After the movie was completed test audiences didn't like the name "Shoeless" Joe Jackson because they said it sounded like a movie about a bum or hobo. Universal called director-screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson to tell him that "Shoeless Joe" didn't work, and the studio changed the title of the film to "Field of Dreams". When Robinson heard the news of the change, he called W.P. Kinsella, the author of the book, and told him the "bad" news, but apparently he didn't care, saying that "Shoeless Joe" was the title the publishing company gave the book. Kinsella's original title was "Dream Field".
"The Final Shot" was a big community event, enlisting 1,500 volunteers to drive for the last scene. For only a brief time could the headlights and also the blue of the sky be shown in one shot. The first take was too bright. On the second shot the lighting was perfect, but the camera f-stop was messed up. Just before the third and final shot, the director realized that as with any heavy traffic, most of the cars weren't moving. They would just look like lights on posts. He relayed a quick instruction through the local radio station: flash your high beams on and off. Though the cars are not moving, this simulated the appearance of lights passing behind obstructions to perfect effect.
The studio built the baseball diamond on an actual farm in Dyersville, Iowa. After the filming was completed, the family owning the farm kept the field, and added a small hut where you could buy inexpensive souvenirs. As of 1990, visitors were free to come to the field and play baseball as they please.
Then unknown, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are among the thousands of extras in the Fenway Park scene, and are uncredited. Over a decade later, when Phil Alden Robinson welcomed Affleck to the set of The Sum of All Fears (2002), Affleck said, "Nice working with you again." Robinson asked, "What do you mean 'again'?" and Affleck explained the connection.
Thousands of pallets of green grass were brought in to make the baseball field, but due to the haste in planting because of the shooting schedule, the grass was not able to grow appropriately and died. In order to keep the grass green, the production crew painted the grass.
Archibald "Moonlight" Wright Graham was a real baseball player. On 29 June 1905, with the New York Giants, he played one Major League Baseball game. Following that one game he continued playing professionally through the 1908 season, mostly in the New York State League, until retiring at the age of 30.
J.D. Salinger, on whom the character Terence Mann is based, was very offended by the fictional portrayal of himself in W.P. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe", upon which the film is based. His lawyers said that they would be "unhappy if it [the story] were transferred to other media," so the studio created the character of Terence Mann.
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson remarks about Ty Cobb's desire to play at the Field of Dreams (1989), "None of could stand the son of a bitch when he was alive, so, we told him to stick it." In real life, both players were very close friends, towards the end of the real Shoeless Joe's life, Ty Cobb came into his liquor store in South Carolina and asked Jackson whether or not he knew him. Joe replied he did, he just wasn't sure if Ty wanted to know him since most of the old players didn't want to anymore.
According to supplementary material on the DVD edition of this film, shortly before shooting began, the actor who played Ray Kinsella's father, Dwier Brown, was notified that his father unfortunately pass away. Immediately after the funeral, he traveled directly from the funeral to filming in Iowa for the scene. He stated that although the emotion was too fresh and painful, it had an effect on how he eventually played his scene with Kevin Costner.
In 1991, Hawaii's House of Representatives filed House Resolution 95 to plead the case for "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's reinstatement. Among the reasons given was a quote given by James Earl Jones's character in the movie that "grasps the essence of an American tradition, baseball." Among those receiving a copy of the House Resolution were Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams writer-director), Charles Gordon and Lawrence Gordon (Field of Dreams producers), and cast members Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, and James Earl Jones.
During filming, Iowa was in the middle of a drought, and the cornfields surrounding the diamond had to be given lots of extra water in order to grow tall enough for the actors to disappear into the stalks. As a result, the corn grew too fast for the Costner shots. In the one scene where corn is above his shoulders, he is walking on an elevated plank.
When Ray asks "Shoeless" Joe Jackson what he likes about about playing baseball, Shoeless Joe responds "the thrill of the grass", the title of W.P. Kinsella's 1985 book of short stories about baseball.
In the novel, instead of seeking fictional author Terrance Mann, Ray Kinsella seeks real-life 60s author 'J.D. Salinger. In 1947, Salinger wrote a story called "A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All" featuring a character named Ray Kinsella. And in his most famous work, the novel 'The Catcher in the Rye', one of Holden Caulfield's classmates is Richard Kinsella. (In the original novel, Ray has a twin brother named Richard.)
The Cracker Jack baseball cards shown in the beginning of the film are based on real baseball cards produced in 1914 and 1915. However, the actual set does not include cards of Babe Ruth or obviously Lou Gehrig. There is, however, a "Shoeless" Joe Jackson card very similar to the Jackson card shown in the film, which has become very popular with collectors since the film's release.
W.P. Kinsella, author of the original novel, was asked to write a review of the movie for a Canadian periodical. He gave it four stars out of five for two reasons: he didn't think the character of Mark was villainous enough, and he didn't think that Gaby Hoffmann (Karin) looked like she could be Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan's child.
During the "search for Terry" scene, Ray can be seen driving up Huntington Avenue in Boston, and in fact at one point, he's just a matter of a few blocks from the very site where the very first World Series was played between the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903, which were played on what they at that time referred to as the "Huntington Avenue Grounds."
The director has said that his greatest regret about this film is that he never used any African-American baseball players. The use of African-American players might have compromised the historical accuracy of the film since no African-American players were known to have played Major League baseball between 1884 (Fleet and Welday Walker for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, considered a Major League from 1882-1891) and 1947 - the year Jackie Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, the point was to focus on the plight of African American ball-players in that similar era. As much as Shoeless Joe was banned from Baseball, many African American players never got a chance simply because of their ethnicity.
Karin's line "They'll come to Iowa City. they'll think it's really boring..." is a reference to the original "Shoeless Joe" Novel. In the book, the Kinsella Farm was located near Iowa City, Iowa and J.D. Salinger's monologue (similar to Terrence Mann's) included ideas about people touring Iowa City before coming to the farm. In the film, the closest major city to the farm is Dubuque, Iowa.
The article the Chisolm[sic] newspaper publisher shows to Ray and Terrance is written by Veda Ponikvar. Ms. Ponikvar was a long-time writer (and eventually editor-in-chief) for the Chisholm Free Press.
After the PTA meeting when Ray and Annie crash into the lockers they are not exiting from the gym that they were originally in. They exit from the women's restroom at the school. There is not an exit from the gym that you could possibly crash into lockers.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The line, "Hey, Dad, you wanna have a catch?" originally didn't include "Dad". Audiences were disappointed in the lack of acknowledgment of father and son, and the word "Dad" was looped in during post-production.
When Ray's brother-in-law yells at him, "Ray, do you know how much this land is worth?" and he responds, "Yeah,twenty-two hundred bucks an acre," the exchange is supposed to connote that the baseball field represents a large, intolerable financial loss. Actually, a baseball field is about two acres in size, which even if it had generous proportions, meant that Ray was losing no more than $5,000 from maintaining his "Field of Dreams".