Last week, I came upon so so many of my old writings, thought to me lost forever. I’ve realized how “young” my writing was back then. This piece was the result of a paper in 1993 I wrote about baseball, specifically the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, its corresponding movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner, and the movie The Natural starring Robert Redford, two of my all-time favourite movies. I admit this is very poorly written and somewhat dated, but love the themes. What I love even more are the transcripts from two of the major scenes from Field of Dreams. I loved baseball back then; I still do.
“Baseball may be a game with such tangible qualities and objects – the ball and bat, the field, the fans, and of course, the players. But baseball is also a myth perpetuated by our society into something more than just a mere game. This myth encompasses such notions as youth, dreams, and timelessness. And enlarging these myths are the incredible feats of these legendary (and, many times, not so legendary) ballplayers, men who no longer are just mrs mortals but demi-gods. In Shoeless Joe, Ray tells his daughter Karin that Shoeless Joe’s mitt is “where triples go to die.” That, my friend, is a myth. That statement propels mere mortal Joe Jackson into the fabled Shoeless Joe.
These myths are glorified in the book Shoeless Joe (its movie version Field of Dreams), the movie The Natural, and even, in some instances, Eight Men Out. In Shoeless Joe and Field of Dreams, J.D. Salinger (Terrence Mann in the movie) has a monologue about baseball that rings so true. He talks of a better time, a cleaner and purer one, when the world was good; and we, in our youth, watched and played baseball. Those memories, those feelings are so thick, you have to “brush them away” from your faces. And, moreover, “baseball has marked the time”; “America has been run through like an army of steamrollers.” But baseball has marked the time! Do you understand that?!?! It is baseball that has kept the fiber of our society intact. And I do agree, a historical recounting of the past baseball seasons is a store of America.
Furthermore, in Shoeless Joe, Moonlight Graham is the very symbol of dreams… of unfulfilled promise and hope. His very longing for the game accentuates his love for it. But, in a movie about dreams, he puts it all into perspective. There are some things more important: life. “If only [he’d] been a doctor for five minutes, [that would have been the tragedy].” And later, he gives baseball up (in one of the most moving scenes I have ever seen) to save Ray’s little girl. But he did get to bat, and that one night of sheer ecstasy made his dreams possible.
This just lends credence to the importance of baseball in maintaining cultural values. Our culture values hope and fulfillment; and our culture values honesty and fairplay. To tie all of these together, our capitalist society craves competition… honest competition. Real and hard-nosed. Incredible feats. Legendary tales.
In The Natural, Roy Hobbs was such a figure. He was everyman in that for sixteen years as he struggled like many of us do for a lifetime. Yet he was greater because he had this gift. He threw harder, hit longer, and caught better than anyone. When Hobbs hits four homers at Wrigley, that is incredible. When Roy, with his sides bleeding, hits the game-winning homer to send the Knights into the World Series, it is absolutely earth-shattering (yes, really). And if you think this only happens in the movies, just go back to the ’88 World Series and Kirk Gibson.
There is a key line in that movie when Iris says we have two lives: one where we make mistakes, and the other one where we live with those mistakes. And that is what our society is about. Actions and consequences. Take responsibility for yourselves. That is the real American dream. Plain and simple; and not glorified.”
Scenes from Field of Dreams
Ray Kinsella: Did you get to make a play?
Dr. Graham: I never hit the ball out of the infield. Game ended. The season was over. I knew they would send me back down. I couldn’t bear the thought of another year in the minors. So I decided to hang ‘em up. Go on. Sit down.
Ray Kinsella: Thank you. So what was that like?
Dr. Graham: It was like coming this close to your dreams and then watch them brush past you like a stranger in a crowd. At the time, you don’t think much of it. You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day. And now, Ray Kinsella, I want to ask you a question. What’s so interesting about a half an inning that would make you come all the way from Iowa to talk to me about it 50 years after it happened?
Ray Kinsella: I really didn’t know till just now, but I think it’s to ask you if you could do anything you wanted, if you could have a-a wish.
Dr. Graham: And that you’re the kind of a man who could grant me that wish?
Ray Kinsella: I don’t know. I’m just asking.
Dr. Graham: Well, you know, I-I never got to bat in the major leagues. I’d have liked to have had that chance just once, to stare down a big-league pitcher. To stare him down, then just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn’t. That’s what I wish for. The chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingle in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases, stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?
Ray Kinsella: What would you say if I said yes?
Dr. Graham: I think I’d actually believe you.
Ray Kinsella: Well, sir, there’s a place where things like that happen, and if you want to go, I can take you.Dr. Graham: This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child. I can’t leave Chisholm.
Ray Kinsella: I understand. I do. But I really think you’re supposed to come with us.
Dr. Graham: Well…
Ray Kinsella: But your wish?
Dr. Graham: It’ll have to stay a wish. I was born here. I’ve lived here. I’ll die here. But no regrets.
Ray Kinsella: Fifty years ago, for five minutes you came within… y-you came this close. It would kill some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they’d consider it a tragedy.
Dr. Graham: Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.
Terrence Mann: Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up 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. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
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