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Thursday, May 21, 2009

New book with local connections chases a baseball legend

A baseball legend is the subject of “Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams’ Doc Graham,” a new book written by Brett Friedlander and Dr. Robert Reising.

Chasing Moonlight

The book was published on the opening day of the 2009 Major League Baseball season and in time for summer reading.

Dr. Reising is retired from UNC Pembroke’s English Department faculty and teaches at the University of the Cumberlands. Friedlander is a sports writer and formerly with the Fayetteville Observer.

The authors began their pursuit of the late Dr. Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham four years ago following a series of newspaper articles on him by Friedlander. Dr. Graham, who practiced medicine for many years in Chisholm, Minn., was born in Fayetteville and is the brother of Dr. Frank Porter Graham, a former UNC president and U.S. senator.

In an interview from his office in Williamsburg, Ky., Dr. Reising discussed the research and the legend of Moonlight Graham.

“I met Brett at an event I hosted at UNCP to raise funds for a Jim Thorpe scholarship,” said Dr. Reising, who has written two books on the famous American Indian athlete. “I suggested that he write a book on Graham.”

Some time later, the pair began their research, which led them to Minnesota. Graham was a talented minor league baseball player who played two innings in the outfield for the N.Y. Giants in 1905, without getting to bat.

Brett Friedlander

Brett Friedlander
 

Bob Reising

Bob Reising
     
Black Line

The story became legendary in W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 book “Shoeless Joe” and retold in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” The movie portrayal of Doc Graham was by Burt Lancaster, who Dr. Reising notes played Jim Thorpe in a movie 50 years earlier.

The story caught on in Japan too resulting in a documentary film. “Chasing Moonlight” is available in Japanese.

Graham probably got his baseball nickname because he was moonlighting as a medical student, Dr. Reising said. The real Dr. Graham traveled to Minnesota to recuperate from a lung ailment and never left.

“We chased him from spot to spot,” Dr. Reising said. “We literally walked in his footsteps.”

Dr. Graham died in 1965, but their research reveals a very humble man who had a remarkable career in medicine.

“He never talked about his baseball career,” Dr. Reising said. “He never anticipated any interest in his life story.”

Dr. Graham, in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester, Minn., wrote a pioneering study of high blood pressure in children, which was an unexplored subject at the time.

“His work at a school allowed him to follow children’s health over time,” Dr. Reising said. “The paper he wrote was required reading in medical schools.”

Dr. Reising promises the book is a good summer read that is about more than America’s favorite pastime.

“It’s more than a baseball book,” Dr. Reising said. “It’s a story of dedication and compassion.”

Dr. Reising said book sales appear to be strong, and he and Friedlander are engaged in book signing tours far and wide. As for the legendary Dr. Reising, he said he is well.

“I am well and still teaching,” he said. “The Lord has blessed me.”

“Chasing Moonlight” is available at most bookstores and through online booksellers. It retails for $19.95 and is published by John F. Blair.

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