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Back and Forth: Who was Moonlight Graham?

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A Moonlight Graham baseball card. Courtesy of the Mayo Clinic Historical Unit.
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As part of Mayo Clinic's 150th-year celebration they are presenting daily through Tuesday a film called "The Real Moonlight Graham: A Life Well Lived."

The presentation of the film about the great baseball player — at Geffen Auditorium, just off the Mayo Gonda Building subway level — coincides with the 25th anniversary of the release of "Field of Dreams" and with the MLB All-Star game at Target Field in Minneapolis.

His real name was Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, whose story of a one-game appearance in the major leagues was highlighted in the film "Field of Dreams." Moonlight's dream was to first play in the majors and then become a fine physician.

Dr. Robert W. Reising, of Conway, Ark., has authored a book titled "Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams' Doc Graham." Dr. Reising told me he had been collaborating with Mayo Clinic when he became aware of the clinic's interest in researching more about Doc Graham's connections with Mayo.

Reising was aware of a film Mayo Clinic produced called "A Cheerful Heart: The Dave Madden Story." Madden's aunt, Alecia Madden, was married to Doc Graham. She was a teacher in Chisholm and Doc Graham worked in the Rood Hospital in Chisholm for a few years before becoming the school physician. The Grahams would come to Rochester to visit Dave Madden, who lived in the Iron Lung at Saint Marys Hospital for 15 years.

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Doc Graham was born in 1879. He suffered from bad lungs but loved baseball, his real passion. He entered professional baseball in 1901 and played until 1908.

While working on his medical degree at the University of Maryland, he opted to skip spring training to finish school. He didn't tell the fiery manager John McGraw, of the New York Giants, where he was. He suited up to play a game and McGraw removed him from the Giant's roster and sent him to the Memphis farm team. That about ended his baseball career.

Graham died in 1965 age 86. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Rochester. I asked Dr. Reising why he was called Moonlight.

"It was because of his speed in the outfield. His teammates said he was quicker than a gleam of moonlight," he told me.

Dr. Reising, himself a catcher at Michigan State University in 1953-54, also was intrigued by the story of Mike Schultz, a baseball player from Wells. Wells was stricken by polio and hospitalized alongside Dave Madden for several years. Reising has done research on and written about Mike Schultz, who lived from 1928 to 1975 and was buried at his home in Wells.

Schultz had a magnificent personality in spite of being in the iron lung for eight years at Saint Marys. His arms and one leg were completely paralyzed. Shortly after graduating from Wells High School he was signed by the New York Yankees and pitched in the Eastern and Southern Leagues and in the American Association. His passion for baseball never stopped, even when he was in the iron lung — he even perfected a scoreboard he could view from a mirror. He eventually went home to Wells to be with his wife and four daughters. He always needed an iron lung or respirator to breathe. Dr. Reising continues to research Schultz's life.

The 35-minute film "The Real Moonlight Graham: A Life Well Lived" is free and open to the public today at Geffen Auditorium in the Gonda Building. Today's showtimes are: 7:15 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 5:45 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. For the dates and times of other showings, go to www.150years.mayoclinic.org and click on "Events."

For my personal polio story, which started July 12, 1949, turn to my Saturday church column, "As the Spirit Moves Me" this week in the Celebrations section of the Post Bulletin.

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Next week's Back and Forth: Remembering Dr. Paul Zollman and the Olmsted County Fair.

Related Topics: BASEBALLMAYO CLINIC
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