The Irish Connection to Field of Dreams

The Chicago White Sox will take on the New York Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa, on August 12, 2021. The game will be played on the site of the famous film “Field of Dreams.”

Over thirty years after its release, “Field of Dreams” is one of the most popular baseball movies ever made. But the film’s themes of faith and redemption transcend the game. At its core, the film is about the father-son bond, set against the backdrop of America’s national pastime.

My love of “Field of Dreams” is rooted in how I identify with the pain of the film’s protagonist, Ray Kinsella. When I was 16 years old, my father, Patrick Carr, suffered a devastating stroke and nearly died. The stroke left my dad partially paralyzed and unable to speak.

Over the years, my dad was able to regain some movement in his arms and legs, but his voice never recovered. This was a great loss in my life. Looking back now, I see parallels in my feelings about this and Ray’s longing to have just one more catch with his dad. The art of having a catch is more than just throwing and catching a ball — it is symbolic of time spent between a father and his son.

I remember having a catch with my Dad when I was a young boy. I enjoyed my alone time with him, partially because I was competing with my four siblings for time alone with him. Like Ray, I would give anything for the chance to have just one more catch with him.

The connection between baseball and Ireland is something that all members of the Irish American Baseball Society understand. My dad was the embodiment of that connection. His mother was born in Ireland and all of his grandparents were born in County Donegal, Ireland. He was an avid Detroit Tigers fan.

Thanks to my genealogy work on behalf of the Irish American Baseball Society, I decided to dig deep to find out if there were any connections between “Field of Dreams” and the Irish American experience. I was surprised by how many connections there are!

WP Kinsella

Author WP Kinsella, who wrote “Field of Dreams” in 1982, was born to Irish Canadian Parents – John and Olive (nee Elliot) Kinsella.

Kevin Costner (Ray Kinsella)

Kevin Costner’s Irish heritage comes from his 5X great grandfather, Guyon Gibson Sr. (1747-1793) who hailed from County Down, Ireland.

James Earl Jones (Terence Mann)

Surprisingly, James Earl Jones also has Irish ancestry. Jones’ maternal grandfather was John Connolly. John’s grandparents were Brice and Philomenia, who it is said was a white, Irish woman.

JD Salinger

James Earl Jones’ character in the film, Terence Mann, is said to be heavily based on the famous American author, JD Salinger. Salinger’s 2X Great Grandparents were John and Mary McMahon (nee Welsh) who were both born in the 1820’s in County Tipperary, Ireland.

Amy Madigan (Annie Kinsella)

Amy Madigan has 100% Irish heritage.

Dwier Brown (John Kinsella)

Dwier Brown’s Irish roots are traced back to his 4X Great Grandparents from County Donegal: William Dinsmore (1765-1848) and Ellen Hamlin (1775-1817).

Gabby Hoffman (Karin Kinsella)

The role of Karin, the daughter of Ray and Annie Kinsella, is played by Gabby Hoffman. Her 2X Great Grandparents were Thomas and Mary McNicholas (nee Barrett) were born in Ireland.

Burt Lancaster (Moonlight Graham)

All four of Burt Lancaster’s grandparents were from Ireland.

Ann Seymour

Ann Seymour plays the sweet, elderly newspaper writer in Chisolm, Minnesota who knew Doc Graham. She came from a family who had been in theater for several generations all the way back to Ireland.

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were actually extras in the Fenway park scene. Matt does not have Irish heritage, but Ben does!

The 1919 Chicago White Sox

In addition to all the actors, the movie includes many of the Chicago White Sox players who were on the infamous 1919 team. These are the ones with Irish heritage: the manager Kid Gleason, Hal Chase, Buck Weaver, and Fred McMullen. Included in the movie baseball scenes was also Gil Hodges and he has Irish ancestry as well.

So, as you watch the first “Field of Dreams” game in August, please note the Irish American influence. I know I will. And I will also think about the day that I will have a catch with my Dad in heaven.

Tim Carr is a retired auto industry executive. Since retiring, he has spent time as an author, genealogist, and financial planner. He is a member of the Irish American Baseball Society History Studies Project.