In the 1989 hit movie Field of Dreams, a ghost asks Kevin Costner’s character, “Is this heaven?” To which he sheepishly replies, “It’s Iowa.”
I’m not sure how many people mistake Iowa for heaven, but next week they might mistake it for a big city when Major League Baseball descends on a small diamond in a cornfield to play a game in Dyersville. The White Sox and Yankees will play a regular season game there on Thursday, August 12, under the lights on the location of a Hollywood film.
Field of Dreams starred Costner, James Earl Jones, Amy Madigan, and Ray Liotta as the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson. It’s a magical fantasy about an Iowa man who hears voices on his farm that prompt him to build a baseball field in his cornfield. It’s a story about fathers-and-sons, mystical Americana, and the National Pastime. It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay. For many, it ranks as the best baseball movie of all-time. Though opinions vary.
History Of Major League Baseball In Iowa
Both MLB and the official website for the Field of Dreams baseball park claim that this will be the first MLB game ever played in Iowa. This is false. The National Association is the first professional league recognized as a major league. It existed from 1871 to 1875, just a few years after the U.S. Civil War helped spread the popularity of baseball across the nation.
The National Association had teams in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston, as well as other large cities of the time. But the league was also sprinkled with teams from smaller eastern and midwest towns like Troy (New York), and Rockford (Illinois). In 1875, the last year the NA was struggling to stick together, they opened the season with a team in Keokuk, Iowa. That team was the most western team ever to play organized pro ball at the time. The Keokuk team was known simply as “the Westerns,” and they played their home games on a field hastily constructed in a field beyond what is known as Rand Park, located only a stones-throw away from the mighty Mississsippi River in southeast Iowa.
The Keokuk team only survived for about a month of the 1875 season. They played 13 games in the National association before running out of money. They simply couldn’t compete with the Chicago White Stockings, St. Louis Brown Stockings, and other big city teams of the circuit. On June 14 in Keokuk, the Westerns lost 1-0 to drop their record to 1-12. After the game, team officials took their modest gate receipts and paid what they could to their ragtag group of ballplayers. Two days later, the team formally folded and was unable to finish the season. The following year the National Association collapsed and the strongest teams entered the new National League, while others simply faded away.
No one remembers the Keokuk team (obviously, since MLB itself doesn’t even realize they played games more than 146 years ago. They are a tiny little footnote in the history of Major League Baseball, but they were a team in a league that MLB recognizes as their first pro league. MLB ball won’t be played for the first time in Iowa on August 12, it will be coming home.
About the MLB Field Of Dreams Game
WHAT: Regular season game between the host White Sox and visiting Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa
WHEN: Thursday, August 12, 7 PM EST
BROADCAST: Fox Sports
The game will not be played on the field used for the baseball scenes in the movie, a diamond that has lights and is used by fans who make the trek to Iowa to honor the movie. Instead, MLB built a temporary field and 8,000-seat ballpark adjacent to the original field.
The dimensions of the field are 333 down the lines and 400 feet to the deepest regions of center field. That’s a fairly neutral configuration for professional ballplayers, so it’s not like we’ll see baseball’s soaring out of the park all evening. However, hitters can launch a ball directly into the cornfield beyond the right field wall.
For this special game, MLB had a corn maze constructed with the iconic MLB logo carved into it. Expect Fox Sports to exploit that shot with drone camera footage throughout their telecast.
Both teams will be wearing throwback uniforms. The White Sox will wear jerseys similar to those worn by the 1919 White Sox, the team Shoeless Joe Jackson played for when he was banned (rightfully) from pro baseball. The Yankees will wear gray uniforms with simple block letter NEW YORK on the front and caps with a larger interlocking “NY” logo reminiscent of their 1920s-era garb.
Betting on the Field of Dreams Game
Since this will be a regular-season game (the Sox and Yanks are playing a three-game series that resumes in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday), sportsbooks will be offering odds for the contest. Expect the same action you can find for any MLB game from your favorite sportsbook: over/under on runs scored, choosing who may hit a home run, strikeouts and hits allowed by the starting pitchers, and so on. Seeing as they are the “home” team, I’d expect the White Sox to be at least slightly favored.