You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

‘Field of Dreams’ Game Is MLB’s Blueprint for More Special Events

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 8/12/2022 Matt Martell
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY Sports Network © Provided by Sports Illustrated Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY Sports Network

Last night was the second time an MLB game was played at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. The game was a success despite its lack of star power and, well, in-game excitement, especially when compared to what we saw when the Yankees and White Sox played there last year.

As you’ll read below in more detail, the Field of Dreams game was special because it was a singular baseball experience during the dog days of summer. Yes, it’s a festival of nostalgia and a way for MLB to preach its own importance—or, as James Earl Jones’s character Terence Mann says, “It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”—but that’s not a bad thing. After all, nostalgia is capable of softening even the hardest of hearts, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this newsletter now if you didn’t find baseball important.

But beyond that, the Field of Dreams game works because it’s different. Rarely do we get to see MLB teams flock to a small midwestern town with a population of less than 4,500 and play a game in a stadium that holds nearly twice as many people. Rarely do we get to enjoy an MLB game that is more about playing than it is about winning. Rarely do we get to listen to broadcasters celebrating the wonders of the game instead of complaining everything that they think is wrong with it. And rarely do we get to appreciate Tom Verducci wearing a fedora.

At a time when there are more entertainment options vying for our collective attention than ever before, it is crucial for MLB to give people a reason to watch games, and, just as importantly, to make it easier for people to do that. The Field of Dreams game was broadcast nationally so fans could tune in without having to worry about blackout restrictions or streaming subscriptions.

The takeaway here is that MLB needs to create more special events, and it should use the Field of Dreams game as its blueprint.

Have any questions for our team? Send a note to mlb@si.com.

1. THE OPENER

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY Sports Network © Provided by Sports Illustrated Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY Sports Network

“Whether it lives as an annual event or exists in a rotation of sorts, the Field of Dreams game should always have a regular turn at bat in the baseball schedule. The movie is that engrained in American culture and the game itself. Played in an 8,000-seat bandbox amid Iowa charm and hospitality, it is a needed reminder of baseball’s humble and familial roots.”

That’s Tom Verducci, writing from Dyersville, Iowa, about last night’s Field of Dreams game. He makes the case for this game to become a regular MLB event.

You can read his entire story below:

The ‘Field of Dreams’ Game Deserves to Be an MLB Tradition by Tom VerducciAmid thirst for ratings and likes and marquee names, why can’t there be one night in a long season given to charm, nostalgia and family?

2. ICYMI

Let’s run through some of our other great SI baseball stories from this week.

Women’s Baseball Belongs on the International Sports Stage by Lochlahn MarchThe U.S vs. Canada Friendship Series showcased all the promise the game has to offer.

Is Patrick Corbin Having the Worst Pitching Season Ever? by Emma BaccellieriWhen your performance is drawing comparisons to Les Sweetland of the 1930 Philadelphia Phillies, you know things are bleak.

The White Sox Are Sleeping Away Their Once Promising Season by Will LawsThe South Siders are suffering the consequences of doing nothing.

A Cautiously Optimistic Look at Cody Bellinger’s Recent Play by Nick SelbeThe 27-year-old former NL MVP isn’t hitting like he did at his peak. But after a years-long dip into the abyss, his production is rebounding enough to make him quite valuable to the Dodgers.

MLB Power Rankings: The Cardinals Have the Pitching to Make a Playoff Run by Nick SelbeHere’s where each team stands following last week’s trade deadline.

3. WORTH NOTING from Matt Martell

Albert Pujols currently has 99.8 career WAR (Baseball Reference’s version). He’s been worth 0.2 bWAR this year, and has a fairly decent shot at accumulating 0.2 more WAR before the end of the season, considering he most likely won’t be playing the field and will be used primarily against left-handed pitchers. If that happens, Pujols would become just the 21st non-pitcher ever to finish his career with at least 100 WAR.

Another possible outcome? Pujols could finish this season with 0.3 WAR, which would give him 99.9 for his career, despite being worth 0.4 WAR as a position player. How could this be? Well, WAR isn’t sentimental.

Remember earlier this year when Pujols pitched? The Cardinals were up 15–2 in the ninth inning and figured they’d let Pujols pitch in front of the home fans. Everyone had an absolute blast, especially Pujols. But, he gave up four runs on two home runs in his first and only career inning on the mound—a pitching performance that was so dreadful that it was worth –0.1 WAR.

So, for those of you who are checking my math: Pujols right now has 99.8 career WAR, which would be 99.9 if the Cardinals had deprived us of that joyfully inglorious moment. As is always the case with baseball metrics, context is key. And in this case, our lasting memory of Albert on the bump is worth far more than a nice round (yet rather arbitrary) number.

4. W2W4 from Matt Martell

Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Sports Illustrated Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

Less than two weeks after the Nationals traded Juan Soto to the Padres, he is back in Washington to face his former team in a three-game series that begins tonight at 7:05 ET on Apple TV+. It’s going to be a weird and emotional weekend for Soto, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun. “You could hear his laughter from the hallway as he said hello to old teammates, coaches and Nationals clubhouse staff,” tweeted Jesse Dougherty, who covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.

Soto’s return is far from the only excitement this weekend, and the stakes are much higher in some other series. The other Apple TV+ game tonight is an NL East matchup between two of the hottest teams in baseball, the Mets and Phillies, at Citi Field. New York holds a seven-game lead over Atlanta in the division, with Philadelphia 10.5 games back, but all three teams currently hold playoff spots. The Brewers visit St. Louis for a three-game series beginning tonight, trailing the Cardinals by just a half-game in the NL Central. And after having lost seven of their last nine games to begin August, the Yankees travel to Fenway Park for a three-game set against the Red Sox.

5. THE CLOSER from Emma Baccellieri

Something that struck me during the Field of Dreams game was just how nice it was to have a ballgame that felt like a communal experience. I was watching at home by myself. But I knew all of my friends who like baseball would be watching, I knew my dad would be watching, I knew my grandfather would be watching, and with a quick scroll through Twitter, it was clear that all of the baseball people there were watching, too. In that sense, it was as close to a playoff game experience as anything you can get in-season. (No small feat for the 2022 incarnations of the Cubs and Reds.) It wasn’t about the quality of play. It was simply about the experience—what it meant to have a game somewhere that people were really interested in seeing on a national broadcast. It was great. And I wish MLB would take advantage of how long the season is to schedule more of these—not in Iowa, but in historic minor-league parks, in the remaining Negro League stadiums, in any unusual setting like this. That’s the beauty of 162 games! There should be a lot of chances to get creative without making it feel forced or losing the special “it” factor. And baseball would be better for it.

That’s all from us today. We’ll be back in your inbox next Friday. In the meantime, share this newsletter with your friends and family, and tell them to sign up at SI.com/newsletters. If you have any questions or comments, shoot us an email at mlb@si.com.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon