Wednesday, June 29, 2005

He went the distance

"Son, if I'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes... now that would have been a tragedy."

One hundred years ago today, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham took the field for the New York Giants.

It was an insignificant major league career - one game, zero at-bats - but it became baseball legend in the 1982 W.P. Kinsella novel "Shoeless Joe," and even moreso in the 1989 film adaptation, "Field of Dreams."

Despite their obvious roots in spiritual fantasy, both book and movie got the facts surprisingly straight. Graham was brought in as a late defensive replacement on June 29, 1905, and was left standing in the on-deck circle when the game ended on a pop-up. With his baseball career over, he found his true calling as a doctor in Chisholm, Minn. He practiced general medicine for six years, but in a move after my own heart, he spent over four decades as a physician for the local school system.

Graham died a local hero in 1969, at the age of 88. And yes, he did have a fondness for buying blue hats for his wife.

Elias Sports Bureau reports that of the 16,000-plus players in major league history, over 900 have played in only one game. I can't imagine how that must feel, to work your entire life toward one goal only to taste the success for a couple of hours.

It's doubtful many of them went on to shine as bright as "Moonlight," but at least we can hope they really do get to play in some great heavenly games with "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver and others.

1 comment:

Riley said...

That's a good movie. I love Burt Lancaster.