August 12, 2021, will forever be etched into baseball history. Major League Baseball featured its first-ever game in Iowa at the iconic Field of Dreams movie site. This event had years of buildup due to its announcement in 2019, postponement in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and rescheduling for 2021.
The Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees clashed in a battle for the ages on a field built adjacent to the original filming location. Around 8,000 people packed a stadium constructed from scratch that replicated several elements of Old Comiskey Park.
Leading up to the game, the White Sox were finally starting to get healthy with star players Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert returning to the team in the preceding weeks and days. Carlos Rodon was initially scheduled to start the game for the South Siders but was scratched a day prior due to shoulder fatigue. Manager Tony La Russa then called upon Lance Lynn to take the mound in Rodon's place.
Prior to first pitch, the White Sox added Danny Mendick as the 27th player on the roster and tabbed bench coach Miguel Cairo to serve as manager while La Russa attended his brother-in-law's funeral.
With the stage set, a scene out of a movie -- quite literally -- ramped up the fanfare as players from both teams emerged from the cornfields beyond the outfield walls to line up for introductions.
The pregame ceremonies came and went, meaning it was time to play ball.
Start Me Up
An intense tone set in right from the get-go. The Yankees looked to continue their post-All-Star break winning ways as they scratch and claw for a playoff spot down the home stretch of the season. For the White Sox, who tout a comfortable division lead, this event was a chance to show off just what makes them so special and why they should be feared come October.
Yankees leadoff man DJ LeMahieu got the game started with a single up the middle. Lynn responded by punching out Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge before inducing a Joey Gallo flyout to end the top of the first inning.
New York starter Andrew Heaney quickly retired the first two White Sox batters before the fireworks started. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Jose Abreu opened the scoring by lacing line-drive home run into rows of corn behind the left-field fence.
Lynn and Heaney recorded two strikeouts apiece as the scoreboard remained stagnant in the second inning.
Back-to-back flyouts started the top of the third frame before Lynn walked LeMahieu and gave up a single to Brett Gardner to make things interesting. The Sox righty hurler battled deep into the count with Aaron Judge, but Judge got the best of Lynn by depositing a ball deep into the corn behind the right-field wall to put the Yankees up 3-1.
White Sox Take Control
The White Sox struck back in their half of the third when Tim Anderson's RBI double plated Adam Engel, who led off the inning with a walk. The South Siders were just getting started, however, as Abreu's two-out walk brought Eloy Jimenez up to the plate with runners on first and second. Jimenez continued his recent destruction of American League pitching by lacing a three-run opposite-field shot to give the White Sox a 5-3 lead.
Lynn returned to the mound and worked a 1-2-3 top of the fourth to get the bats back in his offense's hands. Robert got the party started with a one-out double and advanced to third base on Engel's subsequent groundout. White Sox catcher Seby Zavala added another exclamation point to the box score with an opposite-field long ball of his own that made it a 7-3 game in favor of the home team.
Another three-up, three-down inning for Lynn in the fifth preceded Heaney keeping the White Sox off the board in the home half of the frame.
Just when it began to seem like Yankees were down and out, Gardner opened up the sixth inning with a home run to right, pulling the Bronx Bombers within three.
Judge then reached on an error and Gallo drew a walk, forcing the White Sox acting skipper to pull Lynn for Michael Kopech. The flame-throwing righty inherited runners on first and second as the tying run approached the plate with no outs. Giancarlo Stanton grounded out on a soft dribbler, but both runners advanced on the play. Now settled in, Kopech struck out Luke Voit and Rougned Odor to slam the door on the Yankees scoring threat.
Kopech's performance certainly didn't go unnoticed.
The Yankees then turned the ball over to Wandy Peralta in the bottom of the sixth. The lefty reliever worked a clean frame outside of a leadoff walk.
Kopech returned to the mound in the seventh inning and continued to flash 100 MPH on the radar gun. After Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada put away the first out on a nifty snag and throw, Tyler Wade bunted for a single to give the Yankees their first runner of the inning. LeMahieu followed up with a walk, and an extremely questionable call on a 2-2 count by the home plate umpire had Kopech fuming as he was pulled from the game.
Cairo called upon Aaron Bummer to close out the top of the seventh. Gardner then grounded into a force out at second base to put runners on the corners with two outs and Judge approaching the dish. Bummer walked the slugging outfielder to get to a more favorable matchup with Gallo, who grounded into a force out at second base to conclude the visitors' half of the inning.
After a quiet bottom of the seventh, the White Sox turned to one half of their two-headed bullpen monster as Craig Kimbrel entered the game in the eighth inning. The recently acquired righty allowed one walk and a wild pitch but escaped the inning unscathed.
A Frantic Finish
After failing to tack on insurance runs in their half of the eighth, the White Sox turned to Liam Hendriks to close out the game. Wade led off with a single, but Hendriks bounced back by fanning LeMahieu and Gardner. White Sox fans thought the game was in the bag, but the heart of the Yankees order had other plans. Judge jump-started a Bronx Bombers' rally by spraying a ball over the wall in right-center field to make it a one-run ballgame.
Hendriks continued to spiral out of control by issuing a free pass to Gallo, who had struggled at the plate all night. Stanton then came to bat representing the go-ahead run. Hendriks hung a curveball that Stanton lifted over the left-field fence to give the Yankees an 8-7 lead, leaving the South Siders in shock.
Hendriks finished his tumultuous outing by striking out Voit, but the pressure was all on the White Sox now.
Zack Britton entered the game to close it out for New York, and he retired the first batter he faced via a groundout. Up next was Zavala, who looked to be in a deep hole after taking two consecutive strikes to begin the at-bat. However, the White Sox backstop worked his way back in the count and eventually drew a walk, which brought Anderson to the plate as the winning run.
The White Sox emotional leader did not disappoint, as he attacked the first pitch he saw and drove a walk-off home run over the right-field fence, sending the Field of Dreams into a celebratory frenzy for the ages.
Everything we love about America's pastime was on full display Thursday night in Dyersville, Iowa. A nail-biting ballgame with home runs galore into the cornfields, some incredible pitching, and scenic shots made for a story you'd only expect to see in a movie. It was truly all that baseball fans could ask for.
If the inaugural Field of Dreams game proved anything, it's that the one constant through all the years has been baseball. Though a global pandemic shuttered fans from ballparks in 2020, this incredible event reminded us of all that once was good and could be good again.