I’ve been doing a study on Moonlight Graham and his role in “Field of Dreams.” Burt Lancaster, in his last acting appearance, portrayed Moonlight and he was on screen for just a few minutes in the hour and a half movie.
By all theatrical accounts, that would make him a “supporting cast” member. But when Burt leans across that desk as the real life Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham and says to Kevin Costner, “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy”— the movie takes on new depth.
It immediately transcends baseball. There are roles in life that matter way more than chasing down a deep fly ball in centerfield. And for the people in Chisholm, Minnesota, where Dr. Graham practiced for sixty years, families were made whole, miracles were wrought and life was enhanced by his presence.
That doesn’t sound like supporting cast to me.
And when I say I’ve been “doing a study,” don’t think Google or in-depth interviews or exhaustive searches in dusty attics. I’ve been cogitating on it. Kinda like those men used to do up at Bill Argo’s Gulf Station when I was a boy. They’d kick around an idea until it started making sense.
Maybe there are no “supporting cast” roles in life.
Miss Carolyn Blades spent a mere nine months with us in the first grade. That was two eons and a light year ago. I can still to this day print my name, spell c-a-t and wait my turn at a drinking fountain.
Pam Garrett is another perfect example. She and I were friends back in high school. We weren’t best buddies by any stretch of the imagination. We never dated or “went out.” But she was a thoughtful, nice, intelligent classmate who was fun to be around. I liked her.
We went our separate ways after graduation. But I have never forgotten her. I wonder from time to time how she’s doing. I bet she still has that laugh that was maybe a tad loud at times but was always so infectious. I don’t count her “touch” on my life as of little consequence. Or “supporting.” I thank God for her.
Chick King coached the American Legion baseball team for three short summers back in my teens. He taught me to get my hand up quickly by my right ear and make a snap throw to second. I never threw out a runner trying to steal a base for the rest of my career without silently thanking him.
Walter Wilder called me in April of 1969, “Kes, I’m the principal at Port St. Joe High School. How would you like to come to Florida, teach school here and coach football and baseball?” It was a five minute call that changed my life forever…..and immediately catapulted Mr. Wilder to “principal” character status for me.
One of those folks I coached with was Wayne Taylor. His coaching feats are legendary in Port St. Joe. We talked football till the cows came home. But you know what I remember most. He told me when my first son was a few weeks old, “Coach, don’t wish Josh to be older so you can talk with him or play ball with him. And when he is older and leaving don’t wish him younger and still under your direct touch. You enjoy him at the age he is at the moment.”
I could list a thousand more but you get the idea. And this story, like all the rest of mine, is not an attempt to mind anyone’s business. BUT just maybe we all ought to take a moment to think seriously about the entwinement of life that abounds on every side.
Didn’t someone way smarter than me write, “No man is an island?”
And if you think you’re unimportant or insignificant at times, I beg to differ. You are the main character in more lives than you may realize. It’s an important role. And you should be careful how you play it!
I believe with all my heart there are multitudes of Moonlight Grahams out there.
And that gets us back around to “Field of Dreams.” When Dr. Graham finally showed up at Kevin Costner’s baseball field in Iowa, he did so to save Kevin’s daughter from choking to death on a hotdog. You don’t reckon that short appearance wouldn’t make him a main character in that family’s life....forever…..