The ball field was constructed in four days last July. After an overhead power line was removed, a crew chopped down about 2� acres of corn and laid strips of sod, which were anchored with huge metal staples. Writer-director Phil Alden Robinson didn't think the Iowa soil looked red enough, so he had the mound, base paths and batters' boxes covered with brick dust. Because filming began before the sod had time to take root, the field got chewed up; Robinson had to call in a touch-up artist to paint it with green vegetable dye and latex turf paint. When the shooting was finished, workers had to go over the field with metal detectors to remove the staples, which could have damaged farm equipment.
The ballpark, much of which has since been replanted with corn, was a true field of dreams for hitters. From home plate to the first row of corn was a mere 290 feet in leftfield, 320 in center and 270 in right.
THE LAST HURRAH
SI's Steve Wulf on the retirement at 39 of the Phillies' Mike Schmidt:
Fighting back tears, Schmidt made his announcement at a press conference in San Diego. "You probably won't believe this, by the way I look right now, but this is a joyous time for me," he said. "I've had a great career."
Indeed, his was the greatest career of any third baseman ever. In 18 seasons Schmidt hit 548 home runs and won 10 Gold Gloves, and he always conducted himself with dignity. He knew it was time to quit after he waved at a ground ball against the Dodgers five days earlier. Yesterday's Mike Schmidt would have had it.
Last Saturday night at Veterans Stadium, Schmidt threw out the first ball, and the fans gave him a two-minute standing ovation. Those standees must have included a fair number of hypocrites, people who probably booed Schmidt throughout his career. It's hard to explain why they would have booed a man who brought their team five division titles, two National League pennants and its only world championship. In 1983, shortly after Philadelphia lost the World Series to the Orioles in five games, Schmidt, who had batted .050 in the Series, was booed by children who spotted him picking up his daughter from school. Even last week, on the heels of his retirement, fans were complaining on call-in shows that Schmidt had hung around just long enough to collect a $500,000 bonus for being with the club until at least May 15.
The intent here is not to open old wounds, but to note that sometimes fans—not just in Philadelphia, either—don't fully appreciate what they have until it's gone. In Schmidt, they—we, all of us—had something special.
THE COBB GAMBLING SCANDAL
Pete Rose and Ty Cobb are linked by more than their 4,000-plus hits and hell-for-leather styles. It is little remembered that 63 years ago Cobb—like Rose today—was embroiled in a gambling scandal that featured an alleged vendetta and complaints about a commissioner who was slow to act.