It’s hard to believe that one of the greatest sports movies ever came out a quarter century ago this year. When Field of Dreams was released back in April of 1989, no one knew what to expect. Kevin Costner had previously starred in another baseball movie, Bull Durham, but the idea of a fictional baseball field in Iowa playing host to deceased players of the past had fantasy-land written all over it.
Lo and behold, that was the point. And when Field of Dreams was released, it quickly became one of the most popular baseball movies ever made. Growing up during this time, Sandlot and The Natural were two other baseball movies that caught this scribe’s attention.
But they didn’t bring to the table what Field of Dreams did. And 25 years, later my generation and generations that came after still point to Dyersville, Iowa, as the one lasting image of baseball movie making.
The plot of this movie is well known. And if you haven’t see it yet, you are not able to call yourself a baseball fan at this point.
Ray Kinsella (Costner), an Iowa farmer, started hearing voices “build it, and he will come.” These voices led Kinsella to tear down cornfields, which were his livelihood as a farmer, to build a baseball stadium. Shortly thereafter, baseball players of the past came to the field to play friendly games of stickball. Among those entering the field from the everafter, were Shoeless Joe Jackson and other members of the Chicago Black Sox as well as Ray’s own father.
Enter into the equation a writer Terence Mann, played by the always great James Earl Jones, who had blocked himself off from society after a previous controversy. I will not give the rest of the movie away, as you’ve either watched it or need to order it right now.
The lasting impact of Field of Dreams cannot be overstated.
Some of the greatest quotes in baseball fiction can be found in this movie, even 25 years after the fact.
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 us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
Darth Vader himself, taking us to an entirely new level of chills going up our spines in this specific speech and this specific quote. It’s baseball, plan and simple. “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.” The tears that rolled down my eyes as a seven-year old kid hearing Terence Mann say that one sentence solidified in me that baseball would be here, even as I aged to a mature adult.
And here it is, still the national pastime. Only if Hollywood could get creative and make original movies like the one that was released some 25 years ago. Future generations of baseball fans need this type of hope and inspiration in their lives. It’s the process in which we grow from simple baseball fans to those who understand full well that the meaning of this sport is much more than the game itself.
Field of Dreams was my first venture into that vast understanding. It brought me closer to baseball than any one team or any one player ever has and ever will. It also showed me at a young age just how complex human relationships can be, especially between father and son.
For that, I am forever grateful of this movie.