Last week, in my world, there were two “Field of Dreams” games.
Monday, August 9 – Kauffman Stadium, Yankees v. Royals. Rita and I were there.
Thursday, August 12 – Dyersville, Iowa, Yankees v. White Sox. We watched on television.
The one in Dyersville was beautifully produced by Major League Baseball and Fox Sports. Many of you likely saw the game and won’t forget seeing Kevin Costner and the players entering the field through the corn rows.
The Field of Dreams moment in Kansas City was beautifully produced by Rita. She came up with the idea when she heard that Satchel Paige’s Hall of Fame plaque would be at Kauffman Stadium on August 9 – the 50th anniversary of Satch’s induction into the HOF. She had been wondering what we would be doing on my 80th birthday, also on August 9, and this date coincidence gave her an inspiration for a birthday celebration.
So she set up a plan:
Step 1 – The Tickets: Rita contacted David Block to ask for his front row seats behind the visitor’s dugout. David likes Rita. That was a quick yes.
Step 2 – The Shirt: Rita next went to Charlie Hustle on the Plaza, a block from our condo. Her mission: a Monarchs shirt with an image of Satchel Paige. Got it.
Step 3 – The Plaque: She then worked on setting up a photo of me with Satchel’s plaque. Her partner for this step of the plan was our friend Adam Sachs who recently joined the Royals as Chief Legal Officer. And did he come through.
Rita texted Adam when we got to the game, and he came down to our seats to take us to the owner’s suite. From there, we watched the pregame festivities with the plaque on the field and Satchel’s daughter Linda Paige Shelby throwing out the first pitch (video here). Below, Linda with Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Royals photo by Jason Hanna.
The plaque moved from the field to the owner’s suite for a 15-minute stop before going to the Royals Hall of Fame for viewing by fans during the game. While the plaque was in the suite, Rita staged this photo of me (in my Satchel shirt) with Bob Kendrick and Royals owner John Sherman. Rita did good.
Photo by Adam Sachs
The Game: We returned to our seats for the game. The photos below are screenshots from the TV airing.
Below, Salvy at the plate. Just above the dugout, from the left, Rita and Lonnie, our host David Block (taking a photo) and his wife Vicki. Behind them are their nephew Max and his son Jack.
Neither team scored until the 7th inning when each team got a run to make it 1-1. In the 8th, each got another run to make it 2-2. By the 9th, the game was well over three hours and the Blocks had headed home. My brother Gary’s granddaughter Cassidi and her friend Jordan came down to the seats to say hello. As we chatted (below), we missed seeing Luke Voit of the Yankees hit this home run to make the score 3-2. In the bottom of the ninth, déjà vu, the Royals scored a run to tie the game at 3-3.
In the 10th inning, both teams scored twice. The game, now at 5-5, was going over the four-hour mark. Past our bedtime. We left and relied on the broadcast for the 11th inning when the Yankees scored three and the Royals answered with one. Final score, 8-6. Total game time – 4:52.
I’m sorry the Royals lost, but I’ll never forget the Field of Dreams night orchestrated by lovely Rita for my 80th birthday.
Satchel and Lonnie – 80 Years Ago: On July 4, 1941, my mother Katie Shalton turned 20. On that same day, Satchel Paige pitched for the Monarchs at a game at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Note that he is depicted in his signature windup, just like on my shirt.
Five weeks later, on August 9, I was born.
Other notable baseball events from the summer of 1941: Ted Williams hit .406 for the season, but that was not good enough to be the MVP. He lost out to Joe DiMaggio who recorded his 56-game hitting streak that year. Williams won the 1941 All-Star game with a walk-off home run – great video here (4:03). Below, Ted and Joe in the locker room after the All-Star game.
Satchel Paige’s Road to Cooperstown: In 1966, twenty-five years after Ted Williams hit that .406, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Williams used part of his acceptance speech to encourage the Hall to induct players from the Negro Leagues, specifically calling out the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. Five years later, on August 9, 1971, Satchel Paige became the first HOF inductee to be honored for his career in the Negro Leagues.
Satchel’s plaque was initially a subject of controversy. In the weeks leading up to the induction, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suggested that Paige’s plaque would not be in the famed plaque room, but instead would be placed in a different wing of the museum. Separate but equal? The pushback was resounding and the Hall relented. Satch’s plaque would be in the same room with Ted, Joe, the Babe and the other greats. As it should be.
Just before heading to Cooperstown, Satch got in yet another game – he was a guest for Old Timers’ Day at Shea Stadium on July 31, 1971. Below, Yogi and Satch. Check out this clip of Satchel pitching in the game.
At Cooperstown on August 9, Paige entertained the crowd with anecdotes and got the biggest applause. He knew that his blend of showmanship and pitching talent were instrumental in being the first from the Negro Leagues in the Hall: “We played up in Canada and if I didn’t pitch every day they didn’t want the ball club. And that’s how I started pitching every day. I pitched in 165 ball games in a row because if I didn’t pitch they didn’t want the club in town, let alone there. So, I began to learn how to pitch by the hour, or by the week, or whatever you may call it. And so I guess all that got me up here in Cooperstown.” For snippets of Paige’s speech, click here.
In 2006, Paige was honored again in Cooperstown with a statue added to the south lawn of the Hall of Fame – in his signature windup of course. Below, Satchel Paige’s daughters Linda (left) and Pamela at the unveiling of the statue.
Photo by Larry Lester, Negro Leagues Historian
Field of Dreams – The Movie (1989): Very brief storyline: Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears voices that tell him to build a baseball diamond on his farm. The reason: So Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) and other players banned from baseball can emerge as ghosts from a cornfield and play the game they love. Jackson and seven of his White Sox teammates (the “Black Sox) were banned for conspiring with gamblers betting on the 1919 World Series.
Most fans either love or hate Field of Dreams. I liked it, but did not love it. Maybe because it’s not my favorite baseball movie starring Kevin Costner – that would be Bull Durham. But no one can deny the nostalgia value, and so it is no surprise that MLB did a nationwide telecast of a regular season game on a baseball field constructed in Dyersville, Iowa, adjacent to the one in the movie. If you build it, a TV audience will come.
A major flaw in the movie is the failure to live up to the iconic monologue by writer Terence Mann (James Earl Jones): “The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball…This field, this game, it’s a part of the past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”
All was not good in those days. And it carried over into the movie. Neither team had any Black players. Shoeless Joe and his teammates were banned near the end of the 1920 season. That’s the same year the first Negro League was formed at a meeting in Kansas City. To name just two Hall of Famers from that inaugural Negro League season – Bullet Rogan and Oscar Charleston. The Black Sox had been banned for throwing the World Series. The Negro Leaguers were banned for the color of their skin.
Director Phil Alden Robinson has said that adding Negro Leaguers would be the first change he would make if he could do the movie over again. But that won’t be necessary. We got the real thing last week…
Field of Dreams – The MLB Game (August 12, 2021): I can’t adequately describe the emotional pre-game opening with Kevin Costner entering the field to music from the movie, followed by the White Sox and Yankee players coming out of the cornfield. So I suggest you go to the tape. Click here (4:05). Kevin’s part may seem a little long, but the reveal of the players is worth it. MLB and Fox Sports hit all the right notes to capture the nostalgia that only baseball can provide.
NYT Photo by Johnny Milano
The retro park and scoreboard. The vintage uniforms (with a Nike swoosh). The drone aerial shots. Then it got even better. The game was fantastic. Click here for the highlights (9:21). Spoiler alert. Tim Anderson of the White Sox ended the game with a walk-off homer. And Anderson’s story is the one I want to tell about the game.
Two days before the game, Wall Street Journal sportswriter Jared Diamond wrote a prescient article about Tim Anderson and the movie Field of Dreams. Like most of his teammates, Anderson was not even born when the movie came out. He has not seen the movie, and its message of baseball nostalgia and sentimentality is not his story. He believes that baseball can be seen as “corny” to a younger generation that appreciates the emotion of the players that makes football and basketball “cool.”
Diamond notes that baseball is dealing with a fan base that is too old and too white to guarantee a sustainable future. “In other words, Anderson is exactly what baseball is looking for. He’s young, he’s Black, he’s supremely talented – and he’s on a mission to show the world that baseball can be cool.”
And my, did Anderson deliver. He emerged from the cornfield (below) and put on a show. He doubled in a run and scored in the 3rd to help the Sox build a 7-4 lead after eight innings. In the top of the 9th, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each hit 2-run homers into the cornfield to put New York ahead 8-7. The Yankees in the dugout jumped up and down like little leaguers.
But that just set the stage for Tim Anderson. With a man on base in the bottom of the 9th, Anderson hit a dramatic 2-run walk-off homer for a 9-8 Sox victory. It was great fun (replay here). Watch his bat drop, the fireworks, the joyful circling of the bases and the jubilation of his teammates greeting him at home plate. A true Hollywood ending. It was very cool.
Some trivia to note.
The three home runs in the 9th were hit by Judge, Stanton and Anderson – three players with African-American lineage. A welcome update to the Field of Dreams story.
The movie was released in 1989.
In Joe Posnanski’s review of the game (read it here), he shared a text exchange with his podcast co-host Michael Schur. In their take on last week’s game, I noticed that they used the same terms as Tim Anderson.
Baseball is better when it’s cool, but it’s richer when blended with nostalgia and trivia. And I think that will be fine with Tim Anderson. I’m betting he appreciates this century-old piece of baseball trivia: The White Sox have beaten the Yankees with walk-off home runs 15 times. The most recent was Anderson’s in the Field of Dreams game. The first was in 1919 when the walk-off homer was hit by Shoeless Joe Jackson. That’s nostalgic and cool.
Breaking News: Two days ago, it was announced that Field of Dreams is coming to television in the form of a scripted drama series. It will be written and produced by Michael Schur (from above, Joe Posnanski’s podcast co-host). Schur has created and written many successful comedy series (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place, etc.). This is his first venture into drama. One of the headlines announcing the show borrowed a line from the movie: “If Michael Schur Builds a Field of Dreams Series, They Will Come.” And take this to the bank – Negro Leaguers will be on Schur’s field.
Lonnie’s Jukebox: Clips and soundtrack music from Field of Dreams. Click here.
A parting shot from my birthday night at Kauffman Stadium. Good message.