There’s no way around it: the inaugural Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa last week was an unqualified success. The game hit all the right notes in its tribute to the classic 1989 film, providing gorgeous visuals with its corn-lined outfield, killer throw-back uniforms, and a thrilling finish with all the drama of a Hollywood script. It was an audacious idea, playing a game in the middle of a cornfield because of a 32-year-old movie about 100-year-old baseball players — but from the league’s perspective, the event was an absolute home run. It’s no surprise that they’ve already renewed the contract for a second go-around next year.
In the week-plus since the game, I’ve seen a few people speculate as to what other baseball movies might be worthy of the Field of Dreams treatment. It’s a fun thought, after all: A Major League themed game in Cleveland? Heck yeah. Big League action at The Sandlot? Brilliant. Actual Angels in the Outfield? You know I’m there. If Rob Manfred plays his cards right, this train of thought might as well be a Brink’s truck.
I’m going to go through some of these possibilities, but first, let’s talk about what made the real-life “Field of Dreams” special. First and foremost is the nostalgia factor; the movie was always intended to make us think fondly about our old baseball memories, and this effect has been compounded by the fact that most people in my generation have fond memories of watching the movie itself. The resulting effect is a perfect storm of wistful remembrance that even the most cynical modern stat-counter can’t resist.
Besides that, there’s location. It was the first-ever MLB game in Iowa, after all, and they played up this fact quite a bit. Combine that novelty with the unique atmosphere of playing a game in a cornfield, and there’s really no way it could ever have failed.
Are there any other movies from our childhood that could hit the nostalgic novelty jackpot like that? Maybe not. But if you ask me, it’s worth investigating. So I took some of the potential options and broke them up into tiers, starting with the easy ones and getting spicier as we go along. Each movie has its case to be made into reality, and the case against it. Let’s get started.
Tier 1: The Big Parks
As fun as it is to play in a cornfield, most of our favorite baseball movies are set in actual baseball stadiums. So for this group, the novelty factor is, unfortunately, going to be reduced — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still fun.
Cleveland, OH – Major League (1989)
The Case: If ever there was a city in need of something to root for, it’s Cleveland. Much like their fictional counterpart in Major League, the soon-to-be-Guardians have ranked bottom-10 in attendance every year since 2002. The situation may not be quite so dire as in the film — they made the playoffs last year, after all, and aren’t facing any risk of relocation — but the franchise has fallen into a bit of a rut of mediocrity in recent years, and the forthcoming name change has many fans none too pleased. Why not put on a show?
If they were to host a Major League game, presumably vs. the Yankees, Cleveland would have to go all-out. I’m talking voodoo dolls, long sleeves, and Ricky Vaughn goggles for everyone. When the ninth inning hits, I want to hear “Wild Thing” blasting and the stadium rocking… ideally, just in time for their new “Wild Thing,” James Karinchak, to make a dramatic entrance. On paper, it’s perfect.
The Case Against: In reality, this is all probably wishful thinking. MLB is trying to reach a broader audience, and now is hardly the time to be going back to the “Indians” moniker, even for just one game. Unless they can figure out a way around this branding issue, I don’t expect to see Major League in the Major Leagues any time soon.
Oakland, CA – Moneyball (2011)
The Case: It’s the newest movie on this list, but if you ask me, Moneyball is an instant classic. And since it’s based on true events from a decade earlier, the nostalgia factor is very much still there. Throw in the fact that Billy Beane is still with the A’s all these years later, and you’ve got a fine setup for a one-game Hollywood production in Oakland.
The Case Against: This convenience could also be a curse. Due to the recency of the movie, the biggest challenge in making a Moneyball game feel authentic would be making it different. The A’s still use practically the same uniforms they wore in 2002, albeit with a slightly lighter shade of green in the alternates. Not to mention, much of what made that story so special was circumstantial: the low expectations, the underdog vibes, the winning streak, etc. These days, everyone knows the A’s are good, even with a low budget. Matt Olson hitting a dramatic home run will never produce the same effect as Scott Hatteberg. Unless Brad Pitt is on board, this project could be an uphill battle.
Durham, NC – Bull Durham (1988)
The Case: This might be the best bet of the bunch. While Bull Durham isn’t necessarily nostalgic, it’s certainly endearing, and it’s one of the best sports movies of all time. The Durham Bulls have actually been doing a version of this for a few years, most recently with a tribute to the movie’s 30th anniversary in 2018. They wear specialty uniforms based on those in the movie (you can buy them here) and sometimes host a showing at the ballpark. It would be great for Minor League Baseball if there was an MLB game here, especially if it featured former players like David Price and Chipper Jones. And hey, we already know Kevin Costner is on board.
I think the best version of this idea would include the Bulls’ current and former affiliation clubs, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. As Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune proposed last week, it could even include stories from the making of the film, promotions like postgame sprinklers, and, dare I say, free steaks??
The Case Against: Scheduling could be a challenge since there is already a team that plays there. Also, similar to Major League, there’s really no version of this idea that’s 100% PG. But I say, it’s worth a try.
Tier 2: The Seventh-Inning Stretches
If we are wanting to get a little creative, there are certainly other options. These are closer to Field of Dreams in novelty if farther in practicality. Who’s up for a spin in the sand?
Los Angeles, CA – The Sandlot (1993)
The Case: Perhaps the only baseball movie that can rival Field of Dreams in terms of pure nostalgia, The Sandlot is the original summer classic. What’s better than kids having fun, playing ball, with all the time in the world? Mix in a rabid monster dog, and you’ve got yourself an afternoon. MLB could market the heck out of a Sandlot game, and if done right, it could be totally awesome. Give me the Dodgers vs. Padres at a local sandlot on a late-summer Sunday afternoon, and I am all in.
The Case Against: They would have to find a way to throw together some extra bleachers to sell tickets, but if they made it work in Iowa, they can do it in L.A. I’m more concerned about how the players will react to the ever-present threat of “The Beast” in center field. If Mookie Betts leaps up to rob a home run and loses a limb, we could have a liability problem on our hands. But hey, anything for the fans.
Rockford, IL – A League of Their Own (1992)
The Case: A League of Their Own is one of my personal favorite baseball movies, and it would be really cool to see a tribute to the Rockford Peaches in Major League Baseball. While the stadium featured in the movie has long since been torn down, there is still an indy ball team that plays in Rockford — the Rockford Rivets — that could play host. The event could also serve as a great promotion for girls in baseball, for which MLB is supposedly trying to expand its programs.
The Case Against: Unless something drastically changes in the near future, it seems unlikely that there will be enough female players in MLB to field a roster. And frankly, I’m just not sure the vibe will be the same with dudes wearing skirts. The girls were right — it’s very impractical!
Anaheim, CA – Angels in the Outfield (1994)
The Case: The California Angels throwbacks would be fun for a night. If Disney is on board, we could get some quality special effects to add a little heavenly presence to Angel Stadium (other than Shohei Ohtani, I mean). Plus, they already have Mike Trout in the outfield, which is closer to the divine than any other team can boast.
The Case Against: I don’t how you’re gonna get an MLB team to agree to play the Angels if they know they’re being tampered against by flying ghosts.
Tier 3: The Long Shots
If MLB starts going down this rabbit hole, why stop at baseball movies? There are plenty of other quality baseball moments in non-sports movies. Here are a few of my top choices.
Anaheim, CA – The Naked Gun (1988)
The Case: Sticking in Anaheim, we have to tip our caps to one of the greatest baseball scenes in cinematic history — the Angel Stadium montage from The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad! You know, the one where Leslie Nielsen poses as an umpire and infiltrates an Angels-Mariners game to protect the visiting Queen of England. He proceeds to frisk every player on the field, which if you think about it, is not totally unlike the current crackdown on foreign substances. The league could rest assured no one’s getting away with sticky stuff infractions with this guy on the case.
The Case Against: Convincing the Queen to visit again could be a hard sell, especially after she was nearly assassinated by Reggie Jackson last time.
Chicago, IL – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The Case: It may be brief, but the Wrigley Field scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the most memorable in the movie. Hey, batta batta batta batta, sa-wing, batta! I just think the Cubs should do something to honor this wonderful film as we approach its 40th anniversary. Plus, they could use the proceeds to help a local teen who’s dealing with some serious health concerns.
The Case Against: There’s at least a 30% chance the game would have to be suspended because the crowd broke into an impromptu dance number.
Forks, WA – Twilight (2008)
The Case: Vampires playing baseball. What more could you want?
The Case Against: Very dangerous for any non-immortal beings. Also, werewolves.
Tier 4: The Only Correct Answer
Anaheim, CA – Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch (2002)
The Case: Forget “Bark in the Park” night — it’s time for the real thing. He led the Angels to their first-ever World Series championship, and it’s about time someone recognized that accomplishment. Bring back Buddy!
The Case Against: Sorry, there isn’t one.
Photos by @darrengb on Upsplash and Wikimedia Commons | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)
How about Little Big League? Over on eBay, there’s a bunch of jars of something called Dome-Pourri. like potpourri but with bits of material from the HHH Metrodome. Tiny pieces of turf, roof, seats, etc.. A handful of fans have been buying this stuff up in hopes of reconstituting it all into a brand new Metrodome. A Little Big League game there, M’s vs Twins (managed by Billy Heywood) makes a ton of sense.