“If I’d Only Gotten to be a Doctor for Five Minutes”

Cover of "Chasing Moonlight"

Cover of “Chasing Moonlight”

Alright, admit it, you’ve all seen the movie Field of Dreams and you’ve fallen in love with an utterly obscure ballplayer named Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham. It’s OK to admit it, team. All of us have taken the plunge. All of us have taken the plunge into the frankly maudlin scene where Burt Lancaster delivers the line above. Maybe the best plunge was taken by two writers who, in 2009, wrote a biography of the now legendary player.

Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of “Field of Dreams” Doc Graham is a fairly short biography of Graham by authors Brett Friedlander and Robert Reisling. They admit to having never heard of Graham before the movie and being curious when they discovered he was a real ballplayer. So they set out to do research on him and the book is the happy result of their efforts.

The book follows Graham’s life from his birth in North Carolina to a fairly substantial family. His father was the first superintendent of schools in Fayetteville, North Carolina and the son was well-educated. He also played ball well and was one of a number of men of the era who used sports as a way to make money to finance his career dreams. In Graham’s case that was to become a doctor.

The baseball stuff is toward the beginning of the book and details the life of a career minor leaguer (and that one special day in 1905 when he played right field for the Giants) who was intelligent and working toward a medical degree in the off-season. His “moonlighting” as an intern and student led, the authors believe, to the famous nickname.

But the bulk of the book and to me the best part concerns Graham’s life after he left baseball. He migrated to Chisholm, Minnesota, settled down, got married, became the town’s doctor, and spent years as the school district’s physician. He became briefly famous in the 1940s for a paper he wrote about children and high blood pressure, but essentially settled into the quite, normal, perhaps tedious life of a small town doctor.

The book is a fascinating study of small town American life in the first half of the Twentieth Century and is worth reading for that alone. Throw in the baseball aspects and you’ve got a book most ball fans will like. The book is available in paperback for under $10 at Amazon.com and can be purchased at a number of other online sites. Worth checking out, team.

And by the way, Dwier Brown, who played Daddy Kinsella in Field of Dreams has written a book about his life and how his experiences with the movie changed it. Haven’t read it, but when/if I do, I’ll drop a short review here.


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5 Responses to ““If I’d Only Gotten to be a Doctor for Five Minutes””

  1. glenrussellslater Says:

    Nice write-up, V.

    Am I the only one who didn’t like “Field of Dreams”? I don’t know. I just didn’t. Maybe it’s because I had started the book it was based on, “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella, and I simply hated the book. I despised it. I never even finished 1/4 of the book. So maybe I went into the movie theater with a closed mind. I think I must have fallen asleep in the movie, as well. I hope I didn’t snore too loud and ruined the Field of Dreams “experience” for the other theater patrons.

    I’ve liked or loved just about every other movie that I’ve seen that features baseball. Both the novel “Bang The Drum Slowly” and the movie of the same name are among my favorites. I liked “Eight Men Out”, which came out shortly before “Field of Dreams”.

    Have you ever met any baseball fans who didn’t like “Field of Dreams” besides me? Maybe it goes along with that I seem to be the only person in the world who isn’t madly in love with Vin Scully. I respect him, and I’ll bet if I met him, he’s a heck of a guy. But I just can’t stand his style. I never could stand him when he did the NBC Game of The Week.

    I should probably talk to my shrink about all this stuff.

    Anyway, thanks for the heads up on this new book, V. I love biographies on baseball.


    • verdun2 Says:

      I didn’t particularly like the book either. Much too disjointed with too many subplots. Thought the movie did a good job of sticking to the overriding issue of the book.

      • Precious Sanders Says:

        I’m so glad to find out that I’m not the only one who preferred the movie. Strange, considering that most of the time, I’m more of a book person.

        I’ve been meaning to read ‘Chasing Moonlight,’ but that has yet to happen. Thank you for the review!

  2. William Miller Says:

    The first time I saw “Field of Dreams,” I enjoyed it. But I have to admit that it hasn’t held up all that well on subsequent viewings. I, too, just couldn’t get into Kinsella’s book. I stopped reading it about a quarter of the way through.
    “Chasing Moonlight,” though, is one that I purchased a while back, and still haven’t gotten around to reading. Your review has prompted me to at least find it and take a second look.
    Nice job,

  3. Steve Myers Says:

    Oh, most definitely v, I love that character Moonlight Graham and love that book Shoeless Joe and love the movie just as much. But I probably won’t read the book “Chasing Moonlight” because I want to keep the memory from the movie fresh in my mind, the memory when he walks off the field and his uniform turns into a suit and tie. Still gives me goose bumps.

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