Let's do a Rickwood Field of Dreams game
Updated: Jun 13
It was a natural. From Kevin Costner emerging from the corn to the White Sox and Yankees following with big eyes and wide smiles to Tuscaloosa native Tim Anderson hitting the stalk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth, the "Field of Dreams Game" dipped all of us who still believe in baseball in magic waters.
Thursday was a cinematic evening of dream sequences come to life, and had Anderson's game-winning bomb shattered a light standard before shucking a few ears of corn, it would have been a double-feature sequel.
Major League Baseball created something totally illogical, sending two pennant contenders in the dog days of August to an Iowa cornfield turned movie set turned tourist attraction to play a real game, but when it was done, it made perfect sense. The final score in reverse, visiting team first - New York 8, Chicago 9 - marked the year the movie was made.
You can't script perfection. Even for those of us watching on TV, the night conjured Shoeless Joe Jackson-like memories of "the smell of the ballpark in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet," and it validated the reminiscence of Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, who turned to medicine after playing one inning in the majors without coming to bat. True story.
"You know, we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening," Graham said in the movie. "Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that was the only day."
The only negative to the Field of Dreams Game would be if it were the only one. Or the first in a series at the same spot. While MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the game will return to Dyersville, Iowa, next summer, the sport would be better served by playing an annual game that connects baseball to its past at different locations.
Think outside the cornfield. I've got the perfect place for the next opening.
Rickwood Field. America's Oldest Ballpark. Opened on Aug. 18, 1910. Historic longtime home of the old Barons and Black Barons. Playground of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Birmingham's own Willie Mays and more than 100 other Hall of Famers through the years. Still a living, breathing ballpark, thanks to the "Friends of Rickwood," that plays host to youth league, high school and college games, as well as the annual Rickwood Classic featuring the Birmingham Barons, although COVID canceled the last two classics.
With Major League Baseball finally bestowing Major League status on seven professional Negro Leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948, with the Black Barons having played in several of those leagues, with Rickwood Field having played host to the Black Barons as well as multiple Negro League World Series and All-Star Games during that period, it's hard to imagine a better place for the next Field of Dreams Game.
If Rickwood's well-established place in the history of baseball isn't enough, if MLB needs a little Hollywood magic, too, remember that three baseball movies have been filmed there: Cobb, Soul of the Game and 42.
That field, Rickwood Field, America's Oldest Ballpark, is a part of baseball's past. It would be the perfect place for MLB to play a game to honor that past. Next August. Dodgers-Braves. Think about it. There's no doubt about it. People will come. People will most definitely come.