Shoeless Joe is a baseball story with a large admixture of fantasy. “Shoeless” was the nickname of Joe Jackson, a player on the infamous Chicago White Sox team of 1919 that lost the World Series in the biggest scandal in the history of professional baseball. Eight players, including Jackson, admitted to taking bribes from gamblers who paid them to lose the series. They were suspended for life from organized baseball.
Sixty years later, an Iowa farmer named Ray Kinsella, while sitting on his front porch, hears a baseball announcer’s voice that tells him to “build it” and “he will come.” What is “it,” and who will come? Ray had grown up hearing baseball stories from his father, including how Joe Jackson was punished unfairly because he tried to give back the bribe he had taken and had played his best to win, leading both teams in hitting. Ray instinctively senses how to interpret the mysterious message: He is to build a baseball field, and then the legendary Jackson will come to play on it. He pursues this wild dream by plowing up some of his farm, seeding it with grass, laying out the infield and outfield, and putting up bleachers for spectators. Then he waits, and waits some more, and hopes. Eventually, the incarnation of Jackson as a young man in a baseball uniform appears on the field, soon to be joined by the other players from the 1919 White Sox team. Ray, his wife, and daughter sit in the bleachers to watch the games and eat hot dogs. Outsiders who are unbelievers, like his brother-in-law Mark, only see an empty field without any players and think that Ray may be going crazy.
A second adventure begins for Ray when he hears the voice again: “Ease his pain.” How should he interpret this mysterious message? Again his instinct tells him what to do: he is to locate J. D. Salinger, a well-known author of the 1950’s, and take him to a...
(The entire section is 775 words.)