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Moonlight Graham in the Minors

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  • Moonlight Graham in the Minors

    Recently I was looking through old newspaper archives in Moonlight Graham's hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, when I ran across some old game stories about Graham's playing days with the 1902 Charlotte Hornets. It was a team that won a then record 25 consecutive games. On June 8th of that season, shortly after Graham had joined the team, the Hornets won their 23rd straight and the article in the paper the next day had a rather amusing passage about the local boy, Archie Graham. In a roundabout way, it reminds me of the scene from the movie when the young Moonlight Graham faces the veteran pitcher who kept knocking Graham down with brushback pitces. I've included that excerpt below, which is written in the over dramatic style of the times and also the box score and a team photo montage.

  • #2

    The details of Graham's career prior to him being drafted in September 1904 are fuzzy. Anything you could add would be appreciated. Here is what I could find:

    Graham graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1902. He played minor league ball for:

    1902 - Charlotte
    1903 - Nashua
    1904 - Manchester
    1905 - Charlotte and Scranton
    1906 - Scranton (won the NY State Lg batting title - .336) and Memphis
    1907 - Memphis

    Graham was drafted by the Giants from Manchester of the New England League in September 1904.

    As of March 28, 1905, Graham was the only one not to report to the Giants for spring training he had recently obtained his medical degree. (In truth later research shows that Graham didn't receive his medical degree until 1909.

    Graham finally joined the Giants on 5/23/1905. Here is the play-by-play of his only major league game:,c,332,34,0

    The Giants reserved Graham for the 1906 season. On 3/17/1906 he was sold to Memphis with the right of emergency recall. Graham refused to join Memphis, holding out for more money.


    • #3
      In 1906, he was known as Doc Graham while playing for Scranton. His Scranton Miners team was so far in front of the rest of the teams that it hurt attendance. On July 4th, 1906, Scranton played rival Wilkes-Barre in the AM in Scranton before a packed stadium, and then the two teams rode the train together to Wilkes-Barre to play the PM game before another full house. The big gate would hold the teams through July and maybe August.

      Doc Graham was also a very fast sprinter who often raced for purses (the money kind and not the female kind). The winner of the 100 yard race was given a sizable cash prize. Gamblers naturally got in on these races. Sometimes Doc Graham raced against college sprinters and other times it was against other pro ballplayers.

      I read an account saying that Doc Graham was using his winnings from a race to help pay his way to Europe to study medicine after the season ended. I think in his case it wasn't a lack of talent preventing him from a longer ML career, but maybe an unwillingness to devote 12 months of the year to just baseball.

      In addition to 100 yard races, fast ballplayers often were timed circling all of the bases. Four or five players would each have a turn and the times were noted in the paper.
      "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
      "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."


      • #4
        bkmckenna and TonyK,

        Those are some interesting facts about Moonlight Graham, much of which I didn't know. I'll have to check out the thing about Graham playing for Charlotte in 1905. Some say Charlotte didn't have a team from 1903 through 1907, but other sources claim that Moonlight Graham did play for Charlotte more than one season. It should be easy enough to find out with those old newspaper archives. I do know that his Charlotte debut, and probably his professional debut, was on June 4th, 1902 against New Bern. He played left field and hit fourth in the lineup that day going 2 for 4 with 6 putouts. Apparently, as TonyaK referred to, Graham did have great speed as some of the newspaper accounts from that season speak of all the would be base hits that he ran down in the outfield.

        Also, I looked today at the 1880 census and it shows an Archie Graham, listed as 6 years old living in Charlotte. His father is also listed as Archie. The implied birthdate is a little older than expected, but in those days the ages given on the census were sometimes off by a couple years. It almost has to be the same guy.
        Last edited by Carolinian; 02-15-2008, 04:57 PM. Reason: typo


        • #5
          Moonlight's brother:


          • #6
            US Census - 1900
            NC, Mecklenburg, Charlotte Ward #2, District 46, page 16 of 67

            Archibald - born Nov 1877 which matches, in college which matches as well
            Frank A. - born Oct 1887, right month, one year off, middle initial off but that could be handwriting

            Alexander Graham 55 - school administrator
            Catharine Graham 45
            David S Graham 24
            Archibald Graham 22
            Neil R Graham 20
            Mary Graham 18
            Hattie Graham 16
            Frank A Graham 12
            George M Graham 10
            Catharine Graham 7
            Annie Graham 4

            Further checking finds that this is indeed Graham's family. As noted here Frank Porter Graham was the son of Katherine Sloan and Alexander Graham:


            • #7
              Charlotte teams in organized ball:

              1901 VA-NC Lg
              1902 NC LG
              1905 VA-NC Lg


              • #8
                Today I looked at those Charlotte newspaper archives for 1905. Unfortunatley, it doesn't appear that Graham ever played for Charlotte that season. I didn't check every single game, but I did browse through the entire season pretty thoroughly and could find no evidence that Graham ever played for them that year.

                Thanks for posting the census info. Upon seeing that, I remembered they named a local junior high school here in Charlotte after Alexander Graham, Archie's father. The Archie Graham from the 1880 census I mentioned earlier must be a different person, quite possibly a relative.


                • #9
                  Archie "Doc" Graham

                  1905 Scranton NYSL OF 64 264 29 76 .288 10 sb
                  1906 Scranton NYSL OF 124 444 65 149 .336 38 sb
                  1907 Scranton NYSL OF 131 508 65 145 .265 34 sb
                  1908 Scranton NYSL OF 133 506 75 140 .277 32 sb

                  It looks as though he arrived in Scranton around the mid-season of 1905.
                  "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                  "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."


                  • #10
                    Following is the newspaper headline from Moonlight Graham's first game with the 1902 Charlotte Hornets and the box score. The game was played on June 4th, 1902 against New Bern. During the month of July that season, partly due to the dominance of the Charlotte club, the league disbanded, and Archie Graham moved on with his career. From reading the newspaper accounts of Graham's relatively brief tenure with the Charlotte team, the thing that really caught my attention was the excerpt from the article I posted at the beginning of this thread. It gives us a glimpse into the personality of the real life Archie Graham and paints a picture of someone who must have been quite a character at that age. Since parts of it may be difficult for some to read I will post a translated version at the bottom of the page.

                    From the June 5th, 1902 Charlotte Daily Observer:

                    From the June 9th Charlotte Daily Observer:

                    The grand stand recognized in the next comer to the bat, Archie Graham, the latest addition to the local nine. The rooting contingent applauded the Charlotte boy in the wildest sort of fashion; but Archie grinned sheepishly and didn't look at all cheerful. In fact it was an open secret that he wasn't proud of his own position. Two minutes before he had picked up his stick he had developed a case of buck fever and had begged Manager Ashenback to put someone in his place. "I simply can't hit that fellow, Morris," he said; and Ashenback laughed at him and stated, as a policy lie, that a 10-year-old boy could knock the spots off anything that Morris could offer. Betraying nervousness in every line of his body Archie sallied forth, while Morris looked upon him as easy fruit and grinned from ear to ear. Trembling like the star performer at his own wedding, Archie took a few balls and strikes, and then suddenly he unlimbered. There was a resounding crack; the grand stand showing renewed signs of lunacy; Armstrong began his pilgrimmage to third; Graham was down like a bird for first, while Durham's left-fielder, after a hard run, picked up the spheroid as it was rolling into the race track. Armstrong scored in a walk, and Graham would have made a homerun but for the fact that in his excitement he ran over himself between first and second bases and had to catch a new grip on speed. He made third, however, and rested there just long enough to allow Ashenback to fly out to short stop.


                    • #11
                      What do the papers say about him playing college ball?


                      • #12
                        I've never seen any mention of his college career. Their sports page was not very extensive in those days, often less than one page.


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