September 19, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 13  

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Once upon a time: Field of Dreams

By David Lee
Gazette Staff

"If you build it, they will come."

That well-known line of dialogue is what most people remember about the 1989 classic Field of Dreams. Directed by Philip Alden Robinson and starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, Field is a story about an Iowa corn farmer named Ray Kinsella (Costner), who starts hearing voices. Kinsella interprets the enigmatic message as a command to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn crops. When he does, Shoeless Joe Jackson (played by Ray Liotta) and other members of the infamous 1919 Chicago Black Sox arrive.

The film is based on the novel Shoeless Joe by Canadian author W.P. Kinsella. Like the book, Field largely focuses on second chances and redemption. For the Black Sox to be the first eight players out of the corn shows Kinsella (both fictional and literal) believes that on the baseball field, you can atone for mistakes past.

Similarly, the movie ends with Kinsella's father appearing out of the corn. When he arrives, he asks his son, "Is this heaven?" The younger Kinsella responds with a polite "No, this is Iowa." As his father starts to walk away, Kinsella asks, "Is there a heaven?" His father replies, "Oh yeah, it's the place where dreams come true."

Before his father disappears into the corn, Kinsella himself is redeemed. The son, fighting back tears, invites his father to "have a catch" with him - that is, throw a baseball back and forth - something he had spurned as a young boy.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, the real game of baseball was put on hiatus for nearly two weeks. When it returned, a lengthy monologue from Field was what professional actors such as Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini recited in stadiums around North America. The same speech was recited at 2002's All-Star Game. Baseball, says the speech, has been a constant through all the years of change. It reminds us of the good that has been and the good that can be returned to.

Field of Dreams remains one of the best baseball films in existence. It reminds viewers dreams can be attained even if we've given up on them. As for Costner, Field remains one of his best.

As for his other baseball movies, Bull Durham is worthy of a pickup while the laughable For Love of the Game doesn't hold a candle to either classic. While you're still likely to see the film running on a Sunday afternoon on TBS, fans can still pick up the original VHS movie or the re-released DVD. Even without a myriad of special features, the DVD is well worth the purchase for any baseball fan or anyone looking to be inspired.



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