Tonight on baseball’s biggest stage, the Detroit Tigers will take on the San Francisco Giants. Every player will be hoping that their major league skills on the field will lead to a dream fulfilled, a World Series title.
Far from the packed stadium set on the San Francisco Bay, lights will illuminate a small baseball field near Dyersville in eastern Iowa. Those lights will be a beacon guiding devoted fans along narrow roads to the true Field of Dreams.
Walking in his Iowa cornfield in the 1989 movie, farmer Ray Kinsella heard a mysterious voice telling him, “If you build it, he will come.” Stunning everyone, the character played by Kevin Costner eventually built a baseball field next to his farmhouse with his remaining cornfields serving as the outfield walls.
Over time, a group of deceased major league players mysteriously emerge from the corn fields to enjoy their stardom once again in this idyllic setting. Other side stories and plot twists lead us to the final scenes of Kinsella “having a catch” with his father, the man the voice promised would “come.”
Just before this reunion, Kinsella questions the purpose of his seeming insanity with writer Terence Mann. Played by the esteemed James Earl Jones, Mann delivers the movie’s famous soliloquy.
“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. ‘Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,’ you’ll say. ‘It’s only $20 per person.’ They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
Naturally, since Laura and I were passing through Iowa last summer, we had to come. We drove along one of the small roads that led to the field, just as they did in the final scenes of the movie. There, spreading before us was the field just as depicted in the movie. The farmhouse was bigger in person than it seemed in the movie, but everything else was just as we remembered. We acted as though we too disappeared when the players returned to the corn fields after playing their games.
We sat in the same small stands used in the movie. We watched with delight as a young, pudgy player tried over and over to hit a baseball into the cornfields. Instead, his younger sister blew pitch after pitch past him as he took Ruthian swings followed by the smashing of his bat into the dust in disgust. Meanwhile, fathers posed for pictures with their sons while a woman chased after her grandchildren around the bases. The only addition to the movie setting was a small souvenir shop.
All this, and it was free, though we did feel obliged to donate $20 as Mann predicted.
There is a another truth to what Mann said. Baseball is a “constant” in both Laura’s and my life. We will tune into the World Series tonight, even though our favorite New York Yankees missed out this post season. We will remember the Field of Dreams we saw in Iowa and “all that once was good…could be good again.”