If you watched Thursday’s “Field of Dreams” game between the Yankees and the White Sox as I did, James Earl Jones was in my head all night long.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
While Major League Baseball does much wrong, and I’m looking at you owners who don’t believe in the salary cap, Thursday night’s game was perfect. And boy, did it end in an exciting fashion.
If you watched, tell me you weren’t sure that after Giancarlo Stanton hit a ball into the corn field, the Yankees were going to win. Then in the bottom of the ninth, Tim Anderson did the same thing and won the game for the team from the South Side of Chicago.
I’m showing my age here, because we all know the South Side of Chicago is the baddest part of town. We know that because Jim Croce once told us that in a song. But I digress.
In my opinion, the Field of Dreams game beat every NHL Winter Classic hands down. Not only was the setting better, the game was better than just about every one of those outdoor NHL games.
Which leads to the next point — what does Major League Baseball do for an encore?
I had not begun to think about it, but a lot of folks on Twitter did. Ramy Jazayerli is a Chicago-based dermatologist who writes for The Athletic and The Ringer. He said that because Major League Baseball teams play 81 home games in a 162-game schedule, dropping the occasional game, or possibly a series, in places like Dyersville, Iowa, can only be a positive.
As to an idea, he had one that was not on my radar, but now it should be on MLB’s.
“The Mariners should host a Midnight Sun series in Alaska every June, and baseball will dominate the discourse in that state for a month — and the vistas beamed to the country will be beautiful,” he tweeted.
What a brilliant idea.
Once, before the proliferation of summer wood bat college leagues like the NECBL, the Futures League and the New York-based Perfect Game League, the top college players went to Cape Cod or to Alaska to play in the summer. The Alaska League hosted players like Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, Barry Bonds, Mark Grace and Frank Viola. Alaska’s history in the sport is well-established.
The idea of either playing in Anchorage or Fairbanks or even in Chugiak, a city of almost 9,000 some 25 miles north of Anchorage, would be thrilling.
Major League Baseball could renovate an Alaska League park, or build something temporary like it did for the game in Dyersville. Play the game in the shadow of the Chugach Mountain Range or by glaciers. It’s temperate enough in the summer to play comfortably.
MLB already has that “Little League” game in Williamsport, Pa., when two teams take to historic Bowman Field for a Sunday night game during the Little League World Series. That game has drawn rave reviews.
So, with baseball’s inventory of games, where do we expand this idea?
The first place needs to be Cape Cod, home of the Cape Cod League.
The best of the best from college teams used to show up on the Cape for a summer unlike any other. Cape League Hall of Famers like Thurman Munson, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell built up their resumes by the Atlantic Ocean. Daniel Carte, who played for the Pittsfield Colonials of the Can-Am League is also in the Cape League’s Hall of Fame.
Building a temporary field might be difficult, but renovating and expanding someplace like Falmouth, Harwich, Brewster or Chatham, might be a better way to go. Baseball with boats in the background would make for grand visuals.
A bit off the beaten path might even be old Wahconah Park in Pittsfield.
Pittsfield is at the center of baseball. John Thorn is the official historian of Major League Baseball, and back in 2004, he found a document that dated back to 1791.
A 2004 Associated Press article stated that: The evidence comes in a 1791 bylaw that aims to protect the windows in Pittsfield’s new meeting house by prohibiting anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building.
That bylaw would have been produced well before Abner Doubleday is said to have written the rules for the game in 1839.
“It’s clear that not only was baseball played here in 1791, but it was rampant,” Thorn said, in that Associated Press article. “It was rampant enough to have an ordinance against it.”
Pittsfield was also the home of the first college baseball game. The 150th anniversary of a game between Williams and Amherst was played on May 4, 2009 at Wahconah Park. The first game was played in downtown Pittsfield at the corner of North Street and Maplewood Ave.
Amherst won the first game 73-32 in a 25-inning game. In the rematch 150 years later, Williams won 19-17, in a game played with 1858 rules.
If not here, how about in Montana? Returning to Cooperstown but not at Doubleday Field?
There are lots of really smart folks at Major League Baseball’s offices in New York City. Have them get to work on this.
Red Sox-Rays at Wahconah Park? I’m in.