Actor Ray Liotta died this week at age 67. Liotta is perhaps best known for the iconic "Goodfellas," but in sports circles, he's also very well-known for his portrayal of Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1989's "Field of Dreams."
Mileage varies, obviously, but "Field of Dreams" is generally regarded as one of the best baseball movies ever. There's even now an annual MLB game themed after the movie and played in Iowa. The driving force behind the movie is the ghostly presence of Liotta's Jackson, so let's take a quick second to pay homage.
One might recall that initially, Kevin Costner's character hears, "if you build it, he will come" and voice is thought to be referring to building a baseball field so Shoeless Joe Jackson can come play.
When Jackson's ghost does show up, he does some baseball activities with Costner's Ray Kinsella, including batting practice:
Perhaps the most enduring part of that scene -- other than the line drive right back at Kinsella once Shoeless Joe told him where he wanted it -- is that Liotta hit right-handed in the scene. Shoeless Joe Jackson was a left-handed hitter.
Liotta said he regretted the inaccuracy (via the New York Post in a 2004 story):
"For a month, I was batting left-handed and throwing right-handed," Liotta explains in the new "Field of Dreams" DVD two-disc set from Universal. "Rod Dedeaux, who was the coach of USC, who won like 14 National Championships . . . and Donnie Buford, who played for the Baltimore Orioles was my coach. So one day the director came down to see how I was doing and I could see them mumbling and saying stuff and looking over and they said, 'Do you mind, it doesn't matter if it is historically accurate.' So they made me go right-handed and left-handed.
"To this day I regret it because I'm a bug, making sure things are accurate," Liotta says. "There used to be Monday Night Baseball and they were talking about the movie and how wonderful the movie was and some announcer who shall remain nameless said, 'Yeah, but Shoeless Joe was batting the wrong way.'
"Well, he didn't come down from heaven either, so . . ."
The other part with Liotta playing Jackson that has endured for decades would be his Ty Cobb comment. Go to about the 15-second mark in here and enjoy the line along with that classic Liotta laugh that became most famous in Goodfellas.
The movie "Field of Dreams" was but a small part of Liotta's life, but for so many baseball fans, it was an important part. He even acknowledged as much years later.
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say because of [‘Field of Dreams’], they play with their kids more. You know? That time goes, and you’re busy working, and before you know it, time’s up.”— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 26, 2022
- Ray Liotta to the American Film Institute pic.twitter.com/Q9UWS7v6Nc