A rare and coveted autograph from Archibald “Moonlight” Graham found its way to PSA/DNA during a recent collectibles show in Pennsylvania.
Graham famously played just two innings in the Major Leagues in 1905 for the New York Giants, before finishing out his brief baseball career in the minors. He never fielded a ball or set foot in the batter’s box.
Graham, who “moonlit” as a medical student, would live out his days as the community and school doctor in the small town of Chisholm, Minnesota from 1919 to 1959.
Largely forgotten from his days on the field, the novel Shoeless Joe and subsequent film adaptation Field of Dreams brought the interesting circumstances of Graham’s baseball career to the masses. The doctor’s appearances in fiction also had an effect in the hobby. The success of the film, coupled with the strange circumstances of Graham’s baseball career, led to his signature becoming increasingly popular among collectors, especially because examples are so hard to come by.
Algard was able to finally track down the scarce autograph after scouring sites like eBay for school yearbooks, knowing that people have a tendency to retain those hardbound memories. After trying in vain to acquire Graham’s autograph, the yearbook angle struck him during one of his sons’ visits to the school nurse.
“One day my oldest son wasn’t feeling well and went to the nurse’s office,” Algard recalled. “Turns out she had a TV, and the Yankees were playing a day game in Fenway. It ended up giving me a completely different idea as to where [Graham’s autograph] could be found. People save yearbooks and teachers sign them.”
The relentless pursuit of Moonlight’s autograph continued, and his family came to know his yearbook hunt as “Dad’s chasing Moonlight.”
“Over the years, whenever I found and bought a yearbook and got it in hand, I would wait until my sons got home from school and flip through the yearbooks together. I never really considered it disappointing when Moonlight’s autograph wasn’t in the books. It was fun, like opening packs of baseball cards and hoping for a star as a kid,” said Algard.
Seventeen years and many yearbooks later, finally, Algard landed Moonlight.
“I purchased it in early May and didn’t even open it for probably a week. When I flipped through it, there was a page signed by several faculty members and he was one,” said Algard. Graham signed the book, “AW Graham, MD.”
According to the collector, the original seller hadn’t included Graham’s autograph in the corresponding auction pictures. The seller even went as far as including a photo of the page opposite Graham’s signature, but not the one bearing his coveted pen strokes. Apparently, the item was merely listed as a historical collectible.
After landing Graham’s autograph, Algard set out to get the item authenticated by PSA/DNA. He was directed to the Philly Show, where PSA/DNA’s autograph experts were on hand. There, he met autograph expert, and Moonlight Graham collector, Kevin Keating.
“An authentic Moonlight Graham autograph is a tremendous rarity,” said Keating. “This example now brings the extremely limited group of known examples to five. I’m a huge fan of the fabled player/doctor and his story, so once I saw this example I had to meet the collector who landed it. The rarity of the autograph, coupled with the story of Moonlight and the collector’s creative approach to realize his goal, made for a great, feel-good story of the hobby. It epitomizes what the hobby is all about.”
Algard has no intention of selling Moonlight’s autograph, but he noted he might eventually entertain the notion of trading it.