Baseball celebrates one-game career

NEW YORK -- Even a century later, there's still a mystique in the ol' Moonlight.

Archibald Wright Graham only played one game in the big leagues, and it was a glimmer at best. He never got to bat, and was simply a defensive replacement in right field.

"Two glorious innings in the garden," the New York Evening Telegram reported then.

Hard to believe how that brief stint for the New York Giants on June 29, 1905 -- exactly 100 years ago Wednesday, at a ballfield in Brooklyn -- became such a part of baseball lore.

Brought back to life by author W.P. Kinsella in his novel "Shoeless Joe" that was adapted into the movie "Field of
Dreams," just the mere mention of his name evokes something

Ernie Accorsi, general manager of the New York Giants football team, was among the last people to interview Moonlight Graham.

A newly hired sports writer at The Charlotte News in July 1963, Accorsi covered Graham's return to the city where he starred in the minors around the turn of the century.

"That's when I got my shot at the New York Giants," Accorsi quoted Graham in the story. "But I didn't get any breaks there."

Graham was 86 at the time and died two years later.

"He was frail, gaunt," Accorsi remembered Tuesday. "He was real talkative, but he never said anything about being called 'Moonlight.' And he didn't look like Burt Lancaster."

The Minnesota Twins plan to recognized him on Moonlight Graham Day before they played Kansas City at the Metrodome on Wednesday afternoon. The first 10,000 fans received a Moonlight card and clips from the film were shown on the scoreboard.

Graham spent more than a half-century as a doctor in Chisholm, Minn., with Lancaster playing the Doc role in the movie. Graham also will be honored in the place where he made his lone appearance in the majors.

The Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League will pay tribute to Graham before their game against New Jersey. A man dressed up as Graham will come through the center-field fence and step to the plate.

"I'm not sure if we got the smoke machine yet that we're looking for," Cyclones general manager Steve Cohen said.

Graham's story came to light mostly as a stroke of luck. Shortly after he got the Baseball Encyclopedia as a Christmas gift from his father-in-law, Kinsella was thumbing through and came across a curious listing.

"I found this entry for Moonlight Graham. How could anyone come up with that nickname? He played one game but did not get to bat. I was intrigued, and I made a note that I intended to write something about him," Kinsella said last week.

Kinsella's 1982 novel and the popular movie seven years later led to a renaissance for Graham -- he was described as "quick as a flash of moonlight" as a rookie.

Born in North Carolina, Graham was a good hitter in the minors for a few years before and after his monthlong stay in the majors under manager John McGraw.

His only game action came before an estimated crowd of 2,000 at Washington Park. The stadium was a forerunner of Ebbets Field and is now paved over as a work area for the Con Edison power company.

Future Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson pitched the Giants to an 11-1 win over the Brooklyn Superbas, their nickname before the Dodgers, and there's no evidence that Graham ever touched the ball.

Records and research show that Graham never batted in the majors. But in Accorsi's story, Archie Graham remembered it a little differently -- he said he got up once, walked and then
injured his leg.

Accorsi said that when he first saw "Field of Dreams," he had no idea that Moonlight Graham was the same man he'd interviewed a quarter-century earlier.

"I didn't make the connection because he never used his nickname," he said.

In 1993, Accorsi was going through his mother's attic in Hershey, Pa., looking for an article he'd written that related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There in a box, he found the newspaper clipping on his story on Graham and a picture.

"I knew it was him and it sent shivers through me," Accorsi said. "I felt like I'd really linked to some historical figure."