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.