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‘Field of Dreams’ Game: A Celebration of Black Sox?

August 10th, 2019 · No Comments · Baseball

Many baseball fans love the idea of the ballpark hacked out of a corn field in Iowa to serve as the focal point for the baseball movie Field of Dreams.

It is not a one-shot prop. It is not generated by a computer. It is acres of land where corn once grew, carved out for a film many fans consider the best baseball movie ever made.

Major League Baseball will take advantage of the romance and fondness associated with the movie — “Build it and he will come” — on August 13 of next year, when the Chicago White Sox play the New York Yankees among the corn in a game that will count in the standings and the statistics. A real game. Life imitating art.

So far, so good. But aren’t we forgetting one awkward reality of the Field of Dreams story?

The bit that seems to both recognize and forgive the 1919 Chicago White Sox — who threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in the biggest scandal in U.S. sports history.

For those who have not seen the movie starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster Field of Dreams often is described as a sentimental flick about fathers and sons played out on the cornfields of Iowa.

But the way the movie is constructed, we are expected to feel sympathy (if not fondness) toward the eight White Sox who were banned from the game for life after the powerful Chicago club somehow managed to lose the World Series to the poorly regarded Reds.

The player most commonly associated with the monstrosity of the gambler-backed fix, is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a hitting machine played by Liotta.

Other prominent conspirators included top pitchers Ed Cicotte and Lefty Williams, as well as shortstop Swede Risberg and a malignant first baseman named Chick Gandil considered by many the ringleader of the fix.

Well, it turns out, in Field of Dreams, that the Black Sox players really regret not being able to play baseball — as if it had not occurred to them that trying to lose might have consequences — and they materialize out in the cornfield belonging to Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella.

At first, the Costner character is the only one who can hear whispered words coming from the still-standing stalks, but later others can hear it and the players become visible, and Costner and Co. are driven to solve the mystery with key help from James Earl Jones and his famous, almost-Shakesperian speech about the relationship between Americans and baseball.

The 1989 movie, based on a 1982 book, was a major success, and seems to pop up on movie stations with some regularity even 20 years later.

The field cleared by the movie-makers was never replanted and has been a tourist attraction, even stranded in mid-Iowa, as it is.

Major League Baseball has demonstrated it wants to take bits of its regular season to exotic sites, such as Japan and Britain and Mexico and, now to the site of a famous baseball movie, which MLB says will be expanded in the outfield, and flanked by temporary stands to seat 8,000.

Baseball should do the right thing, next August, and have a conversation about Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox (both have defenders, often quite vociferous), and the game should distance itself from the the more obvious ties to the fixed World Series … and stress the wonder that is the construction and lasting magnetism of a ball field surrounded by corn stalks, where fathers and sons could have a catch.


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