If you build it, he will come.” As a child, my dreams ran rampant.
The genesis of a career of stringing words together to form stories in creative fashion, both verbally and in written form was evident from my earliest recollections as a youngster.
From the time I was about eight-years-old until adolescence, I lived in a dream world of midnight baseball, played on a magical field with magical, make-believe players.
Somehow, characters with strange names such as Akwul, Stew, Steak and Jake Rio made their way into my game.
Of course, I was there, playing the role of myself, dreaming of being the player-coach of a group of stars who always won, the Harlem Globetrotters of the spiritual world. No, the Generals were not the opponent but they played along in letting me win.
Also letting me win was my older brother, Ed, who played right along.
When I was not sleeping, I would relay the dreams to my brother.
Then, in real life, in the yard, he would indulge me in helping me to revive the Field of Dreams of my deep sleep, allowing me to go deep as the visions of being a Major League Baseball player would creep into my thoughts.
The field was built in my dreams. The make-believe players came. So did my brother.
In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, the voice spoke to Ray Kinsella, telling him “if you build it, he will come.”
As the movie unfolded, Kinsella’s father John, who had passed away while father and son were estranged, certainly came. So did a massive number of patrons in cars, lights illuminated, as the movie came to a close.
“Ease his pain.”
In the real world, the baseball team I played on at Lakeshore Playground as a 12-year-old under Ned Cadella lost in a league championship game, by one run on a walk-off, no less.
My 85-pound football team I played on at Lakeshore under John Branch, consisting of seven and eight-year-olds, lost by a point in a title game. I still see the picture of that team just after the tough loss pop up on social media and it was even on the wall of a bar in Metairie for years. The frowns on the faces of children and its coach told the story.
In 1989, I ventured to the theater at Lakeside Shopping Center to watch the movie Field of Dreams with my friend, Dean Courtade.
The reaction to the movie ranges from the ultimate cornpone (no pun intended), over-the-top drama fluff to the ultimate emotional experience in living the dreams we all possess.
In the movie, father and son came to grips with their fractured relationship.
The break stemmed from the son’s insistence that his father’s hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, was a crook, stemming from the infamous “Black Sox Scandal” of the 1919 World Series in which Jackson and seven of his White Sox teammates were banned permanently from Major League Baseball for allegedly accepting bribes to throw the World Series, one the White Sox lost five games to three to Cincinnati.
Ultimately, on the Field of Dreams, father and son reconcile and have a catch as the movie comes to an emotional close.
“Go the distance.”
I never got a shot to play Major League Baseball or to even call Major League games but I was blessed to call NFL games and to do Triple-A and college baseball games, among other blessings in my profession.
Now 43 years down the road of a career doing what I love, the distance of the dreams of youth to the reality of adulthood have come full circle, quite a distance.
The goal of any starting pitcher is to finish what he or she starts, to go the distance.
Most often, relief is needed and a save is recorded.
Thursday night provided a respite of relief in trying times as we continue to deal with the massive impact of a continuing pandemic, though a pair of relievers blew the save.
Watching the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees created a myriad of thoughts and visions as I watched it from start to finish.
The game was played on the same tract of land that the popular movie Field of Dreams, circa 1989, was filmed at.
Okay, it was not the original Field of Dreams but that field, still looking the same as it did during the filming of the movie in 1989, was a short walk away, appropriately, a short walk through a cornfield from one field to another.
With a capacity of just 8,000, tickets reportedly went for an average of $1,400 through StubHub and for $1,557 through SeatGeek.
The face value of tickets ranged from $375 to $425.
The population of Dyersville is 4,000.
The attendance at the game was 7,832.
I wish I had been there.
It is safe that those attending doubled their pleasure and doubled their fun in a juicy game full of dramatic fruit and the game was not even played at Wrigley Field, which, of course, in Chicago.
From the time Kevin Costner walked out of the outfield corn on the field, followed by White Sox and Yankees players, it was, borrowing the word from the movie and the word Costner repeated Thursday night, perfect! Ditto for the narration by the legendary voice of James Earl Jones, reviving a different version of his substantive, rhythmic words from the movie.
While Field of Dreams was based on a novel and is fictitious, a real game was played on the site and it turned out to be the stuff dreams are made of.
It was the 15th walk-off win for the White Sox over the Yankees in the long history of the two franchises.
In another ironic twist, the first of those occurred on Sept. 24, 1919 at Commiskey Park as Shoeless Joe Jackson drove in Nemo Leibold with a walk-off single to deep right-center to win the game over the Yankees and clinch the American League pennant.
Yes, the same Joe Jackson who was personified in Field of Dreams and was the subject of the strained relationship between father and son.
Ironically, the win for the White Sox in 1919 propelled them to the World Series, where baseball was brought to its knees by the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” where eight White Sox players, including Joe Jackson, were accused of taking money to throw the World Series and were subsequently banished from the game.
Jackson, who had a great World Series, admitted to a grand jury that he accepted a bribe before vehemently proclaiming that he played to win all eight games. Commissioner of Baseball Jude Kenesaw Mountain Landis saw it differently and permanently banned Jackson and his seven teammates from ever playing in the Major Leagues again.
The evidence certainly appeared to suggest that Jackson played to win.
He batted .375, the highest average of any player in the series and belted the only home run in the series. Jackson drove in six runs, threw out five baserunners and handled 30 chances in the outfield with no errors.
Say it ain’t so, Joe!
Joe said no but so did baseball.
Jackson would have appreciated what transpired in Dyersville Thursday night.
It was as good as it gets.
On a special night, in a special location, on a special Field of Dreams, the best baseball game of the season and one of the best you will ever see took place.
The drama which unfolded could not have been scripted better in Hollywood, where the script of the fictional movie took place.
There were eight home runs struck, four by each team.
Tim Anderson won it in dramatic fashion, with a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. That came after a dramatic four-run rally by New York in the top of the ninth, featuring two-run home runs by Aaron Judge, his second of the game, and Giancarlo Stanton, which put the Yankees ahead.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who watched his team, missing key players due to pandemic protocols, suffer a crushing defeat in the midst of a pennant race, summed up the experience, in Costner’s word, in perfect fashion.
“That was as special and breathtaking a setting for a baseball game as I’ve ever been part of,” Boone said.
Tony LaRussa, a historian of the game and manager of the White Sox, missed the game to attend the funeral for his sister’s husband in Florida. Despite not being there, the 76-year-old LaRussa summed up the experience.
“I was raised to embrace the history of the game, and I think too often we lose parts of it,” LaRussa said. “Field of Dreams” is a great movie, and it embraces everything about family and all the game’s all about.”
In 1997, when I was blessed to serve as the voice of the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Z’s finished the regular season in Des Moines before having a day off and opening the American Association playoffs in Des Moines against the Iowa Cubs.
Matt Galante, who had a long and storied career in baseball as a Major League coach, was the manager that season for the Zephyrs.
On the off day, Galante and I mutually decided to make the nearly three-hour drive from The Savery Hotel in downtown Des Moines to Dyersville.
We pulled up to the movie site.
The house looked exactly as it had in the movie, with the swing on the porch.
The temporary stands for fans was intact.
The field looked precisely as it appeared in the movie.
Of course, we accepted the throw-back jerseys from the gift shop, donned them and made our way to the outfield corn.
While there were no miraculous visions, my imagination ran wild, racing back to my childhood Field of Dreams.
Out of the corn I came.
Matt took the picture.
Then, I returned the favor.
Matt still has the pictures, I believe.
I want one, Matt!
Without the picture, I still have the image fixed in my mind of what we saw that day.
They built it. We came. There was no pain as we went the distance, to and from Des Moines.
For one day, it was Heavenly and it was in Iowa.
Major League Baseball is alive and well…..in Iowa…..on its Field of Dreams.
For one night, it was Heavenly and it was in Iowa.