June 29, 1905: Moonlight Graham’s only major-league game
If not for W.P. Kinsella, it’s likely that Archibald "Moonlight" Graham would have remained a baseball footnote instead of a popular culture figure. When Kinsella explored Graham’s one-game major-league career in his 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, he tapped into the bedrock curiosity of baseball fans craving stories beyond statistics.
Burt Lancaster brought Graham’s major-league experience to life in the movie version, Field of Dreams, in 1989:
“It was the last day of the season. Bottom of the eighth inning, we were way ahead. I had been up with the club about, oh about three weeks, but I hadn’t seen any action. Suddenly, old John McGraw points a bony finger in my direction and he says, ‘Right field.’ I jumped up like I was sittin’ on a spring. Grabbed by glove and ran out onto the field.”
“Did you get to make a play?”
“Never hit the ball out of the infield. Game ended. The season was over. I knew they’d send me back down. I couldn’t bear the thought of another year in the minors. So, I decided to hang ’em up.”1
This version mixes fact with dramatic license; Graham spent three more seasons in the minors before retiring. Graham’s major-league game took place on June 29, 1905. The part about being way ahead was correct, though. The New-York Tribune called the Giants’ 11-1 victory over the Brooklyn Superbas a “batting feast at Brooklyn’s expense.”2 Giants ace Christy Mathewson kept Brooklyn to two hits and struck out seven before Claude Elliott relieved him in the fifth inning; shortstop Bill Dahlen went 3-for-4 and scored two runs; and right fielder George Browne went 1-for-3 and scored two runs before Graham replaced him. The New York Evening Telegram reported that “Archie Graham had two joyous innings in the right garden while George Browne hustled into his street clothes.”3
One of the hits against Mathewson came when he tried to beat a runner to first base after fielding the ball and “just missed touching him.”4 Elliott’s save was one of six he had in 1905, which led the major leagues.
The game was completed in a little less two hours, a usual length for the beginning of the twentieth century. Two thousand people showed up at Washington Park in Brooklyn to see this latest display of domination by Mathewson, who led the major leagues in 1905 with 31 victories. He struck out seven before manager John McGraw pulled him in the fifth inning.5
The game was business as usual for the Giants, who finished 1905 with a 105-48 record and a World Series championship over the Philadelphia Athletics. Brooklyn’s squad offered minimal competition. “Kid” Eason went 5-21 in 1905; New York pounded him for eight hits, six runs, two home runs, two triples, and a double. Jack Doscher’s relief was anything but valuable; the 1-5 pitcher in 1905 allowed five hits and five runs in the continual barrage. Brooklyn ended the season in eighth place with a 48-104 record — 56½ games behind the Giants.
George Browne, rf
Archie Graham, rf
Mike Donlin, cf
Dan McGann, 1b
Sammy Strang, 1b
Sam Mertes, lf
Bill Dahlen, ss
Art Devlin, 3b
Billy Gilbert, 2b
Frank Bowerman, c
Boileryard Clarke, c
Christy Mathewson, p
Claude Elliott, p
The play-by-play occurred as follows:6
Top 1st: McGann banged out a triple after Browne hit a pop fly to right field and Donlin banged one to left. Mertes was thrown out on a groundball to end the Giants’ first turn at bat.
Bottom 1st: Mathewson struck out Dobbs and then a 4-3 groundout by Hall made the second out. Lumley flied to McGann.
Top 2nd: Eason walked Dahlen, then tried to pick him off. An errant thrown gave second base to Dahlen, who tagged up to reach third base when Devlin flied out to Lumley. The slugger scored when Gilbert banged out a single to right field. A 6-4 grounder got Gilbert out, followed by Mathewson striking out when he got caught looking.
Bottom 2nd: Mathewson struck out Batch and Malay, walked Babb, and struck out Mitchell.
Top 3rd: The Giant's lineup smacked Eason’s pitches at will, scoring six runs. The mauling began with Browne’s single to left, followed by Donlin singling to center when Dobbs couldn’t get a decent hold of the ball. Browne arrived safely at third. McGann crushed a pitch over the fence for a three-run blast. A grounder to third got Mertes out, then Dahlen got on safely with a single. Devlin’s fly ball made for the first out. Dahlen scored a stolen base, then Gilbert walked. Bowerman’s triple scored Dahlen and Gilbert. Mathewson showed some credentials at the plate when he singled and got an RBI from Bowerman coming home. The Giants batted around the order. Eason walked Browne and Donlin. With the bases loaded, McGann hit a fly ball to Babb.
Bottom 3rd: Mathewson retired the opposition with ease. He caught a pop fly from Ritter, allowed a single to Dobbs, struck out Eason, and ended hopes for Brooklyn’s batsmen when Lumley hit into a 6-4 force play that got out Dobbs.
Top 4th: Eason headed to the bench, relieved by Doescher. Mertes grounded out to Malay, then Dahlen went to second base on what should have been a single. Hall “fumbled” the ball. Dahlen was tagged out on a stolen-base attempt. Devlin also was caught stealing after getting a walk.
Bottom 4th: Lumley grounded out on a 3-1 play, Batch struck out, and Malay grounded to Mathewson.
Top 5th: Gilbert got to first base on a bunt, but was caught stealing. Bowerman flied out to right and Mathewson ended the inning when Mitchell fielded his grounder for a putout.
Bottom 5th: Strang replaced McGann at first base. Mathewson walked Babb and gave up a single to Mitchell. Ritter could not capitalize; he grounded to third base, where Babb was forced. Doescher struck out and Dobbs flied out to left.
Top 6th: If the top of the third inning was difficult for Brooklyn, then the top of the sixth was downright miserable. Eason walked Browne and served up a fat pitch that Donlin smacked for a double. With runners at second and third, Strang’s groundout to shortstop was not in vain; Browne scored. Mertes walked, Dahlen singled to score Donlin, and Devlin followed with a walk. Then Mertes stole third, giving the Giants runners at the corners and allowing for McGraw’s boys to pull off a double steal. Mertes scored, and Gilbert grounded to third for a 5-3 play.
Bottom 6th: McGraw changed the battery, sending in Elliott to replace Mathewson and Clarke to replace Bowerman. Gilbert and Strang were the only other players needed on defense. Hall and Lumley each grounded to Gilbert and Batch flied out to the second baseman.
Top 7th: The Giants’ bats ebbed like a retreating tide. Clarke grounded out on a 6-4 play, Elliott flied out to Lumley, and Browne grounded out to Malay.
Bottom 7th: Malay struck out. Babb’s walk showed a glimmer of a threat, which was dampened by Mitchell’s fly to left and Ritter’s grounder to Strang.
Top 8th: Eason got two outs quickly, striking out Donlin and getting Strang out on a grounder to Babb. Mertes walked, but Dahlen left him stranded on a strikeout.
Bottom 8th: Here is where Moonlight Graham made his debut, replacing Browne in right field. It was three-up-three-down for the Brooklyn batsmen. Doescher struck out, Dobbs flied out to center field, and Hall struck out.
Top 9th: The Giants scored one run, though it was far from needed. Devlin flied to Babb and Gilbert struck out. Clarke bashed a solo home run. Elliott ended the opportunity for more runs when he flied out to Malay.
Bottom 9th: Brooklyn showed signs of life, escaping an 11-0 shutout. Lumley got to first base on an infield single and stole second. Batch struck out. The bases were soon filled. Malay singled, moving Lumley to third. Babb walked. Elliott might as well have been credited with an RBI; he walked Ritter, forcing Lumley home. Pinch-hitter Bergen struck out.
1 Field of Dreams, Universal Pictures (Universal City, California), 1989.
2 “The Giants Enjoy a Batting Feast at Brooklyn’s Expense,” New-York Tribune, June 30, 1905.
3 “Giants’ Bats Toll Brooklyn’s Knell,” New York Evening Telegram, June 29, 1905.
4 “Getting Out of the Rut,” New York Evening Post, June 30, 1905
6 “Giants’ Bats Toll Brooklyn’s Knell.”