“Field of Dreams”

by John Delach

Major League Baseball has announced that the Chicago White Sox will host the NY Yankees at a twilight game at the “Field of Dreams” site on August 13, 2020. MLB will build a new field nearby to the movie set, it being far too small to host a professional game. The so

called temporary ballpark will have 8,000 seats and the necessary facilities that today’s players, officials and fans expect. I suspect the temporary status will slip – slide away as other teams seek to enjoy the same experience; Cubs vs Cardinals, Reds vs Royals, etc. etc.

This was my experience there in 2011:

In May of 2011, Bill Christman, Mike Cruise, Don Markey and I made our second heartland baseball trip that took us from Minneapolis to St. Louis. Since we spent most of our drive passing through Iowa, I suggested that a stop in Dyersville was a must.

Spring was late arriving, not exactly baseball weather. We drove south out of Minneapolis in a steady rain. After traveling 112 miles we entered Iowa where soon we began heading east and southeast on state highways aiming for Waterloo, the home of the “Fighting Sullivan Brothers,” the John Deere factory and the Route 63 Diner.

I discovered the diner in the AAA guide and good reviews for it online. Bill and I tried brazened chicken, a specialty. The waitress tells us it’s lightly breaded roasted then fried. “That way it is crispy on the outside and moist inside.” She’s right, it is moist and good. Mike enjoys a chicken pot pie and chocolate cream pie and Don, a Reuben.

Then on to Dyersville, 56 miles further east on US-20, home of the set from the movie, Field of Dreams. We used Bill’s GPS to find it which was a good thing as there aren’t too many signs leading to its location. “Why Dyersville” can equally be countered with, “why not Dyersville?”

Dyersville is a typical Iowa farming community of modest family farms with homes, barns and other outbuildings prominently located on the property. After blinking through the actual town, we drove along a rural, well-maintained two-lane road that meanders through these family farms following the contour of the land. The GPS directed us to make a right turn and follow a smaller road for about a quarter of a mile then announced, “Destination on your right.”

The address was not our destination, but rather for the farm across the road. But never mind, there on the left, a short distance down a slope was another typical farm, but this one had a baseball diamond and a freshly mowed outfield cut into its corn field. A wire backstop protected the area behind home plate, small bleachers lined each baseline and steel poles supported the field lights on the borders of the infield and the outfield.  A small blue sign explained why this farm was selected for filming the movie and how the owner decided to preserve it.   

We were lucky, there was a break in the weather and the rain stopped for our visit. The set was so simple. No glitz or glamour, just the field, the poles and that ubiquitous white farmhouse and red barn surrounded by the fallow corn fields. The grass field was well tended, and, in a condition, I’d expect to find for a major league field. Even with all of today’s rain, both the infield dirt and the grass were without mud or puddles. Behind the outfield a line drawn along the ground clearly and neatly marked where the grass baseball field ball ended, and the corn field began. Looking out from home plate we had a panoramic view of several other family farms that rose behind the outfield. It was a wonderful sight allowing us to imagine how different it must look in August when the corn is as high “as an elephant’s eye.”

I couldn’t help but smile. The set was exactly what I pictured it to be when I first read W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 novel, Shoeless Joe reinforced, of course, by images from the 1989 film, Field of Dreams I understood why the producer chose this farm, so plain, so ordinary, so Iowa: Perfect!

Only a few visitors joined us on this dreary day allowing us to prevail upon a fellow tourist, a chap visiting from Dubuque, Iowa with his family to take our photo. We stood together in one of the two bleachers with a white fence and the farmhouse visible behind us. On a fence it simply said: “Field of Dreams.”

One last look and a stop in the souvenir store. I bought two hat pins containing lines from the book and the movie: “Go the distance.” and “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” Too bad but “If you build it, he will come.” is not in stock.

Satisfied with our experience we continued to Davenport in a rainstorm that returned with such intensity to make tonight’s game between the Quad Cities Lumber Kings and the Wisconsin Timber rattlers a certain rain out. (Did you know, Bob and Ray that the quad cities are Bettendorf and Davenport, Iowa and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois.)

Instead, we enjoyed a superb meal at the City Bistro in Davenport. Bill ordered onion rings followed by apple grilled chicken. Mike, mussels and duck, Don, crab cakes and veal Oscar. I too ordered the crab cakes and the Captain’s rib eye steak. Portions were large and delicious and our drinks and wine, generous pours. We set the over / under at $500 but the check came in at an unbelievable $243. We didn’t scrimp on our tip and saluted our good fortune to have a rain out that evening.

On the Outside Looking in Will not appear next week and will return on August 28.