top of page

The Field of Dreams Game – Part 6: A Series of Corny Redemptions

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

The Field of Dreams game between the White Sox and Yankees electrified baseball fans with both the amazing visuals and the epic instant classic game itself. Tim Anderson got to show the baseball world what Chicago fans already knew, he is a superstar in the making with a flare for the dramatic. Beyond the normal metrics for judging an event’s success, the Field of Dreams provided a redemption touchstone on a few levels. Also, while not the redemption trigger per se, the Field of Dreams helped bookend certain key aspects of White Sox and baseball lore.

Tim Anderson electrified both the glowing Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa and the entire baseball world with his Stalkoff home run.

As mentioned earlier, the White Sox have barely sniffed the World Series since eight of their integral players received a lifetime banishment for throwing (allegedly) the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. After 88 years of futility (numerologists could have a field day with the 8 Men Out/88 year nexus), a diverse team of aging stars and role players finally broke the Shoeless Joe playoff curse at, of all places, Fenway Park on October 7, 2005.

On that night in Boston, the White Sox beat the Red Sox in a first round playoff American League Division Series by a count of 3 games to 0 in the same ballpark featured in the Costner/James Earl Jones “Go the Distance” scene in the Field of Dreams. It was the White Sox very first playoff series victory of any kind since 1917. After the 2005 White Sox players sprayed their loyal road fans with champagne near the Fenway Park visitor’s dugout, my Red Sox-loving girlfriend (now my wife) graciously took me to continue my celebration at an Uno Chicago Grill on Brookline Avenue just down the street from Fenway. Leaving aside the fact that the Uno’s franchise chain is a weak imitation of the original Pizzeria Uno in Chicago, this branch Uno’s happened to be on the ground floor of the Hotel Buckminster. The Buckminster is THE same hotel that members of the Black Sox first met with New York gamblers late in the 1919 season and hatched the plan to throw the upcoming World Series.

While both the hotel and restaurant have recently closed as part of a redevelopment, the building still stands and houses the ghosts of the 1919 Black Sox. I attempted to appease those ghosts by drinking a Chicago-brewed Goose Island beer and eating suboptimal deep dish Chicago pizza that October night.

On October 7, 2005, I celebrated the White Sox first playoff series win since the Black Sox scandal at an imitation Chicago restaurant in the same Hotel Buckminster where the Black Sox scandal was hatched.

Left: Juan Uribe sprayed White Sox fans with bubbly.

Middle: An injured Frank Thomas with his party outfit at Fenway.

Right: The Hotel Buckminster in 2021 after the hotel and Uno’s had closed.

As luck would have it, the White Sox broke their 88 year curse on October 26, 2005 in Houston when the White Sox swept the Astros (then a National League team) for their first World Series win since the Woodrow Wilson administration. For once, the White Sox owned Chicago’s sports scene and the Cubs were yesterday’s news. Alas, the Cubs would ruin that party too by winning their own super cinematic World Series 11 years later in a 7 game thriller.

Apart from photos of my owns sons, the picture I took of the White Sox winning the World Series in Houston on October 26, 2005 is my favorite photograph that I have ever taken.

After winning the World Series in 2005, the White Sox had the upper hand in the Crosstown rivalry with the Cubs. The Cubs regained their big brother status once they broke their 106 year old World Series drought in 2016.

Another form of redemption was the Field of Dreams game even occurring before in-person fans. It had been postponed for a year due to the pandemic and baseball fans feared it would take place in an empty ballpark. For a movie which features the classic James Earl Jones speech that includes the line “Ohhh, people will come Ray, people will most definitely come,” the notion of playing such a historic game in front of empty seats seemed an anathema too depressing to consider.

Through the perseverance of countless people in MLB, the teams and the people of Iowa, not only did the game happen in front of an overflow house of fans and volunteers, it was a smashing success in almost every possible way. It was a case of art imitating life, which in turn imitated art. Sure, it wasn’t the $20 tickets that James Earl Jones’ Terence Mann envisioned in the movie, but that’s a minor footnote.

Following the game, Fans departed the MLB Field of Dreams Ballpark through the corn to reach the original movie set Field of Dreams. Actor Kevin Costner graced both fields.

There was an ironic twist after the game. The movie famously features a final image showing a long string car headlights for miles as they made their way to the mythical Field of Dreams. That scene, in a world before movie CGI magic, was made possible by the cooperation of actual residents of Dyersville in their cars. Many of the folks at the FOD game chatted about the likelihood of a reverse image being recreated in real life after the game with red tail lights of rental cars streaming out of the cornfields towards far flung hotels and motels. Yet, when I got to my car in the cornfield, the folks of Iowa were so efficient with traffic coordination that I arrived at my hotel 20 miles away just 25 minutes after I started my car. Cheers to the people of Iowa for organizing such a smoothly run event.

The departure from the Field of Dreams following the game was so smooth that the film’s final shot did not entirely materialize like the movies version.

One footnote worth mentioning is that White Sox manager, Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa, was not able to attend the Field of Dreams game because of a death in the family. Instead, bench coach Miguel Cairo served as acting manager for the White Sox. That same Tony LaRussa was made the White Sox manager in 1979 by team owner Bill Veeck and was the youngest manager in the league at 34 years old. Tony was manager until he was fired in the middle of the 1986 season by Sox color analysist/temporary general manager, Ken (the Hawk) Harrelson. LaRussa returned to the Sox for 2021 and is now the oldest manager in the League at age 76. It may be a stretch, but Team Tony LaRussa somehow got redeemed in the Field of Dreams (ok, it’s a HUGE stretch, but work with me).

Top Left: Tony LaRussa with a rare smile in the dugout at old Comiskey Park.

Bottom Left: Hawk Harrelson was the Sox GM for only one year in 1986 and left a lot of damage in his wake.

Bottom Right: Bench coach Miguel Cairo led the White Sox to a Field of Dreams win as replacement manager for the game.

Finally, I need to return to my own personal redemption arc. A week prior to my trip to Iowa, I sat down with my own sons (ages 10 and 12) to rewatch the film for the first time in over 30 years. In true cliché fashion, I saw something quite different in the film from the perspective of being an adult father of young boys. Back in 1989, I did not appreciate that the Field of Dreams was less about baseball than it was about baseball being the vehicle through which Ray and John Kinsella connected.

I thought about my own sons, who are not really true baseball fans yet and may never be. In the absence of a baseball connection, what would be our own sources of connection. Would we bond over something totally different? On the flipside, baseball also proved a wedge between Ray and John Kinsella. What would be the cinematic-style metaphors that might trigger inevitable arguments in the future with my owns sons. Will I be mature enought to handle those disagreements? My brain raced with thoughts and ideas and it made me look at the Field of Dreams through a totally different lens in 2021 than the prism I saw it through in 1989.

Sadly, my childhood field of deams old Comiskey Park was torn down in 1991 shortly after Field of Dreams was released in 1989. Given that I will not be able to share my childhood ballpark with my sons, they will have totally different memories from their childhood.

In the pregame show on Fox, which I watched on the DVR after returning from Iowa, Kevin Costner spoke about the “biblical” nature of “undone business” in our lives. He went on to say, “it’s a sweet movie, but at its core it’s about things that go unsaid about fathers and sons… we can hurt, and sometimes we hurt the ones we love the most… and our dads, it’s biblical almost….” Costner nailed the cliché on its head, which allowed the theme to transcend the cliché.

There always will be misunderstandings between parents and children, yet a bond can endure. From my own perspective, I wanted to ensure that my own father would be a part of my journey to Iowa. Before the credits rolled on the view of FOD with my sons, I set an alarm on my phone to ensure that I facetimed with my dad while exploring the FOD field once I got to Dyersville. While he was unable to join me for the Iowa trip, I wanted him to be a part of the experience.

As I matured into adulthood (many might debate this statement), I have developed a much closer relationship with my dad. For me, that renewed connection culminated on October 22, 2005 when I was lucky enough to take my dad to the first World Series game in Chicago since 1959 (a 5-3 White Sox winner over the Houston Astros). After years of not attending games together, we got to share the ultimate baseball experience of seeing OUR team win a game in the World Series.

After not attending games together for years, I was lucky enough to take my dad to Game 1 of the 2005 World Series between the White Sox and Astros at new Comiskey Park in Chicago. Photo credit for righthand photo is unknown.

My relationship today with my father is quite close. While we chat about a slew of other topics beyond baseball, we always have shared our love of the gritty underdog team from the other side of town. To lean into the cliché espoused by James Earl Jones’s Terence Mann film soliloquy, “the one constant through all the years…has been baseball.” Sometimes clichés just work.

Since we could not “Have a Catch”, a facetime call was the next best way to share my Field of Dreams experience with my dad.

All text and photographs (except as otherwise noted) Copyright Ken Smoller 2023 (aka Stadium Vagabond).

For more stadium, travel and sports photos, follow the Stadium Vagabond instagram page.


bottom of page