Sports medicine

JOHN DOHERTY: Greenberg's dream emerges from moonlight of concussion

2012-10-01T17:03:00Z JOHN DOHERTY: Greenberg's dream emerges from moonlight of concussionBy John Doherty Times Sports Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 01, 2012 5:03 pm  • 

Field of Dreams is one of this native Bostonian's favorite movies. And not because main character Ray Kinsella of Iowa drives cross-country to Fenway Park — essentially bypassing Wrigley Field — to find the meaning of the messages he hears from “the voice.”

Instead, the defining moment in the movie, for me, is when New York (baseball) Giant Archie Graham (played by the young Frank Whaley) steps off the field and morphs into Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (played by the elderly Burt Lancaster) to save the life of Kinsella's choking daughter.

Once he crossed the foul line, the old doctor could not cross back to be the young player and again his chance to have a major league at-bat was lost to him. If I've seen the movie once, I've seen it a dozen times, but that scene chokes me up every time.

In real life, on June 29, 1905, Moonlight Graham was a late-game defensive replacement in the outfield for the New York Giants but never got up to hit. Within days, he was back in the minors, never to return.

A hundred years later, almost to the day on July 9, 2005, Cub Adam Greenberg made his first major league appearance as a pinch-hitter against the Florida Marlins. The first pitch he saw, he apparently didn't see well enough to avoid and it crashed into his helmet at 92 mph. In baseball scoring, it may have been a plate appearance but not an at-bat. On the disabled list with a concussion for the rest of that season, Greenberg still suffered from symptoms into 2006 and was released by the Cubs from their minor league system before that season was over.

Greenberg bounced around the minors thereafter, even playing some unaffiliated ball but never made it back to the majors for that at-bat — until today. This afternoon, Greenberg will get another chance, resuming his career for at least one day with the team that seemingly had ended it, the Marlins.

In a game with no play-off implications, on the next-to-last day of the regular season, the Marlins — not the Cubs — have promised Greenberg at least one at-bat.

Greenberg most recently played for the Israeli national team which was unsuccessful last month, attempting to qualify for next year's World Baseball Classic.

For now, he won't be cashing in on his return to the bigs. Instead, he is donating his one-day salary of $3,000 to the Sports Legacy Institute, which has become nationally known for its study of concussion in sports and the military. Just last month, SLI released the movie “Head Games,” which is based on the book of the same name, written by SLI Executive Director Chris Nowinski, a former professional wrestler and Harvard University football player.

As for Greenberg, he hopes to keep playing next year with any big league team which will give him a chance. However, if no team is interested, at least Greenberg will be able to say that for one day he emerged from his concussion nightmare and fulfilled the dream the real Moonlight Graham did not.

John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at ptatcsport@sbcglobal.net. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.

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