Illinois home to its own "Field of Dreams"

staff writer
The late Darrell and Jeanne Alleman pose on the baseball field they built on their farm near Granville with a proclamation, which acknowledged it as an Illinois Dream Field, recognized by the official “Field of Dreams” movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.

The iconic Field of Dreams, a farm turned into a baseball field for the classic American sports fantasy movie released in 1989, remains a major tourist destination in Dyersville, Iowa.

And the site returned to the national spotlight when Major League Baseball hosted a game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees on Aug. 12 at an 8,000-seat facility, modeled after the White Sox’s former home (Comiskey Park), adjacent to the original field used in the movie.

Another MLB game will be held there next year as the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds are scheduled to play at the Field of Dreams on Aug. 11, 2022.

But, did you know there’s an Illinois Dream Field, recognized by the official Field of Dreams movie site, located about 175 miles southeast of Dyersville near the Putnam County community of Granville, just a stone’s throw from Interstate 80 along the Illinois River?

The inspiration for that field is all about a farmer’s passion for baseball and support of community events he passed down to his family that eventually led to the construction of the Illinois Dream Field.

The Illinois site hosted fundraising events from 2014 to 2017 that featured actors who appeared as “ghost players” on the original “Field of Dreams” movie, which was an adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s 1982 novel “Shoeless Joe.”

The real-life version of the field in Illinois was a dream come true for Darrell Alleman, who shared his love for baseball with his high school sweetheart, Jeanne. The two married, operated a crop and livestock farm and raised a family in nearby Magnolia.

“It all started when he (Darrell) was young,” said his daughter, Deb Kimme. “He always loved the game of baseball, but didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play growing up on the farm.”

So, Darrell became the scorekeeper for his team in high school and went on to coach Little League and served as president of the Bi-County League for about 20 years.

He was president of the Connie Mack summer league. He also served in many capacities in support of Putnam County High School baseball, where his sons, Scott and Kim, starred and each played on state tournament teams.

“He was very involved in all aspects,” Scott said.

“Our community really benefited from dad’s love of baseball and his organizational skills,” Deb said. “He always thought bigger. If you could have one game, then you could have 10 games.”

Over the years, Alleman collected equipment and parts of facilities used at baseball fields in the county, including an old concession stand and foul poles from the high school field.

“When dad was Little League president, they got a new backstop, so the old backstop came to our house and was stored behind a barn because he always wanted to build his own field,” Deb said.

Deb, Scott, Kim and their sister, Jan Chance, then gave their father an official set of baseball bases as a gift.

And when Darrell and Jeanne moved to their Granville farm, the dream finally became reality when they began construction on the field in 2009.

“He just had an idea in his head and it just grew,” Scott said of his father. “He just made it happen.”

The Allemans built the baseball field close to their home so they could sit on the porch and watch games. The first game was held there on Father’s Day 2010.

But there was more to the story through a twist of fate during one of the Allemans’ visits to the Field of Dreams site in Iowa.

“They were just sitting there on the bleachers and struck up a conversation with Frank Dardis. He was one of the original ghost players in the movie,” Deb said. “They struck up an instant friendship and bond over baseball.”

Upon returning to the farm, Alleman was inspired to host his own Dream Field game. He planted corn and invited Dardis to visit as a ghost player.

“He thought one ghost player was going to come, but to mom and dad’s surprise, Frank showed up with seven other ghost players,” Deb said. “They would go around and do events and fundraisers.”

The Allemans, through Granville Rotary, went on to host communitywide baseball fundraising events, complete with a showing of the “Field of Dreams” movie, from 2014 to 2017.

“They presented dad with a uniform in 2015 and he became an honorary ghost player,” Deb said.

“That was the first time he ever got to wear a baseball uniform. He was very proud of that.”

Jeanne Alleman passed away in 2015 and Darrell passed a few years later in 2018.

The field remains in place today and still plays host to some practice games. Scott’s oldest son, Doug, purchased the property.

“We’re really happy it’s still around for people to use and have a catch,” Deb added in reference to a famous line from the movie, part of which was shot in nearby Galena to create an historic flashback scene representing Moonlight Graham’s Chisholm, Minnesota.

This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.