My relationship with baseball goes back 46 years—my first memories are of the 1975 World Series between my hometown Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds.
My relationship with the Field of Dreams goes back 32 years, when I saw the movie by that name when it came out.
The film evokes so much for so many, and for me, it revolves around the people with whom I have experienced the game of baseball. In short: relationships.
Those relationships have been with my father, my two brothers, my teammates over seven years of playing youth-league baseball, my friends who have come along on the rollercoaster ride of being Red Sox fans, my wife, my son and my daughter, and my off-and-on stints as a baseball reporter and columnist.
If being a baseball fan were a crime and my home got raided today, there would be a smorgasbord of damning evidence littered everywhere: my books, my wardrobe, my baseball hats, my bats and bucket of baseballs.
Every time I am at my home-office desk, I see one of my most treasured possessions, Topps Baseball Cards: The Complete Picture Collection (1951-1985), because it props up my laptop.
The game of baseball blends my passion for competition and statistics that is undeniable. Witness my 1998 creation of the Home Run Power Ratio, an inflation index that provides context for comparing sluggers from various generations.
My “Dates” with the Field of Dreams
As for the Field of Dreams, since first seeing the film starring Kevin Costner, I have enjoyed a few “dates” with it since then:
*Visiting the field one weekend in August 1991 as the “roadie” for a crew supporting a documentary on the game that former Major Leaguer Jay Johnstone was making. My wife and her uncle Paul were among those on the crew. The doc never got made, but the experience lives deep inside me—including meeting Hall of Fame players like Bob Feller, Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson who were at the field as part of former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley’s fantasy baseball camp.
*Seeing the movie for the second time, in June 2019, at the oldest movie theater west of the Mississippi River, the Historic Park Theatre in Estes Park, Colorado. It was the 30th anniversary of the film’s release and, oh yeah, I saw it on Father’s Day with my wife and then-15-year-old son. (I think my allergies really acted up toward the end of that screening.)
*Then came last night’s epic game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. The Sox had a three-run lead, fell behind by one after a pair of two-run Yankee homers into the corn…then pulled it out on a dramatic two-run shot by shortstop Tim Anderson in the bottom of the ninth inning. As I Tweeted afterwards:
If what transpired tonight in Dyersville had appeared on a movie screen, it would have been dismissed as over-the-top cinematic cliché.
“Is this Hollywood?”
“No…it’s the 2021 Chicago White Sox.”
Along the way, I snapped a few dozen photos of the TV screen as the late-afternoon sunshine gave way to the God-brush-stroked tableau at dusk, which surrendered to cavernous Midwestern darkness.
It was absolutely fantastic that the team I was rooting for came out on top. My celebration could be heard throughout the home. But it was only the cherry atop the icing on the cake of a glorious night in which I got to re-visit, and appreciate anew, the relationships baked into my lifelong love affair with baseball.