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Field Of Reality Checks

As the sweet music fills the background at the very end of the story, Kevin Costner says, "Hey, Dad, you wanna have a catch?" After seeing the movie at least 10 times, I'm still a basket case at this point.

Field of Dreams isn't my favorite baseball movie. It's my favorite movie, period. Sure, there are some close seconds like To Kill a Mockingbird, A Few Good Men, and any of the Godfather flicks, but the adaptation of W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe hooks me, reels me in, and consumes me regardless of how many times I've seen it.

However, for me it's the kind of film that requires viewing these days in the wee hours of the morning, alone on the couch, immersed in deep thoughts and memories. Come sunrise you usually can find me rummaging through the hall closet, seeking my mitt even though my adult sons are miles away. Pounding a ball into my glove in lieu of a game of catch provides enough of a fix so I can proceed with the dearth of responsibilities that await me.

Aside from the nostalgia and relationships that Field highlights, it's the anthem to the game that appeals to old-timers like myself. "The one constant through all the years," proclaims James Earl Jones, "has been baseball. This field, this game is part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good."

There have been some laudable movies about other sports, but Jones's monologue would ring hollow in Draft Day or even Hoosiers.

Despite my attraction for this 30-year-old masterpiece, I had no desire to stick around The Grate last Friday in order to see it on the videoboard in centerfield after the White Sox were blanked 7-0 by the Oakland A's. As already mentioned, my viewing occurs when I see the film listed on the TV guide during the early morning hours.

Besides, after the A's scored five times in the top of the eighth, my wife and I were more than ready to vacate the premises.

Of course, the big news splash last week is that the Sox and Yankees will meet next August 13 in Dyersville, Iowa, the site of the actual field from the movie. A pop-up stadium will be constructed with 8,000 seats. Capitalizing on the nostalgia theme, the field will have the same dimensions as Comiskey Park, which was unceremoniously torn down after the 1990 season to make way for the present ballpark.

In addition, there will be arched windows in the right field wall in an attempt to replicate those defining features on the back walls of the lower deck in left and right field at the old Comiskey. Nice they thought of that now instead of 30 years ago when the drawings for the new park were created.

Please be clear. I love stuff like outdoor NHL games in January on college campuses or in baseball parks. And I have no problem with the White Sox brass doing its best to spur interest in the ballclub with zany promotions and events aimed at bringing in revenue and nurturing a wider audience. Harold Baines Day on Sunday was lovely, with his family and former teammates in attendance. Harold's speech to the 30,951 fans was perfect. The lone blemish was the 2-0 blanking the A's put on the local team, whose Lucas Giolito struck out a career high 13.

Having dinner with friends Saturday evening, I asked what they thought about next summer's game in Iowa. "Cute," my pal Chuck said, and I suppose that's as good a description as any ,although for the folks planning this event, it's not quite so simple.

The game will be nationally televised on Fox so millions can see that Chicago has two baseball teams. They also hopefully will see a ballclub in the throes of a successful rebuild, so maybe the tourists from Fargo or Spokane will buy a ticket to The Grate the next time they're in Chicago.

However, the kind of exposure most interesting to me are games in October. I couldn't care less whether fans in Albuquerque or Laramie learn about Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson in August. I'd much rather they tune in when the leaves are turning yellow and red to see our Sox engaged in games that really count.

So the exposure angle appeals to me not in the least.

Nor does the paltry seating capacity, which will make this game the smallest draw of the season. And who will be sitting in those seats? Someone at Saturday's dinner table said, "The people from Iowa." It surely won't be the rank-and-file who filled the park on Sunday. Obviously the guy in the M&M jacket will have his usual place behind home plate, but my guess is that the other 7,999 patrons will dig deep into their pockets for tickets that sell for much less at The Grate.

I'm certain the Sox front office is well aware that it is giving up a home weekend game against the Yankees where a four-game, Thursday-to-Sunday set in June of this season drew an average of 32,525. Revenue from gate receipts has become less and less important over the years as revenue streams from broadcast rights and team gear have become equally or more critical.

Nevertheless, it's not a stretch to think that next August's game - scheduled for a Thursday before a Friday open date and then weekend games back at The Grate - would draw upwards of 35,000 if it were played on the South Side. All of which leads me to assume that the Sox have figured out how this loss of revenue will be compensated. Will tickets cost four times as much? Will Fox make up the difference? Will MLB pay the Sox for the opportunity to showcase the game?

Having once navigated the stairs at Comiskey selling beer and other delicacies, I'm also aware that the vendors will lose out on a hefty payday because of a mid-summer Yankee game played 207 miles away from 35th and Shields. Maybe the Sox will charter a bus for the fellas and gals so that they can hawk their items in Dyersville. Yeah, right!

Maybe I needn't be such a sourpuss. This game will make lots of people curious, engaged, and gleeful. Come next August there will be a buzz about the Sox playing on the Field of Dreams. Wouldn't it be otherworldly if the Sox trailed by a run in the bottom of the ninth with a man on base, and Jose or Eloy or Yoan stepped to the dish and hit a high, towering drive over those arched windows of the right field fence. Now that's a movie I'd be ecstatic to see day, night or any time.

* * * * *

Meanwhile back to reality . . .

After subduing Detroit, basically a Triple-A team, three-out-of-four earlier in the week, the Oakland A's provided a much stiffer challenge over the weekend. The Sox scored three runs 0 all coming in Saturday's 3-2 win with the help of some shoddy defense by the usually dependable A's.

Starting pitchers Ross Detwiler, Reynaldo Lopez and Giolito covered 17⅔ innings, allowing 15 hits and four earned runs while walking eight and striking out 20, good for a combined ERA of 2.04.

Most of that fine pitching was for naught since the offense went 16-for-90 (.178) and 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The Sox managed to scrape out just four extra-base hits in the three games. This is an oft-repeated script.

Now the Houston Astros come to town for three games beginning Monday night. The 'Stros are 77-41, tied with the Yankees for baseball's second-best record behind the 79-41 Dodgers. Since the All-Star break, Houston has won 20 of 28 games while the Sox have dropped 20 of 30. Please remember that back in May the Sox split a four-game set in Houston. We'll see if they can be as competitive this time.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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