Dreamy Fields

by | Jun 3, 2022

Above: The field built near Dyersville, Iowa, for the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. Credit: Field of Dreams Movie Site 

It started with a talk, as many things do. Six friends in the local coffee shop talking about a just-seen movie about fathers and sons and baseball. A constant topic. A well known and well worn topic.

They discussed going out to see the site of the movie – they were so impressed with it.

At least two of them could have left the coffee shop and gotten on a private jet and flown there that night. But, in the end, it was small talk. Moment talk. Thrown out there for whatever reason and then forgotten. Moment talk. Moment people. Happens every day.

Except for one of the friends. The talk had launched an idea in his head, and like always with him, those ideas usually blossomed into action. He just might do it. He might.

Many years earlier, an older boy, well organized for the day, had organized a Sandlot League. Each neighborhood in town had a team: The Dedford Street Lions, the Marlborough Street Marauders, the Scalloptown Raiders, Rector Street Jackrabbits, the Hamilton Rip Shirts and the South Marlboro Scalawags. Then, in 1953, the town of Greenwood Cove started something new for the boys of the town. Little League Baseball had come to “Our Hometown.” It came at the right time. It was new. Respected men from the town coached. There were four teams and it ran smooth as could be at the old Academy Field in the middle of town. The teams were the S&S Outfitters, sponsored by a clothing and shoe store; Dairy & Finn, a combo of the local GC Dairy and a businessman; GC Motors, sponsored by a car dealership, and The Volunteers, sponsored by the GC Volunteer Fire Company.

The boy had played for The Volunteers in three years of the most remembered and fun times of his young life. A local reporter, Hoppy Hopkins, covered the games, and a local kid, Buck Hoeffler, took amazing photos of the action. Boys’ names were in the newspaper every week, and photos of game action were posted in store windows all over town.

It was amazing.

The man went home from the coffee shop and got a map. It was 1,157 miles from Greenwood Cove to the movie site in that midwestern town, made suddenly famous by the movie, its crew, and the attention it got. It would be an 18-hour drive but he felt he could do it easily. Earlier in his life he had hitch-hiked out to the same area to visit an Indian Reservation, so he was familiar with the states he would be going through.

….1954. They built another little league field over by Knollwood Avenue, about a mile from the Academy field. This one had a permanent fence in the outfield and advertisements plastered about. The boys felt big time and the games were still marked by the innocence of the time. Parents watched silently (except for a couple) and there were not the incidents that happened later when the town expanded and A types moved into the suddenly desirable community with all the amenities anyone could want, including the magic. The 8-day weeks and 28-hour days. The town was protected by a sheen of Disney blue back then. It was never the same again. 

He started off for the movie site on a perfect summer day. His traveling routine was always the same. A car with four wheels, a heater and a working radio. It was all he needed on that front. Didn’t need to be a Mercedes. Almost any car fitting the above would do. He also had packed a pillow, a blanket, a cooler of food, drinks, his map and a goose-necked hospital bottle. His trip would take him through six states and parts of two others. His goal for the first leg was the western reaches of Pennsylvania. About 10 hours. By the second day, he figured, he would be within shouting distance of his goal.

….1955. His last year of Little League. On the day they buried his father he hit his first Little League homer. The rest of the season was bittersweet. The local All Stars never got out of the region in playoffs, but surprisingly did better when they all reached high school.

Later, wanting to give back, he signed on as an assistant to a man whom he had tremendous respect for, but, even then there was an incident on the field, started by an opposing coach, that got real ugly. He gave up coaching Little League right then and not only never went back, but, for a high school coach, had a different opinion of Little League and other youth sports, than most people, including other coaches.

He reached Dubuque, Iowa, near the end of his second day on the road. Only 22 miles from his goal, in a little town of Dyersville. He decided to have dinner and then board a paddle wheeler casino and do a little gambling, something which he hadn’t done in 50 years or more.

The next morning he drove out to Dyersville. Had breakfast at an interesting restaurant named The Country Junction, which had all kinds of farm implements on the walls and friendly waitresses. He chatted them up for information and within a few minutes was at his destination. The reason for the whole trip. The only participant of the Moment Talk, who said he was going to do it. AND he did it! As he parked his car and got out, there spread before him amongst the fields of corn was his goal: The movie site! THE FIELD OF DREAMS!

He parked his car and opened the trunk to get balls, a glove and a bat. It was 7 a.m.

He hit balls out to the outfield. He ran the bases, even sliding into second. He tore out of the batter’s box and sprinted all around to home, sliding in again.

SAFE! Safe from everything for at least this morning. His mind conjuring up all the great players of his youth, the great hits, the great catches.

Is this heaven? No. It’s Iowa. But for that morning, at least, it was like his own private heaven and he relished every minute. Magic! Taking something ordinary and making it Special. Making it his.

The only glitch was the corn! It was supposed to be 6 feet high. He wanted to get a picture coming out of the corn, bat in hand. Alas. Iowa had suffered a drought. The corn was only 1 foot high. It deterred him. BUT not forever. Remember, his mind was fertile. He had the Magic. AND, he had the answer to be provided at a later date.

It’s two years later. His boss at Metro Highlands High wants to drive across the country with him to see The Field and other sights. For him it has now become routine; driving across country. He has made 40 trips. For his boss it is the trip of a lifetime. They replicate his first trip to Dyersville almost exactly. Only this time there are two guys batting and running and scoring and beating every team that ever lived. If only in their minds. The farmer in that now famous house even stuck his head out the window to see what was going on. The corn was still short.

They both remember it to this day, even though the Boss is now over 90 and he, coming up 10 years short of that.

Magic snuck in once again. Picks would have loved it!

….2022. Progress has come to Greenwood Cove. From 4 Major League teams in 1953, the GCLL now has Majors, Minors, T-Ball, Coaches Pitch and NOW even GIRLS! He doesn’t go to games like he once did, stopping by to watch the kids while out in his car or on his motorbike. Once in a while, though. But he likes watching the sandlot games better.

He did do one more Magic thing though on another cross country trip. He stopped at his godson’s house in Illinois on his way back to R.I. from Las Vegas. His godson lived across from a field of corn. The corn was 8 feet high! He got his bat and disappeared into the stalks. He came out holding the bat. His godson shot the picture. Coming out of the corn just like Shoeless Joe and the other ballplayers in The Field of Dreams! 

His fertile mind had provided the answer years back and he always kept the bat in the trunk of his car, ready for when the time presented itself. He knew it would.

The scene from Field of Dreams when ballplayers magically appear out of the corn.

Writer’s Notes: This story was sparked by hearing of the death of Ray Liotta, who played Shoeless Joe Jackson in the movie. Besides being a baseball story, it was a movie about fathers and sons and love. It’s a story I know well.

Remember: Even though the rain must fall. And, even though the wind must blow. Wherever your heart leads you. That’s where you must go. (By Glenn Yarborough, with a slight alteration.)

Lastly, I want to thank ALL those men who took the time to work with us from 1953-55. The volunteer coaches, Mr. Libby, Bill Brennan, My Uncle Dick, George King, Vic Ellison, Bernie Dunn. Mr. Simms and Mr. Mathewson and all the rest whose names are gone, as are they now. And, of course, Fire Chief Fred Miller, who coached 20 years but didn’t have a son. God Bless You all!

This is dedicated to Cliff “Strunge” Rice, whose wife is reading this to him now and making him laugh. To Mick, Peck, Nero, Hop and Lil’ Hop, Cragar, and all the players from those early teams. And, to Picks, especially to Picks, who brought out all the tools I have needed to succeed as a writer and a human being in this world.

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5 Comments

  1. Bob Lemoi

    We were glad to see you at the parade on Monday. Even thou we only lived in town for 48 years {68 to 2016} your stories bring back memories. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  2. GG

    Your stories are fantastic.

    Reply
  3. Bruce

    Comment *I forgot to mention that I did get a couple of souvenirs from that trip. One was a black T-shirt that says ” Is This Heaven ? NO! It’s Iowa !

    The other was a coffee mug with a field of corn pictured on it and ‘Field of Dreams ‘ scripted below.
    When you put HOT coffee in that mug, the baseball players emerge from the corn field.

    Amazing !

    Reply
  4. Christine Quinton Payne

    Another wonderful story, Bruce! It brought back memories of watching my brother, Mark Quinton, play on the EG Motors team in the 50s. We’d spend many happy summer evenings at his games at Cragan Field. As the song goes, “Thanks for the memories!”

    Reply
  5. Ed

    Sweet Story Bruce !!

    Reply

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