June 29, 1905: Moonlight Graham's day

The real story of "Moonlight" Graham

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - It's the stuff of legend, except it's true. In the late innings of a game played today in baseball history (June 29, 1905), Archibald "Moonlight" Graham made his major league debut in right field for the New York Giants. They were playing the Brooklyn Superbas (today's Los Angeles Dodgers). The game ended a couple innings later with the Giants winning 11-1. Graham did not come to bat. He never got another chance.

"Moonlight" Graham was sent down to the minors after the game. He decided that at the age of 28 he had spent enough time in the minors. Rather than report to the Giants farm team, again, he called it a career. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham came oh so close to batting in a major league game, but it was not to be, until Hollywood came calling long after his death.

"Moonlight" Graham was a key character in the movie, Field of Dreams. The film was fiction, but the "Moonlight" Graham part, played by Burt Lancaster, was real. Well, most of it was real. Graham really did become a doctor in Chisholm, Minnesota, but the part about a young Archie Graham, played by Frank Whaley, living out his dream by coming to bat against the re-incarnated Black Sox remains a dream.

"Moonlight" Graham had a distinctly short, and let's be honest, insignificant, stint in the major leagues, until author W. P. Kinsella came across his statistics: 

Archibald Moonlight Graham: Batting record
Year team G AB R H RBI BB AVE OBP
1905  NY n 1  0  0  0   0    0    .000 .000

Kinsella was intrigued about a man who came so close to living out his dream that he put the character in his book of fiction, Shoeless Joe, which the movie, "Field of Dreams" is based on. Unfortunately, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham never found out how well known he became. The Fayetteville, North Carolina native died in Chisholm in 1965.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Archibald Moonlight Graham statistics
USA Today, June 25, 2005

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June 27, 1973: From High School to the majors

A Fleeting Star

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - The Texas Rangers had their biggest crowd of the season on this date in 1973 to watch an 18-year old pitcher make his major league debut. David Clyde graduated from Houston's Westchester High School just a few weeks earlier. The last time he pitched, he was facing high school talent. On this night David Clyde was facing the Minnesota Twins.

He must have felt some butterflies pitching in front of 35,698 fans because he walked the first two batters he saw, but he struck out the next three swinging. Clyde pitched five innings, walking seven, but only giving up one hit, a home run to Mike Adams. He struck out eight and got the win. It appeared to be the start of a promising career after high school numbers almost beyond belief. In his senior year, Clyde went 18-0 striking out 328 batters in 148 1/3 innings, walking just 18.

Despite an auspicious major league start, David Clyde's success was fleeting. He spent parts of just five years in the majors, finishing with a record of 18 wins and 33 losses. He played his last major league game in 1979 at the age of 24. Clyde bounced around the minors for a few years, giving it all up in 1982.

David Clyde wasn't the first presumed star whose glow faded too soon, but it was sad because many believe Clyde was hyped and rushed to the majors amid tremendous publicity to get fannies in the seats. He has since said the issue for him wasn't so much talent, as confidence. He had talent, but was never given the opportunity to build up major league confidence.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
"Sports of the Times; The mismanaged carerr of David Clyde" by David Anderson, The New York Times, June 23, 2003

June 27, 1973 box score/play-by-play

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June 26th in baseball history: Gehrig's sneak preview

A Preview

Lou GehrigCHICAGO, ILLINOIS | JUNE 26, 1920 - A 17-year old high school kid wowed fans and major league scouts on this date in 1920 by hitting a towering grand slam out of Cubs Park (now known as Wrigley Field). The blast sealed a victory for New York's Commerce High School against Chicago's Lane Tech 12 to 6. The kid's name was Henry Louis Gehrig.

In the not too distant future, Gehrig would be terrorizing opposing American League teams while playing for the New York Yankees. And he would hit a bunch of grand slam home runs, 23 to be exact (he and Alex Rodriguez are tied for the career lead as of this writing). He also finished with a lifetime .340 average, 1,995 RBI and 493 home runs hitting after Babe Ruth. Gehrig would hold the record for the most consecutive games played (2,130) until broken by Cal Ripken in 1995.

Sadly, while still in his 30's the player known as the Iron Horse would succumb to the debilitating and deadly disease that carries his name.

  • Chicago would have a special attraction for Gehrig. That's where he met Eleanor Grace Twitchell, whom he married in 1933.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
"Luckiest Man: The life and death of Lou Gehrig,"
by Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post, April 3, 2005
Career grand slams

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June 25th in baseball history: Bonds' dramatic MLB debut

In with a Bang 


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA | JUNE 25, 1968 - San Francisco Giants rookie Bobby Bonds hit a grand slam home run in his first major league game on this date in 1968. At the time, he was just the second major leaguer to debut with a slam. William Duggelby of the Philadelphia Nationals did it in 1898. Duggelby did it in first at bat! Bobby Bonds hit his four-bagger in his third at bat against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Yes, Bobby Bonds was Barry Bonds' father. Barry's stats outshine his father's, but Bobby was no slouch himself. He was a 5-tool player - run, catch, throw, hit and hit for power. Five times he hit 30 home runs and stole 30 bases. Five times he had 90 or more RBI. His best all-around year was probably 1970 when he hit .302, 26 home runs, 78 runs batted in, which is not phenomenal, but he also had 134 runs scored and a .375 on base percentage.

Despite some excellent numbers, Bobby just didn't seem to quite meet expectations - which were high. His longest stint was with the same team his son finished his career with - the Giants, but he bounced around; having also spent time with the Yankees, Angels, White Sox, Rangers, Cardinals, Indians and Cubs.

Since 1968, four more players have hit grand slams in their first major league games. Jeremy Hermida did it for the Florida Marlins in his first at bat in 2005. Even more remarkably Kevin Kouzmanoff did it for the Cleveland Indians on the first pitch he saw in September 2006 (Hear it), Daniel Nava did the same for the Boston Red Sox on his first major league pitch June 12, 2010, and Brandon Crawford hit a slam in his first game, 3rd at bat, for the Giants May 27, 2011. 

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Grand slam, Baseball-Reference   
Grand slam in first MLB game

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June 24th in baseball history: Hero's welcome for traded Brewer

'Stormin' Gorman Returns

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN | JUNE 24, 1983 - More than 46,000 fans squeezed into Milwaukee County Stadium on this date in 1983, most of them there to see the other team's centerfielder. In an outpouring of affection rarely shown pampered, high-salaried pro athletes - especially from the opposing team - Milwaukee Brewers' fans showed their appreciation for one of their most beloved players, Gorman Thomas. He had been traded to the Cleveland Indians 18 days earlier. Fans were furious that he was no longer a Brewer.

Early in his career fans were often furious that Thomas was a Brewer. He had a low batting average and struck out a lot. During the 5-season span from 1974 - '78, Thomas was up and down from the big team to the minors, spending the entire '77 season at Spokane. His break out year was 1978 when he hit 32 home runs and drove in 86 runs. During the 5 seasons from ‘78 to ‘82, Thomas averaged 35 home runs and 98 runs batted in, and was a key part of the Brewers' 1982, and only, World Series team. Thomas also turned out to be an excellent centerfielder.

It was as much Thomas' persona and early failures as his slugging that endeared him to Brewer fans. He was the epitome of Milwaukee - a tough looking, but easy-going, lunch pail carrying, mutton chopped throwback who could have been any one of thousands of working stiffs in this blue collar town if he wasn't a major league baseball player.

Thomas was as devastated by the 1983 trade from the Brewers as the fans were infuriated. It brought him to tears, but he got a chance to finish his career as a Brewer in 1986. ‘Stormin' Gorman Thomas was inducted into the Brewer Walk of Fame in 2004.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
The Milwaukee Journal, June 25, 1983, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Baseball Cube: Gorman Thomas

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