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DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Major League Baseball never has been played in a more striking visual form than it had Thursday night in the middle of a cornfield. And just as in the movie to which it paid homage, the drama was equal to the beauty of the scene.
Home runs flew into the cornfield by the bushels, the last of which, by Tim Anderson of the White Sox, snatched back a White Sox win just moments after the Yankees snatched it from Chicago with four runs when they were down to their last out.
The setting was so perfect, the game so entertaining and the demand for tickets so great that the Field of Dreams game should become a tentpole game for the sport. Like Opening Day, the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby and the Hall of Fame inductions, the Field of Dreams game should give baseball another destination date on the calendar amid the sea of games over six long months.
Baseball is going back to Iowa next year, most likely with the Cubs playing the Reds. It should become a new tradition.
Here are other takeaways from the most cinematic night of MLB that most have ever seen.
• The game struck the right tone in its simplicity. Baseball with a small b is bigger than Major League Baseball, which is only a fraction of what the sport is about. The movie succeeded because it tapped into the sport’s pastoral beginnings and the simplicity of it. A game of catch is the movie’s denouement. Imagine that—from a Best Picture nominee. The game thankfully was presented without the usual excesses where ballparks try too hard to keep jarring your attention—the excessively loud music, the “make some noise” requests, the between-innings commercials on the Jumbotron, etc. This was a proper celebration of the sport without the used car salesmanship.
• In the dugout before the game, White Sox closer Liam Hendriks scarfed down one of those Apple Pie Hot Dogs, the one with apple-mustard-bacon crumble. He liked it so much he was looking for another. When I suggested it was a little risky as a pregame meal, he told me not to worry. His usual pregame meal? Cheesesteak with cheesy fries, he said. When you see him in high leverage spots, never question the man’s stomach.
• How great was it to hear James Earl Jones, at 90 years old, perfectly reading the voice-over of the Fox pregame tease? As it happens, two of baseball’s most beloved and respected voices when it comes to the soul of the game were born on the exact same day, Jan. 17, 1931: James Earl Jones and Don Zimmer.
• Kevin Costner is one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors. Not only have his movies introduced casual fans and nonfans to the soul of the game, but also he speaks of baseball with authenticity that the devout baseball fan admires. He struck all the right tones in his elegant simplicity in the pregame ceremony—right down with declining the honor of throwing out the first pitch. The great actor knew when the scene was complete and didn’t need the added spotlight.
• Field of Dreams meets The Wizard of Oz: the hot-air balloon drifting across the cornfield was another jaw-dropping visual.
• Most players have never watched the movie. Yankees manager Aaron Boone offered to screen the film for his players the night before the game. No more than five players expressed interest, according to one team source, so the idea was scrapped. But the players had to appreciate how baseball staged the event, from the condition of the field to the clubhouses, which were made 30% larger than originally planned because of COVID-19. “Have you been back there?” asked one of the White Sox. “I know it’s a tent, but it is huge and it is awesome.”
• Watching Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo and Giancarlo Stanton hit consecutively is the height of power. The Yankees join the 2016 Cubs (Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward) as the only teams in history with three qualified hitters 6' 5" and taller. And don’t buy the argument they strike out too much. The Yankees are ninth in MLB in strikeout rate—not terrible—but they draw the most walks and change games with one swing.
• Spending a game in the White Sox dugout is a treat. No team has more fun—and is more locked into the game—than this group. Tim Anderson, José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez set the perfect vibe: loose, but competitive.
• One hundred two years in five easy steps: Shoeless Joe Jackson played with Red Faber (who was from Iowa), who played with Billy Sullivan (who was from Chicago), who played with Bob Feller (Iowa), who played with Minnie Miñoso, who was managed by Tony La Russa.
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