When the ‘Field of Dreams’ was in Hibbing

“Brady’s Colts” in 1917 (PHOTO: Paul Aubin)

With the successful completion of Major League Baseball’s “Field of Dreams” game in Dyersville, Iowa, I am reminded of a Northern Minnesota connection to the story.

But not the one you think. 

Of course you may know that the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” was based on the W.P. Kinsella novella “Shoeless Joe.” Fans of the story understand that in both the movie and the novel we meet a fictional version of a real man from the Iron Range: Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham.

Graham was a town doctor in Chisholm for many decades after having a short-lived Major League Baseball career. In the story, hard-luck farmer Ray Kinsella follows a voice in his head to solve a riddle. He goes to Chisholm to find Graham after picking up a famous author out East. (The fictional “Terrance Mann” in the movie; a fictionalized version of J.D. Salinger in the novel).

But the Graham story isn’t what I’m talking about today. There’s another connection to Northern Minnesota that I remembered watching the game last night.

“Field of Dreams” follows the redemption of disgraced Chicago White Sox star “Shoeless” Joe Jackson as a sort of parallel to the redemption of Kinsella’s relationship with his late father. Jackson and seven other players were banned from baseball for throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds for the benefit of gamblers.

In research for my book “Power in the Wilderness” (still in progress; due out next year) I found that there is a direct connection between the Chicago “Black Sox” and Hibbing’s town baseball team at the time, the Colts.

First, during the 1919 season — the very year the ChiSox threw the series — Hibbing’s Colts wore the road jerseys of the Chicago White Sox. Not replicas, but the actual jerseys. 

Hibbing Daily Tribune, May 9, 1919.

The Hibbing connection to the Black Sox deepened three years later. After they were banned from the game, the eight former White Sox players made money barnstorming the country. They played exhibition games against local teams for as much as $100 per player (a hefty sum at the time). 

Excitement ruled when, in 1922, this team of ex-major leaguers agreed to play the Colts in Hibbing. 

Hibbing Daily Tribune, June 6, 1922.

However, disappointment spread when the star attraction, Shoeless Joe Jackson, didn’t show. Neither did star pitcher Eddie Cicotte. The remaining former pros lost to the Colts 8-6 in a game that featured much enthusiasm from the overcapacity crowd, but fairly typical town ball on the field. 

Hibbing Daily Tribune, June 26, 1922.

Hibbing’s Colts — managed by Judge Tom Brady (no, not that Tom Brady) — represented the most popular attraction in the young iron mining town in the early quarter of the 20th Century. When towns built indoor ice rinks after taxing the mines, hockey became the dominant sport on the Mesabi Iron Range.

On a side note, Kinsella wrote a number of good books. One I recall fondly is “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy,” about an endless baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and a cast of characters from a small Iowa town. The game culminates with President Theodore Roosevelt at bat. Another story from that book follows a Cubs manager who is forced to choose between winning the World Series or allowing the world to end. Kinsella mixed fantasy, baseball and native lore in many fascinating ways. 

Iron Range history always provides a connection to the bigger world. I’m fortunate to live and write in a place built on stories like this.

Stay tuned for the Power in the Wilderness book. You can learn the story in the podcast of the same name that Karl Jacob and I produced for Northern Community Radio.




  1. Joe musich says

    Great piece…Thanks…I wish I could have read the names of the players. Did you dig any deeper into who they were ? It was nice to see Kinsella get some attention with the film. I knew of his work and had read the book prior to even knowing the movie was coming out. It is another case of a better book then movie. Although in this case the movie was pretty good. Now a drive double bill of Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out.

  2. Garrett Orazem says

    Two points: My high school job was working the mine stand overlooking the Pierce Mine of Butler Brothers and Hanna in North Hibbing, paid by the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce. I was only about 15 but my family had been in iron mining since the 1880’s so I had the general idea and was instructed by some folks from Hanna. Local people would come up in the evening and talk. I heard a lot about the Black Sox, especially since the mine stand was near the long gone original ball field which people said was elaborately drained to get games completed. Some said “Black Sox” players were on the town payroll and did nominal work such as painting the bandstand. This does not seem to be born out in the articles Aaron Brown has found.
    Point Two is that as I recall, much of “Field of Dreams” was shot in Canada. It is established from a Theater Marque (or is it Markey, anyway the SIGN) that time had receded to 1972 as shown by “The Godfather” showing on the theater sign. Too bad they didn’t actually shoot it in Chisholm, where many will remember that the theater was appropriately named the “TIME”.

    • Thanks, Garrett. That’s some great information regarding the old ballfield. I can confirm that players were brought to Hibbing with the promise of jobs and low expectations as to how much they would have to do to be paid for those jobs. The mines actually helped on this, putting some ballplayers on their payroll at times. There were a number of former major leaguers and other professionals who played for Hibbing and the other Range towns. The reason the Colts got these “Black Sox” uniforms was because a Chicago White Sox player from *1918* was on the team and remained on good terms with his old club. I do not know if Black Sox players would end up on the Hibbing team in later years. It’s possible, but I haven’t seen evidence of it. It’s more likely that the visit of the Black Sox and the former Chicago player who made that connection is the reason people might have suggested this.

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