For anyone who is going to be in the Washington, D.C. area in the near future, this looks like a fascinating opportunity to learn about the Library of Congress’s baseball collections. The LoC currently has a Baseball Americana exhibit featuring items from their collections and from their partners as they relate to the game’s history. You can find information about the exhibit and some of the online collections on their website.
Then on Friday, July 13th, the LoC is teaming up with JSTOR labs, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Wikimedia for an event that appears to be a sort of mini conference featuring not only the collections, but also a panel on baseball, data, and American culture. The poster for the event is below, and more information can be found through Eventbrite here.
These are just a couple events associated with the exhibit. More information regarding additional events can be found here. It’s one of those things that makes me wish I had a bit more flexibility for travel, because I’d totally go to check some of this stuff out if I could. If anyone reading any of this happens to attend any (or all!) of these, please report back here!
A few days ago, I posted the theme from The Natural, and today brings us the familiar music of Field of Dreams. Enjoy!
‘God what an outfield,’ he says. ‘What a left field.’ He looks up at me, and I look down at him. ‘This must be heaven,’ he says.
‘No. It’s Iowa,’ I reply automatically. But then I feel the night rubbing softly against my face like cherry blossoms; look at the sleeping girl-child in my arms, her small hand curled around one of my fingers; think of the fierce warmth of the woman waiting for me in the house; inhale the fresh-cut grass small that seems locked in the air like permanent incense; and listen to the drone of the crowd, as below me Shoelss Joe Jackson tenses, watching the angle of the distant bat for a clue as to where the ball will be hit.
‘I think you’re right, Joe,’ I say, but softly enough not to disturb his concentration.
~W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe
Here’s a cool video of an around-the-horn triple play by the Durham Bulls. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the play was how cleanly the team executed it. I’d say there is some question as to whether the runner was truly out at first, but it’s still enjoyable to watch, all the same.
The original story can be found here.
The first thing I noticed as we pulled up the drive was the vast array of vehicles already lining the parking lot. After six tedious hours of driving, we finally arrived at our destination: the Field of Dreams movie site, located just northeast of Dyersville, Iowa. We made our hotel reservation back in mid-May, and I had been waiting with enthusiastic, even if restrained, anticipation ever since to make the journey. In spite of the downpour of rain and storms that we encountered driving through Missouri, Iowa embraced us with mostly clear skies and warm, 80-degree sunshine.
I deliberately scheduled the visit for a Sunday, in order for us to take advantage of the Ghost Sunday event. I did not entirely know what to expect, though in my mind I had visions of players emerging from the cornfield and hitting the diamond for some old-fashioned baseball: old school wool uniforms, old-style equipment, some fun and camaraderie, in direct emulation of the movie. I did not expect a full-blown competitive baseball contest, but I did envision pitching, batting, base-stealing, and perhaps even a nineteen-year-old kid in a New York Giants uniform winking at the pitcher as he takes his stance in the batter’s box.
We arrived with about forty-five minutes to spare before the exhibition was scheduled to begin, so we decided to meander around for a bit. The grass proved every bit as green as I pictured it. A lot more people had also shown up than I expected. The wooden bleachers filled up rapidly with spectators, as did the benches intended to designate each team’s “dugout.” Lawn chairs lined up along each baseline, and crowds of people milled around the concession and souvenir stands. The field itself was crowded with people playing mock ballgames, shagging flies, and playing catch. We headed out to the corn, where even more people took pictures and feigned disappearing into and reappearing out from between the tall, almost-harvest-ready stalks. I doubt that any other cornfield in the world receives as much attention from the general public as the one at the Field of Dreams.
With one o’ clock fast approaching, we eventually made our way to the emptier set of bleachers and settled down for the show. As I hoped, we witnessed the ghost players materializing from the cornfield, eager for the opportunity to return to playing a game they so loved in their living years. They made their way to the diamond and were introduced to the crowd, and many of them, we learned, had played a role in the movie. They wore the old-style Chicago White Sox uniforms, bearing the design from the years of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and made of wool.
The rest of the spectacle, however, did not proceed quite as I anticipated. Rather than playing a game amongst themselves, the ghost players recruited a group of youngsters from the crowd, giving each kid the opportunity to bat and run the bases against them. It had more of a circus-type vibe than I had envisaged, being much more family- and kid-oriented. Nevertheless, the humor and the interactions proved highly entertaining, and I was not disappointed, in spite of having my expectations thwarted.
At the show’s conclusion, we still had nearly an hour to kill before we could check into the hotel, so we wandered around the grounds some more. The lines at the souvenir stand doubled in length as people sought to purchase merchandise for the ghost players to autograph. We dove in and out of the corn a few more times, checked out the house, and I contemplated the feel of the grass and the infield dirt beneath my shoes. Finally, we headed to the hotel to check in and rest for a couple hours.
We later headed into town in search of dinner. Dyersville, population 4,000, reminded me of every other small, American town I have ever frequented. The downtown area featured a street of locally owned shops lined up next to one another, most of which had already closed by the time we arrived that evening. In our quest for food, we managed to stumble across the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, a Catholic parish featuring Gothic architecture. Before continuing on to filling our bellies, we decided to explore.
It was the kind of church that, if it were close enough to where I live, I would show up for mass every single Sunday, without fail. As impressive as it looked on the outside, the inside of the Basilica was absolutely breathtaking. Over the years, I have struggled with the idea of God and religion, but I found myself wondering whether taking pictures inside such a magnificent parish could be considered a sin. A couple times, I found that I had to stop walking around and simply sit down and let myself get lost in the aura of this sanctuary.
Our return home the next day proved predominantly uneventful, even if we did get rained on again. We stopped in Ames, Iowa for lunch at the Olde Main Brewing Co. The beer tasted delicious, even if the food did not quite live up to the same standard. I cannot say whether the trip as a whole had any profound impact on me, and I won’t pretend to have had any life-changing epiphanies, but I am certainly glad to have had the experience. It was a trip that included a visit to two beautiful cathedrals, one for baseball and one for Catholicism, and I would contend that my life is that much more fulfilled because of it.
Thanks to the movie Field of Dreams, almost everybody has heard of Moonlight Graham. As a right fielder for the New York Giants, Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham made his Major League debut on 29 June 1905, at the age of twenty-seven. In the bottom of the eighth inning against the Brooklyn Superbas, Graham came into the game as a defensive replacement for George Browne. He never had the opportunity to step up to the plate, however, standing in the on-deck circle as Claude Elliott flied out to end the top of the ninth. Graham played again defensively in the bottom of the ninth, but never had the chance to record an at-bat as the Giants won 11-1. It would be his only Major League appearance, as he was sent back to the minors the following day.
Completing his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1905 (where he also played halfback for the school’s football team in 1904 and 1905), Graham concluded his baseball career in 1908. He went on to obtain his license and began practicing medicine in Chisholm, Minnesota. “Doc” Graham served as a good and loyal doctor to the people of Chisholm for fifty years. He died in 1965.
In 1975, W. P. Kinsella happened to read about Graham’s short-lived baseball career in The Baseball Encyclopedia. He included Moonlight Graham as a character in his 1982 novel, Shoeless Joe, on which the movie Field of Dreams is based.