Theater to Table: A Baseball Lover's Guide to Food
By Tim Ferguson
If you cook it, they will come…
The aroma of the barbecue pit beyond the right field bleachers as it tickles your nose; the nutty crunch of Cracker Jacks in your mouth and the sweetness they leave on your tongue; the refreshing quench of an ice-cold beer, cooling you down one drop at a time. These are just some of the immensely satisfying game day sensations that allure thousands of fans through baseball stadium turnstiles across America each season.
Ballpark promises of delicious delights and icy refreshments bring us about as much satisfaction as do baseball films, which invite our souls to pull up a chair to a table where fantasy meets reality.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of two of the most iconic baseball films ever made, Field of Dreams and Major League. Incidentally, the site of Ray Kinsella’s diamond in the cornfields of Iowa and the base paths of Willie Mays Hayes’ steal happen to also play host to some of the best food and drink spots in the country. So below we’ve pulled together for you some of our favorite instances of when baseball on film pairs perfectly with yummy eats in real life. Call this a GPS for a culinary home run.
MOVIE: Field of Dreams
LOCATION: Dyersville, Iowa
FOOD: Great American Popcorn Company, located at 110 S Main Street, features more popcorn flavors than there were ballplayers emerging from the cornfields! There’s everything from bacon and cheddar to cheesy garlic bread and cherry cheesecake.
BEER: Visit the Textile Brewing Company (opening July 2019) located at the site of the Dyersville Gasoline Engine Factory for some local craft beer selections.
FUN FACT: Other than Iowa, Field of Dreams was also filmed in Boston at the historical Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
PRO TIP: If you have the urge to “go the distance” like Ray Kinsella in the movie, a Fenway Frank is the traditional hot dog of choice at “America’s most beloved ballpark.”
MOVIE: Major League
LOCATION: Cleveland, Ohio
FOOD: Dante’s Inferno Pizza on Old River Road in “Believeland” is home to the “Inferno” Pizza, which is topped with kalamata olives, hot peppers, pepperoni, sausage, chili flakes and basil. It will taste like heater from the “Wild Thing.”
BEER: Wash your pizza slices down with a Dortmunder Lager from Great Lakes Brewing Company located on Market Avenue in Cleveland.
FUN FACT: The baseball scenes in the first two Major League films were shot in Milwaukee (County Stadium) and Baltimore (Oriole Park at Camden Yards) respectively.
PRO TIP: If the cuisine on the shores of Lake Erie don’t entice your taste buds, head to Baltimore and try some Maryland crab cakes with a “Loose Cannon” from Heavy Seas Beer.
MOVIE: A League of Their Own
LOCATION: Rockford, Illinois
FOOD: Get your day started 1940’s-style with a tasty selection from the all-day breakfast menu at Johnny Pamcakes, a classic diner located in Rockford on East State Street.
BEER: If you’re thirsty following your trip back in time, check out Prairie Brewing Company in downtown Rockford on the banks of Rock River.
FUN FACT: The try-out scenes for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League were filmed at fictitious “Harvey Field,” or as you may have recognized, the real-life Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL.
PRO TIP: If you should find yourself trekking through the Midwest, be sure to take a pit stop in the Windy City for some deep dish at D’Agostino’s Pizza and Pub in Wrigleyville!
MOVIE: The Natural
LOCATION: New York (filmed in Buffalo, NY)
FOOD: You cannot escape Western NY without indulging in your favorite flavor of chicken wings. As the story goes, Buffalo Wings were (allegedly) invented in 1964 at the famous Anchor Bar, located at 1047 Main Street in Buffalo.
BEER: As your body temperature rises with the consumption of each hot wing, you’ll need to cool off with one of the 38 beers in the Big Ditch Brewing portfolio, We recommend the Hayburner (American IPA) or the 100% NY (New York State Pale Ale).
FUN FACT: The baseball scenes in The Natural were shot at War Memorial Stadium and All-High Stadium in Buffalo. War Memorial Stadium was the former home of the Buffalo Bills (NFL) and Buffalo Bisons (AAA – Toronto Blue Jays). All-High Stadium doubled as Wrigley Field in the film.
MOVIE: Fever Pitch
LOCATION: Boston, Massachusetts
FOOD: Seafood is the cornerstone for any foodie visit to “Beantown,” even if Bostonians claim so much more as their own. A deep bowl of clam chowder (pronounced “chowdah”) from any of these top chowder spots is a good starting point before taking the “T” to Fenway Park.
BEER: First introduced in 1984, Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) became one of the early leaders in the craft beer revolution. Beat the “summah” heat with pint of Boston Lager or Sam Summer Ale, from the official beer of the Red Sox.
FUN FACT: The ending of the movie was rewritten after Game 4 of the 2004 World Series in St. Louis. Fox TV cameras spotted Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore rushing the field to celebrate with the Red Sox. This scene, which fans may have noticed live on the broadcast, was later added to the film to commemorate the famous (losing) “curse” being broken.
MOVIE: Bull Durham
LOCATION: Durham, North Carolina
FOOD: Carolina barbecue is the only way to start your night before catching a game of the Durham Bulls, the beloved local Minor League team. To get your BBQ feast on, try Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q, located at 2419 Guess Road, which serves up homestyle favorites six days a week.
BEER: Bull City Burger and Brewery has variety of European inspired beers, including ciders and even smoked beer!
FUN FACT: Kevin Costner has appeared in four baseball related films besides Bull Durham, including the aforementioned Field of Dreams, For Love of the Game, and Chasing Dreams. We’d argue that his depiction of “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham could be one of sports movies’ most memorable.
MOVIE: Mr. Baseball
FOOD: Since Jack Elliot’s career began with the Yankees, it seems only fitting to seek out some of the best and most authentic Japanese food in the Big Apple, New York City. And if you’re going to do it, go all the way with an authentic omakase. One of our favorites is any of the Sushi of Gari locations throughout the city—the city which happens to hold 29 World Series titles (Yankees 27, Mets 2).
BEER: If flying to Japan provides the authenticity you crave, then you have to try Japan’s most popular beer, Asahi Super “Dry,” which has been quenching the thirsts of the Japanese since 1889. (Technically, the predecessor of Asahi Breweries, Osaka Beer Brewing Company, was founded then and it used time-honored German brewing techniques to introduce Asahi Beer. Eventually the beer came to be known as Asahi, which was quickly embraced as a top-quality domestic beer and by 1903 had become the best-selling beer in Japan).
FUN FACT: Tom Selleck, often remembered for wearing a Detroit Tigers hat in the TV series Magnum, P.I., portrays the New York Yankees’ veteran first baseman “Jack Elliot” in Mr. Baseball. He would later wear another iconic style uniform for baseball scenes shot in Japan. Note that the Chunichi Dragons threads look eerily similar to the Los Angeles Dodgers…
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Rookie (2002, Texas)
The Bad News Bears (1973, Southern California)
Little Big League (1994, Minnesota)
Moneyball (2011, Oakland/Bay Area)
61* (2001, New York City)
Eight Men Out (1998, Chicago)
42, (2013, Montreal and Brooklyn)
Angels in the Outfield (1994, Anaheim)
…and one our absolute personal favs: The Sandlot (1993, San Fernando Valley, CA)
And there you have it. Not only does the film depiction of spectacular events on an Iowa cornfield and others like it inspire us movie goers to take a trip deep into the depths of our souls—but the locations that inspired these movies will also transport you to some of the best game day eats you’ll on either side of the Mississippi.
Happy Game Day and bon appetit, Hungry Fans!