Living

A life beyond baseball

Though never famous in his lifetime, outfielder Archie "Moonlight" Graham was immortalized in "Field of Dreams," the 1989 movie based on Ray Kinsella's novel, "Shoeless Joe."

Now, in "Chasing Moonlight" (John F. Blair, $19.95), Brett Friedlander and Robert Reising tell the fascinating story of the real Graham, who grew up in Charlotte.

In 1905, Graham played in one major league game with the New York Giants and came within one out of taking a turn at bat. He eventually abandoned his baseball dreams and dedicated his life to practicing medicine in a small town in Minnesota.

In "Field of Dreams," his character, Doc Graham, played by Burt Lancaster, gets to play ball one more time, in an Iowa cornfield.

And when it's suggested that Graham's short major league career was a tragedy, he replies: "If I'd only got to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy."

Friedlander, a columnist for the Wilmington Star-News, says the real Graham would have endorsed that sentiment. After interviewing people who knew Graham, he concluded the past "was not something that gnawed at him. He consciously gave up baseball, and he was OK with that."

Graham came from a well-known family. His father, Alexander Graham, was Charlotte's first school superintendent. Younger brother Frank Porter Graham was president of the University of North Carolina system and a U.S. senator. The family lived on Mount Vernon Avenue in the Dilworth section of Charlotte.

After attending UNC-Chapel Hill, he played minor league ball for the Charlotte Hornets in the summer and attended medical school in Maryland.

In Chisholm, Minn., where he served as school doctor, Graham became a beloved public servant, Friedlander learned. Blood pressure research that he conducted is still cited today.

Why does the character of Doc Graham touch movie audiences?

"There's a goodness about him -- this public servant who gave up his own dream to help others," Friedlander says. "Also there's the theme of redemption. If something doesn't work out for you, instead of getting upset about it, you find another calling. And maybe that's your true calling."

  Comments