Thirty years ago, even the most die-hard baseball fan would be hard-pressed to know of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, an outfielder for the New York Giants in 1905. But the 1982 W.P. Kinsella novel “Shoeless Joe” uncovered his existence to a select group of followers. However, it wouldn’t be until 1989 when Kinsella’s novel would be made into the feature film “Field of Dreams” that Graham, and his plight, would become almost common knowledge among sports fans. The story of taking chances, living out dreams, and redemption provided a backdrop for what took center stage in Miami on Tuesday night. But for those who still have yet to read the book or see the movie, here is a brief description. Moonlight Graham was a secondary character in the story of an Iowa corn farmer, listening to his dreams, plows his cornfield under to build a baseball diamond. The diamond brings back the ghost of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the banned outfielder form the 1919 Chicago White Sox. The farmer then sets off on a series of travels to bring others to the field. Among them was Graham, an outfielder for the New York Giants, who in 1905 was credited with a game appearance but never had an official at bat. While the ghost of Graham receives closure by playing in at the field, he forsakes his dream of being a big league ballplayer when an emergency summons him back to his true calling, that of a small town doctor.
In 2005, the Cubs were a .500 ball club working through some outfield issues when they called up a player named Adam Greenberg on July 7. Selected in the ninth round of the 2002 draft, Greenberg had spent four years in the Cubs’ system and had a career .284 batting average, 3.92 on-base percentage, and 77 stolen bases. It looked as if Greenberg might have a future as a big-leaguer, satisfying the problematic leadoff spot for the parent club.
He was to see his first Major League action as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning in a game on July 9 against the Florida Marlins. On the very first pitch he saw, Marlins pitcher Valerio De Los Santos hit Greenberg in the back of the head with a pitch. He suffered a concussion, which later would cause him vertigo and excruciating headaches. Greenberg was removed from the ballgame and spent the rest of the year on the disabled list. It remained his only Major League appearance until Tuesday.
While Greenberg battled to come back from the injury, he cleared many hurdles. Playing independent ball in 2009, Greenberg suffered yet another beaning and bounced back. In 2011, he was able to single off De Los Santos. Now 31-years old, the Miami Marlins made a gesture in which they hoped would wipe the slate clean. They signed Greenberg to a one-day contract with the expressed purpose of playing him on October 2, giving him an opportunity to bat.
Adam Greenberg decided to make the most of his contract, donating it to a charity doing research on concussions. In the sixth inning, Greenberg came up to face the Mets’ RA Dickey, pinch hitting for left fielder Bryan Peterson. Greenberg struck out swinging on three pitches. While some may wish the outcome would have had a happier ending, at least Greenberg didn’t have to appear in some literary cornfield to receive closure.
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