This is a 1902 cabinet card featuring the Charlotte Hornets minor league baseball club. It proudly proclaims them “World Record Breakers” as a result of winning 25 consecutive games. None of them seem to be smiling, including the mascot Eddie Ashenback Jr., the manager’s son.
The player in the top left, Graham, has a look on his face that portends a desire to achieve more than just a winning streak, maybe something legendary.
Every baseball fan has heard of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. A ball player that played just 2 innings with the World Champion NY Giants in 1905. A testament to the iconic nature of the game of baseball. A testament to great writing, and great film making. A testament to the person that was Moonlight Graham.
Moonlight Graham joined the NY Giants on May 13, 1905, shortly after finishing his studies at the Baltimore Medical College. He sat on the bench for over a month, possibly nursing an injury sustained while playing halfback on his college team. During a Giants blowout against the Brooklyn Superbas on June 29th, John McGraw inserted Graham into right field in the bottom of the 8th. He was on deck when the final out was recorded in the top of the 9th, and he was still in right field when the game ended with the Giants winning 11-1. He never batted, and he did not record a putout in the outfield. Although he may have fielded a couple of singles that the Superbas hit in the bottom of the 9th. Graham sat on the bench for another week, before he was sold to the Scranton Miners on July 5th. He would play 4 seasons for the Miners in the NY State League before retiring after the 1908 season, to set up a medical practice in Scranton, PA. Because of respiratory problems he soon moved to Chisholm, Minnesota to take advantage of the cleaner air. He practiced medicine there until his 80’s. He died in 1965 at the age of 87.
When W. P. Kinsella wrote Shoeless Joe he included Moonlight Graham in the book. And when Field of Dreams was released in 1989, he became a household name and a baseball legend. Burt Lancaster was absolutely wonderful as Doc Graham in the movie, while Frank Whaley played Archie Graham. You might remember Whaley as Brett in the movie Pulp Fiction. It was his “tasty burger” that Samuel L. Jackson ate, just before he shot him.
It’s not really known how the nickname “Moonlight” came about. He was known as Doc Graham for most of his playing career, for obvious reasons. Moonlight may have been because he moonlighted as a Doctor in the off season.
I didn’t know that Moonlight Graham had played ball for the Scranton Miners. I may have to do a little more research on my fellow Scrantonian. Starting with Chasing Moonlight by Robert Reising.
“Well, you know I… I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn’t. That’s what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases – stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?”