Magic of first ‘Field of Dreams’ MLB game can’t be replicated

  • New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge watches a Chicago White Sox Seby Zavala home run fly into the outfield corn in the fourth inning during Thursday’s game in Dyersville, Iowa. AP

  • The Chicago White Sox mob Tim Anderson after his ninth-inning home run to win Thursday’s ‘Field of Dreams’ game over the Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall / ap

  • Everything about Thursday’s ‘Field of Dreams’ game in Dyersville, Iowa – from bullpen pitchers watching from the outfield corn, above, to Aaron Judge’s custom cleats, below right, and Giancarlo Stanton’s pocket protectors, below left — went as well as Major League Baseball could have hoped. Charlie Neibergall / ap photographs

  • New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge wears Field of Dreams cleats before Thursday’s game against the Chicago White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa. AP

  • New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton walks on the field with earns of corn in his back pockets before a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, in Dyersville, Iowa. The Yankees and White Sox are playing at a temporary stadium in the middle of a cornfield at the Field of Dreams movie site, the first Major League Baseball game held in Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) Charlie Neibergall

Chicago Tribune
Published: 8/15/2021 9:47:16 AM

Major League Baseball could make the Field of Dreams game an annual tradition and play it for the next 100 years without being able to replicate the magic of Thursday’s inaugural event at the ballpark in a Dyersville, Iowa, cornfield.

From the stunning visuals New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone called “breathtaking” to the atmosphere Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson referred to as “dope” – and to the ninth inning that saw the Sox blow a three-run lead only to wind up with a walk-off, 9-8 win on Anderson’s two-run, opposite-field home run – it was as close to a perfect script as MLB could’ve asked for.

“Hollywood ending” read the Chicago Tribune’s headline, and indeed it was almost as if the baseball gods deemed this beloved movie deserved a game that would last in fans’ memories as long as the film itself.

And, of course, in the grand Hollywood tradition of rebooting the classics, commissioner Rob Manfred announced before the game there will be another one in 2022.

“You never mess with a winning streak,” actor Kevin Costner, the film’s star and focal point of the Fox Sports telecast, told reporters. “It does feel like all the teams will want to touch this.”

That makes sense. If it makes money, build it and they will come. (And try to make more.)

The Chicago Cubs are rumored to be one of next year’s participants after manager David Ross accidentally spilled the beans during his pre-game media session Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

But it won’t work nearly as well for many reasons, including the fact the 1919 Sox were part of the movie’s narrative, and the uniforms the Sox wore Thursday resembled the ones the ghosts wore in Field of Dreams.

The game also had some built-in juice with the first-place White Sox facing a red-hot Yankees team. All the stars aligned, and many of baseball’s biggest names – Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, José Abreu and Anderson – came through with eye-popping moments.

Does anyone really believe the Cubs will be rebuilt quickly enough to make them relevant again in 2022? Will the sight of Patrick Wisdom in a throwback uniform walking through a cornfield deliver the same feelies as watching Eloy Jímenez or Anderson deliver on a national stage?

The answer is no, which is why MLB should let this instant classic from Dyersville remain etched in our memories and move to the next big marketing concept. Dream big, fellas.

Personally, having visited the old minor league ballpark in Durham, N.C., used in Costner’s greatest baseball flick, Bull Durham, I’d like to see a “Bull Durham Game” with clips and stories of the making of the film from Costner (Crash Davis), Tim Robbins (Nuke LaLoosh) and Susan Sarandon (Annie Savoy).

Maybe they could turn on the sprinklers after the game and let the players do belly flops on the field.

Advice is free, though I certainly wouldn’t expect MLB to ditch the Field of Dreams narrative that baseball reminds Americans of “what we once were” for the Bull Durham theme that players can be funny, drunk, crazy, political and sex-driven. It definitely would not be a PG-rated game.

The Fox Sports telecast Thursday was almost as perfect as the game, even down to the sounds of chirping crickets. The drone shot of a hot-air balloon circling the ballpark was particularly dreamlike, and the gorgeous sunset was almost too good to be true.

Broadcaster Joe Buck was his usual, professional self, and even made note of the “audacious move” by Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to hire his old friend Tony La Russa as Sox manager. La Russa’s presence was missed, as he was attending a family funeral, but at least it allowed FOX to focus on the Sox players, something ESPN should take note of the next time it televises a Sox game.

I did miss the Statcast graphic that displays the strike zone on every pitch so I can scream at the umpire, but was glad not to hear any discussions of launch angles or exit velocity or the “sticky stuff.” It was almost like a flashback to the olden days of baseball broadcasts in the early 2010s.

On-field reporter Ken Rosenthal wasn’t used as much as I would have liked, but his story of the stadium workers fixing the cornstalks with zip ties after a storm damaged them was worthwhile.

After the game ended, FOX-32 anchor Corey McPherrin called it the greatest regular-season Sox game in history, and it was hard to argue with him. How it fared with Dick Allen’s walk-off against the Yankees and Sparky Lyle at old Comiskey Park in 1972 – the so-called “Chili Dog Game” – is in the eye of the beholder.

Either way, Anderson’s epic home run will go down in Sox lore and almost made up for Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash not giving him an at-bat in last month’s All-Star Game.

All in all, it was a night to remember. The only thing missing was a closing shot of a long line of cars heading down the dark, winding road exiting the ballpark, flipping the script from the ending of the movie.

Was this heaven?

No, it was just a large corporation trying to entice the next generation to watch its product by tying the sport to a film most millennials and Gen Zers have never seen.

Oh well. Close enough.

It was a dream come true for MLB, for Costner, for Anderson and for Sox fans who waited patiently through the rebuild for a team like this.

Walt Whitman reportedly once said: “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game. The American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

As Annie Savoy said, “You could look it up.”




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