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Visiting the Field of Dreams

Several months ago my son presented me with a question,”What does your schedule look like during Labor Day weekend? Keep it open if you can.”

Off and on, my son Josh would bring up the subject to see if I still had that weekend open. The answers were always the same. Yes the weekend is still open and where are we going?

“All you need to know is we are going on a road trip together and everything is taken care of,” was his stock reply.

Well, Labor Day was almost upon us and I still didn’t have a clue of our destination. Everyone I thought would give me answers seemed to be avoiding me.

Thursday before Labor Day weekend brought an end to the mystery. Josh handed me a DVD of the movie “Field of Dreams.”

“Son, I think we saw this movie when it came out in the 80’s.”

“I know dad. This is where were going. You and I are leaving Saturday morning for Iowa.”

Stunned, I didn’t know what to say. For a moment we just stared at each other. I had in my mind that we may be going to Green Bay, Wisconsin for a Packer’s exhibition football game or Chicago to watch the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. I even thought about a trip to Cooperstown (New York) to see the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

After learning of all the research that my son put into this, he explained that he stumbled across the 30th Anniversary of Team of Dreams game at Dyersville, Iowa during Labor Day weekend played on the original field where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed in 1989. He bought both of our tickets and even a parking pass. And booked our motel accommodations in Dubuque, Iowa which was about 45 miles from the ball field.

It turned out, I was indirectly correct on some of the aspects of this trip. We were going to watch former major league baseball players. Some of those former Chicago Cub players and most of them in MLB’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. We will be just a stone’s throw from Wisconsin and in the direction of Green Bay.

To be honest, I didn’t even know the original movie site was still in place and later found out that many other fans of the game didn’t know as well.

Our adventure began on time and on schedule. The question of lunch surfaced as we approached western Indiana.

“Dad. Do you remember the movie “Hoosiers?” Well it was filmed in New Richmond, Indiana. We’re going to eat at the Hickory Cafe,” remarked Josh.

And we did. The cafe was serving lunch slowly with only one cook on duty. While waiting for our food we ambled around looking at all of the Hoosier movie memorabilia that filled just about every wall of the diner. Photos of actor Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and basketball scenes from the movie lined each wall of the multi-room restaurant. After eating our lunch, Josh took me on a tour of the town pointing out various places where the movie scenes were filmed.

Neither of us had been to Hickory (New Richmond, Ind.) before.

“How do you know all of this?” I asked.

“I watched a You Tube video,” he replied.

“OK son. What’s next on this adventure?” He definitely did his homework.

Driving across Illinois brought us to the great Mississippi River. I had a little surprise for Josh. I did a little homework on my own and discovered that the television show “American Pickers” has a store in LeClaire, Iowa, along the Mississippi River.

I told Josh after crossing the Mississippi River, take the first turn, go to the stop light and turn left. He did and we soon were sitting in the parking lot of “American Pickers.”

“Darn dad, how did you know this was here?”

Closing at 6 p.m. didn’t give us much time to look around. We bought souvenirs and were back on our way to Dubuque, Iowa to check into our motel.

Sunday morning took us to our destination.

Traveling down 3 miles of gravel roads eventually brought us to the parking lot of Field of Dreams. The well manicured ball field was just like it was in the movie with its outfield lined with acres of tall corn. The farm house with its wrap around porch appeared to be identical. The only thing we noticed was the porch swing was missing. Later read on a nearby message board that the swing was returned to a local person who donated it for use in the movie. Barns that were shown in the movie was also just like they were. For the celebrity softball game, additional bleachers were brought in to accommodate the large crowd that was expected.

For most of the day we watched fathers and sons and daughters play pitch and catch on the field. Patrons visiting were allowed to go onto the field to play baseball, or just bring blankets and chairs and relax. However, house tours were not offered due to the special softball game that would be played later that afternoon. Major league players and movie actors were on hand to sign autographs throughout the day. Dwier Brown who portrayed John Kinsella, father of Ray Kinsella,(Kevin Costner) in the movie was also signing autographs and posing with fans for photos.

Ghost players in vintage Chicago White Sox uniforms were on hand to play catch or offer tips on playing the game to youngsters.

Each Sunday, ghost players show up in uniform to welcome visitors and play baseball. Visitors could wander into the outfield corn and pretend they are appearing or disappearing in the corn similar to the way it was done in the movie.

The celebrity softball game was comprised of both retired major league baseball players such as Reggie Jackson, Wade Boggs, Steve Carlton, Jim Edmonds, Ozzie Smith, David Ross, and Rickey Henderson.

Movie actors from both “A League of their Own” and “The Sandlot” were also selected to star in the game. Ann Cusack and Megan Cavanaugh from the 1992 movie “A League of their Own” who played Shirley Baker and Marty Hooch respectively played in the game. Several actors who played in the 1993 movie “The Sandlot” also suited up for the game. Tom Guiry who portrayed Scotty Small in the movie and Chaucey Leopardi who played the part of Squints and Marty York who portrayed Yeah-Yeah were also in the game. Due to poor field lighting, the game was shortened for both the safety of the fans and the players.

Following the clearing of the field, a giant screen about the size of a drive-in theater screen was hoisted up from the cornfield in left field and the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” was shown to those who wished to view it one more time.

August 13, 2020 will be a special day for Major League Baseball. A new ball park is under construction just past the outfield of Field of Dreams for a regular season game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. It will be a three-game series with game one being played on the new field in Iowa and game two and three in Chicago. Rumors are spreading that the game in Iowa is a sell out already.

Great trip son. As mentioned several times in the movie, Iowa must truly be Heaven.

“American Pickers,” located in Le Claire, Iowa, was a brief stop on our way to “Field of Dreams.”

Dwier Brown signs autographs for movie fans. Brown played John Kinsella, father of Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) in the movie.

Ghost players wearing vintage Chicago White Sox uniforms emerge from a corn field near centerfield prior to taking the field for a game of pitch and catch with visitors. On Sundays throughout the year, ghost players show up at the park to assist youngsters with their baseball skills and promote the game of baseball.

The original farm house that was used in the movie can be toured by visitors. It is exactly the way it was in the movie with the exception of the missing porch swing. The swing that was in the movie was donated by a local person and returned once the movie scenes were completed.

Former major league baseball player Ozzie Smith runs toward home plate to score during the celebrity softball game. Smith played for St. Louis and was inducted into the National Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002. Smith’s teammates in this game were Reggie Jackson, Steve Carlton, Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, and Jim Edmonds. Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross also played in the game and announced.

Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, the pickers from Iowa were not at the store in Le Claire during our visit. However, we were told that Wolfe drops in for visits several times a month. He was due in the day we were there but was running late.

After traveling 3 miles on gravel roads and feeling we were lost, we finally arrived at the entrance to “Field of Dreams.”

Josh Prather

Terry Prather

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