By Jeff Labrecque
Updated August 27, 2007 at 11:08 PM EDT
Credit: Field of Dreams: Kobal Collection

Not since Mighty Casey whiffed on a high hard one has baseball so sapped a hamlet’s joy. For the last 18 years, a devout corps of “Ghost Players” has emerged from the outfield cornstalks to entertain the 60,000 people who annually visit the Field of Dreams baseball diamond in Dyersville, Iowa. The field and neighboring farmhouse were the setting for the 1989 Kevin Costner baseball film and have grown into one of the state’s most popular landmarks. The field’s not going anywhere, fortunately, but on Sept. 30, the ballplayers — representing the infamous Eight Men Out of the 1919 Chicago White Sox (including Shoeless Joe Jackson, played in the film by Ray Liotta, pictured) — will officially retire.

The announcement coincides with the recent consolidation of the site; the field was constructed on adjacent properties and the neighbors hadn’t always behaved neighborly about the management of the attraction. The Lansing family, who own the diamond and the farmhouse, had declined hosting recent high-profile events, while the Ameskamps, who owned left and centerfield, promoted the “Ghost Players” and welcomed Netflix and ESPN to their field of dreams. Last week, the Ameskamps sold their 93 acres to the Lansings, and Shoeless Joe’s redemptive romps in the cornfield are down to their last few at-bats. Say it ain’t so.

addCredit(“Field of Dreams: Kobal Collection”)