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THE INSIDE TRACK

Now You Know

March 21, 1997|HOUSTON MITCHELL

Two characters in well-known baseball movies are modeled after real people.

In the movie "Field of Dreams" (based on the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella), Burt Lancaster plays Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. His lament was he played only one inning of major league baseball, never batting and never having a ball hit to him in the outfield.

There was a real Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. On June 29, 1905, he made his only appearance in the majors, as an outfielder for the New York Giants. He substituted in right field for George Brown in the eighth inning. He did not bat and had no chances in the field in an 11-1 Giant victory over the Brooklyn Superbas.

One year later, Graham led the New York State League with a .336 average.

The character of Roy Hobbs in the novel and movie "The Natural" is based in part on Eddie Waitkus. On June 14, 1949, Waitkus, a first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, was shot with a .22 rifle in Room 1297A of the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago by Ruth Ann Steinhagen. Steinhagen, obsessed with Waitkus, had created a shrine in her bedroom to him, covering the walls with his photos.

Waitkus returned to play all 154 games in 1950, batting .284 and winning the comeback-player-of-the-year award.

By the way, the ending of Bernard Malamud's novel was changed for the movie.

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