Travelogue: Visiting the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Iowa

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The moral of the 1988 Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams is that no matter what happens between a parent and child, the possibility of redemption always exists. The movie’s plot revolves around an ex-hippy turned farmer in Iowa who hears voices in his cornfield telling him to build a ball field on his property.

In doing so, the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven members of the banished 1919 Chicago White Sox or “Black Sox” will return. At the end of the movie, you learn that the true meaning of the voice telling Ray Kinsella: “if you build it, he will come.”

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The extremely powerful, father-son reunion is the most emotional moment of the film, and you can experience something just like that when visiting the actual movie site, just outside of Dyersville, Iowa. You can see the farmhouse and baseball diamond on Lansing road in Dyersville, for free, everyday from April to November.

It’s not easy to get to, but that’s part of its bucolic charm. The opportunity to throw a few pitches to my father at the Field of Dreams in late summer 2000 was as moving (to me anyway) as Ray Kinsella playing catch with his father John Kinsella, for a whole host of reasons.

For one, it was one of the very few bright memories from what was one of the darkest years in my life. This trip took place within the 6 month period that I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer that I had to fight and defeat three different times in my life (this being the first).

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Secondly, this trip was quite different from the vacations I took with my parents during my youth. Before retiring, my father was a pilot and aviation professional, and at Midway airport on Chicago’s southside we always had a family plane, in which my Dad would fly us to destinations all around the country.

Until he became a senior citizen, flying was his leisurely past time. It transported to and from my parents’ home in the Chicago south suburbs and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during my college years. Of course, my classmates would often verbally haze me about this, believing my life was incredibly easy because of this fact.

If they only knew what serious hardships that I would face shortly after graduation, maybe then they would have realized that my life has not exactly been a rose garden.

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However, nearly all these plane trips across the country lacked any sort of “sports tourism.”

It wasn’t until adulthood, when I started traveling with friends that I had the opportunity to see games and stadiums in other cities. Neither of my parents, or any of my sisters, ever really cared about sports.

Although Paul Banks the Elder did follow the White Sox for a period in the 50s, at least enough to tell me about all the times he heard 1959 AL MVP Nellie Fox utter racial slurs. But today, this trip, it’s what Paul Banks the Younger wanted to do.

Because my father flew my mother and me here, instead of buying a commercial bus or commuter plane trip, the entire outing was all the more special.

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Just like a homemade birthday card is much more special than one you bought at Hallmark.

My Dad doesn’t get out much (by choice), and he doesn’t show up in a lot of pictures (by choice again), so he’s kind of like a phantom, or a specter. These facts made this summer sunset game of catch, at a ballpark built for ghosts, all the more meaningful.

And it’s moments just like these that make the Field of Dreams movie site such a wonderful place to visit. The story of the Black Sox, the “Eight Men Out” of baseball forever, is one of my all-time favorite movies.

The story of the scandal, and Shoeless Joe Jackson also supplied sublime inspiration for a great novel, “Shoeless Joe,” which was later made into the classic, critically acclaimed movie that was filmed here.

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And in this peaceful, transcendent pastoral setting, it’s hard not to be inspired. If you were able to relate any part of own your life experiences to that movie, then I’m pretty sure, you will have a moving memory of your own at the Field of Dreams movie site.

For tourist information on the Field of Dreams site go here.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the  Chicago Tribune.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Comments

  1. Great telling of a very special event in your life.

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