You Missed Out If You Didn’t Watch The MLB Field Of Dreams Game

Let us begin this majestic single game saga with a potentially popular, but I’m sure, ultra polarizing opinion: “The Sandlot” is the greatest baseball movie of all time. And, “Field of Dreams” is probably number two – with, for me, “Moneyball” and “The Rookie” tied for third.

Now that that’s done with, it seems relevant although also, again, risky to say: this whole “Field of Dreams” gimmick represents a flamboyantly unprecedented new kind of cornball we deserve to enjoy and savor while still playfully mocking the breathless and repetitive improvised use of the performer’s ellipsis Kevin Costner extemporaneously dips into every other sentence during the slow burn introduction most all of us watching must find cloying, and still melodramatically endearing, in an all-knowing backhanded way; because if we’re scripting some monumental and potentially epic and classic baseball drama that doesn’t include the postseason? This farmland midwestern Americana escapade is not half bad.

It is the single most expensive individual game ticket price I’ve ever heard of that features action from outside the playoffs as well. The lowest last-minute price for one seat was north of $1,400 earlier this week. Is it worth it? The 8,000 fans in attendance, in the horseshoe bleachers halfway encircling the infield, seem to think, yes, it is totally worth the astronomical cost of admission. 

Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, was all of 16 when “Field of Dreams” was released in theaters. He tells the bow-tied baseball reporter, Ken Rosenthal, “This is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

If you build it, they will come – some more than four hours early, according to Fox Sports commentator and former ace John Smoltz.

Fox Sports cues the slow swooning strings and dulcet woodwinds, and about the seventh pregame Kevin Costner voiceover – never in any rush to get to the point – wafts into abstruse basso rumbles and a hearty garrulousness about what baseball means to every single generation of players and fans to nostalgia trigger everyone as the abridged recitation of the history inset America’s pastime is recounted until, finally, finally he reaches an emotional climax with the line, “In the warmth of August two major league teams gift us a forever moment…”

You know what? That’s not the worst nor the most terrible writing for a baseball script.

I’m kind of having fun.

82 degrees and 66 percent humidity. That’s not terrible weather.

And this is not a terrible matchup. Not even close. Actually, this is an amazing game with huge playoff implications for an American League post-season race that isn’t even remotely close to finished. 

And you know what? This whole thing has a mountain of potential.

James Earl Jones says, “There is gold dust in this magical meadow…Made perfect by a game we love…”

Coming into tonight’s game, the New York Yankees have the best second-half record in all of baseball at 17-8. Across the diamond are (though he has to miss the game so he can attend a family funeral) managerial genius Tony La Russa’s Chicago White Sox. The Southsiders are right now the undisputed kings of Chicago’s gargantuan baseball empire for the first time since 2016 when the Cubs won the World Series.

Maybe it’s the music and the build-up. Still, I have chills watching some of the game’s greatest stars emerge then saunter through the outskirts of the thick and immaculate and luscious and richly verdant Eastern Iowa cornfield and then altogether strut across the emerald outfield grass toward the diamond.

Let’s not forget how serious this game is for both teams despite the high emotive movie magic on lava lit stage craft display. We’re in the hardscrabble and gritty and brutal dog days of summer amidst the ongoing Covid19 pandemic’s last stages. And looking at this whole thing from 30,000 feet? Maybe this is some long-overdue upgrade to the perennially lackluster Midsummer Classic MLB All-Star game?

First pitch of the game. Lance Lynn misses low for ball one. The next pitch is a strike. And then two-time American League batting champion DJ LeMahieu works the count to 2-2. Then full count. Seven pitches went by before LeMahieu finally smokes a single back up the middle. 

Here we go. 

Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, steps in to face Lynn. Gardner was part of the last Bronx Bombers squad to win a World Series during the 2009 season when I was a senior in high school in Seattle and the sports editor of my school’s newspaper. Gardner stares down strike three, frozen after a wicked cutter at the top of the zone. 

All rise, all rise. Aaron Judge at the dish. Joe Buck is silent, and Smoltz says, “I actually saw the corn stalks move out of his way…” and laughs.

Smoltz waxing rhapsodic about the stadium’s beauty. And the fact that the grass is real. No artifice. Ironic. Then Judge swings underneath 94 mph with a nasty tail for strike three. 

Lynn with two K’s already. 

New titanic, bruising, and power-hitting acquisition, and the second recent fresh-faced nascent clean-shaven player to come from the Texas Rangers this season, Joey Gallo, steps in against Lynn. Quick at-bat. 3-2. 

Gallo drills Lynn’s 24th pitch of the inning. Sails way back to the wall. The crowd roar explodes. Luis Robert makes the catch on the warning track. 

Yankees left-hander Andrew Heaney comes on to face Tim Anderson in the bottom of the first. Aggressive. First pitch, Anderson rips a one-hopper to short for the first out. 

Heaney strikes out Cesar Hernandez. 

And then Jose Abreu pounces on a Heaney mistake and crushes a laser over the wall in left field for the first-ever major league home run in Iowa. 

1-0 White Sox.

Alright, alright. That was excellent. And this is exciting. 

Maybe it’s because this game matters.

Then the first inning is over after Heaney throws to first after fielding a short comebacker from Eloy Jimenez.

Top of the second. Lynn is missing the zone a lot. 

3-2 count to Giancarlo Stanton. And then the mustachioed Goliath gets wrung up by Iowa native and home plate umpire Pat Hoberg.

Lynn looks a lot better during Luke Voit’s at-bat than he did against either Judge and Stanton. Lynn strikes out his fourth Bronx Bomber after only three pitches. 

Andrew Heany does not have the lead, but he’s through two innings of work on only 22 pitches, 17 for strikes. While Lynn’s needed a whopping 37 pitches, 25 for strikes to hold back the Yankees for the same amount of time. The Yankees on average see the most pitches per at-bat – a fluctuating number just north of four pitches – in all of baseball.

One went in the top of the third. Lynn’s 50th pitch is a pop fly to Jimenez, who makes the grab. Flip the scorecard—second time through the lineup for the Yankees. 

Lynn slips and throws low and away for ball one to LeMahieu. 

The broadcast sound for this game is sharp, crisp.

Joe Buck spots the lackadaisical largesse of a looming hot air balloon over left field, and then he asks Smoltz if he’s ever been inside of one before? Nope. Drone footage features an unidentified waving fan in the basket of the hot air balloon—the gliding craft scuds toward right field. 

LeMahieu walks. Gardner’s second at-bat. He crushes a single to shallow right field after Lynn leaves a looping off-speed pitch out over the middle of the plate. Hit so hard that LeMahieu is held at second. 

And here comes Judge. Trying to bounce back from his first strikeout.

Lynn’s tailing fastball is still in the mid-nineties. 

Judge is wearing zaftig cleats with many Yankee legends’ – including but not limited to Mikey Mantle and Yogi Berra – autographs scrawled and scribbled across the toes.

Smoltz says he thinks a slider’s coming. 

He’s wrong. Lynn leaves a fastball up. And then Judge gets ahold of it. 

OH. MY. GOD. 

No doubter: two-out, three-run blast to right field. The ball plows through no fewer than one dozen innocent corn stalks. It’s Judge’s 24th home run of the season. That’s not gonna get old anytime soon—corn stalk bombing. 

All runs scored so far have come from the long ball.

Of course. 

Yankees 3 – White Sox 1.

Bottom of the third, Heaney misses a spot and leaves a breaking ball right smack in the hot zone for Tim Anderson, who drives home right fielder Adam Engel on a double down the line to bring the Sox to within one run.

Yankees 3 – White Sox 2. 

At least the massive wooden hand-operated scoreboard in the outfield looks good. 

Jose Abreu walks. Two on, two out. 

Heaney’s thrown 45 pitches. 

Holy smokes. Huge mistake. Another bomb to right field. It’s a corn stalk bombing encore. Corn massacre. Corn slaughter. Cornball is code for home run derby. Eloy Jimenez clobbers a three-run homer. Makes it look easy. The White Sox are back out in front of the Yankees. 

White Sox 5 – Yankees 3.

Have we just witnessed the first three innings of an electrifying, explosive, and dramatic baseball spectacle? Yes.

Do we think that maybe it’s possible the MLB juiced all of the balls to deliver some extra punchy panache during this Field of Dreams event? Maybe. 

And then it’s a quick cut to the booth. Kevin Costner and Joe Buck start talking about the connection made between two people when they play catch. And they’re not wrong about why it feels so good to play catch. Still, a gentle, lighthearted reminiscence until Costner’s tone adopts this false gravitas (again?) and then in these brief asides, increasingly, incessantly, irritatingly, Kevin Costner emphatically implores me to take this thing seriously – and that’s when I start souring just a little bit. 

When Costner says to Buck and us several or seven consecutive times, “This isn’t a gimmick game.” That’s exactly when it becomes a total gimmick game. It’s theater. It’s flash masquerading as salt of the earth. And so is baseball when we juxtapose the multimillion-dollar salaries with people and players from when and where the old, slow pastoral game used to require six balls for a walk literal centuries ago. 

I don’t have one problem paying elite, talented professionals way more than most of us would agree their skills are worth. But I do have a problem with Costner’s belligerent defense of a gimmick game more gimmicky the more he defends a position no one asked him to adopt. What’s more, I’m not a traditionalist at all, and I kind of like all the many gimmicks baseball is dipping their collective fingers into at the moment. Go down the line. Ghost runners to start extra innings. And seven-inning doubleheaders. The all-new home run derby format. In cinema, three denotes a pattern that the audience must recognize as significant. Don’t bash the gimmicks if they do exactly what we want: entertain. Why do we have to pretend this is more serious than it is?

I don’t know, maybe I’m too harsh. Costner is just playing a part. Right now? That of magnanimous, gregarious baseball ambassador.

Bottom of the fourth, Luis Robert doubles off the wall in right center. Robert got jammed on a pitch inside – but he’s so unbelievably strong, he goes inside out and then drives the ball hard and far anyway. 

And then, can you guess what happens next? Yup. Here we go again. Sox catcher Seby Zavala smashes a two-out, two-run bomb way far over the right-field wall – and the corn entirely swallows up the ball.

White Sox 7 – Yankees 3.

Heany is having a terrible night. His loss, so far, is our collective gain. Five hits, seven runs over four innings. Heany is probably done after this. 

Lance Lynn starts the fifth inning with eighty pitches under his belt.

Lynn strikes out the first two hitters, eight and nine, of the inning. Back to the top of the Yankees lineup for the third time through. LeMahieu hits a – here we go – can of corn to right field to end the top of the fifth. 

Surprisingly, Heaney’s back out on the mound for the bottom of the fifth. Smoltz and Buck talking about how the lighting is so good, bright, and crystalline on and around the field that, “It looks like a set.” 

No kidding, John.

Jose Abreu works a one-out walk. 

Deep fly ball and Brett Gardner leaps into the wall in straight away center field to rob Jimenez of extra bases. Abreu trots back to first. 

Ground ball up the middle. Odor tosses to Tyler Wade for the force out at second to end the inning. 

On to the top of the sixth.

Still White Sox 7 – Yankees 3.

Lynn starts the inning at 93 pitches.

And on pitch 95? Brett Gardner crushes a solo blast to right field for his fifth home run of the season. 

White Sox 7 – Yankees 4.

Here comes Judge.

Hard hit ground ball to Anderson at short, long throw, wide of the bag. Judge sneaks around Abreu’s glove to reach first. Anderson charged with his sixth error of the season. 

Gallo up. 

Lynn eclipses one hundred pitches as the broadcast’s obligatory scene-setting sunset shot shows us all at home what they can see on the field – the lambent, gorgeously polluted polychrome sky out behind the third base side of the stands, both mauve and bubblegum pink.

Gallo walks. 

And Lynn is pulled from the game.

White Sox bullpen has to take up the battle. It’s Michael Kopech first. Kopech is a red-bearded right-hander who has been filmed throwing 110 mph into a net at a practice facility. Don’t believe me? Google it.

Giancarlo Stanton, 0 for 2 on the night, steps in with two on and no outs, then falls behind 1-2. Stanton chops a ball to the left side of the infield. Advances both runners. Anderson throws Stanton out at first.

Lynn is responsible for the runners on second and third. 

Kopech facing Voit. 

The sunset shot shows us an extra saturated, irradiating hot pink hue.

Kopech strikes out Voit with triple-digit velocity. Two outs. 

Rougned Odor, the first of the two nascent clean-shaven Texas Rangers that came over to the Yankees minus his hallmark bushy brown beard on a trade earlier this season, steps in and quickly falls behind 0-2. 

Kopech deals Odor a nasty diving curveball that starts in the zone but ends on the back foot. Electric. Strike three. Inning over. 

Left-hander Wandy Peralta takes over for Heaney.

ESPN says the White Sox right now has a 93% win probability. 

Peralta ends the inning without giving up a run. 

After six, it’s White Sox 7 – Yankees 4.

Kopech back out for the top of the seventh. Gets one out. Kopech allows two men on. Tyler Wade bunts for a base hit. LeMahieu walks. And then Kopech is pulled. Who do you think comes out of the White Sox bullpen next? Hendricks or Kimbrel? 

Neither. It’s left-hander Aaron Bummer. 

Facing Brett Gardner. Ground ball near second. White Sox gets the man at second. Gardner safe at first. Runners at the corner for Judge. Judge walks. And then Gallo grounds into a fielder’s choice out at second.

White Sox survive a jam, still lead by 3. 

Wandy Peralta back out to pitch the seventh. Sky totally dark now.

Peralta cruises. Scoreless frame.

Top of the eighth. White Sox 7 – Yankees 4.

Right-hander Craig Kimbrel on the mound. The major trade deadline acquisition finally in use. Facing Stanton first. Stanton works the count full. Choppy ground ball to short, Anderson throws him out with ease.

Voit walks. 

Did you know hogs outnumber humans in Iowa?

Odor strikes out. Two gone.

Higashioka is up now. Wild pitch. Voit to second. Higashioka strikes out.

Bottom of the eighth. Left-hander Joely Rodriguez on to face Jimenez. Single to right. Yoan Moncada up next. Line out to first. Voit steps on the bag to double up Jimenez. Two gone. Designated Hitter Andrew Vaughn singles through the six-hole to left. Luis Robert strikes out. 

Top of the ninth. Last chance for the Yankees.

Tied for second-most saves (26) in the American League, all the way from Perth, Australia, Liam Hendriks comes in from the bullpen to close the game out for the White Sox. 

Tyler Wade drives the first pitch into the right center gap for a base hit.

LeMahieu strikes out, chasing 97 mph out of the top of the zone.

Gardner strikes out swatting at 98 mph on the outside corner.

Hendriks versus Judge.

Judge sends an absolute moonshot to deep center field. 

Second home run of the game. And his 26th of the year. 

My word. 

The drama.

White Sox 7 – Yankees 6.

Hendriks versus Gallo. 

Gallo works a walk. Game tying run on at first. 

Hendriks versus Stanton. 

First pitch is a hanging breaking ball left dangling over the plate and…

Well, tonight is all about drama – and the celebration of gimmicks we love more than anything else, right?

Stanton yanks the pitch for a two-run blast to left field.

There it is. 

Yankees take the lead. 

Sixth blown save for Hendriks this season. 

Yankees 8 – White Sox 7.

White Sox with a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth.

Zack Britton comes on to close for the Yankees. 

Ground ball to first. One out. 

Britton walks Zavala.

Tim Anderson is the game-winning run.

BOOM!!!

First pitch walk-off two-run home run to right field. 

And here come the fireworks. 

White Sox win in style.

White Sox 9 – Yankees 8.

8 home runs in the game. 

Ultra dramatic. Not half bad. Let’s do it again next year.

Or, better yet, let’s find a sparkling Los Angeles sandlot for a slugfest. 

About Jackson Pappin 50 Articles
Jackson Pappin is a freelance writer. A 2018 WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alumni, he writes fiction, journalism, columns, essays and poetry. His work has been published in Anastamos, The Oregonian, The Spokesman Review, The Seattle P.I. Reader Blogs, The Daily Evergreen, The Central Circuit, LandEscapes and at the Spectra Art Gallery. His writing is available at https://jacksonpappin.blogspot.com

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