This week Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, through This is Heaven LLC, bought controlling interest in Go the Distance Baseball’s stake of All-Star Ballpark Heaven and the “Field of Dreams” (1989) movie site.
In 2019 Major League Baseball built a small stadium overlooking the movie location at Dyersville, Iowa. Seating capacity was about 8,000, twice the population of the town. The stadium was for a 2020 game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, but after the shortened baseball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Louis Cardinals replaced the Yankees for the scheduled game, which never happened anyway, also because of the virus.
On Aug. 12 of this year, however, the White Sox and Yankees played the first MLB game at the “Field of Dreams” site.
According to Fox Sports, the game attracted an average of 5.9 million viewers across TV and streaming, and was the most-viewed MLB regular-season game on the network since 2005, when a Yankees-Boston Red Sox game on Oct. 1 also drew roughly 5.9 million viewers.
As part of the pregame ceremonies, Kevin Costner, star of the movie, walked onto the field through the surrounding corn field with the White Sox and Yankee players and managers.
The White Sox came from behind to win the game 9-8 with a walk-off homer into the corn field by shortstop Tim Anderson.
According to Scott Merkin with mlb.com, Anderson has never seen “Field of Dreams” and “remained non-committal with a smile when asked if he would view it anytime soon.”
The movie is four years older than Anderson, 28, who this week appealed a three-game suspension after making contact with an umpire during the big bench-clearing melee between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers on Monday.
Anderson is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I remember him playing for East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi when I was in that part of the country. He made his big league debut in 2016, and the next year the White Sox signed him to a six-year, $25 million contract.
“Field of Dreams” is based on William Patrick (W.P.) Kinsella’s 1982 novel titled Shoeless Joe. Kinsella passed away in 2016 at age 81. A Canadian, he was an English professor, and had been a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves.
The main character in the book and movie is named Ray Kinsella. Ray Kinsella (played by Costner) also is the name of a young man in a story, written by J.D. Salinger, titled A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All, published in 1947. And in Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, one of Holden Caulfield’s classmates is named Richard Kinsella. In Shoeless Joe, Ray seeks out J.D. Salinger, who in real life was real upset that he was depicted in the book. So when it came time to make the movie, the writer character, Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones), was created to replace Salinger.
After Salinger’s death in 2010, W.P. Kinsella recalled in a Maclean’s Magazine article: “His lawyers wrote my publisher’s lawyers saying he was outraged and offended to be portrayed in the novel, and they would be very unhappy if it were transferred to other media.”
Of course Shoeless Joe refers to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (portrayed by Ray Liotta), who was one of eight White Sox players banned from baseball after conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
Another character in “Field of Dreams” that was a person in real life, was Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (played by Burt Lancaster in his final film role). Born in 1879, Moonlight Graham played baseball at the University of North Carolina, and then minor league ball before signing with the New York Giants baseball team in 1905 while taking medical courses at the University of Maryland. He only played one major league game, as a right fielder. He never fielded the ball, and he was on deck to bat when the game ended. He was sent back to the minor leagues. By 1911 he had become a doctor, gave up baseball, and moved to Minnesota where he practiced medicine until his death in 1965.
“Field of Dreams” shows up on many lists ranking the best baseball movies of all time. It’s the second highest grossing baseball movie ever, earning $186 million (adjusted for inflation according to actionnetwork.com). “A League of Their Own” (1992) has the top spot at $209 million.
“Field of Dreams” received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (which it lost to “Driving Miss Daisy”).
In his review of Shoeless Joe in The New York Times, Daniel Okrent wrote: “Mr. Kinsella is drunk on complementary elixirs, literature and baseball, and the cocktail he mixes of the two is a lyrical, seductive and altogether winning concoction. It’s a love story, really the love his characters have for the game becoming manifest in the trips they make through time and space and ether.”
Many think the story is just an overrated fantasy, but I love it, and I think Tim Anderson needs to watch it, if only because his walk-off homer was the 15th documented by the White Sox against the Yankees in team history, according to former ESPN statistician Doug Kern. The first was hit by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.
For next August a three-game series between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds has already been scheduled at the “Field of Dreams” site. I think we’re going to see a lot more games played in Iowa.
Steve Gillespie is editor of The Daily Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.