By In Baseball

If you watch it …

My overly long take on Field of Dreams … and why, dammit, I can’t help but love it.

41 Responses to If you watch it …

  1. Clashfan says:

    This is great, Joe. Did I detect a very subtle Springsteen reference, about your Pop’s freight train headache?

  2. Mark Daniel says:

    You sound like you are apologizing for liking Field of Dreams. I think Roger Ebert is right, and liking the movie probably means simply that you are not a grinch, a grouch or a realist.

  3. Mikey says:

    What a shock to hear that the backlash against something hopeful and sentimental is apparently being led by twitter and the New York Post.

  4. Cumbrian says:

    I’m not American and I love Field of Dreams, despite going into it (on my first viewing) knowing very little about baseball – but if you’ve ever had someone close to you die, the killer part at the end when Shoeless Joe finally explains what the voice was driving at. “No Ray. it was you”. You’d do anything to have one more chance to make amends with someone who has gone. In this sense, yes it’s about baseball – but it’s more about grief. Maybe the people who don’t get it have been lucky enough not to have experienced it.

  5. Jake Bucsko says:

    I had no idea there was a backlash against Field. It is my favorite sports movie (except perhaps for Rocky IV, for slightly different reasons) and I will fight anyone who badmouths that film in my earshot.

  6. Marco says:

    You mentioned it in the article, but it’s worth mentioning again: No Major League? Inconceivable.

  7. John Gale says:

    Field of Dreams is a great movie, though I was even more outraged by the omission of Major League, which may be my single favorite comedy *and* my single favorite sports movie (full disclosure: I am a long-suffering Cleveland Indians fan who watches the movie twice a year–once at the beginning of the season and once when the Indians have been officially eliminated from winning the World Series, as I need something to put me in a good mood). I would love Joe to write an appreciation of that great movie at some point.

  8. Tom Flynn says:

    I’m with you John! No room for “Major League”? Just because the Yankees lose for once? Typical New York Homer top 10 list . . .

    • Ross says:

      Major League, great movie. Here is my favorite personal anecdote:
      I’m an Astros fan, it’s 2003, and we’re 60-61. The same record of the Indians when Lou Brown finds out what Rachel Phelps is up to and gives the pep talk. I email my friends, saying that if the Indians could win 32 out of their final 41 to make the playoffs, so could the Astros.

      From the movie:

      ” Sixty and sixty-one is hardly a
      helluva job.”

      then later to his team

      ” I figure it’s gonna take 32 more
      victories to win this thing. Every
      time we win, we peel a square.”

      The Astros went on a tear, including a 12-game win streak and won their final 4 games to win 32 out of the final 41 to finish 92-70 and make the playoffs, exactly as in the movie.
      I wonder if that has ever happened besides that.

  9. jscape2000 says:

    Can we make a baseball movie ranking akin the Springsteen ranking? I have a hard time ranking them, but I see them in groups.

    The goofy movies capture a lot of fun: Bull Durham walks a fine line between silly and serious (to its credit), but Major League is sure to capture a lot of votes. My dark horse is Bingo Long’s Travelling All-Stars.

    As a kids’ movie, Sandlot is near the top for me, but I grew up with it; an older generation prefers Bad News Bears and I respect that. There are a million and one second tier kids’ flicks.

    Then there is serious fiction and biopics. Field of Dreams and the Natural seem like top picks. I haven’t seen 42 yet, so I can’t comment. Movies like Pastime and Bang the Drum Slowly seem like a big step down. This is an easy category to do wrong.

    Biopics get there own category, even though most of the fictions have real antecedents. League of Their Own, Eight Men Out. I put Pride of the Yankees and Moneyball in a second tier. There are a ton of dark horses in this category: 61*, Cobb, Fear Strikes Out.

  10. DM says:

    Just seconding the love out there for The Sandlot, one of my favorite baseball films. I’m also intrigued by the fact that James Earl Jones, who was in so many good baseball films including Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, and Bingo Long, apparently doesn’t care much for baseball in his personal life.

  11. mark says:

    I watched Field of Dreams during its theatrical run in 1989. I liked it well enough. But what I most remember was when I sort-of watched it the second time. I guess it was 1990 or 1991, and it was its first television appearance. I remember that year NBC bought the right to show a handful of major movies for their television debut — before HBO, Showtime, or any other cable station showed them. I guess NBC was trying to win back some of the big event type atmosphere that the then big 3 networks used to have a monopoly on. So the movie was interrupted with commercials, and in addition, I wasn’t really paying attention because I was busy doing something else, I think I was packing for a move. It was on as background – the kind of atmosphere you sometimes leave the TV on for when you live alone.

    But the key difference that I did not consider was that in-between my father died – quickly and unexpectedly in a car-jacking in December 1989. I rarely mention this but it is indispensable to the story. Anyway, the movie is on as background, Every now and then I take a break to watch a scene I remembered liking or just to pause from the drudgery of packing but I’m not expecting and don’t see the freight train that’s bearing down on me in plain view: the last scene with the Dad and the game of catch. I had a good relationship with my Dad, and despite the abrupt end to his life I had no regrets about not having told him certain things or anything like that. Which was kind of a big theme about the father/son relationship in the movie. Yes, baseball, and having a catch was a big part of our relationship but everything else seemed so different and I was touched, but not really moved by that scene when I saw the movie for the first time, with full attention, uninterrupted,and in a dark theater where it was designed to be seen.

    And then despite the interruptions, and distractions, that freight train hit me in the damn face. “Hey Dad, Wanna have a catch?” I bawled for about 5 minutes. Openly sobbing more than I did at all when my Dad actually died. Damn.

    Jump ahead another 8-10 years. I haven’t watched the movie once since that night. Now I’m sitting on a couch with my wife, and it’s early in our time together but I cannot remember exactly if we were dating, engaged, or newlyweds. It’s roughly the late-90s. And I’m flipping around the TV dial looking for something decent to kill the time so I know it’s before we had kids because I stopped having time for that right quick when that happened, and some cable channel, maybe ESPN, maybe HBO, has a documentary on about baseball movies. So they cover the whole lot of them, Damn Yankees, Major League, Bad News Bears, Bull Durham, Bang The Drum Slowly, etc.

    And there’s another #$%^* freight train heading my way and once again I do not see it coming. There’s no build up. There’s no context. They just say “Field of Dreams, voices, cornfield, Shoeless Joe”, and then they show that scene. And I did it again.

    I haven’t seen the movie or that scene since. I’ve no idea how I would react at this point. It would be hard not to anticipate the freight train at this point so maybe it would be an anticlimax. But I can’t be certain.

    If you don’t line Field of Dreams, fine. I’m not going to criticize you. But I will feel a little sorry about it.

  12. David says:

    A few thoughts that I can’t help but share.

    1. I love Field of Dreams. Easily my favorite sports movie.

    2. When I was in high school (this was the early 2000s), I had a friend who had never seen Field of Dreams. I had never seen Bull Durham. I told him that Field of Dreams was better; he said that Bull Durham was – you know, in that way that you’re SURE that you know “your” thing is the best, even if you don’t know the alternative. Like how I KNOW it’s objectively better to be a Packers fan than a Bears fan. Anyway, we watched both movies. I won. This is not to say that Bull Durham isn’t a great movie; it is. I just like FoD better. (The coda to this story is that we ALSO watched “For Love of the Game…” we both agreed it was the worst of the Costner baseball flicks.

    3. I love that there are actively baseball-loving women in Field of Dreams. I admit that the movie has a TON of problems with racial issues. But the female characters in the movie are well-written and much more fleshed-out than one would expect from a baseball movie. Not that gender issues matter that much when most people are ranking sports movies, but if you think about it, there aren’t a whole lot of sports movies that emphasize their female characters as much as Field of Dreams emphasizes both wife and daughter. And the fact that Kevin Costner shares his love of baseball with his DAUGHTER, instead of with a generic son, is a neat little twist on the cliche around which the movie revolves itself.

    4. The Terrence Mann speech gets me every time. The dad of one of my really good friends died when I was in high school. He was a Little League coach of mine when I was young, and he LOVED baseball. He had that speech reprinted in full on the cover of the program for his funeral. Every time I hear it, I think not only of baseball and fathers and mothers and sons and daughters and hope and all the other wonderfully schmaltzy things about it; I think of my friend’s dad, and my friend, and a really important moment shared together. Call me a sap if you want; call my friend’s dad one, too; I don’t care.

    5. You’re a great writer, Joe. Sometimes, I get really annoyed by all the praise you get on this blog, not because you don’t deserve it, but because it always looks to me like people are brown-nosing. And I love reading the stuff you write. But I don’t care that it normally annoys me. You’ve written a lot of great stuff. From the Hawaii Chair review to the sports stuff to the iPad review and OF COURSE “Katie the Prefect” – but this article is my favorite. The Olive Garden one, where you talk about how hard it is to be truly sincere, is something that has stuck with me, and legitimately has challenged me to change the way that I live my life. And you nailed those same ideas here. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Ross says:

      I’m with you on the Olive Garden review. Now, when I’m thinking that someone is lame for liking something that I think I’m too good for, I think “I want to live in a world where people unabashedly like the Olive Garden”

  13. Ron Warnick says:

    There are many reasons to love “Field of Dreams,” but I particularly loved it because of this:

    I first watched it in the theater with my father, and we both made the same observation afterward: We had no idea how it was going to end.

    That’s extremely rare for any film.

  14. frank says:

    Kevin Costner is just the worst.

  15. Carl says:

    Liked Field of Dreams, but it’s not even the best Kevin Costner baseball movie. For Love of the Game was actually much better.

  16. Noah says:

    Hi Joe,

    Having a hard time figuring out exactly what to say about this, but I’ll try. I always liked Field of Dreams; didn’t watch it much as a kid growing up in the late 80s/early 90s, but I always liked it. Whenever it came on TV I’d usually sit down to watch the rest. With that as my exposure to the movie, I really don’t know the beginning all that well.

    But my entire vision of the movie has changed since I had children. I have an adorable 3-year old son, and if someone told me I would never get to play catch with my son out on the lawn I couldn’t imagine being more depressed. I think every dad dreams about playing catch with his child some day. Now I can barely get through the end of the movie with out crying my eyes out. I don’t know if it’s a great movie, but for that reason alone I don’t think anyone with children could ever hate it.

  17. sb m says:

    “Sugar” is severely overrated. That’s a great little movie that is centered around baseball. Surely it rates among the best “baseball movies” ever.

  18. Crout says:

    I used to cry thinking about playing catch with my Dad. Now I cry thinking about playing catch with my son.

  19. Robert says:

    Beyond brilliant. Thank you Joe.

  20. LuisLozada says:

    What? No love for Trouble with the Curve?

  21. Dave says:

    Yes, Field of Dreams. It’s not a baseball story. It’s a life story with a baseball setting. This coming comment isn’t about FoD particularly, but it fits in the overall theme of the comments. As a son, I played catch with my Dad. As a father, I played catch with my son. First I and then my son played baseball, at least as far as our skills allowed, which wasn’t very far. But my son fell in love with the rhythm of the game, just as I had being exposed to it by my parents. My birthday is in the spring. The year my son was a sophomore in college, we asked him at Christmas what he was going to do for spring break. Now, the previous year, his spring break lined up with Mardi Gras, and he had a friend going to Tulane, so that’s where he headed. We wondered what extravaganza he was thinking about for his second year. His reply was that he had never been to spring training and wanted to go.

    His next statement was “Dad, will you meet me in Phoenix?” So, yeah, I paid for that week, but spending it with my 19 year old son at his request was the finest birthday present I’ve ever had.

    Yes, Field of Dreams, most definitely, a story of life.

  22. Joe, I’m literally tearing just reading about you having a catch with your dad, so that tells you a little bit about why I love this movie. My father died when I was 17, and there is not a time that I have watched Field of Dreams since that time that I have not cried at the end.

  23. steve says:

    An overlooked moment in the movie is when the character player by James Earl Jones is thumbing through the baseball encyclopedia while he is watching the old time players. I would have done the same thing had I been watching the players, and for the same reason: what was that guy’s lifetime batting average?

  24. gosport474 says:

    Long Gone hardly ever shows up on these lists. HBO needs to release this on DVD. I had to get a bootlegged copy to see it again a few years ago after watching it originally on HBO. How many movies have a character named so appropriately as Dixie Lee Boxx?

    • Jeff says:

      Could not agree more. I have an old VHS copy that I taped from HBO. I’m having it burned on to a DVD so I can watch it again. Also, Ebbets Field Flannels custom makes a Tampico Stogies jersey. I now have that as well. Damn fine movie.

  25. Alejo says:

    I know you follow the Premier League; but following the Premier instead of the Spanish League is like following Mexican baseball instead of MLB.

    That is the quality gap between the two. And not only that: today Atlético de Madrid, the eternal underdog under the shadow of Real Madrid, won the League. The “regularity” championship that lasts six months. It was a titanic effort. It felt like a heavyweight bout that lasted half a year without anyone giving up.

    The calendar determined that the match for the title (yeah, after a whole season had been played it all came down to one single match) had to be against their main competitors, Barcelona (I mean, how brilliant is that?). They played away from home. They won after having their two top players injured and out of the field before minute 20. They came from behind and overcame one goal.

    Bloody Epic. I am in disbelief standing in front of this perfection of a feat.

    At the end all the players in tears, the manager in tears, the Club President crying like a proud soccer mom in the stands, the fans in the stadium having convulsive fits, the people on the streets going mad with joy because eleven guys kicked a ball inside a goal once.

    This is Football with a capital F.

    AND THE BEST IS STILL TO COME. The Champions League (the knockout tournament, equivalent to a six month long playoff) final is REAL MADRID VS ATLETICO MADRID. May 24. Next week. This is Superbowl-cum-Seventh game of the World Series. Real has won 9 (most ever, but 12 years of drought have passed since the 9th) Atletico lost one 40 years ago.

    To say this is drama would be an understatement.

    • Jake Bucsko says:

      While I’ll allow that La Liga is better top to bottom than the Prem, comparing it to some scrub Mexican League vs MLB is a gross exaggeration. The Houston Astros would wipe the floor with the best Mexican team, while the top English clubs are at least competitive with Barca and Madrid.

      And what about the Bundesliga?

      • Alejo says:

        How many English clubs have been competitive agains Spanish teams this year?

        How many german teams?


  26. Yes. Just yes. Perfectly said, as usual.

  27. Erik L. says:

    I agree with you so often, Joe, and I agree with Kyle Smith so little, but I’m with him on “Field of Dreams.” It’s not top 10. My list:

  28. Baseball is America says:

    Speaking of baseball and your father, can you add your story about Brooks Robinson in the Baseball 100 to your vault?

  29. Moeball says:

    Saw Field of Dreams in a virtually empty theater when it first came out. Honest to goodness, I thought they made that movie just for me!

    Just as Ray Kinsella thinks it’s all about him – but it isn’t – “well, what’s in it for me?” – he asks Joe Jackson – many people think this film is about baseball – but it isn’t. There are few films that go way beyond what Hollywood pictured in how they impact the world, and this is one of them. Literally thousands upon thousands of fathers and sons over the years have commented on how this story helped them reconnect and repair broken relationships. That’s incredibly powerful magic there. Doc Graham asks Ray “…is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?” Yes, Doc, there is.

    1989 was a great year. Saw Field of Dreams, then got to do a little reconnecting of my own. My dad had taken me to the All Star game at Anaheim Stadium back in ’67. 22 years later, I had grown up, gone to college, gone out into the working world, didn’t see my dad much anymore…and then I took my dad to the All Star game at Anaheim Stadium. Magical memories come flooding back…so thick I have to brush them away from my face.

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