Red Sox History: Boston's wild connection to classic baseball movie 'Field of Dreams'

Actor Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella, the father of Kevin Costner's character in Field of
Actor Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella, the father of Kevin Costner's character in Field of / Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register via

"Field of Dreams" is one of the best baseball movies ever put to screen. It tells the story of Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) as an ordinary corn farmer who heard a voice in his crop to build a baseball field. Once built, ghosts of the past, starting with the banned players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox, start appearing and playing baseball again.

But how does this relate to the Boston Red Sox?

The voice Ray heard has him traveling to Boston looking for a writer from back in the 1960s, Terrance Mann (played by James Earl Jones). They go to a Red Sox game against the Oakland A’s and that’s where our contribution (and obsessiveness) starts.

It's a very fast clip (about five or six seconds long) of the actual game Ray and Terrance go to, but it is enough to tell a story within the story. We wanted to know what game they are actually showing, so we started down the rabbit hole to find out. The first clue was the year the movie came out, which was 1989. Our thoughts were they filmed this in 1988. The next clues were in the footage: The pitcher on the mound for the Sox was unmistakable ... that was totally Oil Can Boyd. The batter, who was facing away from the camera, wore No. 24 and was a left-hander. The score could also be seen: it was 1-1 in the fourth inning.

We went to Baseball-Reference’s web site and looked up Oil Can Boyd starts against the A’s. We matched the box score, who the left-handed batter was (Ron Hassey), and even that he lined out in the fourth inning to centerfielder Brady Anderson. We found the date: It was May 18, 1988. The Red Sox won that day 4-1, with Boyd picking up the win.

Even though we are feeling very confident in our findings, we went looking to see if anyone else wrote about this. NESN did, but they got the details wrong … twice. They claim the date was the 16th, but Jeff Sellers was the starting pitcher (and he does not have a similar windup as Boyd). They also claimed the scorecard Ray Kinsella was filling out did not match that day, and they were right, but it didn’t match either day. On the card, Red Sox shortstop Jody Reed struck out in the first inning, but he grounded out to third on the 16th and didn’t even start the game on the 18th. Now, Brady Anderson did strike out in the bottom of the first on the 18th, but he does not play shortstop, and the second batter (second Baseman Mart Barrett) flew out to left, where Kinsella’s scorecard has him grounding out to third. So, both NESN and the editor for the movie couldn’t match up what you saw on your TV. Our sleuthing wins!

We enjoy going down the rabbit holes for all things baseball, and this was no different. Fact checking NESN and the editors for Field of Dreams? Priceless.