Monday, May 28, 2012

Field Research

People have written about the actual Red Sox game that was shown in the movie Field of Dreams. But tonight I decided to figure out the game shown briefly on TV that the daughter is watching during the film. Here's a screenshot:

The movie was released in 1989. The White Sox switched to those uniforms for the '87 season. We've got Carlton Fisk and a lefty pitcher in a home game. The only lefty pitcher on the White Sox between '87 and '89 to wear either 26 or 28 (it's pretty clearly 26 but I checked the 28s just in case) was Ricky Horton, #26, for part of 1988. So right there we've got our players and year.

I searched White Sox home games that Horton pitched in and Fisk caught in together in 1988. Fortunately Pudge missed a bunch of games that year, and Horton was traded at the end of August, which narrowed things down. And I was left with only four games! We've got April 4th (Opening Day), April 30th, July 31st, and August 16th. (They both appeared in the July 28th game, but not at the same time.)

Let's talk time of day. This looks like either an overcast day, or post-sunset but pre-darkness. You can see the lights reflecting in Fisk's helmet.

July 31st is a sunny, 73-degree game starting at 1:37. Between the lights, the sleeves, and the overcast/twilight, this can't be the game.

August 16th was a 105-degree day in Chicago, with the temp still at 98 at the 7:38 first pitch. If you do an image search, you'll see that it is rare to ever see Fisk or Horton not wearing an undershirt, but Fisk has something on that almost looks like a sweatshirt. Whatever it is, it's down to the wrists. This doesn't look like 100 degrees to me. This looks like an April game.

And that's what we have left. April 4th and 30th. (Also note that these two games were starts for Horton, in which he threw 7 or more innings--the summer games were shorter outings, making them less probable.)

April 4th, Opening Day, was described by the Sun-Times as "sunny" and "beautiful." 62 degrees. It was an afternoon game. Our shot doesn't look like that at all. The lights wouldn't be on, and Fisk wouldn't have full-on sleeves.

So we're left with April 30th. A 6:07 start. A sunny day, but the high was only 52, with a 14 MPH wind. Sunset was 7:48 in Chicago that day. This is starting to make sense. It was probably between 7:30 and 8:00 when the pic was taken. Lights on, but not completely dark. Temps in the high 40s, with wind. Long sleeves. The game ended at 8:33. Horton came out after the 7th.

So that's my answer. 4/30/88, Baltimore @ Chicago, Comiskey Park. Can't say I'm 100%, but many signs point to it. If I had to guess the inning, I'd say it's the top of the 7th. White Sox up 3-1, but the Orioles have just put two men on after Horton had retired the first two batters. Fisk is coming out for a very brief word with his pitcher, telling him to bear down and get this last out. Horton retired Orsulak to end the frame, and would turn it over to Thigpen for the save. The O's would fail to get a winning streak going, dropping to 1-22 on the year as the White Sox won 3-1. Ricky Horton would be immortalized. Carlton Fisk was already immortal.


Bonus: You may be saying, "But Jere, I've seen this movie a million times. The announcer is talking about summer, and at that point in the movie, it's not April at all. Well, the announcer's call is bogus. We know it's Horton on the mound for sure. The guy's voice is heard to say that he's just given up 4 hits in a row, 9 "all told" along with 5 earned runs in the game. The veteran southpaw's "summer of woes continues," says the voice. Thing is, though, none of that matches any of Horton's starts with the White Sox. It also reeks of "fake baseball game announcing done for a movie."

A case for Opening Day is that it would be more likely to be a game you'd have footage of. Also, the scene comes right after they cut from Costner looking out the window at snow. Maybe they were originally gonna have it cut from winter to Opening Day, but then they realized it needed to be warm out since Costner ends up going outside at night, so they re-did the announcing, making sure to say the word "summer" so it would make sense. In that case it would mean that the lights were on just in case, and I'm seeing a light tower plus the sun in Fisk's helmet, and the sky is actually blue. The game was over right before 5:00, and sunset was 7:20. With it being a sunny, beautiful day, I'm not sure they ever would have put the lights on that day. But if somebody wants to say this was Opening Day, I wouldn't go too crazy fighting with them.

Also, credit goes to the usual sources: Baseball Reference, retrosheet, Baseball Almanac, Weather History on the Farmer's Almanac site,, Google Image Search, and countless newspapers from 1988 via Google News Search.
Ricky Horton always said his life's dream as a pitcher was to appear on "Kiner's Korner," as he grew up a Mets fan in upstate New York. Not sure if it ever happened, but he can tell the grandkids he was in "Field of Dreams."

Great detective work as always, Jere.
Ha, Kiner's Korner, I remember that one. Channel 9, WOR, formerly known as the clunky WWOR. Or was it the other way around?

WWWOR, formerly WOR, Jere.

Ralph was great and once made the ultimate flub on that show: "Hi I'm Ralph Korner, and welcome to Kiner's...."

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