Last year’s Major League Baseball game at the site of the ‘Field of Dreams’ movie featured a picture-perfect night in Iowa, a memorable pre-game tribute with Kevin Costner and a thrilling clash between the Whites Chicago Sox and New York Yankees which ended with a walk. off home run in corn.
So how do the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds fare better in their showdown at the purpose-built stadium near the movie site diamond?
Baseball analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, who called last year’s game and will be on Fox’s broadcast team for the Aug. 11 game this year, already knows he can not.
“You just can’t top it,” Smoltz said in a phone interview with the Des Moines Register on Monday. “It’s like trying to make a sequel. Sequels are never better than the originals.
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That’s the situation MLB and Fox face this year as they return to the Dyersville Diamond. Everything went well before and during last year’s game between the White Sox and the Yankees. The weather was perfect, the match was great and the atmosphere was perfect.
Costner, who played an Iowa farmer who plows his corn to build a baseball field for banned 1919 White Sox members, emerged from corn before the 2021 game and was followed by members of both teams .
When the game started, both teams delivered an epic home-and-away game that included eight home runs. The final blast came from Tim Anderson in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the White Sox a 9-8 victory.
But some of the appeal of last year’s game won’t be there for this year’s contest. Fans saw the stadium (pictures of the new stadium were almost non-existent before last year’s game). The Sox-Yankees contest had playoff implications; this year’s game involves two teams buried near the bottom of the National League standings.
The Cubs and Reds are both in the midst of rebuilding. And both clubs are sellers at the trade deadline, which means even less of a star for the Field of Dreams game. Still, Smoltz said, there will be plenty of stories to tell throughout the evening. Much of it can be about the future.
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“There is development and there are opportunities for players to have moments,” Smoltz said. “Certainly Mr. Anderson with the White Sox had his moment last year. And we’ll see who has his moment in that game. ‘they had better expectations than where they are now.”
That’s not to say there isn’t excitement, especially on Smoltz’s side. Smoltz, who kicked off 21 major league seasons and is in the Hall of Fame, said last year’s trip to Dyersville was among his favorite games of his broadcast career. And new teams and different fans of the game could create a new buzz.
“It blew my mind,” he said. “I’m obviously at the age where I know the movie and I’ve watched it a bunch of times, but the scenery and the setting alone was something. I’ve made a million matches, played a million games in one stadium after another.. but this one had something special because it was a cornfield and it looked like a stadium and it looked like it had always been there. It was just unbelievable”
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Smoltz said teams coming to the site and experiencing the magic of the atmosphere could add extra motivation. He also thinks fans watching the game on TV or in person can have the same kind of experience the second time around.
“It’s a moment where people can kind of relive whatever felt or what they took away from the movie,” Smoltz said. “Whatever the emotion, whatever the things they can connect with, they will be reintroduced.”
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports entrepreneur and featured reporter, has worked at the newspaper since 2008. He is Iowa’s 2018 and 2020 Sports Writer of the Year. Contact him at [email protected] or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.