Field of Dreams Game: A baseball dream comes true
Let’s all hand it to Major League Baseball. Playing the first Major League Baseball game ever played in Iowa, in the middle of a cornfield in Dyersville, the place where the movie Field of Dreams was filmed in the late 1980s, may be a publicity stunt—but it’s an excellent publicity stunt.
The Field of Dreams Game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees will be played on August 12, in front of only 8,000 fans (click here for game highlights). It will mark the moment when some thoughts the author W.P. Kinsella had about former Chicago White Sox player Shoeless Joe Jackson mystically appearing in Iowa became a real-life baseball game between the actual Chicago White Sox (wearing the same style uniform Jackson wore in real life and the actors wore in the movie) and the league’s most famous team, the New York Yankees.
It’s heady stuff for all writers. Think about it: Kinsella wrote a short story titled “Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa” that was published in 1980. He later expanded that short story into his celebrated novel Shoeless Joe in 1982. Both the short story and the novel featured “magical realism” a kind of fusion of people and events from real life and fantastical elements (like long-dead ballplayers emerging from a cornfield in uniform to play baseball).
Then, Hollywood came calling and built a baseball field in the cornfield in Dyersville—just like in the book. In 1989, the movie Field of Dreams debuted and was embraced as a Frank Capra-esque classic starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan, Timothy Busfield and Burt Lancaster as “Doc Graham” or as he was better known, “Moonlight Graham.”
There is a framed collage of black and white photos from the movie with the signatures of all those actors, including Costner’s on the front cover of the script, hanging on the wall above my desk at The Gazette. I’ve had it in my office since I started in business in 1997. I’m a lover of the themes of Kinsella’s writing (I have all of it on the bookshelves in my office) and the movie Field of Dreams. The framed collage with the pictures and signatures is on the wall to remind me to always follow the dreams I have.
I’m certainly not alone when it comes to following dreams. After the movie came out, a strange thing happened. People started coming to see the ballfield in the corn in Iowa, the little wooden stands that remained on the first base line where the actors sat in the film and the white farmhouse in the background. They’re all still there, and people keep coming, more than 30 years after the release of the film that touched so many lives with its story about baseball, family, following dreams and generations connecting after many years of separation—even after death.
On August 12, Major League Baseball brings the concepts of “magical realism” and “dreams coming true” to nearly the highest level by building a ballpark next to the smaller field in the corn and playing the game between the Chicago White Sox and the Yankees amidst the rows and rows of Iowa’s most famous crop. It’s hard to imagine what Kinsella, who died in 2016, would think of the moment when the game begins.
I’d like to think he’d be sitting along the first base line, gazing out to left field, waiting for Shoeless Joe Jackson’s ghost to emerge from the corn.
That would be bringing “magical reality” to the highest level. Does it sound like it couldn’t happen in real life? Well, if I told you something an author wrote about Shoeless Joe Jackson entering a baseball field carved into in a cornfield in Iowa more than 40 years ago would eventually turn into the game in Iowa between the White Sox and Yankees that you’re going to be watching on FOX at 7 p.m. on August 12, you wouldn’t have believed it either.
That’s the funny thing about dreams and dreamers. The dreamer is always the outsider, and their dreams always come with hard work, opposition from most other people and points of near-despair when they want to quit.
Dreamers don’t quit. In the novel Shoeless Joe, the voice in the corn gives four messages to Ray Kinsella, owner of the cornfield where the field is built, instead of the first three that are in the movie Field of Dreams.
Those messages in the book are, in order: “If you build it, he will come.”; “Ease his pain.”; “Go the distance” and the one that didn’t make it into the movie: “Fulfill the dream.”
On August 12, a dream Kinsella had decades ago will be fulfilled by Major League Baseball in a way I am sure the writer may have hoped would eventually be possible. No man who wrote the book Shoeless Joe would be limited by something as mundane as the way most people think the world should work.
If you’re a dreamer, you’ll be watching the game along with me.
After all, as the famous scene between Ray Kinsella and John Kinsella standing on the ballfield in the corn near the end of the movie goes:
John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
Ray Kinsella: is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place dreams come true.
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.