There is a real field of dreams in this country and it's not at your local Odeon Cineplex 8. It's a real ballpark with real grass and a real motel ad painted on the fence and, right now, about 250 empty lawn chairs waiting on history.
And there is a real baseball legend in this country and he's not Robert Red-ford or Kevin Costner. This legend is 18 years old, shaves twice a week and just had a big fight with his best girl.
His name is Jon Peters, and he's from Brenham, Texas. And right now, Friday April 28, 1989, just a few hours before he attempts to break the national high school record for consecutive pitching wins, a whole town hangs on his bony shoulders.
Pressure? The Today show is setting up at the old Band Hall, waiting to see if you win. There was a camera crew in your government class this morning. People have been coming to the ballpark since yesterday and nailing their stadium seats to the bleachers—sort of the Black and Decker approach to reserved seating—waiting to see if you'll let them down.
Pressure is hearing that tonight instead of one concession stand, there will be three, and instead of one cop for security there will be eight, and instead of one photographer down the third base line there'll be 20. It's knowing that of the 11,000 folks in your pickup-truck, vanilla-ice-cream town, almost half of them will be sardine-canned into a ballpark that seats 1,200. The other half will be hunched over radios listening to one of four live broadcasts, and anybody left can watch the game later, courtesy of one of the eight TV cameras perched on your dugout roof.
"I swear," said Peters the night before the game, "if I had an ulcer, it'd be fixin' to bust."
And so it was that the 6'2", 190-pound Peters, 50-0 as a righthanded starter for the Brenham High School Cubs, prepared to take the immaculately manicured mound at Fireman's Park in Brenham, 73 miles northwest of Houston, and try to scratch his initials in the park bench of time, just as the town desperately hoped he would.
Not that he hadn't already done all this before.
On April 12 last year, Peters went out on this same field to pitch for his 34th straight win. By all accounts the existing national high school record was 33. Peters tossed a one-hitter against Oak Ridge, 5-0; he had faced the record, beaten it and been relieved of it. But a week later, a reporter from USA Today was on the phone with some distressing news. Seems that nine years ago, Timmy Moore of McColl, S.C., was stopped 1-0 to end his high school winning streak at 50, an achievement nobody had bothered to report to the National Federation of State High School Associations, which keeps track of such things.
Even Moore was unaware of his own immortality. "I thought maybe I'd held some kind of record." said Moore, now a management trainee with a freight company in Cherryville, N.C. "But I'd never been told anything about it."