Director hopes to hit home run with documentary about Chisholm doctorTwenty-five years after the movie “Field of Dreams” gave birth to the ethereal character “Moonlight” Graham, another film is being made about the real Dr. Archibald Graham, a short-lived baseball player and longtime Chisholm doctor.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Twenty-five years after the movie “Field of Dreams” gave birth to the ethereal character “Moonlight” Graham, another film is being made about the real Dr. Archibald Graham, a short-lived baseball player and longtime Chisholm doctor.
This film, a documentary, will explore the long relationship between Graham and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
“We found out that he had come down here to the Mayo Clinic from Chisholm approximately 90 times,” said Mark Flaherty, a film producer and director who works for the clinic.
Graham’s two-inning Major League Baseball career, in 1905 with the New York Giants, led to his inclusion as a character in W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 novel “Shoeless Joe.”
In the 1989 movie, which starred Kevin Costner, the Graham character was given a key role. Costner plays Ray Kinsella, whose mystical connection to a baseball field in Dyersville, Iowa, leads him to Chisholm and the distinguished Doc Graham, played by Burt Lancaster.
Kinsella gives Graham the opportunity to return to his youthful days, playing in a Giants uniform with Shoeless Joe Jackson and other old-time players on the magical ballpark cut into a cornfield. When Graham sees Kinsella’s young daughter choking, he walks off the field to save her, transforming back into Doc Graham and losing his chance to be a baseball player again.
Although that episode was fantasy, nearly everything in the movie about Doc Graham of Chisholm was accurate, said Mike Kalibabky, a freelance writer and photographer in Chisholm who has researched Graham’s life extensively.
And then he rattled off a series of minor inaccuracies in the movie: Doc Graham didn’t wear a mustache; he batted left-handed, not right-handed; the Giants uniform worn in the movie came from the 1920s, not from 1905; and Graham’s office was not in downtown Chisholm, it was in the school.
Beginning in 1917 until he retired in 1961 at age 82, Graham was the Chisholm school physician, Kalibabky said.
Graham’s time in Chisholm began in 1909 at the long-defunct Rood Hospital, Kalibabky said.
But the North Carolina native’s Minnesota connections start with the Mayo Clinic, Flaherty said. Graham was there in 1909 for continuing education when a doctor there saw him about a chronic cough, he explained.
“The Mayo physician told him if it was cold, clean air he was looking for, the Iron Range of northern Minnesota was where he should go,” Flaherty related.
Apparently he chose Chisholm in particular because of an ad in a medical journal, Kalibabky said.
But Graham’s wife was from Rochester, which may partially explain why he so frequently chose the Mayo Clinic for continuing education, both men agreed.
“At that time it was a pretty long drive, but he kept with it,” Flaherty said.
Graham developed a close relationship with some of the physicians at Mayo, Flaherty said, and began collaborating with them. Probably his most significant accomplishment in medical terms was a study of blood pressure in children. For more than 15 years he recorded the results of 25,000 blood pressure readings on 3,500 Chisholm children. That led to a study, in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic, that was published in the American Journal of Diseases of Children in 1945.
Graham’s study “set the standard for blood pressure in children,” Flaherty said. “It was a big deal at the time.”
On later visits to Mayo, Graham sometimes would look in on Dave Madden, a polio victim who lived for 16 years in an “iron lung” at the clinic’s St. Mary’s Hospital.
Flaherty, who makes documentaries for the clinic every year, was researching last year’s film on Madden when he came across Graham’s connection to Mayo.
Flaherty said he doesn’t want to make this documentary and find out later there was a picture, or a bit of film, or mementos about Graham that he missed. That’s why he’s traveling to Chisholm next week in hopes of visiting with residents who have memorabilia.
He doesn’t have to travel nearly as far to see Graham’s final resting place. After Graham died in 1965, he was buried in Calvary Cemetery, about a mile east of Mayo Clinic.
“The caretaker at the cemetery says he’s always finding baseballs there,” Flaherty related.
If it seems surprising that Graham was buried in his wife’s hometown instead of in the town where he cared for all of the children for decades, it’s not a matter of concern in Chisholm, Kalibabky said.
“I’ve never heard a peep from anybody about it,” he said.
The documentary is scheduled to come out this summer, Flaherty said, to be shown in conjunction with the All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis. He hopes to be able to arrange a showing in Chisholm as well.