Posts Tagged ‘Field of Dreams’

“If I’d Only Gotten to be a Doctor for Five Minutes”

August 27, 2015
Cover of "Chasing Moonlight"

Cover of “Chasing Moonlight”

Alright, admit it, you’ve all seen the movie Field of Dreams and you’ve fallen in love with an utterly obscure ballplayer named Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham. It’s OK to admit it, team. All of us have taken the plunge. All of us have taken the plunge into the frankly maudlin scene where Burt Lancaster delivers the line above. Maybe the best plunge was taken by two writers who, in 2009, wrote a biography of the now legendary player.

Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of “Field of Dreams” Doc Graham is a fairly short biography of Graham by authors Brett Friedlander and Robert Reisling. They admit to having never heard of Graham before the movie and being curious when they discovered he was a real ballplayer. So they set out to do research on him and the book is the happy result of their efforts.

The book follows Graham’s life from his birth in North Carolina to a fairly substantial family. His father was the first superintendent of schools in Fayetteville, North Carolina and the son was well-educated. He also played ball well and was one of a number of men of the era who used sports as a way to make money to finance his career dreams. In Graham’s case that was to become a doctor.

The baseball stuff is toward the beginning of the book and details the life of a career minor leaguer (and that one special day in 1905 when he played right field for the Giants) who was intelligent and working toward a medical degree in the off-season. His “moonlighting” as an intern and student led, the authors believe, to the famous nickname.

But the bulk of the book and to me the best part concerns Graham’s life after he left baseball. He migrated to Chisholm, Minnesota, settled down, got married, became the town’s doctor, and spent years as the school district’s physician. He became briefly famous in the 1940s for a paper he wrote about children and high blood pressure, but essentially settled into the quite, normal, perhaps tedious life of a small town doctor.

The book is a fascinating study of small town American life in the first half of the Twentieth Century and is worth reading for that alone. Throw in the baseball aspects and you’ve got a book most ball fans will like. The book is available in paperback for under $10 at Amazon.com and can be purchased at a number of other online sites. Worth checking out, team.

And by the way, Dwier Brown, who played Daddy Kinsella in Field of Dreams has written a book about his life and how his experiences with the movie changed it. Haven’t read it, but when/if I do, I’ll drop a short review here.

“If you build it…

April 21, 2014
The Field in Dyersville, Iowar

The Field in Dyersville, Iowa

…he will come.”

Twenty-five years ago today saw the first general release of the movie “Field of Dreams”. It was a big hit, received an Academy Award nomination, and became a staple of movie channels yearly around opening day. Roger Ebert, when asked to comment on the year’s Academy Award nominations said (and I paraphrase here) that it wouldn’t win, but that fifty years from now it would be the one movie from the year that people would still watch. Well, we’re half way to fifty.

It’s an interesting movie. A lot of people hate it. They think it’s too sweet, or too much a hymn to the 1960s. That last group deserve to be told the same thing that Ray Kinsella’s wife (Amy Madigan) tells Beulah the angry housewife (Lee Garlington) they had two fifties and moved right on to the 70’s. Others complain that it gets its baseball wrong. That Shoeless Joe (Ray Liotta) hits right-handed in the movie and throws left-handed, when the real Shoeless Joe was just the opposite. That’s too much focus on minutiae. It’s like dismissing “Casablanca” because you really didn’t need a special exit visa to leave Morocco in 1941. Others complain it’s too benign toward the Black Sox (and it is). Those things all miss the point of the movie.

Because it’s not really a flick about the ’60’s or about baseball. It’s a movie about family and dreams, not about on which side of the plate a man stands when he bats or about the influence of the works of Terrance Mann (the fictional author played by James Earl Jones) on the childen of the 1960s.  It’s about fathers pushing their own dreams off on their children as John Kinsella (Dwier Brown) does with his son Ray (Kevin Costner). My son will tell you I’ve done it to him and if you’re honest you’ve probably done it to your own child. It’s about setting  aside your own dreams for you family. Ray Kinsella gives up his dreams so he can run a farm in Iowa because that’s what his wife wants him to do with his life. I’ve pounded my head on the wall more than once because I had to give up something to make my wife happy. So have you. It’s about finally getting a chance to repair damage. The cornfield ball yard is the family’s chance to repair the damage done to Jackson and his teammates. It’s a chance to let Doc Graham (Burt Lancaster in his last movie) fulfill his dream and at the same time to know that it was much more important that he hadn’t been able to fulfill it earlier.

Some criticize it for not being a “baseball” movie. But then most good sports movies aren’t really about the sport, but about the people involved. “Pride of the Yankees” isn’t about baseball, it’s about Lou Gehrig and his relationship to his family, later to his wife, and finally to his disease. He just happens to play baseball. And “Field of Dreams” centers around a baseball diamond, but is about a family who happens to build a ball diamond.

I know very few men who can watch the final scene with Ray and John Kinsella playing catch  without a tear. The key male figure in my growing up was my grandfather, not my dad, but I’d give a lot to throw the ball around with him. He never met my son, although he did meet my wife. We hadn’t played catch in years (he was in his 80s when he died and just wasn’t capable of doing so anymore) and he was never able to play catch with his great-grandson. I’ve played catch with my son and he’s played catch with his.

So if you have a copy of the flick around, take a couple of hours to sit down and reacquaint yourself with an old friend. And take just a second to savor my favorite line from the whole movie when James Earl Jones says “Peace. Love. Dope. Now get the hell outta here.”

FYI I’ve just undergone an eye operation. My Doc called it “minor”. I reminded him that a minor operation is what the OTHER guy has. It was successful, but my body has not taken it well (headaches, cramps, etc.). So I’ll be on hiatus around here for a while; until my bod decides it was ok to get a cataract removed. That means I can read your stuff, even comment on it, but the effort necessary to research and then write coherently is currently beyond me (some may feel the coherent part is always beyond me). I have a couple stockpiled, but don’t expect much for the next couple of weeks. So do me a favor and don’t trash the place too bad while I’m out of kilter. 🙂

Baseball Flicks

December 28, 2009

For some reason that escapes me, football and basketball don’t make particularly good movies. There is the rare exception, but as a rule they’re pretty lousy. Baseball and boxing on the other hand make good flicks. Boxing is easy to understand because of the nature of one-on-one violence. Baseball’s a little harder to figure. I guess it has to do with the pace of the game which allows for more time to develop rhythm (and in the case of movies, plot). These are my favorite baseball movies.

5. The Natural: OK, I know it doesn’t end the way the book ends (I read the book years ago), but it’s still fun and the acting is pretty good, especially Glenn Close and Darren McGavin.

4. Bull Durham: I think it’s the most overrated baseball movie ever. It frequently comes in first on these kind of lists, and I think that’s way too high. Having said that, it’s still a good flick with Robbins, Costner, and Sarandon doing a good job.

3. Bang the Drum Slowly: One of DeNiro’s best. Good plot, great acting. DeNiro is young and still building his resume, but you can see the potential.

2. Pride of the Yankees: Oldest flick on this list. Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig is great, Teresa Wright as Mrs. G. is wonderful. You know how it’s going to end and you watch anyway. BTW Babe Ruth has a couple of lines.

1. Field of Dreams: Well, it’s not exactly a “baseball” movie, but the sport is used to fuel the plot. Costner does a decent job, Amy Madigan as the wife is wonderful and James Earl Jones is impressive (how did he not receive an Academy Award nomination that year?). Watch for the “Peace, Love, Dope” scene, the speech about the importance of baseball, and the “Dad, wanna have a catch” scene. If you ain’t crying at that last scene, you got no soul.

Honorable mention: The Rookie–it’s very new, so I’d like to give it time to age. The scenes of Morris is the minors are wonderful and everybody knows the scene with the speed indicator. BTW love the music inserted in the movie.