Moonlight Graham (November 9, 1876 - August 25, 1965) was an American professional baseball player who appeared as a right fielder in a single major league game for the New York Giants on June 29, 1905. His story was popularized by Shoeless Joe, a novel by W.P. Kinsella, and the subsequent 1989 film Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, and featuring Burt Lancaster and Frank Whaley as older and younger incarnations of Graham.
Graham was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He played in the minor leagues for three years before joining the Giants on May 23, 1905. On June 29, the Giants were the visiting team against the Brooklyn Dodgers, then known as the Superbas. For the bottom of the eighth inning, Graham was sent in to play right field, replacing George Browne. In the top of the ninth inning, Graham was on deck (scheduled to be the next batter) when the Giants made their third and final out. He played the bottom of the ninth in right field but never came to bat, and that game turned out to be his only appearance in a major league game.
After playing in the minor leagues through the 1907 season, Graham completed his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1908. He obtained his license the following year and began practicing medicine in Chisholm, Minnesota.
"Doc" Graham, as he became known after his career as a ballplayer, served the people of Chisholm for fifty years. From 1915 to 1959, Graham was the doctor for the Chisholm schools.
Graham died at age 88 in Chisholm in 1965. He is buried in Rochester, Minnesota.
His brother, Frank Porter Graham, was president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was later a U. S. Senator.
In 1975, author W. P. Kinsella happened to notice Graham's entry in The Baseball Encyclopedia. He made note of his unusual career, and then incorporated Graham as a character in his 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, on which the movie Field of Dreams was based.
In the novel, the dates of Graham's big-league appearance and death are kept as in real life, making the 1905 appearance 74 years prior to the book's 1979 timeframe, and the Ray Kinsella character quickly finds out that Graham has been dead since 1965. The time-travel scene has Kinsella meeting Graham in 1955, ten years prior to Graham's death.
In the movie, the Fenway Park scoreboard shows Graham's appearance as having taken place in 1922, 67 years prior to the film's 1989 setting, and does not say whether Graham is still living. While it is not unusual for some men who played Major League Baseball 67 years earlier to still be alive, Kinsella does not find out that his quarry is dead until he arrives in Chisholm, where a woman in the office of a local newspaper tells him Graham died in 1972. In the time-travel sequence, Kinsella goes back to just before the death of the elderly Graham, who says his single-game appearance was at the end of the season, rather than the beginning.
The Graham Scholarship Fund, established in Graham's honor, provides financial assistance to two Chisholm High School graduating seniors each year. The award is given to one boy and one girl, and is $500 to each recipient.