Yours truly, Dwier Brown and Mike Sorenson
James Earl Jones, he of stentorian voice and accomplished film and stage career (that’s him next to Slim Pickens in the B-52), is also one of the few actors who have portrayed current or former Negro League players on screen. He played catcher Leon Carter (the Josh Gibson-type character) in “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings,” and in “The Sandlot,” he brilliantly settled into the role of Mr. Mertle, a former Negro Leaguer who eventually befriends the kids on the sandlot team.
But, of course, arguably Jones’ most famous movie role — my other JEJ fave appearances are “Coming to America,” “The Hunt for Red October,” the afore-referred-to “Dr. Strangelove,” oh, and voicing some dude in a black helmet — is Terence Mann, the disillusioned author hounded by Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams.” In the role, Jones delivers one of my favorite lines in movie history: “Peace, love, dope! Now get the hell outta here!”
It’s been noted by a few jaded critics, with whom I kind of disagree, that “Field of Dreams” presents only part of a complex baseball history — the players who come out of the corn field are all white ones from the segregation era, with black players, i.e. Negro Leaguers and pre-Negro Leaguers, completely left out. (I also believe “Hoosiers” presents a subtle racism, i.e. a team of all-white, aw-shucks country boys facing the big, bad, integrated city school, but that’s for another day.)
However, the fact that the main theme of “Field of Dreams” is spoken by a black writer who idolized Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field is extremely significant. Jones delivers one of the most famous soliloquies in cinema history, and, when Mann is chosen by Shoeless Joe as the one to chronicle the game of baseball in the great beyond, it’s a scene almost as moving as the last one in the film.
Which brings me to the “news” peg of this blog post … Two Sundays ago, my friend Mike Sorenson and I went to the Rochester Red Wings home game against the Thruway rival Syracuse Chiefs, with the Wings escaping with a 6-5 victory.
Late in the game we and the rest of the media types hanging around were joined in the pressbox by Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella (Kevin Costner’s dad) in “Field of Dreams.” Brown’s screen time in the flick isn’t that long, but Brown commits to film one of the most moving scenes ever in movies, one that’s guaranteed to make any grown man cry by the end.
Brown is currently touring ballparks around the country promoting his book, “If You Build It … : A Book about Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams,” and while I was home in Rochester, he pulled into Frontier Field for the Wings game. Dwier is a modern Renaissance man — in addition to his acting credits, Dwier is a successful author, speaker and blogger who’s been interviewed and written up in numerous news outlets. You can check out his stuff on his Web site, which I highly recommend.
While Dwier was in the Frontier Field pressbox a couple weekends ago, Mike was able to do a mini-interview with him, which Mike will write up in a story soon. Being the ever tactful fellow I am, I butted in to ask Dwier his thoughts on meeting and working with James Earl Jones, the man who’s figured so prominently in so many classic baseball movies.
Dwier said that of all the people on the “Field” set, he was most excited to meet Jones because of the latter’s storied and decorated career. Dwier related how he saw Jones in the film’s make up trailer, facing a wall of mirrors getting prepped for the day’s shoot, and that it was almost hard for Dwier to believe that he now had a chance to meet such a legendary, inspirational talent.
Dwier was just a wee bit anxious about initiating the encounter, but he told us today that Jones was exceptionally friendly, open and even gregarious, even introducing himself with, “Hi, I’m Jimmy.”
Which is pretty cool.
Dwier was glad to take a photo with Mike and I (shown above, with photog credit to longtime Rochester sportswriter Craig Potter).
I was going to post this last week, but I decided to hold it until after Father’s Day, which makes for another perfect news peg.
Now, if only Hollywood would make full-length films about the Negro Leagues … But maybe more on that eventually.