Dare to Dream


BallplayersEmerge
DustySwing
EightMenOutrealphotosR
MannInHeadlights
BaseballinGrass
ShoelessJoe1
CornCurve
TerrenceMannPeopleWillComeSpeech2R
FODSWPhotoR
FODClosingSceneR
RayWithFatherJohn
CornfieldSunsetR
HitMyCurveBall
BallandBat
GhostPlayersComingOut5
fieldofdreams4R
FenwayParkScoreboardR
FieldOfDreamsFenceR
MarkInTheWay
DocGrahamwithBallplayers3
FODporchswing2Resized
FODCornfield3PicturefrmSndtrk
FODVisionofField
Pitching from FOD mound to Billy3Resized
AnnieKarenPorchSwing
ShoelessJoeBookcover5


 

 Dare to Dream 

                                      

“If you build it, he will come…Ease his pain…Go the distance…Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa….”

Few movies have generated such memorable phrases. Even fewer have withstood the test of time. Twenty five years have passed, and the movie stars, camera crews and production people are long gone. The only things left at this Dyersville, Iowa film site are the house, the field, the dreams, and the 65,000 people who migrate yearly to this mecca in the corn.

 

 

I first saw Field of Dreams in the fall of 1990. My wife had rented it, and knowing her passion for slapstick comedies and silly romances, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. Settling on the couch, I waited for boredom and sleep to take me away. A field of dreams sounded like a nice place to be.

The chills that ran up my spine for the next 106 minutes afforded anything but sleep. Actually, it was 212 minutes; I couldn’t wait to watch the movie again.

 

****THE MAKING OF A MOVIE ****

 

In 1982, aspiring screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson read a novel by the Canadian author W.P. Kinsella entitled Shoeless Joe. The story centers around an Iowa farmer who hears a voice encouraging him to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop. The creation of the field would allow Shoeless Joe Jackson and other banned members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox to return to baseball. Recognizing the book’s movie potential, and moved by its themes of family, faith, redemption and second chances, Robinson began a six-year quest to bring this heartwarming tale to the big screen.

Although Kinsella’s novel was set in Iowa, there were no guarantees that the movie would be filmed there once the green light was given by Universal Studio execs. Twenty states and several Canadian provinces lobbied for the project. Sensing an inside track, Wendol Jarvis, manager of the Iowa Film Office, and Sue Reidel, a volunteer member of the Dubuque film board, set out to help Phil Robinson find the perfect farm the producers were looking for.

Field of Dreams Iowa

Phil Alden Robinson

“I made my first trip to Iowa in November, 1987, looking for a farm which fit several requirements,” says Robinson.”It couldn’t be near a main road or another house, leaving neighbors and passersby to wonder about Ray and Annie building a ball field. Second, I didn’t want a large dairy farm that would require more experience than Ray Kinsella ought to have. Third, I wanted a house that would be surrounded by corn on all four sides.” After an extensive search, a farm owned by Don Lansing became Sue Riedel’s favorite, prompting a visit by Robinson. Taking mental notes of the site, the director moved on, scouting farms in Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois and Canada. “In February, 1988, I visited the Lansing farm again, and started making up my mind that this was the place,” recalls Robinson. “The clincher was when I asked where the sun would set during summer. I had decided to situate the field to the side of Don’s house. Not knowing which direction I faced, I was hoping the sun would set over where the outfield would be. When told that was the case, I knew we’d found it.”

The Lansing farmhouse was given a facelift upon its selection in early March. Bay windows were installed, the porch was extended, and a fresh coat of white paint was applied. In April and May of 1988, two nearby towns were transformed: Galena, Illinois became Chisholm, Minnesota, the home of Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham, and a Dubuque, Iowa neighborhood provided the Boston-like setting for Ray Kinsella’s initial encouter with Terence Mann.

Filming at the Lansing farm was scheduled for late June, but the corn refused to cooperate. The summer of 1988 was one of the driest on record. With the crop lagging badly, producer Brian Frankish hit the nail on the head: “No corn, no movie.” As if justifying Robinson’sKevin Costner 2 selection of the Lansing farm, as if heaven really were in Iowa, a small creek happens to run through the property. It was dammed, and the extra nourishment channeled to the corn allowed it to rebound nicely. So nicely, in fact, that once filming began at the farm, actor Kevin Costner was overwhelmed by the tall stalks. A platform was built between rows, hidden by the thick corn leaves. There’s no indication in the opening scenes that Costner, while walking in the crop, is nearly a foot off the ground.

The corn occupying the ball field was razed over the Fourth of July weekend. Tons of dirt were graded, and local baseball teams laid seven semi-truck loads of sod. The backstop, dugouts and lights were erected, and the field known to millions was complete in just four days.

The filming, which continued through July and into August, included a spectacular closing scene orchestrated by Riedel. As the movie closes, with father and son enjoying a conciliatory game of catch under the lights, an endless stream of cars begins its migration to the field.  ClosingSceneFifteen hundred residents answered a newspaper ad eliciting help for the final scene. After being treated to a picnic lunch at a local park, they lined up their vehicles as dusk approached, coordinated by a Universal Studios helicopter equipped with a radio frequency to which the cars could tune. The entire community pitched in, vanquishing all outdoor lighting, including stadium lights being used for a baseball tournament in town. The darkout produced a spectacular scene, with drivers switching from low to high beam to create the twinkling effect seen at movie’s end.

Ironically, each participant received a bumper sticker proclaiming their involvement in the last scene of ‘Shoeless Joe’, the movie’s original title. Shortly before release, studio moguls renamed the effort Field of Dreams, prompting a howl of protest from director Phil Robinson. After learning that one of the original titles considered by novelist Kinsella was The Dream Field, Robinson abandoned the protest.

After 68 days of shooting, it all came to an end August 16, 1988. The equipment and cameras were loaded on a truck, along with the miles of footage shot at the field and nearby communities. While the lengthy editing process took place, executive producer Brian Frankish returned the following winter with a camera crew to capture a beautiful snowfall scene used in the movie.

On April 20, 1989, Field Of Dreams made its world premiere debut in Dubuque, Iowa. Popular not only in America, the movie proved an international hit, becoming one of the biggest box office draws in Japanese history. Though it received an Academy Award nomination for best picture, top honors that year went to Driving Miss Daisy. Dreams fans insist the chauffeur wasn’t driving Miss Daisy to the store, he was taking her to that little patch of heaven in Iowa.

 

****THE MAKING OF A LEGEND****

 

To maximize sunset filming scenes, Phil Robinson decided to situate the field west of the Lansing farm. When the property line didn’t cooperate, producers were forced to sign land contracts with neighbor Al Ameskamp as well. Underestimating the movie’s impact, and with spring planting season at hand, Ameskamp plowed under his portion of the field the same week the movie premiered. “We made a movie in 1988, it’s time to get back to farming in 1989,” he said, razing parts of left and center field, including the third base side of the infield.

DonandBeckyLansing

Don and Becky Lansing

Don Lansing, however, did nothing with his majority share of the layout. “I’m not really sure why I decided to leave it…Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones had walked there. I figured maybe the family could use it for picnics or something.” Neither owner anticipated what would happen next.

Within weeks of the movie’s release, as if fulfilling a prophecy, a steady stream of visitors began making its way up Lansing’s long gravel drive to see the field. Co-owner Ameskamp, moved by the forlorn faces of those saddened by the field’s alteration, explains: “It was a mistake I didn’t see at the time. What changed my mind was when I started seeing so many people coming to see the field and play on it just the way it was, without the original third base.” In the spring of 1990, for the second time in two years, sod replaced corn. The field was again complete, its parts restored, ready to capture the magic for those who dared to dream.

A 67-year old father of six from Dunwoody, Georgia, Ron Wojcik first saw the movie in a Chicago theater shortly after its release. “I had taken my twelve-year old son to see The Abyss. He got scared 25 minutes into it, so we bailed out into another theater where Field of Dreams was starting. I found it to be just marvelous.” Wiping away tears at movie’s end, he explains the emotional impact this way: “Those of the male persuasion aren’t very good at telling our dads we love them. We move from day to day, then they’re old, and it seems even more awkward to say. You could see, even after all the magic, that Ray Kinsella still couldn’t find a way to say it, other than asking his dad for a game of catch.”

Wojcik, scratching a four year itch, went the distance in 1993, visiting the field with his son, Douglas. “It seemed so right that, in this commercial world, we could walk onto the field, just by driving there.” Father and son shagged fly balls and took their cuts at the plate, the elder Wojcik circling the bases after a final smash down the third base line. “I’m sure my kids don’t understand, maybe one needs to be a bit older for this sort of thing to connect. I just knew it was important for me to go there. The movie and field are special to me; I hope one day my children will feel the same way.”

mayor-william-spitzerRThe interpretations of the message delivered by the film are as numerous as the visitors themselves. Some view Field of Dreams as nothing more than a baseball movie. For Bill Spitzer, mayor of St. Charles, Minnesota, the message is anything but baseball.

“The movie has a magic about it. Everyone has dreams, and sometimes they are hard to catch,” explains this 49-year old father of two. “Like Doc Graham said, we think there will be other days, but really, this is the only day. Our visit on this great planet is short, we have to enjoy every year, every month, every moment.”

The movie’s ending has special meaning for Spitzer, whose own father was killed in an automobile accident before he was born. “I would like to have known him, to find out what his dreams were. I wish for the opportunity to meet him, and ask for that game of catch. Is there enough magic in the moonlight to grant me that wish?”FIELD OF DREAMS

Brothers who haven’t spoken to each other in 30 years have reconciled at the field. Couples have been engaged and married on it. Others have come to sprinkle the ashes of loved ones. The Double-A Carolina Mudcats, believing in its positive influence, paid Don Lansing to fly in with a bucket of dirt from the field.

No matter the circumstance, it seems nearly everyone finds at the field the magic they’re looking for. Some visitors bring the magic with them when they arrive. Others take magic with them when they leave. And still others find the magic right there on the field, by swinging a bat, running the bases, or wandering pensively through the celestial rows of corn.


****THE LEGEND LIVES ON****


It’s been 25 years now since filming was completed at this farm near Dyersville, Iowa, and fans of the movie and movie site continue to swarm what is now generally considered an American pop culture icon. No doubt the primal forces of nature are still smiling upon this small piece of heaven in Iowa, as more than 75,000 fans have visited the ball field and corn patch in 2014.

Terence Mann prophesied at movie’s end that people would come, and they did. But who could have ever predicted that, a quarter-century later, people would still be coming?

**********

 

 

27 Responses to Dare to Dream

  1. Kathy Crook says:

    A very nice start to your site. May it keep you happy for a very long time. Anxious to see more photos.

  2. Joyce says:

    Bill!

    I too, love Field of Dreams, the movie and the dream! We need to always keep the dream alive, no matter what it is, that is ours so that “we stay alive!” That is what life is all about!

    Thanks for sharing and I will surely be back to read your stuff. I think it is awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    Joyce aka Nana

    • Bill says:

      Thanks, Joyce, glad to see you’re a FOD fan also! Bookmark my site and return often, as I’ll be adding new content until the cows come home…and then I’ll probably add some more after that.

  3. Shelley says:

    I remember watching this movie. Brilliant, Thank you for writing such a informative site.Really enjoyed reading it.
    will check back soon to see what more you have.

    • Bill says:

      Glad you like it, Shelley. It’s always a pleasure meeting another avid Field of Dreams fan! Yes, there’s lots more work to be done on the website, so please return often. It was nice meeting you!

  4. Lisa says:

    Bill, what a wonderful website. I enjoyed every word and learned so much.

    • Bill says:

      Thank you, Lisa. They told me if I built this place, you’d come…and they were right! Now all you’ve got to do is return on a regular basis to see the updates I will be making until the cows come home. See any cows? Me neither. Hurry back!

  5. totally cool – i don’t know if the lansings are baesball fans but can you imagine being a baseball fan and someone wanting to build a field on your property – now that’s what i call a field of dreams – great site – your writing is very seamless and engaging – great read

    • Bill says:

      Thanks, Steve. I’ve talked with the Lansings and they ARE big baseball fans. That’s one of the reasons Don Lansing left his portion of the field intact when the film crews left town. The prospective new owners are vowing to leave the field and movie site in its original, pristine condition, so you should have ample opportunity to bring your son (and daughter, even!) to Dyersville and have that catch. :-)

  6. Hi, Bill -

    I’m the administrator of the Facebook page ‘Save the Field of Dreams’. I was wondering if you’d heard about the growing opposition to this proposed baseball training complex. The Chicago developers who’ve just purchased the “Field of Dreams” movie site claim they plan to preserve this location, but in fact one of the all-important aspects of it will be destroyed if they build this facility. When I found your website I knew you’d want to be informed about all this. I invite you to check out the page for more information:

    http://www.facebook.com/savethefieldofdreams

    Please feel free to message me there or send an e-mail to the address I provided here. Thanks so much! Hope to hear from you!

  7. Sonya says:

    Hi Bill,

    I enjoyed reading this article. I’m not a baseball fan and never watched the movie but I am a huge Kevin Costner fan. I must have watched every movie he’s made. I may give the movie a look.

  8. Kris says:

    Just got done watching the movie… again! I’m hearing stories – some good and some bad. Someone has bought the ‘field’ but plans to ‘over-develope’ it. A sports complex of some kind. I haven’t seen the site or ‘drawing’ but it sounds like too much, too close. I’ve no problem with the plan but I hope they keep it away from the ‘field’. It’s too special to too many people to ruin it with more commercialism. Hoping to bring a couple of my nephews before that happens. Thanks for a great site.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks for visiting my site and leaving a comment, Kris. As of December 28, 2012, the Field of Dreams is under new ownership and they do plan to develop a 24-field softball/baseball complex and training facility on adjacent land. They’ve pledged to leave the original movie site untouched, but I’ve already seen rumors on Facebook that one of the red barns next to the house will be converted into a restaurant. I can only hope that’s not true. I’m reserving judgment until I can gather more facts. The field is a very special place and should be maintained for future generations to enjoy.

  9. Tom says:

    I was married in Farley Iowa in October of 1996. Upon arriving in Farley I was informed I was quite early to see my bride so I drove to the only place I could think of outside of town. When I arrived at the Field of Dreams I opened all the doors of the vehicle I was driving and played an inspirational song. I then ran the bases in my tuxedo! There was no corn that day at the field but the magic was there. One of the moments I am very glad I seized. I love the Field of Dreams.
    (I happen to think the field dust on my shiny shoes was just about perfect for my wedding day!)

    • Bill Lewis says:

      Great story, Tom! I’m guessing the dust on your shoes was just the right touch for your special day. Please tell me you didn’t slide into home plate? :-) I first visited the field in August, 1996, and I’ve been back five times since. In fact, I’ll be at the field again this August. I’m slowly adding new stuff to the site, so please make it a point to return often. Thanks for leaving a comment!

  10. Janet says:

    My husband and I plan on visiting next month. We’ve never been there before and were very excited. Is everything in tact or have they started construction or renovations? Thanks

    • Bill Lewis says:

      Hi Janet, As of today, 07-18-2013, no major construction has occurred. According to the new owners, the ball field and farm house will remain untouched throughout the development process. Field of Dreams enthusiast David Blanchard runs a Facebook page called ‘Save the Field of Dreams’, and he posts almost daily on the happenings in Dyersville. You can visit his page to keep tabs on the activity. In fact, David, a California guy, is at the field today. I myself plan to be there in August. Hope you enjoy your visit! :-)

  11. Jaron says:

    Hey Bill!

    How did you know I like baseball ;) haha

    This site has a lot of information on it and a true love for the game. Right now my only suggestion would be to add some more photos or replace the ones there with some bigger versions.

    If you need anything please let me know.

  12. Lets see now … I must have seen the movie 4 times? … It is one of my favorites.
    Your webite is awesome! I can appreciate all the work that went into it … very professionally done.
    Interesting links, too.
    As a retired teacher, I give this site an A+

  13. Kailey says:

    Hi, Bill
    Great website!! I’m doing an essay on the Field of Dreams for English class.. I’ve watched the movie about 100 times and I got a surprise last summer and my parents gave me directions and I drove there and I had no clue. It was the best thing ever to go see the Field of Dreams! Glad I got to go!! and I have back road information now

    Thanks again,
    Kailey

    • Bill Lewis says:

      Thanks for checking out the website and leaving a comment, Kailey! I’m so glad you made the trip to Dyersville (you did thank your parents, right?). :-) Not sure how many times I’ve watched the movie, but considering the fact I first saw the film in 1990, the count has to be somewhere near 100 for me as well. I hope you included some of the movie’s iconic phrases in your essay, and don’t forget to add your name and E-mail address to my mailing list (found on the right side of my home page). You’ll be notified each time I add new material to the website. I’m seriously considering attending the 25th anniversary celebration of Field of Dreams’ release, to be held June 13th and 14th at the movie site. Who knows, maybe you can talk your parents into giving you the car keys again. Go the distance. :-)

  14. Bill says:

    anything about the father’s day reunion?

  15. Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a
    totally different topic but it has pretty much the
    same layout and design. Excellent choice of colors!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>