down the stretch. He finished the year at .278 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs as a part-time player.
Baltimore seemed to be set with a platoon of Graham and Rick Dempsey behind the plate. But just as quickly as he burst onto the scene, Graham lost his mojo in 1981. He hit just .176 in 55 games. He spent 1982 in AAA and retired.