Graham led the Cleveland Browns to four AAFC titles and three NFL championships. He set the precedent by which today's quarterbacks are measured. His number 14 is retired by the Browns and he was enshrined in the Hall in 1965.
He was a tailback in college at Northwestern and was switched to a T-quarterback in the pros. He led the Browns to a divisional or league title in each of his 10 years with the Browns (AAFC, 1946-49; NFL, 1950-55) and earned All-League honors nine times. He topped all AAFC passers four times and was the NFL's leading passer twice.
He took part in 121 touchdowns (88 passing, 33 rushing) during his six NFL seasons, while his NFL passing totals included 872 completions in 1,565 attempts for 13,499 yards.
His 158.33 quarterback rating, the highest possible mark under the NFL's quarterback rating system, was accomplished in a 31-7 win over the Chicago Cardinals on October 10, 1954 remains one of only two perfect rating games in team history. He holds the club record for highest completion percentage in a season (64.73; 167-258, 1953).
And Warren Spahn passed away in November at the age of 82. Spahn holds a special place with me because he was one of my father's heroes in the 1950's and I always made the connection of Spahn and Phil Niekro (my hero growing up and a spitting image of my father, seriously! Just ask Tom Rowland, he asked for his autograph at the Cherokee Restaurant about 20 years ago).
Spahn compiled a 363-245 record with a 3.09 ERA in 1942 and from 1946 through 1964 with the Boston and Milwaukee Braves and 1965 with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. His 363 wins are sixth on major league baseball's overall victory list and tops for southpaws.
Spahn ranks 8th all time in innings (5243), 20th in strikeouts (2583), 11th in games started (665), 21st in complete games (382), and 6th in shutouts (63). Some ranks aren't spectacular but most of the players ahead of him played in the era of 500 innings pitched and 40-win seasons.
Spahn was a 14-time National League All-Star, and won 20 or more games in a season 13 times, a N. L. record, and led the league in wins eight times, in ERA three times and in complete games nine times. Spahn was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 1957 and pitched two no-hitters in his career, the last a 1-0 win over the Giants on April 28, 1961, at the age of 40. From 1947-63, he tossed at least 16 complete games and collected 20 or more wins during 13 of those seasons. The southpaw was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1973, the first year he was eligible, and was a member of baseball's All-Century Team.
He was immortalized in August with a larger-than-life bronze statue in front of Turner Field.
What makes his accomplishments even more remarkable is the fact that his career was shortened while he served a three-year tour of duty in World War II, where he received a battlefield commission. His first big-league win didn't come until he was 25 years old in 1946.
"You know, the thing that amazes me, well, the 363 wins definitely," fellow Cooperstown member Niekro said earlier this summer. "But you know he was in the Army for four years in his prime. If you take those four years and put them back into Major League Baseball, he probably wins another 30, 40 or 50 games, and that puts him above 400 [wins]."
"Spahnie would joke around when he wasn't pitching, but when it was his turn, it was business,"
Johnny Logan said. "I remember times when the bases were loaded or it was a crucial moment, and when [Braves manager] Fred Haney would approach the pitcher's mound, Spahnie would say, 'What do you want?' "Haney said, 'Are you gonna get this guy out?' Spahnie would say, 'I'm not going to depend on my relievers to do it. I'll get him out.'"
One of Spahn's greatest competitive moments actually resulted in a Braves loss. On July 3, 1963, a 42-year-old Spahn locked up in a classic duel with a 25-year-old Giants right-hander named Juan Marichal. The two future Hall of Famers each worked into the 16th inning of a scoreless game, neither one conceding to a reliever, that ended when Willie Mays hit a solo homer off Spahn.
Spahn was, for everyone in baseball, the ultimate representative of a different era in pitching. . His career was a triumph of not only skill, but of determination, diligence, and dexterity. In the years in which he was well beyond his physical pitching peak, he was still winning 20 games per season.
Spahn began his career with the Boston Braves but it was after the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953 that Spahn achieved his greatest prominence and success. In the next 11 seasons in Milwaukee, Spahn won 20 games nine times, averaged nearly 21 victories per season, and in 1963, at the age of 42, won 23 games. The Braves never had a losing season in Milwaukee and won the World Series in 1957.
Along with Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, Spahn was at the core of the Braves' triumph over the vaunted New York Yankees in the '57 Series. The Braves returned to the Series in '58 but the Yanks evened the score.
Spahn's presence highlighted closing ceremonies at Milwaukee County Stadium in September 2000, where he stated, "This has been a part of my life. I came here as a young man, and I'm leaving as an old man."