Right now is about the point in baseball season when you’re either feeling confident in your team’s abilities to earn a shot at the playoffs, praying for a miracle to boost their rankings, or wishing football season would just get here already. Like it or not, baseball season is still in full swing, and so comes the well-timed, if not poorly titled, recent release of Field of Screams: Haunted Tales from the Baseball Diamond, the Locker Room, and Beyond, in which America’s favorite pastime gets paired with America’s other favorite pastime: telling scary stories. The book is a collection of mostly ghost stories from major and minor league teams both stateside and abroad, compiled by authors Mickey Bradley and Dan Gordon as a follow-up to their 2007 book Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends, and Eerie Events.
Admittedly, I have not yet read Haunted Baseball, but even if you haven’t you’ll have no trouble jumping right in here. For those of you familiar with the previous book, you’ll know what to expect here; the authors have structured the book in chapters according to the subject matter, with quotes and the recounting of tales from the perspective of players, coaches, and fans from around the league. And there’s no shortage of subject matter presented here – from the detailing of player’s experiences at supposedly haunted hotels (such as the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, or Scranton’s Lackawanna Station Hotel), to alleged curses at the new Yankee Stadium, to the presences felt at old Tiger Stadium, to Babe Ruth’s lingering presence near a former brothel he may have once frequented, to Japanese superstition rituals, and ghostly encounters in ballparks – Bradley and Gordon’s book is densely packed with material. While I can appreciate the time and effort it took them to cull together all of this information, as a reader, I found it to be one of the biggest flaws in Field of Screams. At times it felt like the authors were more concerned with cramming in every quote they had ever heard come from a player’s mouth in order to add to the roster of MLB names featured here, never mind if the stories or quotes that they were sharing were all that interesting or informative. As a result, some of the more intriguing stories seemed to get lost in the shuffle of all of the not-so-interesting ones that were included in the book.
Knowing that the authors are both baseball writers, it makes sense that they would be excited to be able to include such a dense who’s-who list here, which is why I think that this book is probably better suited for the diehard baseball fan than for the paranormal enthusiast. I am only a casual fan (here’s to hoping the Reds don’t fizzle out again this year!) who picked up this book because I figured the paranormal angle might help give me a more vested interest in the sport. Maybe I now know more players’ names as a result of having read this, but I was disappointed by the very loose definition of paranormal here. Almost every story included here is a personal experience, and even though there are a few paranormal investigators quoted in the book, nothing stands out as being particularly credible evidence. So maybe that’s my issue, and the authors’ intention wasn’t to present an in-depth look at investigations, okay, fine, but then at least make it more interesting from an entertainment-only perspective and spin a good story, instilling fear and suspense in your readers, rather than boring them with an overabundance of quotes – the only people that probably scared was their editor and publisher.
In the last chapter, devoted to pranks players pull on each other, Gordon and Bradley write, “With so many ghost stories and haunted legends running rampant throughout baseball culture, it’s no surprise that guys routinely pull pranks to scare one another – usually the rookie.” In another chapter they detail some of the ways that players have “faked” hauntings in hotel rooms in order to scare other players (by moving furniture, banging on doors, etc.), so knowing this – and without credible evidence to back most of the personal experiences up – the whole book just becomes a series of guys quoting things that scared them, things that are most likely not paranormal at all. And while the section on the Japanese superstitions and traditions was interesting to read about, I don’t really need to read about Jason Giambi’s leopard print thong with its supposedly mystical qualities. I guess he wanted everyone to believe it was anything BUT the steroids he was using that helped him get those hits.
That being said, Field of Screams wasn’t a total waste for me – I did enjoy reading more about the team curses you always hear about, and after learning about some of the strange happenings in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame, I might actually tag along the next time my baseball-loving family suggests a road trip there. Like I said, a bigger baseball fan might get more out of this book than I did, but if you’re like me and looking for something that sends chills down your spine or keeps you up at night, you’re better off just picturing Giambi in that thong.