On the face of it, MLB’s announcement that the Chicago White Sox would be hosting the New York Yankees in a game held on the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa is a pretty cool thing.
In the space of a year, MLB will build the stadium, as the game will be played on Aug. 13, 2020. And the park — as this is considered a home White Sox game — will pay some sort of tribute to Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox for 80 years last century. MLB is saying that tribute comes in the forms of “the shape of the outfield” and the bullpens in center field. (Of course, the bullpens were not in center field in the park’s original and dominant configuration, with the center field wall 440 feet from home plate.)
But at least in White Sox circles, news of the game spilled into some premature jocularity. To one particularly pro-ownership site, the White Sox hosting the first major league game ever in Iowa (despite being a rather incidental piece of the puzzle given the unmitigated attention paid to their opponent, the Yankees) made it “almost certain” that the White Sox would “put respect back on their name [sic]” and contend in 2020.
On the other hand, here’s a guy a few of you know:
For anyone who thinks the White Sox playing in the middle of a cornfield next year is an indication the team will be a player in free agency this offseason, Jerry Reinsdorf thanks you for the early confirmation that his small-market ruse will be successful for yet another year.— Brett Ballantini (@BrettBallantini) August 8, 2019
We’ve got an entire offseason to debate free agents and dozens of offseason plans to formulate just how some might get here, so let’s not quite yet get into dotting a line from Gerrit Cole to Marcel Ozuna to Anthony Rendon, with a team-friendly Luis Robert extension as 2020’s cherry on top. However implausible it is that the White Sox whiffed on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper but will somehow outbid (and overbid) for anyone in 2020, one thing is certain: Thinking the announcement of a dog-and-pony game in Iowa next August not as a sign that “somebody had to play the Yankees” but a Ouija-boarding into “they’re gonna spend!” stretches credulity, and credibility.
But, about this game: Why they building a new park at all?
After the crazy 38-24 game in London this year, or whatever it was, they should just drop the idea of building that adjacent park and just play on the Wiffleball dimensions of the original build-it-he-will-come field in Dyersville. Extend the netting around the entire diamond by having it front the outfield-cornfields, with balls bouncing back off the net to the field like lazy pop flies clank off the Green Monster. Yeah, keep ’em in play, or hell, let them play as outs if caught on the fly. Either way, it’ll be a no-dingers game. Very 1919, no?
There’s also been a lot of sentiment surrounding Shoeless Joe Jackson, naturally. There’s talk that if MLB can use Jackson’s story — W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Field of Dreams” is drawn from is titled “Shoeless Joe” after all — to sell its cornfield game, perhaps the ban on Jackson needs to be lifted. Perhaps even leading to immediate, posthumous induction next August.
I’m all for it. But if MLB can strong-arm the Hall into such a move, the Hall gets to hit back. How? By flipping all Shoeless Joe photos in the Hall to bat right-handed, as Ray Liotta rather curiously does in depicting Jackson in the movie.
But wait, you say: Aren’t the White Sox duly magical, all on their own?
Yes, yes, of course they are. Frank Thomas, Shoeless Joe, Mark Buehrle and “the catch,” the miracle 2005 run to and through the playoffs, a dozen workhorse pitchers who cranked out 300 innings a year with 1.00 ERAs ... yeah we know that.
Or do we?
Here’s another article put out recently that might indicate otherwise:
“The White Sox Then and Now: A Ballad of Low Demand.”— Sox On 35th (@SoxOn35th) August 8, 2019
Author @Dave_Reidy writes about the organization’s attendance as the city’s second team and the generational opportunity low demand creates. https://t.co/xi9SjhA9xH
If we as White Sox fans can’t even celebrate the majesty that is this team (admittedly not the easiest thing during the low-ebb 2010s), how can we expect to be anything but an afterthought to the world at large?
This maudlin piece purports that there is some sort of advantage to giveaway tickets, as if getting free White Sox tickets for perfect attendance in the 1970s somehow builds lifelong fandom.
I dunno, maybe it does. I’m guessing the whole “free tix if you come to school sick” build-a-fanbase plan went out the window when Jerry Reinsdorf bought the club. But specifically, the writer points to a game his father attended as a freebie — paid season tickets that just happened to fall to his grandfather, whose company paid for them — while singing his “ballad of low demand.”
One problem: The game his father attended was in 1957. That season fell in the middle of a run of 16 of 17 seasons where the White Sox outdrew the Chicago Cubs. The White Sox’s woes since then? A historically-bad run in the late 1960s that snapped the streak in the first place; wooing Milwaukee as a temporary (or permanent) franchise destination in the early 1970s; switching to pay TV at the same time the Chicago Tribune bought the Cubs and plastered them across their sports pages (and the nation, via WGN) in the early 1980s; and some really, really, really, really terrible White Sox baseball this decade.
If I ever see the historically-inaccurate (and needlessly maudlin) “city’s second team” language ever again, it’ll be too soon.
And in the category of burying the lede, a whopper was released Friday morning that far outpaces any Field of Dreams chicanery in my eyes:
GUYS.— Amanda Kaschube (@amandakaschube) August 9, 2019
Bill Walton will call a White Sox game with Jason Benetti on Aug. 16 (vs. the Angels in Anaheim).
"There is nothing more entertaining than working with the neural fiesta that is Bill Walton. When he said yes, there was a fist pump."https://t.co/4zZconiQkK pic.twitter.com/XGwxlUOH6Q
I don’t want to say Bill Walton joining Jason for a game next week will be better, but, well, you’re gonna want to watch.
Some highlights of their previous work together, which turned the Maui Invitational into much-watch TV:
Bill Walton: "Did your dad play for Jerry Tarkanian?"— Jason Beck (@beckjason) November 20, 2018
Jason Benetti: "My dad was an air traffic controller."
Bill Walton: "How cool would it have been, though, if your dad had played for Jerry Tarkanian?"
Bill Walton: “Finally, somebody put some WD-40 on this game.”— Bonkers Productions (@passmethatBONK) November 20, 2018
Benetti: “Got all the creaks out.”
Walton: “That’s what WD-40 does. It works when you drink it too.”
Benetti: “That is not true.”