FIELD OF DREAMS Game: They Built It, We Will Come
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
The New York Yankees and Chicago Whitesox will play a real baseball game in a cornfield on Thursday August 12th at 7pmET on Fox. Fans will be in the stands and it will be a really fun way to spend a summer night with family and friends. But, this game will mean so much more to a lot of us who grew up on this game and this movie. And we really don't care what the critics have to say.
This year is the 32nd anniversary of the release of Field of Dreams, the greatest baseball movie ever made. It was an adaptation by director Phil Alden Robinson of the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Unbelievably the script was shot down for several years and the recluse writer character had to be changed. J.D. Salinger, the character in the book, threatened to sue if the movie used his name. It was changed to Terrence Mann, and James Earl Jones became the actor of choice. It was a fortunate break, because Mr. Jones gave an unforgettable performance. When another movie to be made stalled, the producers then had their lead, Kevin Costner; and the rest was cinematic history.
Our love of baseball never comes from just one reason or influence. Mine started with my family. My mother, father, and both grandfathers all loved America's game. The perect game. I grew up on bouncing their knees, and hearing of the legends of the ‘Boys of Summer’ and 'Dem Bums'. The heroics of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson's Great Brooklyn Dodgers. The Damn Yankees and 'hated New York Giants'. The swings of the Splendid Splinter and Hammerin’ Hank. The take-no-prisoners attitude of Bob Gibson, Billy Martin and Don Drysdale. The stories always reminded of the toughness and personalities that have woven baseball into the fabric of the American spirit.
Other sports are just that. They're merely the definition:
'an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment'.
Baseball is our religion. The stands are our pews. The myths are kept alive by our witnesses.
Other sports give us great memories of games and seasons won and lost, Baseball’s gift is the stories of the people that made the game. That made this country. The natural break between each pitch lends itself to stories told by announcers to the folks at home, and to sons and daughters by their Moms and Dads, their Grandmas and Grandpas. Stories the box scores never tally, and the historians never report. Baseball is people. Baseball is legend. Baseball is simply the best way to pass-time.
I was just learning the greatest continuing story, when Field of Dreams hit the theatres in 1989. I was 14. It would change my life profoundly. Field of Dreams helped me realize that many have had just as great of a love affair with baseball, as myself.
In the scene where ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) asks Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), “Is this heaven?”, as he first arrives to the baseball field Ray had built in his backyard, it becomes more than just a baseball movie. Jackson adds later “There are others”. That’s when our imagination’s door swings wide open and goose-bumps explode. The dream of any and every great in baseball’s legendary lore, coming back to a hallowed ground, fuel the movie’s engine. It’s what Michelangelo would have painted on a Sistine Chapel in Cooperstown.
If we got goosebumps when the players’ ghosts started appearing from the cornfield to play once again, we had goose-mountains when Terrence Mann ( James Earl Jones) gave his speech to Ray on why he should keep the field, and why people will come:
“Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.
They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.
Of course, we won’t mind if you have a look around - you’ll say.
'It’s only twenty dollars per person.' They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray.
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”— Terence Mann (James Earl Jones)
The theme of how difficult it is for a father and son to relate, is one that resonates with baseball and non-baseball fans a like. “If you build it he will come” and “go the distance” from the voice in the field makes Ray Kinsella think it’s to bring back the baseball heroes. When Ray realizes that it was not to bring back the greats, but to bring back his father. It is then that the universal theme takes over.
During the journey Ray risks everything. His farm. His livelihood. His family. He risks all of this to bring back the game and the father he misses dearly. To reconcile the relationship that was ruined between he and his father. To bring back his father’s ghost to the ‘Field of Dreams’. The final shot of the movie shows Ray and his dad playing catch in the most iconic of all scenes. The headlights of cars from miles back, are heading to the ‘Field of Dreams’. Grown men still weep to the sight of that game of catch, every time. I do.
My father and grandfathers have long passed on, but every time I see that that scene, (which is at least twice a year: the night before Opening Day, and the end of the World Serires) I go somewhere in my mind where we all just play catch. I wipe back the tears as the memories flood my mind, and before I know it, the headlights are endless and the credits are rolling.
I'm not special at all. We can all relate to that movie. It does not matter if you’ve never played the game or was a Hall of Famer. That’s why this masterpiece has passed the test of time. What I’d give for just one more game of catch with my hero, my father. My grandfathers. They never knew that when they told me of yesterdays, and opened my imagination to heroes of the past, but it was them I idolized. It wasn't the guys who were scorching base-rips down the line, but the folks in the stands that loved the game so, and were generous enough to share it with me.
I wish I could go back in time. Not to watch Babe Ruth or Josh Gibson with their light-tower power. Not to watch Rube Wadell ice down his arm just before he hit the mound (he claims he'd burn the catcher's mitt up if he didn't), or to see 'Iron Man' Joe McGinnity pitch a doubleheader. It's not to watch Joltin' Joe glide across the diamond or Willie Mays making circus catches over his shoulder. It would be to sit next to my folks in the bleachers somewhere, anywhere, and pass-time with the perfect game......
I might just start plowing my own cornfield today.
DM Magee - host of Amrchair Quarterbacks