MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is a book about baseball — or is it?
Tom Murray is a retired Minneapolis school teacher who grew up near the small town of Bancroft, Iowa, where they have a special ballpark called Memorial Park.
“I call Memorial Park in Bancroft a house of worship. It’s like a church,” Murray said.
It was built in part because of Murray’s baseball playing Uncle Tommy, who died fighting in the Philippines during World War II. The family took the life insurance money, and in 1948 they had their own baseball park.
So Murray, whose dad was a coach in nearby Storm Lake, put together a book based in part on facts, part fiction.
“For whatever reason they would get to the summer state championship, which in Bancroft they called it a final, and they couldn’t win the final game. And so my story, ‘Fathers, Sons And The Holy Ghost Of Baseball,’ is about that campaign in 1974 to get and hopefully win a state championship.”
That is really just a back drop to write about something more profound; about baseball in Bancroft, and much more.
“Namely, what’s life like in a small town? Why is baseball important? How do you begin to explain complex relationships between fathers and sons? Baseball is the perfect avenue to try to get at that,” he said.
Murray’s story sounds a lot like another story about a baseball park in Iowa.
“Anybody whose grown up loved baseball or grown up in Iowa has seen ‘Field of Dreams’ one or several times. I’m one of them,” Murray said. “I’m one of those guys who still cries when I see the father playing catch with his son.”
Because in this ballpark, Murray also sees and hears ghosts of Bancroft baseball past.
“I do believe there are ghosts, I’ve seen those ghosts, they whisper to me, they have for decades,” he said. “They tell me to tell this story, to make certain that it’s told.”
And that is OK, because in this town — and in the author’s mind — baseball matters a lot to the people.
“All the characters in my novel live for their legacy, which is spreading the gospel of baseball. And I think people that will read this story will think about their own legacy. It forces you to think about how you want to be remembered when you’re gone,” Murray said.