Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Moonlight" Graham

I originally wrote this story last year when the Minnesota Twins were celebrating "Moonlight Graham" day at the Metrodome. It marked the 100th anniversary of an odd footnote in Baseball history. It is such a good story that I thought it deserved revisiting
Those who have watched "Field of Dreams "or read the book, "Shoeless Joe" that it is based on are familiar with the character Archibald "Moonlight" Graham portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the movie. What is not well known is that Archibald Graham was a real person.

Following a highly successful minor league career with the Charlotte Hornets of North Carolina League, Archibald Wright Graham made his major league debut on June 29, 1905, with the New York Giants. It was the same day he retired from professional baseball. With a ten run lead over the Brooklyn, Superbas (Dodgers) after eight innings, Giant manager John McGraw made a defensive change, replacing George Brown with "Moonlight" Graham in right field. When three quick infield outs by the Superbas (Dodgers) ended the game, along with Graham's only chance to face a big league pitcher, he became an unusual footnote in Baseball history for having never touched a ball or faced a pitcher.

One of the beefs against Graham was he missed spring training because he was attending Medical School. Graham subsequently completed medical school and eventually settled in Chisolm, Minnesota.

Chisolm is a very blue collar town in Minnesota's Iron Range. It is known for brutal winters and hard economic swings. When times were tough in Chisolm, Graham was known to have winked at rent. If kids were hungry, he seemed to have lunch money for them. If the mines were slow, he seemed to have toothbrushes and theater tickets for the kids. He was known as someone who was always there when people needed him. Graham lived in Chisolm until his death in 1965.

According to his biographer, Graham was accurately portrayed by Burt Lancaster in "Field of Dreams".

In this time of prima donna multi millionaire athletes with no redeeming talent beyond an ability to play a meaningless game, it was good that Graham was recognized for who and what he was outside of the sport he loved. He was an individual that let his life define him, not his sport.

8 comments:

Notsocranky Yankee said...

I didn't know Graham's story. Thanks for sharing it! You can see the compassion in his eyes...

Baseball is just a job these days. When Johnny Damon went to the Yankees this year, it really hit home for us Red Sox fans.

Åsa said...

Mal! It always makes me feel like there is hope for humankind when I hear about people like this!

It irritates me that the sports people make so much money that you can't afford tickets to a game if you want to bring your kids. Unless you bring home the same salary as the players of course...

Thanks for sharing :-)

Fantastagirl said...

Interesting...He chose his education over a sport...and because of his education I am sure he saved countless lives, and helped a great many. We need more people like him in the world today.

sage said...

thanks for the story. I've both seen the movie and read the book (but that was years ago). You're right, in this day of high priced athletics, he's a good reminder of what's important in life.

Bossy♥'s YOU said...

what a great story..I need to let my son read this;)

Saur♥Kraut said...

How wonderful that such amazing individuals exist. It gives the rest of us hope.

Ed Abbey said...

I knew of Grahams story but then again, I have the advantage since the real "Field of Dreams" is practically in my backyard. As a result, there was a lot of media coverage before and after the movie.

On a related note, I saw the movie for the first time while on RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) with perhaps 500 other bicyclists. When the line, "No, it's Iowa," was uttered in response to the question asking if it was heaven, a deafening roar almost lifted the roof off of that theater.

Leesa said...

Like others have said, thanks for sharing Graham's story. It was very interesting.