On Thursday, June 29, 1905, New York Giants rookie outfielder Archie Graham made his major league debut, playing the last two innings of a one-sided 11-1 victory over the Brooklyn Superbas. The twenty-five-year-old was the next to bat when the last out was recorded in the top of the ninth inning. After playing right field for the final three outs, he headed into the visitors’ clubhouse, not realizing that it would be his only appearance in a major league baseball game.
A few days later, Archie was sent down to the minors, where he continued with his professional baseball career for the next few seasons. During this time, sports writers of the day generally referred to Archie as “Doc” Graham, but a few used the name “Moonlight.” The true origins of Graham’s nickname have yet to be discovered. One plausible explanation is that he earned the name because of his flashing speed. Another reason for the lunar reference may have been because he moonlighted at a second job (medical career) in the off-season.
Graham retired from professional baseball at the conclusion of the 1908 season, eventually moving out west due to chronic respiratory problems.
The young doctor settled in Chisholm, Minnesota, practicing medicine while researching and publishing new studies on children’s health. Graham became the chief physician for the Chisholm public schools, a position he held until shortly before his death in 1965.
During that time, Graham’s two innings in the bigs were a mere footnote in the long history of major league baseball. However, fate stepped in when author W.P. Kinsella ran across Doc Graham’s name and statistical information in the Baseball Encyclopedia. Kinsella decided to use Graham’s story for a character in his novel about Chicago White Sox outfielder Joe Jackson. The novel, which later became the book Shoeless Joe, turned out to be a big success, and in 1989 the story was made into the movie Field of Dreams. Thanks to the notoriety Doc Graham received from the book and subsequent film (legendary actor Burt Lancaster portrayed Graham’s character in the movie), his name is now known by baseball fans throughout the world.
Archibald Wright Graham was born on November 12, 1879, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He was one of nine children born to Alexander and Katherine (Sloan) Graham. Alexander was of Scottish descent and an alumnus of the University of North Carolina, where he was the captain of the school’s baseball team. He enlisted in the 3rd North Carolina Regiment during the Civil War and was captured at the battle of Bentonville in 1865.
After the war, Alexander attended Columbia University in New York, eventually earning a law degree. When he returned home, Graham soon realized that Fayetteville was in dire need of public schools. Alexander worked tirelessly to achieve that goal, eventually becoming the first superintendent of the town’s school system.
In 1888, the Graham family moved to Charlotte, where Alexander assumed the same educational position in that city.
Archie’s mother Katherine was also well educated, earning a degree from Peace College in Raleigh. In what was highly unusual for a 19th century family, every one of Alexander and Katherine’s offspring earned college degrees. All of the Graham children went on to successful careers including Frank, who later served in the U.S. Senate.
Alexander Graham was a firm believer in physical fitness, and athletics were a big part of his family’s daily regimen. Archie grew up to be a great athlete and an extremely swift runner, an attribute that would serve him well in his sports endeavors.
Young Graham honed his diamond and gridiron skills in pick-up games with family and neighbors in the Charlotte area. Archie was also an outstanding student at Davidson High School, where his interests included science and medicine. Upon graduation, Archie enrolled at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.
While attending UNC, Archie played in the intramural football league. During his senior year he earned a spot on what would be considered the varsity team’s taxi squad.
Archie experienced much greater success on the diamond. He made the school’s yanigan nine as a freshman and the varsity squad the following year. For the next three seasons, Archie was the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
He received his Bachelor’s degree in 1901 and made his professional baseball debut that summer, playing one uneventful game for Tarboro in the Virginia-North Carolina League. That fall Graham returned to Chapel Hill to start a two-year postgraduate medical course.
In June of 1902, Archie signed with the Charlotte Hornets of the North Carolina League. Charlotte was managed by his college coach, Ed Ashenbach. It is hard to know for sure whether Graham entertained notions of making it to the big leagues or just a making a few extra dollars at a summer job. Either way, the opportunity to stay close to home while getting paid to play baseball was quite appealing to the young student athlete.
When Graham joined the Charlotte team, the ballclub was in the midst of a hot streak. Archie broke into the lineup on the day the Hornets won their twentieth straight game. The ballclub reeled off five more consecutive victories before a loss to Durham on June 11th ended their impressive run.
The North Carolina League played two separate seasons in 1902, and the Hornets ran away with the first half honors. This circuit, like many minor leagues of that era, had numerous internal issues that came to the forefront during the season. Upheaval over accusations of Charlotte violating the league’s salary cap early in the season were followed by the Wilmington and New Bern teams disbanding in early July due to financial losses. The league office absorbed the Charlotte club a short time later.
Some of the players moved on to play in other cities or were picked up by the remaining teams in the loop. Graham, who hit .297 with 17 stolen bases in 31 games, chose not to play any more ball that season. Instead, he went home to prepare for the last year of his medical course at Chapel Hill.
The following summer, after the school year ended, he received a contract offer from Ashenbach who was now managing the Nashua team of the New England League. Graham joined the Nashua club a short time later, winning the starting job in right field, while hitting second in the batting order.
Archie was sold to the Manchester team of the same league late in the season. Graham didn’t have a spectacular year with the bat, hitting just .240 in 89 games, combined between the three teams. However, his 30 stolen bases, 10 doubles and 7 triples, along with his strong defensive skills in the outfield led Manchester to retain him for the following year.
A short time later, the National League New York Giants purchased Graham’s contract from Manchester on September 25, 1904.
In the off-season, Archie took on more postgraduate studies at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore. By this time, he had added some weight to his slender 5’ 10” frame, giving him the impetus to resume his collegiate gridiron career. Graham went on to play halfback for Maryland’s football team in 1904 and 1905. Due to the informal rules of this era that allowed college athletes to play professional sports, Graham was also able to play two more seasons of collegiate baseball at Maryland.
In early February of 1905, Archie signed with John McGraw’s New York Giants. On February 15, a reporter for the New York Evening World wrote,“Graham, a youngster who played with Manchester last year, has been signed as a substitute outfielder. He is fast on his feet and a strong hitter. McGraw believes he has in Graham, [sic] a great find.”
A few weeks later, the Evening World wrote, “Dr. Archie Graham, who is to join the Giants as soon as he completes his examinations at the Baltimore Medical College, is known as ‘Moonlight’ because he is supposed to be as fast as a flash.”
Graham was thought by some baseball insiders, including his former college coach Ed Ashenbach, to be the fastest man in the game. Ashenbach, who was a good judge of talent, served as a scout for baseball magnate John Brush in addition to playing or managing in nearly every minor league in the country.
In the spring of 1905, the Sporting Life reported that Ashenbach, who was now managing the Charleston Sea Gulls of the South Atlantic League, was trying to arrange a race between Cleveland Naps outfielder Harry Bay and Graham. Bay was a speedster who led the American League in stolen bases in 1903 and 1904. Ashenback told the press that Graham would easily defeat Bay.
Doc joined up with the New York Giants shortly after graduating from the Maryland School of Medicine on May 13, 1905. For the next few weeks Archie sat on the bench, never getting a chance to prove himself. McGraw may have been hesitant to use him due to his inexperience. The more likely explanation is that Graham was suffering from the lingering effects of a gridiron injury, which had caused him to miss a few games during the college football season at Maryland.
Graham’s first chance to play in a major league game came on June 29, 1905. The Giants were winning 10-0 against the Brooklyn Superbas when he got in for the last two innings of the game. McGraw, who had been clearing his bench since the fifth inning, sent Archie in to replace right fielder George Browne in the bottom of the eighth inning. Graham took his place in the outfield while the Washington Park crowd watched their hometown nine go through the final throes of defeat.
Archie was the next man due up in the top of the ninth when pitcher Claude Elliott popped out to the end the inning. The boxscore does not show him making any putouts or assists, but Archie may have handled one or two of the Brooklyn hits that came his way in the bottom of the ninth.
Graham never got into another game, sitting idly on the New York bench until July 5 when he was sold to the Scranton Miners of the New York State League. The football injury may have been the reason, as the New York Times, when writing about Graham’s release, noted that he was unavailable to the Giants and therefore dealt to Scranton.However, the term “unavailable” may have meant that Archie was hampered by some type of physical problem and unable to play to his capabilities. Graham’s demotion to Scranton, which had an informal working agreement with the Giants, may have been some type of rehab assignment.
The young player was surely disappointed in his short-lived stint in the majors. However, he was happy to be reunited with his former Tar Heel coach Eddie Ashenbach who had just taken over as the Miners manager. Archie got off to a good start with Scranton, and word of his hitting prowess began to spread to other teams in the area.
A short time later, officials from the Altoona Mountaineers of the outlaw Tri-State League contacted Graham and offered him more money. Archie, citing a previously unknown aversion to playing Sunday baseball, jumped his contract with Scranton and joined up with the Altoona club.
Doc soon found out that the loosely organized Tri-State League was a far cry from the high level of baseball that was played in the New York State loop. After a few days with the Mountaineers, Graham realized that he’d made a big mistake.
It was at this time that Archie contacted Ed Ashenbach and made arrangements to talk to him when the Mountaineers were playing in Johnstown. At the meeting, Doc agreed to rejoin the Scranton club. The problem was that the Altoona players and some of the fans that traveled with the Mountaineers were not too happy about their star player leaving the team. The disgruntled contingent from Altoona had an idea something was afoot and was keeping a watchful eye on the former major leaguer. In order to effect a quiet getaway, Graham and Ashenbach sneaked out of town under the cover of darkness. The pair walked ten miles to the small town of Steward, where they caught a train to meet up with the Scranton team in Albany.
For the next few months Archie played well for the Miners, and even though he had briefly jumped ship, Graham remained popular with the local fans. In early September, there were rumors in the press that New York had traded Doc Graham’s contract to Syracuse for a pitcher named Nick Carter. These reports turned out to be incorrect. Doc told reporters that he was in communication with McGraw and that the Giants leader assured him that the team would retain him.
Around this same time, there were reports in the newspapers that Graham was scheduled to report to the Giants at the conclusion of the New York State League season.
It appears that Archie evidently had other ideas and had decided that resuming his medical studies were more important then baseball. With five games remaining on the Scranton schedule, Graham left the Miners, who finished 15½ games out of first place, and returned to Baltimore to continue his post-graduate medical work. He ended the 1905 New York State League season with a .288 batting average and 10 stolen bases.
John McGraw demanded loyalty and dedication from his players. Whether McGraw gave Graham permission to shut it down early for the year or he did it on his own accord we will probably never know. If Graham had reported to the Giants, there is a slight chance he would have been with the club for the 1905 World Series. New York carried only one utility player [Sam Strang] on their post-season roster, so there is a remote possibility Graham may have been on the Giant bench during the series. For whatever reason, Graham’s name was left off the New York Giant’s reserve list for the 1906 season.
A short time later, the owner of the Boston Americans, John I. Taylor, seeing that the promising outfielder was available, drafted Archie for his club. The case was eventually brought before the National Arbitration Board, which ruled that because Graham had taken $200 as a cash payment from McGraw, he was still the property of the New York Giants. The Board stipulated that if Graham returned the money he could become a free agent or he could keep the money and remain with New York.
Archie chose to stay with the Giants, possibly because he had plans to intern in the New York metropolitan area. It appears that for some reason, conceivably due to his failure to report to the Giants at the end of the previous year, Doc had fallen out of favor with McGraw.
In the spring of 1906, the Giants held their spring training in Memphis. Graham reported to the team, but from the outset of camp it became apparent that McGraw had made up his mind up on who would make his eighteen-man roster.
During an intra-squad game that spring, the New York Evening World noted that Mike Donlin made a miraculous one-handed grab of a ball that Graham hit. Donlin was playing center field for first baseman Dan McGann’s squad, and Graham was playing center for McGraw’s team.
After a few days of practice, former Giant shortstop George Babb, who was managing the Memphis Egyptians (Southern League) asked McGraw about purchasing Graham. McGraw told Babb, who needed an outfielder, he could have Graham, but it would cost him $700 to buy his contract.
The Giants had veteran George Browne, who had hit .293 with 26 stolen bases in 1905, locked in as their starting rightfielder. In addition, the team had plenty of depth due to veteran players like Doc Marshall and Sam Strang who could play multiple positions, including the outfield. All of these factors led to Graham’s being expendable by the Giants’ front office and, most importantly, McGraw.
Babb decided that Graham was worth the investment, and on March 17 he purchased Archie’s contract from the Giants. The deal was contingent on the fact that New York still held an option on Archie’s contract and could call him back at any time.
Archie initially refused to join the team until his contract was restructured. Doc eventually signed with the Egyptians a few days later, just in time to play an uneventful game in center field against the Giants before McGraw’s men left Memphis to begin their trek eastward.
Archie’s stay with Memphis turned out to be a short one. The Sporting Life of June 2, 1906, noted that Doc Graham and Arthur Goodwin had been let go by the Egyptians. Archie was batting .261 with five stolen bases in 12 games and had made only one error at the time of his release.
No longer the property of the Giants, Graham signed back up with the Scranton Miners, His old friend Ed Ashenbach had put together a solid team for the 1906 season, and Doc’s presence in the lineup would make the ballclub even stronger.
Scranton, led by Graham’s hot bat and strong defense in the outfield, finished 12 games in front of the second-place Albany Senators. Archie posted a career high in hits (149) and stolen bases (38) while his .336 batting average was the highest in the New York State League.
On September 22 the Miners played the Giants in an exhibition game at Athletic Park in Scranton. Graham went two for four with a walk as the Miners won the game 9-1. Archie played well that day, but there would be no triumphant return to his former team. McGraw had just signed a young outfielder named Joe Birmingham, so it was obvious that Doctor Graham was no longer in the Giants’ plans.
Near the end of the game, Archie sent word over to the New York dugout that he wanted to challenge his former teammate George Browne to a race around the bases. The two players had many debates as to who was faster during Archie’s brief stay with the Giants. Browne sent word back to the Miners bench that he was not interested. The fans in the grandstands along with some of the players got word of the challenge and passed the hat to raise the ante, and soon the winner’s pot rose to $500. Graham even offered to race Browne the next morning if he were tired out from playing in the game that day, but the Giants right fielder wouldn’t budge. Browne, who said he had to be in New York the following day for a regular season game, refused to accept the challenge. The Giants left town late that evening, the much-anticipated race never taking place.
A few days later, a local sprinter named Al Reese accepted Doc’s challenge to a race. Archie defeated Reese, donating half of his $500 winnings to the Scranton Consumptive Hospital.
Over the winter, Graham continued to intern in New York, and in January of 1907, he passed the Pennsylvania State Physicians examination. When he returned to Scranton for the start of the baseball season, Archie set up an informal medical practice.
On the ballfield, things were different now, as his longtime mentor Eddie Ashenbach had left Scranton to manage the St. Paul Saints of the American Association. The club’s new manager, Hank Ramsey, was by all accounts a decent man, but one who kept his distance from his players.
At the start of spring practice Doc, who was not all that enamored with Ramsey’s managing style, decided to hold out for a higher salary. When the league salary cap was raised from $2,250 to $2,400 the team relented and gave Graham his raise.
Archie got off to a slow start due to his inability to train properly in the off-season and a severe bout of cold weather that hit Pennsylvania in the spring of 1907. Although Doc’s batting eye returned when the weather warmed up, his relationship with Ramsey never did. He also spoke to the press about retiring at the end of the year and setting up a permanent medical practice in Scranton.
Archie had a solid year in 1907, finishing the season with a .285 batting average and 34 stolen bases. The Miners were fighting for the New York State League pennant for most of the season. However, a late-season swoon caused them to finish one game out of first place behind the Albany Senators.
Once again, Graham announced that he was going to retire from baseball to pursue his medical practice.
During the following off-season, Graham interned at three different hospitals in New York. He also began an intense study of optometry as well as the maladies that affected the ear, nose, and throat.
Graham changed his mind about retirement when he found out the Miners would have a new manager for the 1908 season. Former major leaguer Mal Kittredge took over the reigns of the Scranton team and immediately began to strengthen the ballcub. Kittredge was well known in baseball circles and used his connections to secure talented players from all over the country. One of his new players was Jim Robertson, a dentist who had graduated from Fordham University. The addition of Robertson gave the Miners the best medical staff in the league.
Scranton started out the season playing good ball, but a setback occurred in August when a fire destroyed the grandstand at Athletic Park. The Miners were forced to play a number of games on the road until the debris could be cleaned up. The Scranton club struggled after the fire but eventually rebounded with a flourish, winning the pennant by 7 games in front of the Binghamton Bingos.
The Miners finished the season with a best-of-three series at Columbia Park in Philadelphia against Williamsport of the Tri-State League. The Miners won the series in two games, and Archie retired from professional baseball for good.
Initially, Graham was going to start his medical practice in Scranton. However, due to the serious respiratory problems he was experiencing, Archie decided to travel west in hopes of finding a suitable climate for his condition.
Graham’s first stop was a residency at the Chicago Ear and Throat Hospital. A short time later, he attended a medical conference in Rochester, Minnesota. While conversing with colleagues, Archie heard about the invigorating clean air of the Iron Range Mountains. When the conference ended, he wired in his resignation to the hospital in Chicago and boarded a locomotive heading north into the Minnesota wilderness. As the train pulled to a halt at the last station on the rail line, Graham not knowing a soul, disembarked into a new life in Chisholm, Minnesota.
A few months before Doc’s arrival, a great deal of Chisholm had been destroyed by a devastating fire. As Graham walked through the quaint early 20th century Western town he couldn’t help but notice the burned out sections of the city. After a short walk, Archie found the local hospital, and when the door opened he announced himself as the town’s new doctor.
Chisholm eventually bounced back from the effects of the fire, and soon new businesses were springing up throughout the town. The new and much more modern Rood Hospital was built, the funding for the project furnished by a group of the local mine owners who needed to have a reliable health care facility for their employees. Graham became the trusted physician to the immigrant miners and their families who had come to America from Eastern European countries like Croatia and Serbia.
After playing in a few pickup baseball games during his first summer in Chisholm, Doc joined the Biwabik Miners of the semi professional Mesabe Range League. He played with the Miners and other local clubs for many years on a part-time basis.
In August and September of 1910, a typhoid epidemic spread through the Chisholm area. Thanks in part to Graham’s numerous precautionary measures, the town had a very low death rate.
In 1911, American League scout Jack Sheridan reportedly caught wind of Graham playing ball again. Sheridan supposedly gave Archie the opportunity to return to professional baseball with the Boston Red Sox, but he declined the offer.
The dedicated doctor did yeoman’s work again during a nationwide polio epidemic in 1914. He was also continuing to make trips to the Mayo Clinic at this time to monitor his respiratory problems. It appears the clean air of Minnesota had cleared up his breathing problems, and in the fall of 1915 Archie was given a clean bill of health. Shortly afterward, he married Alecia Flowers in Chisholm on September 15, 1915.
Around this time, Graham met James P. Vaughan, who was the superintendent of schools in Chisholm. The two men struck up a friendship, and on July 1, 1917, Graham became the physician for Vaughan’s city school system.
In June of 1918, Graham’s brother David was killed during the World War I battle of Belleau Wood, and Doc took the news of his sibling’s death very hard. Soon afterward, Archie attempted to enlist in the military, but he was rejected because of his health and age.
The good doctor’s medical know-how prevailed once again during the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918. Graham’s insistence on inoculating the residents of Chisholm with flu shots saved many lives.
In the early 1920s, Shoeless Joe Jackson’s barnstorming team, the Flyers, reportedly played an exhibition game in Chisholm. As the story goes, the Chisholm nine was clinging to a one-run lead with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth inning when Jackson, who was banned from all organized baseball and playing under an assumed name, stepped up to the plate. The hard-hitting southpaw supposedly lashed a long fly ball to deep right field that Doc Graham ran back and snagged out of the air while falling down backwards for the final out of the game. This compelling account makes for a great baseball story and wonderful connection to the book and movie.
Graham, who had been blessed with a powerful throwing arm, once impressed some Chisholm students by throwing a baseball from home plate completely over the left field wall at the local high school field, a distance of over 335 feet. The former major-leaguer was also the team doctor for all of the Chisholm High School athletic teams.
In the 1940s, baseball great Ted Williams traveled to Minnesota to fish for walleye in the bountiful lakes around Chisholm. Doc Graham met Williams when the Boston Red Sox star was making his rounds at the local children’s hospital. The two men chatted about baseball and from all accounts established a cordial relationship.
Over the years, Doc Graham conducted many studies on the effects of hypertension in children. In 1941, he presented his findings at a conference at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Two doctors at the conference, Robert Gage and Edgar Hines, were impressed with Graham’s work. The three decided to combine their research and with the help of a $5000 grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation changed established thought in the world of medicine. It was previously thought that children could not be affected by high blood pressure, but Graham and his colleagues’ research proved otherwise. His work was published in the American Journal of Diseases of Children. It soon became required reading for every physician around the world. In 1958, Graham gave a well-received lecture in front of 14,000 of his fellow doctors at a medical Conference at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Doc invested heavily in various real estate deals as well as rental properties over the years. The money he received from these endeavors allowed the Grahams to live a fairly comfortable life in Chisholm. After decades of serving the community, age finally caught up to Doc, and he retired from his duties as physician for the Chisholm public schools in June of 1960, never missing a day in 44 years. During that time, Graham displayed a sincere generosity toward those in need, giving away eyeglasses to children as well as administering free medical services to needy families.
Staying active in local affairs, Doc Graham ran for a postion on the Chisholm school board in 1962 and lost. Undeterred, he ran again for the same position in 1963, and this time he won. Graham was extremely outspoken on the issue of wasteful spending that had been undertaken by previous school boards. He was determined to correct the problem, and he eventually did.
In July of 1965, Graham, whose health was seriously failing, reluctantly accepted the job of treasurer for the Chisholm school system. A few weeks later, Archie took ill, passing away on August 25 at the age of 82.
Graham’s success and reputation as a physician evidently had an impact on his adopted hometown. Over the years, numerous residents of Chisholm, influenced by their well-respected hometown doctor, chose careers in the medical profession.
After Archie’s passing, friends in the community started an A.W. Graham Memorial Fund to help finance the Range Day Care Center for the mentally handicapped.
Alecia Graham continued to maintain her home without her beloved husband, but failing health necessitated a move to an assisted living facility in 1976. Alecia lived there until her death at the age of 95 in 1981. She and Archie are buried in Calvary Cemetery. The couple had no children.
When the movie Field of Dreams came out in 1989, the film took poetic license with some of the facts concerning Graham’s life and career. In the movie he is depicted as a right-handed batter when in reality he hit from the left side. Graham’s major-league debut took place in 1905, not in 1922 as the scoreboard in the movie suggests. Doc actually died in 1965, yet in the book, writer Kinsella meets him in 1972. Even so, the movie and book are fantastic, and Graham’s baseball and medical legacies have benefited greatly from all of the publicity.
In 2003, the former ballplayer-turned-doctor gained worldwide popularity when a documentary film crew from Japan traveled halfway around the globe to Chisholm to research information for the baseball movie they were filming.
Two years later, on the 100-year anniversary of his major-league debut, the Minnesota Twins held “Doc Graham Night” at the Metrodome. Baseball cards with an image of the Giants outfielder were given out to the fans, and clips of Field of Dreams were shown on the scoreboard throughout the game.
The Doc Graham Scholarship Foundation was started in 1993. Every year, two graduating seniors, one boy and one girl, from Chisholm High School who exhibit the best qualities of service to their school and community receive a financial stipend from the organization in Graham’s name.
Field of Dreams fittingly shined the spotlight on a man of medicine who dedicated the majority of his adult life to helping and healing others. Although appearing in only one game in the majors, Doc Graham was a big leaguer in the all-important field of human kindness and empathy for his fellow man.
Freidlander, Brett, and Robert Reising. Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams’ Doc Graham. Winston-Salem: NC: John F. Blair Publishing, 2009.
New York Evening World
New York Times
Baltimore Morning Herald
American Journal of Diseases of Children
The Doc Graham Scholarship Foundation
Field of Dreams, Universal Studios, 1989.
Kinsella W.P. Shoeless Joe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
A special thanks to my friend and softball teammate Ed Kihn, who suggested I write this biography.
 Total Baseball and Baseball Reference show conflicting dates of birth for Graham. For this purposes of this biography I went with the date that was used in the definitive book on Graham’s life and career, Chasing Moonlight.
 I have not yet been able to find any written evidence that the race between the two men ever took place.
 To my knowledge, no researcher has come up with a definitive reason for his release by the Giants.
 I have not been able to confirm this story, although it may well be true.