(Dyersville, IA) Before men dream of becoming president, boys dream of stardom on the baseball field and two presidential candidates pursued one of those dreams Saturday in Dyersville at a celebrity softball game.
“You know, I figured something was there, but I had to dig down deep and get it,” sweaty and out-of-breath democrat presidential candidate Bill Bradley said through the dug-out fence after smacking an in-the-park homer.
Bradley, a former professional basketball player for the New York Knicks, said he hadn’t held a bat for 15 years and insisted he hadn’t visited a batting cage to prepare for Saturday’s game.
“Sometimes you get lucky, you know. Maybe that’s a good omen,” Bradley said, hinting at his underdog bid to wrest the democratic party’s presidential nomination from front-runner Al Gore.
“You get that pitch up there, all I need is a good pitch and it might go…the only difference is I can’t do it alone, they (voters) have to do it with me,” Bradley told reporters.
Bradley and republican presidential hopeful John Kasich, an Ohio Congressman, were on a team which played during the Shoeless Joe Jackson National Tournament, held at the Commercial Club Park in Dyersville, not at the nearby “Field of Dreams” made famous by the 1989 movie. Kasich
made not one, not two, but three trips to the “Field of Dreams” on Saturday.
“It was like being a kid again, back in Little League,” Kasich told reporters. “This is just fun. This has nothing to do with politics. I’d pay to do this.”
Kasich rode in the Dyersville 4th of July/Shoeless Joe Jackson parade mid-day Saturday, making his way through the city’s streets in a hot pink convertible with Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, an Iowa native, at his side.
“This is so much fun. It’s one of those things you remember forever. Imagine riding in a parade with Bob Feller in Iowa and coming out here, going to the ‘Field of Dreams’ and playing some ball. This is
what it’s all about,” Kasich said.
The celebrity softball game was part of a weekend tournament which attracted 16 teams from 10 states in Dyersville, where locals are spearheading an effort to get “Shoeless Joe” in the Hall of Fame.
“Shoeless Joe” was one of the “Ghost Team” baseball players who emerged from an Iowa corn field in the movie”Field of Dreams.” Jackson was banned from major league baseball after the Chicago White Sox lost the 1919 World Series amid allegations team members were paid to throw the Series.
Jackson’s defenders point to his performance in that World Series as evidence of his innocence. Jackson batted .375 for the Series. He hit the only home run of the Series. He set a World Series record of 12 hits and in 30 plays, Jackson didn’t make an error.
“Those are not the stats of someone trying to throw a World Series, I’ll tell ya that,” Senator Tom Harkin said to the crowd of 600 shortly before throwing out a ceremonial pitch for the celebrity softball game. Congressman Kasich, the republican presidential hopeful, said after talking with Cleveland Indians’ star pitcher Bob Feller, he’s convinced Shoeless Joe belongs in the Hall of Fame alongside Feller.
“Maybe in that other dimension, he’s up there saying, ‘Hey, people know I was a good guy,’ and you hate for anyone to be wronged in life,” Kasich said.
Bradley, the democrat presidential hopeful who’s the former professional athlete, only supports having the Baseball Commissioner review Jackson’s case.
“I’d like to see what the Commissioner has to say, let him take a look at the evidence,” Bradley told reporters. “I think, clearly, it’s one of those things that merits a re-evaluation.”