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About Moonlight Graham
Archibald Wright "Moonlight" Graham (November 10, 1879 – August 25, 1965) was an American professional baseball player who appeared as a right fielder in a single major league game for the New York Giants on June 29, 1905. His story was popularized by Shoeless Joe, a novel by W. P. Kinsella, and the subsequent 1989 film Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, and featuring Burt Lancaster and Frank Whaley as older and younger incarnations of Graham.
Graham was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the second of nine children born to Alexander (September 12, 1844 – November 2, 1934) and Katherine B. Sloan (March 8, 1855 – January 1, 1939) Graham. He played college ball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and in the minor leagues for three years before joining the Giants on May 23, 1905. On June 29, the Giants were the visiting team against the Brooklyn Superbas at Washington Park. For the bottom of the eighth inning, Graham was sent in to play right field, replacing George Browne. In the top of the ninth inning, Graham was on deck when Claude Elliott flied out, resulting in the third and final out. Graham played the bottom of the ninth in right field but never came to bat. That game turned out to be his only appearance in the major leagues.
After playing in the minor leagues (mostly in the Class B New York State League and New England League) through the 1908 season, Graham completed his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1905. While there, he had also played on the school's 1904 and 1905 baseball teams. He obtained his license the following year and began practicing medicine in Chisholm, Minnesota.
"Doc" Graham, as he became known after his career as a ballplayer, served the people of Chisholm for fifty years. From 1915 to 1959, Graham was the doctor for the Chisholm schools. The Graham Scholarship Fund, established in his honor, provides financial assistance to two Chisholm High School graduating seniors each year. The award is given to one boy and one girl, $500 to each. For many years, "Doc" Graham made arrangements to have used eyeglasses sent to his Chisholm office. On Saturdays, he would have the children of the Iron Range miners, from Grand Rapids to Virginia, come to his office, have the their eyes checked and then fit them with the proper set of glasses, all free of charge.
Graham died in Chisholm in 1965. He is buried in Rochester, Minnesota.
A biography of Graham, Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams' Doc Graham, was written by sportswriter Brett Friedlander and college professor Robert W. Reising in April 2009.
His brother, Frank Porter Graham, was president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was later a U. S. Senator.
In 1975, author W. P. Kinsella happened to notice Graham's entry in The Baseball Encyclopedia. He made note of his unusual career, and then incorporated Graham as a character in his 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, on which the movie Field of Dreams was based.
In the novel, the dates of Graham's big-league appearance and death are kept as in real life, making the 1905 appearance 74 years prior to the book's 1979 timeframe, and the Ray Kinsella character quickly finds out that Graham has been dead since 1965. The time-travel scene has Kinsella meeting Graham in 1955, ten years prior to Graham's death.
In the movie, the Fenway Park scoreboard shows Graham's appearance as having taken place in 1922, 66 years prior to the film's 1988 timeframe. A woman in Minnesota familiar with Graham later says Graham had died in 1972. In the time-travel sequence of the movie, lead character Ray Kinsella goes back to the year of Graham's death, and is told that his appearance was at the end of the season, rather than the middle. In the background of the scene on the street when Ray and Moonlight meet, the Plaza Theatre sign shows The Godfather is playing, and Ray notices a poster calling for Richard Nixon's re-election as President of the United States.
Graham is not the only player to appear in a major league game without getting an at-bat or throwing a pitch. However, due to his introduction to popular culture via Field of Dreams, he is the best-known. Thus, his name is often invoked when discussing similar players, such as Brian Esposito, whose appearance came with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007, or fellow University of North Carolina graduate Adam Greenberg, whose debut MLB appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 2005 ended with him being hit by the first pitch he faced. Esposito came to bat in a September 18, 2010 game against the Reds and no longer belongs to this group, while Greenberg recorded his first major league at bat with the Miami Marlins on October 2, 2012. Pedro Santana of the Detroit Tigers entered a game as a late-inning defensive replacement in 2001. He played one inning in the field, and did not register a plate appearance in his only major league game.
A pitching equivalent to Graham is Larry Yount, who is credited with an official game pitched in the majors despite never throwing a pitch. Yount, the older brother of future Hall of Famer Robin Yount, was injured while warming up.