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From a farmers field to a baseball field, "Field of Dreams" movie site

Margaret Melloy Guziak Grand Junction, Colo.
Margaret Melloy GuziakThe "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.

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Twenty-one years ago, the “Field of Dreams” movie was filmed on the 91-year old Lansing family farm in Dyersville, Iowa. The movie company plowed up the existing cornfield except for the few last rows into which the players disappear at the end of each playing day. With yellow bulldozers and plows ripping up the land, they constructed the baseball field in only three days. They retained the two-story, white frame, traditional Iowa farmhouse, extending the painted porch for filming purposes, and adding tiered, wooden baseball bleachers along the first base line for reality.

The movie script is about Shoeless Joe Jackson and the seven Chicago Black Sox players banned forever from baseball for gambling in the 1919 World Series. The “Field of Dreams,” built by the lead character played by Kevin Costner, was their chance to play baseball again.

The players ask, as they emerge from the cornfield, “Is this Heaven?”

“No, it’s Iowa,” Ray responds.

It is a movie about having faith in yourself and in your dreams. The farm was losing money and the bankers were waiting like ravenous wolves to snatch the farm back. Ray loved baseball and truly believed that if he plowed up the cornfield and built a baseball field, “they will come.” Although there were many skeptics, his wife and daughter believed and supported him.

There is a charming side story about young Archibald Wright Graham, nicknamed “Moonlight” Graham, which is based on a true event. Moonlight Graham played only five minutes of major league ball with the New York Giants before being pulled from the game. Graham went on to become a successful doctor and researcher.

Winning many awards, the film is considered a movie classic by baseball lovers worldwide. Even today, a controversy continues on whether or not illiterate Shoeless Joe was actually guilty like the others of throwing the game. Over the years, Jackson’s fans have petitioned to have him entered into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. In spite of the statistics he earned in his games, the Baseball Commissioner’s ruling to ban him from the Cooperstown Museum still stands today. For more information, please visit http://www.blackbetsy.com.

Also included in the novel is Ray Kinsella’s deceased father, physically resembling Joe Jackson. Ray remembers his own teenage arrogance when invited to play catch with his baseball-loving father. He’d muttered a “gotta go” and left the house. Ray’s guilt continued into his adult years because it wasn’t only about the game of baseball; his act represented an abandonment of his father’s way of life. He wanted to make amends.

The simplicity and love of the game that he remembered resurrected a passion in Ray to introduce his daughter, Karin, and his wife, Annie, to his father when they reconnected on their baseball field. In one emotional scene, Ray, played by Kevin Costner, picks up the baseball and calls out to his Dad. “Hey, Dad. Want to have a catch?”

Glancing over at him, his father simply nods, picks up his glove and gets ready for the pitch.

“It’s as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The one constant through all the ages has been baseball. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that was good and it could be again.” (From “Field of Dreams” based on “Shoeless Joe Jackson,” by W. P. Kinsella.)

About twelve years ago, we visited Dyersville, Iowa on the way back from a Michigan family reunion. We knew the Iowa detour would take us 100 miles out of our way and delay our trip home to Colorado, but, avid baseball lovers that we are, we chose to go there. It was a decision we never regretted.

We walked to the outfield, put a small donation in a wooden box, and picked some fresh ears of corn from the cornfield where the fantasy old time players in the movie live before taking the field each day. I strung the five ears of fresh corn together with string, added a plaid ribbon and hung it on my porch railing. It was a perfect good luck souvenir.

While there, we took pictures, bought postcards and purchased a “Field of Dreams” heat-sensitive, coffee cup showing only a cornfield but when you added hot coffee, nine waving ballplayers appeared from the background. I still have the cup.

At that time, the interior of the farmhouse was being restored so we couldn’t tour it. But we loved sitting on the bleachers, watching cars and busses drive into the parking lot. Some of them pulled bats and balls from car trunks and started an impromptu, short pickup game. Others stepped off their bus with gloves on their hands and a baseball in their pocket to “toss one around” and run the bases as they recalled their high school days. Women exited the busses, heading straight to the souvenir shop. Later, they sat on the bleachers or the grass to watch their grinning kids, or significant others, catch a high fly in the outfield, or run the bases as they did in simpler times.

As the Grand Valley’s baseball fields “green up,” and warm spring afternoon breezes swipe across our cheeks, we recall the converted farm at Dyersville’s Field of Dreams. In every town across America, in major stadiums or on Little League fields, after the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” a bent-over, black-suited, capped umpire will whisk the dirt off home plate, stand up, turn around, take his place behind the catcher and order, “Play ball.” It’s an American tradition.

Dyersville, Iowa is 1,100 miles from Grand Junction but if you are traveling to the Midwest, it is 204 miles from Chicago and only 60 miles from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s a trip you and your family will always remember.

For more information please visit http://www.fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com.


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