This edition of Baseball Profiles appeared on Episode 13 (6.29.15) of the A Foot In The Box Podcast.
Archibald “Moonlight” Graham was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1879 as the second of ten children. After playing baseball for the University of North Carolina, Graham played in the minor leagues in the northeast for for several years starting in 1902.
After hitting .323 in 1904, Graham was purchased by the Giants, who at the time played in New York, in 1905. Archibald reported to the team in late May, but didn’t enter a game until June 29th. On that date, future Hall of Fame manager John McGraw had Graham enter the game in the bottom of the 8th as a defensive replacement for the Giants right fielder, George Browne. In the top of the 9th, Graham was on deck when pitcher Claude Elliott flied out to end the inning. Archibald played the bottom of the 9th in the field, but would never come up to bat.
That game is significant because it was the only major league game Archibald Graham would ever play. He was sent back to the minors, where he would play until 1908. Even though Graham produced impressive offensive stats, hitting as high as .336 one season, he would never get another chance for the Giants. Before passing away in 1965, Graham went to medical school at the University of Maryland, where he also played halfback for the football team, before serving as a doctor in Chisholm, Minnesota for 50 years. He initially came to Chisholm after seeing a small ad for a doctor opening in the newspaper. When he saw the ad, he hopped on a train and once he arrived, he never left. “Doc” Graham, as he became known as, was beloved by Chisholm’s residents. He is buried nearby in Rochester, Minnesota.
The story of Archibald Graham became famous through a book and movie that were made more than 25 years after his death. In 1975, W.P. Kinsella discovered Graham and his unique career in The Baseball Encyclopedia, a book that he received as a Christmas gift. Kinsella later recalled the event, “He was listed as Moonlight Graham. And I thought, ‘What a wonderful name. This is better than anything I could invent.'" With this knowledge, Kinsella included Archibald Graham in his novel entitled Shoeless Joe. This book was later turned into a movie, Field of Dreams, in 1989. Over the past 26 years, Field of Dreams has arguably become the most famous baseball movie of all time. In the film, the story of Archibald Graham, played by Burt Lancaster and Frank Whaley, is retold through interactions with Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, and Terrance Mann, played by James Earl Jones. In the movie, actress Ann Seymour reads the real life obituary of Moonlight Graham: "And there were times when children could not afford eyeglasses or milk or clothing. Yet no child was ever denied these essentials because in the background there was always Dr. Graham. Without any fanfare or publicity, the glasses or the milk or the ticket to the ballgame found their way into the child’s pocket."