More ‘Moonlight Grahams’
A couple of days ago a friend of mine mentioned Moonlight
Graham and Field of Dreams.
We’ve all seen the movie, I love that movie. I watch it
every February just to get me in the baseball mood.
Many people don’t realize though that Graham was a real person
and not just a fictional character. Archibald Graham only played one game in
June of 1905, he didn’t get to bat and he never played again. He did go on to
be a doctor for nearly 45 years in Chisholm, MN from 1915 to 1959. He died
there in August 1965 and is buried in Rochester, Minnesota.
Graham is known of course from the depiction of him in the
movie based on the novel Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella. Kinsella had seen
Graham’s stat line in the Baseball Encyclopedia and included him in his story.
It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that I used to buy
the Baseball Encyclopedia every couple years myself. In fact I still have one
copy, if not more, in a box that has other baseball annuals and novels down in
my basement. Back then I would usually only look up guys that I was interested
in or on occasion I would just flip the pages blindly and point to a name. But
to “read” the Encyclopedia and come across a guy like Graham would have been an
Today the internet, and particularly sites like Baseball
Reference, has made books like Who’s Who or the Baseball Encyclopedia obsolete.
If I want to look up Graham, just type in his name and there he is. But the
real wonder is being able to do searches by identifying a certain stat or set
An example would be; listing the non-pitchers that have
played exactly one game in the majors without getting an at-bat. Along with
Moonlight Graham, 63 other men played one game without getting a plate
appearance. The earliest being Tom Maher for the 1902 Philadelphia Phillies and
the most recent Brian Esposito in 2007 for the Cardinals. Esposito is currently
in the Houston minor league system so he still has a chance to get his name off
How about catcher Jack Feller? He played one inning of one
game on Sept 13th, 1958 for the Detroit Tigers. He plays five years
in the minors, gets called up to Detroit, enters the game in the ninth, catches
HOFer Jim Bunning for one inning in a 13-2 Tiger win, and then never plays in
the big leagues again.
Here’s one that must have been really hard to live with. In
1953, 27 year old shortstop Frank Verdi makes his major league debut for the
New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. In the bottom of
the sixth Verdi enters the game as a defensive replacement for Phil Rizzuto
whom was pinch hit for in the top of the 6th. In the top of the
seventh the Yankees get a rally going, a couple of hits and walks and three
runs score when Verdi is scheduled to come to the plate with the bags loaded
and two outs. But before Frank can get to the plate, Yankee manager Casey
Stengel calls Verdi back and he is pinch hit for by Bill Renna. Renna
grounds-out, the rally is over, and Frank Verdi never plays another game in the
majors again. Ouch! The Yankees go on to
win the World Series 4 games to 2 over the Brooklyn Dodgers.
I’m not 100% positive, but I believe the above picture is of Frank Verdi as a manager with the Newark Bears in the early 2000′s
Frank Verdi died last month on July 9th at the
age of 84.
As I said, there are 64 different non-pitchers that played
in one game without getting a plate appearance and they have 64 different
stories, besides Moonlight Graham, you now know two more of those stories.
The “I didn’t know that” stat – There are 83 non pitchers
that have made one or more appearances in a major league game without getting
to the plate. The all-time leader actually played in 105 games without ever
getting to the plate. I’m sure a lot of you will remember this guy. Herb
Washington of the Oakland Athletics.