Cooperstown to Dyersville: A Geography of Baseball Nostalgia

Cooperstown to Dyersville: A Geography of Baseball Nostalgia

Cooperstown to Dyersville: A Geography of Baseball Nostalgia

Cooperstown to Dyersville: A Geography of Baseball Nostalgia

Excerpt

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. . . . -- Sitnon and Garfunkel

Scene One, lowa

During a critical scene near the end of the 1989 movie Field of Dreams , about a magical baseball field on an Iowa farm, the avuncular Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones, offers the following words, which are only a portion of his more extended contemplative musings regarding the game of baseball: "The one constant through all of the years. . . has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's 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. . . . It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again."

Such overstated prose, conflating baseball with vague notions of "America," is hardly an uncommon brand of discourse. On the contrary, people have been hailing baseball as the very essence of America since the game emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century. What is remarkable about the commentary, and the movie more generally, is the way in which the public has responded to it. Shortly after Field of Dreams hit the screen, people began to drive to Dyersville, Iowa, where the story was filmed, to see the baseball diamond that was the centerpiece of the narrative. These travels have largely been cast in terms of pilgrimages; and, in fact, this baseball field has been transformed in the imagination of many of the game's fans into a baseball mecca.

Scene Tow, New York

The traditional mecca of baseball has always been Cooperstown, New York, the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Unwilling to allow its . . .

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