A little more ‘Moonlight’

Deadlines being what they are, I don’t always get to talk to everyone I’d like to interview before a story hits the presses.

Such was the case that appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on Wednesday about Chisholm’s own Doc Graham, aka Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. His name became well known long after his time, thanks to the book “Shoeless Joe” and the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” You can read the story here:

“Moonlight” Graham in his playing days, 1905 with the New York Giants.

One of the calls I placed on Tuesday bore fruit on Wednesday, when I picked up the phone and heard the jolly voice of Father Frank Perkovich, the Polka Mass Priest. The Chisholm native was in Rochester and had missed my original call.

“I knew him as a kid growing up, from the first through the 12th grade,’ the veteran priest said. “That was the first time they had a doctor in a school. He had to take care of all those kids.”

Perkovich’s infectious laugh burst out when we talked about how a Mayo physician had recommended that North Carolina native Graham relocate to the Iron Range, where the cold, clear air might be a cure for his chronic cough. (Must’ve worked. Graham was 82 when he retired in 1961.)

But Perkovich was aware of another element in Graham’s decision to move to Chisholm that I hadn’t heard before. J.P. Vaughan, the Chisholm school superintendent, had grown up on a farm near Rochester. He and Alecia Flowers, the woman Graham married, were cousins, both part of the Madden family of Rochester, Perkovich said. So it was Vaughan who suggested they relocate to Chisholm.

The story is told differently by the Society for American Baseball Research in a lengthy online article about Graham. In their version, Graham already was living in Chisholm when he met Vaughan, but it was Vaughan who convinced Graham to become the town’s school doctor.

Either way, there’s definitely a Vaughan connection.

Burt Lancaster portraying “Doc” Graham in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.”

Graham continued to share his baseball skills with the children of Chisholm, Perkovich said.

“He’d fit your hand on the ball and say, ‘This is how you do it,’” Perkovich recalled.

The Grahams never had children of their own, but “Doc” Graham was like a “pied piper” to the town’s children, Perkovich said. Alecia was a “stylish lady” who directed many plays in Chisholm.

“He was a great doctor,” Perkovich said of Graham. “He loved his people.”

Contact John Lundy at jlundy@duluthnews.com.

 

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