August 3 – On This Date in History

 

On this date in history, absolutely nothing happened.

Just kidding. Actually, quite a few noteworthy events took place.

On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from the Spanish port of Palos with three ships–the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria–under his command. Just like Captain Kirk, Columbus was trying ChristopherColumbusShipsto go where no man had gone before.

He did not succeed.

Columbus was on a mission to locate a western sea route that would lead to India, China, and Asia’s fabled islands of gold and spice. When he finally found land, Columbus was nowhere near India. What he discovered instead was the island chain we now know as The Bahamas. And it’s not really fair to say he ‘discovered’ these islands, because when Columbus dropped anchor, he found other people already living there.

 

SubmarineOn this date in history, the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, became the first vessel to accomplish an underwater voyage to the geographic North Pole. On August 1, 1958, the Nautilus left Alaska’s northern coast and submerged beneath the Arctic ice cap. Two days and 1,000 miles later, as the submarine reached the top of the world, Cmdr. William Anderson told the crew: “For our world, our country, and our Navy–the North Pole.” Today, the decommissioned Nautilus is on exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

 

Private parties in Caracas, Venezuela don’t usually spawn a dance craze and pop culture excitement, but that’s exactly what happened in 1992, when inspiration hit flamenco-pop artists Antonio Monge and Rafael Ruiz. The duo, collectively known for 30 years as Los del Rio, was mesmerized by the live FlamencoSpanishDancerperformance of a flamenco dancer.

The pair took an ad-libbed verse they had coined at that party performance, and in 1993 incorporated it into a new song titled ‘Macarena’. The song was a hit in Venezuela, and in 1994 the BMG music label empowered the Bayside Boys to create an English-language remix of the song, hoping to make it more dance-club compatible. Spurred on by extensive radio play, a music video, and a dance that was virtually klutz-proof, the song hit the U.S. charts in 1995, and eventually reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart on August 3, 1996. The song stayed on the Billboard chart for a then record-breaking 60 weeks.

 

And, 25 years ago today, on August 3, 1988, the ‘final shot’ from the movie Field of Dreams was filmed in Dyersville, Iowa. You remember the scene: Ray Kinsella has reunited with the ghost of his father, and on that magical ball field in the corn, he’s finally getting a second chance to ‘have a catch’ with dear old Dad. As darkness settles in, wife Annie flips a switch from the porch, triggering the stadium lights and illuminating the field. We watch as the camera rises from ground level, revealing a line of cars, headlights twinkling, stretching as far as the eye can see. The prophetic words spoken by Terence Mann at movie’s end (“Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come”) are coming true, right before our very eyes.

Creating this emotion-packed, visually-stunning display required Herculean efforts, the likes of which haven’t been seen since, well, Hercules.

Canadian balladeer Gordon Lightfoot wrote about a ribbon of darkness, but it was going to take a ‘river of lights’ (that’s what movie producer Brian Frankish called it) to capture the closing magic found in Shoeless Joe, the novel written by fellow Canadian W.P. Kinsella and the story upon which Field of Dreams is based.

 

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Sue Riedel, then a volunteer with the Iowa Film Board, was the movie’s local casting director and the person in charge of pulling off the logistically-challenging stunt. Producer Frankish had requested 3,000 participants riding in 1,500 lined-up vehicles, but despite much legwork, volunteer numbers for the final scene were still lagging badly a week before the shoot. The stifling heat, combined with area residents’ unwillingness to sit in man-made gridlock, were undoubtedly contributing factors.

Picnic1With help from the local paper, area businesses, and good old-fashioned cold-calling, Frankish’s magic number of 1,500 automobiles was met.  Let the record show that not one single text message was sent or received in support of this amazing feat.

After a sweltering picnic lunch at a local park, complete with lots of hydrating liquids, the army of volunteer residents lined up their vehicles on Dyersville East Road. No doubt, they were pleased to see several sky-blue portable toilets, strategically placed along the lengthy route by an obviously efficient production crew.

As dusk approached, scene participants turned on their headlights and tuned in their radios to a local frequency where instructions were being given by a studio helicopter. At times, drivers were instructed to switch their headlights between low and high beams, adding a twinkling effect and producing the illusion of movement.  After three takes, director Phil Alden Robinson got the ‘river of light’ that Brian Frankish was looking for. He yelled, “Cut! It’s good,” and a long line of sweltering but happy participants honked their horns in celebration.

It had taken an immense amount of planning, work, and coordination, but the legendary Field of Dreams closing scene was finally in the can.

Considering the amount of liquid they consumed, some of the drivers in the last scene probably ended up there, too.

Click on the box below to relive the magic.


 

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The Field of Dreams is alive and well. Click on the pic below to learn more.

 

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Moonlight Graham, Chisholm, Minnesota

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By Bill Lewis

Remember that spine-tingling scene at Fenway Park, when the whispering voice in Field of Dreams spoke to Ray Kinsella and Terence Mann? “Go the distance.” They were the only two who saw the scoreboard display: ‘Archibald Moonlight Graham, Chisholm Minn, New York Giants, 1922, Lifetime Statistics: 1 Game, 0 At Bats’. Neither man knew the meaning of the message, nor did they have a clue who Moonlight Graham was. Until 1989, almost nobody knew who Moonlight Graham was–except the small group of people in the cold, blustery mining town of Chisholm, Minnesota.

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docOn June 29, 1905, in the bottom of the eighth inning, during a game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Superbas (forerunner of the Dodgers) in Brooklyn’s Washington Park, New York Giants manager John McGraw pointed a bony finger in Archie Graham’s direction and said, “Right field!” Two strikeouts and a lazy fly ball later, it was the top of the ninth and an outside chance for Graham to bat. After a pop-up to short and a strikeout, it looked like Graham’s first opportunity to bat in the major leagues was slipping away. But reserve catcher Boileryard Clarke hit a home run to left center, bringing Graham to the on-deck circle. It was from there he watched as pitcher Claude Elliott ended the game on a pop-up to second base. A week later, Graham’s contract was sold to the Scranton Miners of the New York State League, and Moonlight Graham never played another major league baseball game.

What would’ve happened if Doc Graham had gotten to the plate? As Terence Mann surmised in the movie, “If he’d gotten a hit, he might’ve stayed in baseball.” Graham did play three more seasons in the minors, but in April, 1909, while attending a medical conference at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Graham decided to answer an ad in a local medical journal seeking the services of a doctor. He went to the railroad station in Rochester and told the clerk for the Great Northern Railroad that he wanted a ticket “for as far north as the train goes.”

The train tracks ended in Chisholm, Minnesota.

Brutal cold and a charred city nearly wiped out by a wildfire the previous fall greeted theChisholmFire1908 good doctor when he stepped from the train. Impressed by the resolve and spirit of the townspeople trying to rebuild their lives, and not really looking forward to getting back on a cramped train, Graham walked to nearby Rood Hospital and knocked on the door. When nurse K.A. Murray answered, Graham said, “I am here. I am your doctor.”

While working at Rood Hospital over the next eight years, Doc Graham immersed himself in the Chisholm community. He organized night school classes to help immigrants become citizens, made countless house calls, joined several civic organizations including the Masonic Lodge, and even played baseball on the city team and in various industrial leagues for the next two decades. On July 1, 1917, Moonlight Graham was hired by the Chisholm school system as a staff physician. It was a position he would hold for the next 42 years.

Doc Graham may not have been a star in baseball, but he did find major-league stardom inDocGrahamBloodPressureKids the halls of medicine.  In 1926, Graham began a 15-year study of childhood blood pressure involving more than 25,000 Chisholm students.  Before his career was over, Doc’s data spanned 30 years and involved 50,000 children.  In 1945, Graham’s findings were published in the the April issue of the American Journal of Diseases of Children.  So valuable was the data contained in Doc’s article that it became required reading for every medical student in every medical school around the world.  To this date, Graham’s research data remains on file for use by Mayo Clinic researchers.

DocGrahamFestival2Doctor Graham had a tremendous impact and influence on the growing town he served so well. There’s a Doc Moonlight Graham Field in Chisholm, and the town holds an annual Doc ‘Moonlight’ Graham Days event, featuring art displays, a car show, kids’ activities, a karaoke contest, school alumni reunions, live music and a Saturday parade. Oh yes, there’s a softball tournament, too. Doc’s shadow has also reached both coasts: there’s a popular Florida-based Moonlight Graham band, and an Orange, California company promotes an entire line of Moonlight Graham clothing and apparel.

Archibald Graham led an incredible life, a life that might have gone largely unnoticed were it not for a writer thumbing through a baseball encyclopedia back in 1975. Intrigued by Archibald Graham’s unusual batting statistics and his glamorous ‘Moonlight’ nickname, author W.P. Kinsella incorporated Graham into his 1982 novel ‘Shoeless Joe‘. Six years later, director Phil Alden Robinson converted that novel into the blockbuster movie ‘Field of Dreams‘, and a legend was born.

DocGrahamOlderThe people of Chisholm, MN who knew and loved Moonlight Graham are secretly grateful he never made it out of that major league on-deck circle. They wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments Burt Lancaster expressed while playing the part of Doc Graham in Field of Dreams: “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would’ve been a tragedy.”

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In 2009, sports writer Brett Friedlander and University of the Cumberlands professor Robert Reising teamed up to produce “Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams’ Doc Graham“.  The book is an inspirational account of Doc’s entire life–the early years, the baseball journey, and his outstanding medical career.  The book also examines Graham’s quirkier side: he considered himself an inventor extraordinaire, he chewed paper, he always carried an umbrella–rain or shine–and he stopped by the local barber for a weekly haircut, even though legend has it there was more hair on his eyebrows than the top of his head.  To learn more about Doc’s amazing life, including his search for perpetual motion, click on the book cover below.

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Want to see more Field of Dreams?  Click on the box directly below to visit my Field of Dreams website.

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