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Doc Graham on chasing your dreams

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In his 1905 yearbook entry at the University of Maryland, a student named Archie Graham included a quotation: “The world knows nothing of its greatest men.”

That certainly could be said of Graham for most of the 20th century.

Another book, the Baseball Encyclopedia, contains one line about Graham. He played in a single major league game for a career batting average of .000.

The ballplayer-turned-physician would remain unknown until a writer spotted that line and produced a fictionalized account of him in the novel Shoeless Joe, which turned into the movie “Field of Dreams.”

A biographer has traced the real life of “Moonlight” Graham as he made his way through school and sports, leaving behind a bench job with the New York Giants and a career as a minor leaguer to morph into “Doc” Graham, a quirky and beloved physician in a Minnesota mining town.

Graham could have practiced medicine anywhere: He continued his education at Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic; he did pioneering work on children’s blood pressure; and he was one of the first to practice what we now call sports medicine. He also served for 44 years as a school doctor.

Although the Boston Red Sox picked up his contract in 1910, Graham never took the bait. Still, he’d made it to John McGraw’s Giants, one of the best baseball clubs ever. In Minnesota, he played in industrial leagues until he was almost 50.

A century later, Graham has become so well known that a film crew came from Japan to make a documentary about him.

Graham’s legacy, though, is that he made a contribution by doing what he loved.

Or, as his fictional character replies to a comment that only five minutes in the majors was a tragedy: “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.”

— Adapted from Chasing Moonlight, Brett Friedlander and Robert Reising, John F. Blair, Publisher.

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