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Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams title card

Year - 1989
Studio - Universal
Stars - Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Jr., Burt Lancaster, Ray Liotta, Gaby Hoffman, Timoth Busfield
Director - Phil Alden Robinson
Writing Credits - W.P. Kinsella (book), Phil Alden Robinson (screenplay)
Music - James Horner

Synopsis

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) has moved to Iowa with his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) and young daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffman), and is attempting to become a farmer. One day, as he is inspecting his corn crop, he hears a mysterious, whispery voice that says, "If you build it, he will come." The message repeats several times, but his wife and little girl don't hear it.

As he puzzles over the meaning of the voice, he sees a vision of a baseball field in the middle of his corn. He develops the belief that, if he builds a baseball field on his property, Shoeless Joe Jackson, a ball player that he and his father had idolized, will come to it. Jackson, now deceased, was a former major league baseball star, who had been suspended in 1920 for his alleged role in the Black Sox scandal.

Ray, with Annie's understanding, plows under a large section of the corn field, and constructs a full size ball park, with a backstop, bleachers and lights for night games. His incredulous neighbors think he has lost his mind, and his brother-in-law, Mark (Timothy Busfield), tries to convince him to sell the farm to him and his partners before he goes bankrupt.

Field of Dreams poster

Months pass, and his financial situation worsens. But, one summer evening, the family sees a lone uniformed base ball player inspecting their field. He is, indeed, the ghost of Shoeless Joe (Ray Liotta), and Ray pitches a few balls for him to hit out into the cornfield. Soon, ghosts of other old time players are practicing on the field, to the delight of the family, all of whom can see and talk to them. They learn that others, however, do not see the players, including Mark, who is still trying to force a sale of the property.

Another message is heard by Ray, "Ease his pain." He soon intuits that the message somehow refers to a famous, but now reclusive writer, Terrance Mann. Ray drives his VW bus from Iowa to Boston, and locates Mann (James Earl Jones, Jr.), who wants nothing to do with this strange intruder. Ray convinces him attend a Boston Red Sox game with him where Ray sees an odd message on the scoreboard, referring to an obscure ball player from the 1920s, "Moonlight" Graham from Chisholm, Minnesota. Terrance later confesses to seeing the message as well, and announces that he will travel to Minnesota with Ray to find Graham.

When they arrive, they are crestfallen to learn that Graham, who had been a doctor in Chisholm for 50 years, is dead. Terrance interviews several of the locals to learn about him. Leaving Terrance in their hotel room, Ray takes a walk in the town and realizes that he he has gone back in time to 1971. He sees an elderly man walking and carrying a doctor's bag - it is Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham (Burt Lancaster). Ray attempts to get the doctor to come to his field, to fulfill an opportunity that was denied to him 50 years ago, but the doctor declines.

On their drive back to the Iowa farm, they pick up a young hitchhiker, who says that he is a ballplayer looking for a team to play on. His name is Archie Graham.

Back at the farm, more ghost players have arrived to play a game. Archie joins, and , to his delight, hits a fly ball allowing a runner to score, as Ray, Terrance, Amy and Karin cheer in the stands. Mark arrives and demands that Ray sign the sale papers or he will foreclose on the property. Karin interrupts to say that people will come from all over and pay admission to this baseball field, and Terrance agrees.

Karin accidentally falls from the bleachers and lies unconscious but, before her mother can go for help, Archie Graham walks from the field to her - as he steps over the baseline, he becomes the old Doc Graham again. He determines Karin is choking on a hot dog and revives her. He cannot go back to being the young player again, but is content. Mark now sees the the ghost players and blubbers, "Don't sell this farm."

As the players return to the corn, Shoeless Joe invites Terrance to go with them. He accepts, but Ray is angry that he's not included, after all that he's done. Shoeless Joe points to the ghost catcher removing his gear, and Joe recognizes him as his dead father, John (Dwier Brown). They talk, Ray and Ray introduces him to his family, no one acknowledging the relationship. But as John starts to leave, Ray blurts out, "Dad, would you like to play some catch?"

As father and son toss the ball to each other, the lights of a line of hundreds of cars are seen in the distance, coming to this "field of dreams."

Show Spoilers

The name, Shoeless Joe, was also worked into another Film Blanc about baseball, Damn Yankees.

On a personal note, I grew up in a small Iowa town that, like many other midwest towns of that period, had an amateur baseball team. We were usually quite successful and invariably, it seemed, ended up playing the town of Dyersville, Iowa, in the state tournament. Dyersville is where Field of Dreams was filmed, and the baseball field still exists there on the farm as a tourist attraction.