“You Wanna Have a Catch?” Catching Up with Field of Dreams’ Dwier Brown
Who could have predicted that two baseball movies that came out within two weeks of one another in April 1989 would have such a lasting impact on us today?
Yes, that’s right. This year, both Major League (April 7, 1989) and Field of Dreams (April 21, 1989) are celebrating their 25th Anniversaries.
And while both movies center on our beloved sport and are legendary in their own rights, the two really couldn’t be more different.
Major League is best known for it’s humor with its many funny, oft-quoted one-liners. And, of course, with Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle and Country Stadium masquerading as Cleveland Municipal, it holds a very special place in the heart of Brewers fans.
Field of Dreams, on the other hand, is a movie that pays homage to baseball’s majestic, magical link to the past. It’s nostalgic and sentimental, yet just as iconic.
And both movies have withstood the test of time, still resonating with baseball fans young and old alike a quarter-century later as their stars gather to celebrate the major anniversary of their films.
That’s how earlier this season, I had the chance to connect with Corbin Bernsen who played Roger Dorn in Major League, and this weekend, I had the chance to meet with Dwier Brown, the actor who played John Kinsella in Field of Dreams.
John Kinsella? Don’t you mean Ray Kinsella, Cait? No, John is the father of Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner). He’s only in the film for about five minutes, but they are arguably the most important of all.
No matter how many times you see it, your eyes will start to water as Ray says to John, “Hey dad…wanna have a catch?”
“I’d like that,” Dwier Brown as John replies.
And now, 25 years later, to coincide with the film’s anniversary, Dwier has written a book titled, “If You Build It…” a “funny and moving memoir about Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams.”
Despite being an actor for 35 years and performing in hundreds of other films, plays and television shows, it was those five minutes that changed Dwier’s life.
He has been recognized by fans all over who have told him poignant stories about their fathers and how watching the film changed their lives. Their touching stories have put into perspective his own father’s unexpected death just a month before he began filming Field of Dreams.
“I have a lot of fathers or sons who come up to me and say they’ve lost their relationship with their father or son… maybe for 15 years they haven’t spoken because of some riff–in some cases they don’t even remember what it was about exactly–but when they saw that movie they managed to take that person, their father or son, to the movie with them, or just took them outside and had a catch with them. And somehow, they managed to just put aside this long history of misunderstandings. That’s happened many times,” Dwier told me.
“Another one that sticks out in my mind is a man who was a lawyer then decided to become a sculptor. By being a lawyer, he thought he could be his dad, as opposed to being happy, which is what his father would have wanted him to do,” he said.
At the time, however, Dwier had no idea how iconic the film would become.
“The script was just so good…. I don’t think any of us had any expectations that it would be a particularly successful movie because the script was so sweet and kind of perfect… there was no action, no big romance, so I think it came as a surprise to all of us that a), it was so huge and b), that it’s had such a lasting legacy.”
Dwier grew up in Ohio and says that he loved baseball growing up.
“As a kid, I think I was impatient. I loved playing it more than I did watching it. As I’ve grown older and realized what all goes into the spaces between pitches, I’ve realized what an exciting game it can be. I grew up cheering for the Cleveland Indians, which was one of those hopeless endeavors,” he said.
Another story that Dwier recounts in his book is about getting cut from his freshman baseball team, but having the last laugh.
“I was so disappointed,” he recalled. “I told a friend of mine that the coach would regret that and someday my picture would end up in the Hall of Fame and sure enough….I didn’t end up playing baseball, but I am hanging in pinstripes in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so I think that counts, even if it was the backdoor,” said Dwier, referring to an iconic still from the movie that hangs in Cooperstown.
Now, he says, he doesn’t have a particular allegiance to a team, but instead tends to follow players that he likes. This was evidenced later in the day, as Dwier, who met and took a photograph with Scooter Gennett prior to the game, quickly became one of Scooter’s biggest fans, cheering him on on his way to his two doubles and home run in Sunday’s 9-0 victory over the Cubs.
With the film’s underlying theme so closely tied to fathers and sons, it makes sense that a big event is planned to celebrate the film at the Field of Dreams in Iowa on Father’s Day weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Dwier, who has two kids of his own, a daughter who is a senior in college and a son who just finished his freshman year of high school. (Neither was born when the movie first came out.)
“Kevin (Costner) is coming out and I’m bringing my son. My 91-year-old mother is driving out from Ohio with my sister. To see the movie on the baseball field where it was filmed, I think is going to be really magical. The people there, obviously they love that movie. Many of them were in it, all the extras that were in those cars…They are big sports fans, really fired up about it,” he said.
I haven’t read the book yet, but Dwier was kind enough to give me a copy. I’m excited to read it.
While I was quite young when the movie came out, the movie holds an extra-special place in my heart because, in 1992, I took a trip to the Field of Dreams, not with my dad, but with my mom.
While she’s always been a baseball fan, I think Field of Dreams, really solidified that love for her. (Kevin Costner’s performance certainly didn’t hurt.)
We went with a friend of hers and her friend’s son, who was just a couple of years older than me. I remember the long drive to get there, playing catch on the field and walking through the cornfield. I don’t think I was quite old enough to grasp the significance at the time, but it certainly made an impression and lasting memories.
In fact, when mom retired a couple of years ago, dad painted this for her:
So, I credit both mom and dad (who was a pretty great college pitcher back in the day and a big fan) with my love of the game. And, for me personally, meeting Dwier and feeling like I had a personal connection to the movie was very special. When I told this story to him, he was kind enough to send my mom a special message.
So yes, to say I am looking forward to reading the book is an understatement. And given the topic and timing, it also seems like it would make a great Father’s Day gift. Or a late one for Mother’s Day. Stay tuned for the review!