A double play of art and baseball

My favorite movie, hands down, is Field of Dreams. As a baseball fan, I suppose that makes sense. But it’s really not about the game on the diamond, as much as it is about having a love for the game, and what it represents. It’s the kind of movie that, if you buy into the “baseball as magic” theme, nothing will ever top it. But if you’re not of that mindset, the movie will be beyond awful. As Roald Dahl once said, “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” And so it is with this movie.

I’ve had a copy of Shoeless Joe, the 1982 book by W.P. Kinsella that inspired the movie, on my shelf for a long time, but I’d never found the time to read it before. But then, two weekends ago, I picked up a companion guide to Diamonds are Forever, a travelling exhibit of baseball art and poetry that was touring around the country at about the same time that Field of Dreams was being made. Baseball speaks to artists and writers in a way that the other major sports never could. And that’s one of the reasons why I love the game as I do.

Think of Casey at the Bat. We all know that poem, but is there an equivalent piece of poetry to describe a football game? I can’t think of one. Does Take me Out to the Ballgame have a NASCAR equivalent? Very doubtful. And Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First? routine has no basketball companion piece. Baseball’s unique in this regard and Kinsella’s book, and the movie it inspired, are just another example of this.

So thanks to the baseball-inspired art of Diamonds are Forever, I took the plunge into my long-ignored copy of Shoeless Joe. It may take me a few days to get through it, but I’m looking forward to it as this baseball season winds down. It’s not like I have a pennant race to keep my eyes on.

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