The Field of Dreams is up for sale …


   I’ll admit upfront that I’ve always been a sucker for all of the artifice surrounding the 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” everything from the hyperglycemic homage to our national pastime and the affectionate portrayal of Shoeless Joe to the elegance of the field itself and – most importantly – the underlying premise about fathers and sons. Great stuff, eh?
   So naturally, I took note of the Associated Press story the other day saying that my favorite “Field of Dreams” in Dyersville, Iowa, was up for sale for a cool $5.4 million.
   The AP reported that Don and Becky Lansing, the owners of the site near Dyersville where the field was built by Universal Studios, said they’re selling the property. The couple said they love the land, which has been in Don Lansing’s family for more than a century, but they’re ready to retire and give up the property.
   “It’s really time for us to head to the locker room. Maybe that sounds corny. I don’t care,” Becky Lansing said. “We really would just love to become spectators. We want to sit in the bleachers. We want to look forward to all that the ‘Field of Dreams’ will become in the future.”
   And to think that just the other day we drove by Dyersville en route to Kansas City. I wanted to stop and plop myself down in short center field for a nap, but our schedule wouldn’t permit. And Dyersville is not exactly handy for Interstate travelers.
   But like the grand poetry of the story by W.P. Kinsella, that didn’t stop it from becoming a genuine tourist attraction in the years following the release of the film.

   The Lansing family handsomely maintained the baseball diamond over that span, creating a charming real-life symmetry with the story line. And they managed this despite wrasslin’ with a nearly two-decade beef with their neighbors, who owned sections that essentially made the project an uneasy joint commercial venture. The Lansings bought the neighbors’ parcel three years ago, seemingly paving way for the current sale listing.
   Up for sale is the diamond, a two-bedroom house, six outbuildings that include a concession stand (there had been two separate ones years ago), and a 193-acre parcel, including the mystical cornfield where the ghosts of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, “Moonlight” Graham and others emerge to play ball.
   The AP reported that former major league pitcher Ken Sanders, now a real estate consultant overseeing the sale, said he’s already received a number of inquiries about the property, with some indicating an interest in preserving the property but others hinting about the possibility of putting up a hotel, water park or even a minor league ballpark on the site.
   “We are the caretakers of a living piece of sports memorabilia,” Becky Lansing told the AP. “This is an organic, living, breathing piece of memorabilia.”
   If grass can breathe, then she’s not kidding. Best grass I ever napped on. Hold your giggles, please.
   But here’s what I don’t get. If Ray Kinsella had 193 acres, then apparently he wasn’t the dirt-poor farmer we were led to believe 21 years ago as we got wrapped up in Kinsella’s yarn. If you figure plowing under maybe three acres or so for the swell ballfield, it doesn’t seem like his curious little bit of eccentricity should have imperiled the family’s financial future quite so starkly.
   I guess it’s artistic license. Leave it to me to quibble about something like that in a story that has ghosts of Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver, et. al, teleporting themselves from the netherworld into an Iowa cornfield.
   Talk about swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat.

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One thought on “The Field of Dreams is up for sale …

  1. Randy Marks on said:

    Hi T.S.
    You do know "Field of Dreams" was an act of plagiarism, don’t you? If you read Bob Feller’s 1947 autobiography "Strikeout Story" you must know that the ballfield now being sold in Dyersville wasn’t even the first ‘Field of Dreams’ in Iowa.

    I had a business relationship with Bob Feller that ran from 1996-1999. And I still keep in touch with him; in fact I met with him just this last Sunday when he was in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio to throw out the first pitch before the Columbus Clippers game. At the age of 91, he still was able to throw it to the catcher from the rubber although it was bit high and outside. Also, he has lost a lot of his fastball but then again he might have thrown a change-up. I was sitting in the first row behind the visitor’s dugout and I couldn’t rightly tell. But I digress…

    "Strikeout Story" tells how Bob’s father (Bill) in 1931, during the heighth of the depression, took some of their farm acreage, a corn field and some oak trees, if I’m not mistaken, and leveled it. The two of them proceeded to convert that land into a fine baseball field complete with a scoreboard and stands for the spectators. They named it Oak View Park. I forgot to mention that their farm was just outside Van Meter, Iowa-a suburb of Decatur. Bob’s father, who was very involved in amateur baseball in the area for years, then organized a team, the Oakviews, as this park’s home team. He also recruited other area teams to come play the Oakviews there. Spectators came and paid 25 cents, I think, to watch the two teams play each other…lots of fans. The main attraction was little Bobby Feller, age 12, striking out men mostly in their early to mid 20’s.

    I remember when I told Feller that I had just finished reading his book and he said to me something like ‘what did you think of my boyhood ballfield?’ I replied that it sounded just like "Field of Dreams". He got this big smile (Bob is a rather serious man most of the time) and said
    "That’s right!". He then told me how he almost sued when the movie came out in 1989 because they clearly had stolen the idea of building a ballfield on a former Iowan cornfield from his book. But he didn’t.

    So the commercial Field of Dreams will probably be sold soon and even if the new owners tear up it up, Bill Feller’s farm is still there outside Van Meter, Iowa. It has different owners now also and that ballfield is also no longer there but one can still see the land it was on and read Bob Feller’s book and dream about the real field.
    Sincerely, Randy Marks, Columbus, OH.

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