What's the Connection between Moonlight and Baseball?

Somehow it feels like baseball and moonlight are connected.

The glaring lights at a night game even look like moon beams, as in this shot of Shoeless Joe in "Field of Dreams":

Novelist Bill Kinsella certainly saw a connection. He included the character Moonlight Graham in his book (on which Field of Dreams was based) because he was taken by that name when he found it in the Baseball Encyclopedia. Yes, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham was a real player: he played a half inning for the Giants in the early 1900's, never got to bat, and later became a doctor in Chisholm, Minnesota.

The real Moonlight Graham. Credit: encyl.opentopia.com

Kinsella chose well because moonlight is a good metaphor for baseball itself: it flips things around and mocks the usual rules. In other sports you can't keep playing once you cross the out-of-bound lines, but in baseball, you can. When someone catches a ball in the foul territory, we realize the foul line is not the out-of-bounds line, after all; it's an illusion. The foul line says, "This looks like the out-of-bounds line, but beyond its limits, the game keeps going." And since lines represent social authority (limits, rules, what you can and can't do), the foul line embodies a deep ambivalence about society: a desire to respect and throw out the rules at the same time, a desire to keep play going, even after it's supposed to be over--like moonlight.

Related Posts about Baseball:
All posts about baseball, including posts on sliding and rebellion, the foul ballthe catch and sharingfeeling good in crowds, and basketball vs. baseball.

All posts about Field of Dreams (and baseball), and my post on ALS and my cousin.

Further Reading:
For more on the real Moonlight/Doc Graham, see his Wikepedia entry or the new book titled Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams' Doc Graham.


CitizenJMAC said...

Baseball and the moon were at odds for the first half of baseball's life -- most games being played during the day and sometimes being postponed when the field became too dark.

The standardization of lights in all the parks brought baseball nearer to the moon, and also made it much more profitable--now families could attend games (and TV viewers could tune in) after work, which had a big impact on attendance revenue. Now night games are much more common than day games, although certain stadiums (Wrigley for instance) do still schedule more day games for nostalgia's sake.

Personally, I think there's something special about watching baseball in the afternoon, but I get my fix every Arizona March during Spring Training.

Peter Wogan said...

Thanks for the excellent comments, Citizen JMAC! I didn't know this about Wrigely, for example...or that you go to Arizona every year. You ARE a true baseball fan!

So as I'm sure you know, too, Shoeless Joe makes a negative comment about the lights in the movie: "What's with the lights?" he says to Ray, and then when Ray says it was the idea of the owners, he scoffs, "Owners." That comment does serve the movie's point, it seems, of showing the passage of time and changes to baseball, the very ones you've noted. But I still like to think that even Shoeless Joe would end up liking the night lights (if not playing under them). After all, he even waxes poetic about "brass spittoons" in the hotel lobby! (I always say, Nothing like spitting indoors in a fancy bucket--that's good living.:))
Thanks again for the posts.

Anonymous said...

The moon is not only seen at night, a fact noticed more often under summer's clear skies. Baseball's relationship to the moon is not necessarily limited to night or darkness.

This view of the moon and baseball makes particular sense in the context of baseball as a pastime. With so much down-time between moments of action, you can notice things like the moon.

Peter Wogan said...

Thanks for the comments!

I agree with you, and that's a good point about the down-time in baseball allowing for reflection on these things. I do especially love it when the moon shows itself during the daytime. Even more than the nighttime moon, the daytime moon gives that feeling of things being flipped around. Last week the moon was hanging in the sky in the morning, and I just wanted to take a photo every time I looked at it! But I don't know that I could ever do better than that Flickr shot of the moon at PGE Park, so I never did take any photos. I've never met anyone who specifically uses the term "baseball moon," but I'd still like to think that the baseball-moon connection has been crystallized in speech.

Thanks again for the comments.