JIM THIELMAN: Baseball Is Disappearing Into The Corn Field

An Iowa farmer builds a baseball diamond where corn should grow in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.” Soon, ghosts play baseball. For legal reasons, actor Jimmy Earl Jones plays an author not named J.D. Salinger. The resonant bass voice of Jones says:

“They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn into your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door, as innocent as children, longing for the past.”

The first regular season Major League Baseball game in Iowa will be played Thursday at Dyersville in a cozy, 8,000-seat ballpark built for the Aug. 12 occasion. The scant tickets for this game to be held near the site of the “Field of Dreams” baseball diamond were available to those with an Iowa address only.

That should ignite the state’s tourism industry.

More than 150 years after it was born, MLB couldn’t promote cheerleading tryouts in Texas.

If the National Football League were behind this, people in Yugoslavia would have been talking for months about Thursday’s poorly publicized game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox. The NFL is good at marketing. It long ago made a carnival of its annual player draft, which is just a glorified “kids picking sides on a playground.”

Baseball? Its commissioner is a labor lawyer who holds the job because since 1969 the players’ union has melted the ice cubes in the Manhattans of freebooting club owners. The owners hope to break that losing string after this season.

Baseball’s biggest star right now is a Japanese player in Los Angeles who has been compared to Babe Ruth. Like Ruth, Shohei Ohtani can hit and pitch. The problem is Ohtani plays in California, where games start late. As with most MLB players, Ohtani is mainly a regional star, not a national name, like NFL quarterback Tom Brady.

The Angels played four games in Minneapolis in late July. Ohtani appeared in three as designated hitter. To be sure, MLB’s home office shouldn’t be setting up a team’s pitching rotation, but would it have hurt to nudge the Angels toward having Ohtani pitch at Target Field? Don’t you want to showcase a meteor while it lasts?

Ohtani would have pitched the final game of the series on five days’ rest. Instead, he started the next night in L.A. It’s not as though the Angels were saving Ohtani to face a good team. He faced Colorado, which has matched the Twins loss for loss this season. Starting Ohtani in Minnesota would have given MLB a sliver of buzz, which it avoids like COVID.

And then there’s COVID.

The MinnesotaTwins opened the 2021 season by limiting attendance and checkerboarding blocks of seats so that fans could feel comfortable attending a game. The Twins took measures ballpark-wide. It was so pristine that I sent a complimentary letter to Twins’ president Dave St. Peter.

That mail arrived at Target Field as MLB was taking heat for moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver because William Tecumseh Sherman didn’t make a big enough impression on Georgia in 1864.

MLB had gone into p.r. mode and designed a form letter for aggrieved fans. I received a copy in response to my complimentary letter. No response would have been better.

Without elaborating, I doubt St. Peter saw my complimentary letter. Which doesn’t make MLB appear any less incompetent. After all, they hired the intern who opened my letter.

There were whiffs that soccer might replace baseball as America’s sport when World War I ended in 1918. Factories had started soccer teams during the war because kicking a ball requires, well, a ball. And a big one. Which is unlikely to get lost.

Baseball’s demise has been anticipated in most every decade since.

My favorite line from “Field of Dreams” is spoken by Burt Lancaster. He plays Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, a genuine player who now resides in Calvary Cemetery in Rochester, Minn.

“We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”

With four-hour games, labor negotiations, blacked out telecasts and failed opportunities to connect with fans, baseball’s significant moment is here.

One thought on “JIM THIELMAN: Baseball Is Disappearing Into The Corn Field”

  • geminihawks August 11, 2021 at 1:31 am

    THe Brooklyn Dodgers were my favorites way back when.


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