A Dream Dies in Iowa.
A dozen or so years ago, I got off the California Zephyr in Burlington, Iowa, rented a car, and drove to the town of Dyersville, site of the 1989 film Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner. I was there to gather material for a magazine article I had agreed to write.
I have probably seen that film 25 times over the years, five or six times in theaters when it was first released, the rest on Netflix. So I spotted the farmhouse easily even at a distance . . . even with acres of corn in between us.
The farm was owned by Don Lansing and by his family before him. But everything changed forever on a winter day in 1987 when a woman from the Iowa Film Commission knocked on the door of the 100-year-old farmhouse.
Don and I spent over an hour walking around the property, touring the inside of the farmhouse, chatting while sitting on a swing on the front porch (the same swing that . . . well, I’m sure you remember.) As we talked, one father was playing catch with his son; another was hitting easy ground balls to several kids (including a young girl on that gem of a baseball diamond.
Lansing couldn’t tell me how many people visited his farm every year, but he said —based on the signatures in a battered guest book he had placed near home plate—a reasonably good estimate would be 60,000 people a year, a number that was actually increasing year after year. I expressed surprise that there was no admission charge. He shook his head. “It just wouldn’t seem right,” he said. The only money he made from The Field came from proceeds generated by a souvenir stand.
I spent almost four hours there, just watching people—mostly fathers and sons—arrive, walk around a bit, then gravitate to the baseball diamond once they felt more comfortable.
What struck me most was the tranquility of the place . . . the subdued tones . . .the lack of whoops and hollers, even when a youngster sent one of Dad’s underhand pitches into the corn.
That all changed a few years ago when Don Lansing finally sold everything to investors. The original field was plowed under, a larger area leveled, and not one, but four regulation baseball diamonds were created in its place.
Then, on August 12 of last year, The Dreams officially came to an end for this treasure when the Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Yankees by the score of 9-8 in a regular season game. Average cost for one ticket? Just a little more than $1400.
Having actually been there . . . having seen the fathers playing catch with their sons on that perfect baseball diamond surrounded by a thousand acres of corn, the serenity was gone.
However, I did experience a modest glow of pleasure amidst all the melancholy.
In a game that counted . . . the Yankees lost.