Baseball’s Zen Cathedral in a Field of Corn

UPDATE Sept. 2016:
W.P. Kinsella died Sept. 16, 2016. His acclaimed novel, Shoeless Joe, became the iconic film Field of Dreams. This link includes an interview with Kinsella and other information about the famous ball field.

Update–May 2015:  As stated in the Des Moines Register, the long, bitter legal battle over whether Iowa’s most iconic movie site should be redeveloped has reached a resolution of sorts–or at least its latest milestone in what feels like extra innings. Explore the making of the”Field of Dreams” in the summer of 1988 by scrubbing through this hour-long compilation of exclusive clips provided by the Iowa Film Office.  Skim to the latter parts of the old video to see filming at the farm:

Reflections on Baseball and the Field of Dreams

During this era of NFL-mania, baseball has faded—at times the sport seems to walk into an Iowa cornfield and disappear among the tall, mysterious stalks. But autumn is World Series time, and anyone with a baseball soul can pause long enough to enjoy “America’s pastime.”
One unlikely spot where the spirit of baseball has not died is on a farm east of Dyersville, Iowa. Twenty-five years ago a film crew put the wraps on a Hollywood venture that included an obsessed farmer, his hipster wife, and a group of benign walking dead baseball players. James Earl Jones gave his “people will come, Ray, people will most definitely come” speech—and they have. As many as 75,000 fans a year visit the Field of Dreams, and this video report from Market to Market gives insights about its appeal.
I grew up in Iowa and my cousin lives two miles from the actual Field of Dreams, but I first heard of the movie while living in Tokyo. News reports started floating in about a Kevin Costner baseball movie, and a few American friends at the school where I worked ribbed me about a corny film from Iowa. I’d read W.P.  Kinsella’s wonderful Shoeless Joe novel, so when someone passed along a VHS version of the movie, I cued it up. 

As I watched the beauty of my home state in the background, I thought about the pace of life, the traditions of the past, and the relationships we foster—or don’t. I let the film flow over me like a well-played baseball game—some hits, some errors, and plenty of time to think things through. Moonlight Graham walks away from something he loves—baseball—to work on something he loves more—healing the sick. Shoeless Joe makes an unwitting mistake that costs him dearly. Ty Cobb is such a jerk the others tell him to get lost—even after he is dead. And Ray Kinsella is haunted by his estrangement from his dead father who makes a weird but touching appearance at the end.

I was away from the United States for several years, but I’d kept some baseball connections—even if they then included unified “gambate chants,” sushi at the concession stands, and team names that included the Yokohama Whales and the Nippon Ham Fighters. Those two names have since changed, but Japan’s love of baseball hasn’t, and 25 years ago that sentiment made Field of Dreams a huge hit there. I’m not sure what most Japanese film-goers thought of a school board meeting in Our Town, Iowa, but the idea of ancestor worship hit a home run. When Ray calls out to his father and asks him to “have a catch,” nothing is lost in translation.
Our family stopped at the field several times when our kids were young—and yes, we “had a catch.” Sometimes we’d walk onto the field with only a few others around, the classic farm house sitting up the lane, the wind blowing gently through the iconic corn. At other times, a tour bus might pull in from Chicago—chances were that Japanese tourists would file off with gloves, cameras, and a desire to connect with some zen mixture of sport, nostalgia, and heritage.
Like baseball, the actual Field of Dreams has been the center of controversy, fame, good times, and bad. But when the sun is shining and family members are playing ball, the place truly is heaven.
by dan gogerty  (top photo from, bottom one from

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