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Field of Dreams

Redfield is the self-proclaimed “Pheasant Capital of the World.” That’s because in the summer of 1908, local entrepreneurs brought three pairs of ringnecks to Spink County from Oregon and released them in Hagmann’s Grove, just north of town. The birds adapted well to their new home, giving South Dakota a tourism boost and a multi-million dollar industry.

Redfield is where Hank Aaron went hunting and gave a baseball clinic to residents of the Redfield State Hospital and School (originally called the State School and Home for the Feeble Minded) when he played for the Milwaukee Braves.

It’s also my dad’s hometown. When I was a kid, every few years my parents would pack me and my three sisters into our station wagon and we’d head to Redfield from Seattle. I remember my grandparents’ big garden in their backyard behind the small white house with green trim. My sisters and I argued to see who slept in the screened-in front porch — cooled by the evening breeze — instead of one of the hot and stuffy bedrooms. And I recall old family stories, like when my grandfather ran the local creamery and hired women during pheasant season to clean the birds, pack them in ice and ship them around the country.

And the baseball field. I have never forgotten that field. When I played baseball as a kid, all our fields had dirt infields, so I thought the diamond in Redfield, with its grass infield a dark shade of emerald, was the most wonderful place in town, the perfect place for a kid obsessed with baseball to pass a few minutes of his summer vacation.

When my dad was growing up there in the 1940s and ’50s, the Redfield diamond had a grandstand that wrapped around the field from first base to third base, with bleachers extending down the foul lines. It sat around 2,500 people — nearly the entire population of the town at the time — and was often packed when the Redfield town team played. Before television exploded, local baseball was a primary source of entertainment in small towns across the Midwest.

My dad’s family moved to Redfield from Watertown when he was 7 years old. He remembered rooting for the Watertown team that summer, but he eventually switched his allegiance. He sold peanuts and popcorn at games as a kid, and can still reel off many names of the players on the 1949 team that lost the state amateur championship game to the Aberdeen Preds.

Ed Carter, a right-handed pitcher, was the star of that team. In 1950, Watertown picked him up and went on to win the national amateur championship. Carter died in 2010 at age 86, still living in Redfield. He’s a member of the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in Lake Norden.

South Dakota was once home to minor league baseball. The Class C Northern League operated from 1946 to 1971 and Aberdeen, 42 miles north of Redfield, fielded a team each year — the Aberdeen Pheasants. My dad’s grandfather loved baseball and often took Dad and his older brother, Ray, to games. My dad said the Aberdeen park was even better than Redfield’s, and he remembered seeing Don Larsen and Bob Turley pitch, long before they became World Series heroes with the New York Yankees.

My dad got to play on the field at Redfield one summer when he played for the American Legion team. But he also worked at the garage across the street from his house, and during a particularly busy time of the summer he had to miss some games. “Dale,” said the owner of the shop, “I’d let you play if you were any good, but we both know that isn’t the case.”

By then, my dad had other interests besides baseball. He’d known since he was 13 that he wanted to be an engineer. Besides working on cars in high school, he also learned to fly, getting lessons from old Doc Perry, who ran the local airstrip when he wasn’t treating patients. My dad worked there one summer and on one slow day, Doc turned to my dad and said, “Dale, go ahead and take a plane and get up there.”

My dad wanted to build airplanes. After getting his degree from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, he got a job at North American Aviation in Los Angeles. He later got a job at Boeing and worked on the second-stage Saturn rocket for the Apollo space program. A few years ago, he was at Cape Canaveral in Florida with my sisters and their kids and got to show his grandchildren the rocket he had helped to build.

In December of 2013, my dad had surgery for thyroid cancer, which added more meaning to our latest trip to South Dakota. It was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and they wanted to make one last trip to celebrate (my mom is from Rapid City). My wife and I flew out a few days early to meet my parents and drive across the state to Redfield.

We had dinner at Terry’s Bar — a steak dinner and salad bar for $9.95. We ran into two of Dad’s old high school classmates. The garage across the street from my dad’s childhood home was still there, now called Schroeder Motors. The little warehouse my grandfather built to store beer when he owned the Pabst Blue Ribbon distributorship was still there as well.

We drove out to the baseball field. The light standards, looking like they were from the 1950s, stood high above the field. The grandstands were gone, replaced by a newly constructed wooden platform along the third-base line for lawn chairs. Maybe they don’t draw crowds of 2,500 any longer, but two amateur teams and the American Legion team still play there — and they’re every bit as good as those teams from my dad’s childhood. Redfield Dairy Queen won the state tournament in 2000 and 2006.

And the field? The field was beautiful, exactly as I remembered it, with thick, dark green grass.

I walked out to the pitcher’s mound and I could hear my dad and his brother talking about Ed Carter, Kenny Phillips and Barney Clemens. I could smell the popcorn, and I could see the people of Redfield and a young kid selling them bags of peanuts.

Editor’s Note: David Schoenfield’s father passed away in 2016. Schoenfield has been with ESPN since 1995 and is currently a senior writer for This story is revised from the May/June 2015 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


07:50 am - Tue, July 2 2019
Jon said:
It is exactly as I remember baseball in the 1950s. Only one difference I was 8 in Milbank, and we had a very good town team thanks to Splinter Construction Company who had some summer hires who just happened to be really good ball players. I sold concessions, but when someone wanted COFFEE I had to the stand and get two and bring them back up the stairs. A lot of the coffee ended up on me by the time I got there. The rest of the night I would smell like coffee. In the later part of the 50s the Fire Chiefs had Roliie and Blackie, a couple of Northern grads coaching in Milbank and were already established baseball players.
11:49 am - Wed, July 3 2019
Sharon Levtzow Jurgensen said:
Your Aunt MaryAnn was my best friend In high school. Your Uncle Ray drove me back to Redfeld (home ) when we both attended NSTC in Aberdeen I so enjoyed your well written story about Redfield memories.

I have lived in Illinois for 59 years .

What a great time I had at our 50th high school reunion with Mary Ann.

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