As those of us associated with the museum are waiting in the on-deck circle for our fall season to begin, as chairman of the Board I am certain that we will hit a home run with Saddle Up II and its celebratory preview opening of Light and Legacy: The Art and Techniques of Edward S. Curtis.
I am also pleased to share a recent very special personal experience involving our nation’s pastime.
Though Sandy and I have made our home in Scottsdale and have done our best to serve our community for the better part of 50 years, we still feel the pull of our strong Midwestern roots — Sandy to Nebraska, me to Iowa.
In 1989, Kevin Costner starred in the classic baseball film Field of Dreams, based on W.P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe filmed in Dyersville, Iowa. Baseball was the subject of the novel and movie, but the underlying theme concerned father-son relationships.
When I heard that Major League Baseball game was going to be played in Iowa, in the very corn fields where the movie was filmed, I knew we needed to find a way to be there. Thanks to a friend with the Chicago White Sox organization, we were able to secure tickets to the game.
We flew to Minneapolis, rented a car and drove to Dyersville, Iowa. Tooling along US 20 with wall-to-wall corn on both sides of the highway brought back wonderful memories of earlier years in Iowa. Dyersville was Iowa epitomized — the town was clean, there were flowers everywhere, and the residents were super friendly.
The stadium itself wasn’t designed for such a large crowd, but once we made it to the parking lot there were lots of golf carts moving fans from place to place.
The stadium seats about 8,000. That’s two-thirds the size of Scottsdale Stadium, spring training home to the San Francisco Giants.
We were right behind home plate, 19 rows up, with a great view of the field, the acres and acres of corn in the background, and the house featured in the film. The weather was typical for an Iowa summer day. Hot and humid. You could almost hear the corn growing.
At 4 p.m., the heat index was 109 — Arizona hot. We were right at home. At 6 p.m., as the game started, a light and much appreciated breeze blew through.
The game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees was right out of Hollywood with both teams hitting 9th inning home runs. But this was no dream. It actually happened. In Iowa.
To me, the highlight of the experience came before the game even started. Kevin Costner slowly walked out of the corn field onto the baseball field. The crowd went wild.
Then, just as in the movie, a few players from the White Sox walked out of the corn. At last, all the players from both teams entered the diamond — from the corn fields.
It was an emotional moment, reminding us that the story was not about baseball, but about the relationship between a son and his father. “Want to have a catch, Son?” is the recurring motif.
Next year, the Field of Dreams will host two other teams. I’m sure it will be great. But the first game on this field was very special, giving life to baseball’s past just as we at Western Spirit bring the stories of the American West to life.
To paraphrase the film: “They built it; we came.” Sandy and I feel very fortunate to have been part of this extraordinary event and we continue to feel fortunate to be part of this extraordinary museum — Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
Editor’s Note: Jim Bruner serves as board chairman at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.