Baltimore Orioles: Free Shoeless Joe

The Baltimore Orioles played in the late afternoon yesterday, allowing for fans to watch the “Field of Dreams Game” between the Yankees and White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa. First and foremost, I think the game was incredibly well produced. Kevin Costner coming out of the cornfield followed by the players, the game itself being played at dusk in a cornfield, and a walk off home run into said corn. As Costner said, “it was perfect.”

The movie Field of Dreams is incredibly special to those of us who play, follow, or write about baseball. Personally my favorite moment and the most poignant for me has always been when Ray sees his Dad removing the catcher’s gear and he says, “…oh my God…it’s my father.” At that moment it’s manifested both to Ray and the audience what the true meaning of the voice’s messages, and thus the story was. It’s not about baseball, and it’s not about Shoeless Joe Jackson. It’s about father’s and son’s. And not only is that the greatest story ever told, but it’s the very essence of the game.

Field of Dreams is my favorite movie. Nothing could ever top it; so I’m glad that Major League Baseball is in effect embracing it, and in essence bringing it to life. I’m glad that they appear committed at least to do it again next year, although I’m not sure they could ever come close to the spectacle that they put on last night. That is unless maybe the real Shoeless Joe and his friends came back and played.

To harp on that point for a moment however, it’s not lost on me that Shoeless Joe Jackson remains in a state of banishment in Major League Baseball. You hear part of the story in the movie itself; Jackson and seven of his teammates fixed the 1919 World Series – called the Blacksox Scandal. As Ray tells his daughter, he did take their money, however there’s no proof that he ever did anything to lose any of the games. He even hit the series’ sole home run.

However as we’ve found out in modern times, it’s disputable as to whether or not Jackson ever took the money. There are numerous reports, including those of the seven other players involved, saying that Jackson refused the money. And that he tried to report the fraud to the team as it was happening. Yet he was still thrown out of baseball, and remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame.

I guess I would submit that if MLB wants to make the Field of Dreams game such a huge part of the narrative, should we not maybe consider re-instating Shoeless Joe? And I suppose I say that for purposes of Hall of Fame induction. I think it would be a great ending to that story, for baseball to be one with the legend of Shoeless Joe once again.

It’s been suggested formally on numerous occasions, including to current commissioner Rob Manfred. However they’ve always scoffed at the idea. So let me be only the latest person to say it: FREE SHOELESS JOE!!!

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