Amesbury resident uses backyard to build Little Ebbets Field replica to celebrate baseball’s many joys.
Globe Correspondent / March 22, 2012
Yes, Tom Hannon’s favorite movie is “Field of Dreams.’’ In the 1989 movie, Kevin Costner plays a
baseball fan perplexed by the voices of baseball legends whispering, “If you build it, he will come.’’ When he plows his cornfield under to construct a baseball field, his neighbors think he is nuts. Here is the story of his Field of dreams, “Little Ebbets Field.”
Luckily, when Hannon started removing truckloads of soil to create a one-quarter-scale replica of Ebbets Field, properly named “Little Ebbets Field” for the long-gone Brooklyn Dodgers’ home, in his Amesbury front yard four years ago, his neighbors kept any doubts to themselves.
His family, however, did not. As Hannon toiled like a man possessed to build Little Ebbets Field, complete with batter’s box, scoreboard, and a precisely measured layout (for Wiffle ball games), some raised eyebrows.
“When I first saw him building it, I thought he was insane,’’ said Hannon’s 17-year-old son, Thomas. Daughter Kelli Fowle wasn’t as surprised. After all, her dad built a Fenway Park replica at their previous house. “My whole life we have been huge baseball fans,’’ she said.
With professional baseball’s spring training well underway, Hannon and his Little Ebbets Field are gearing up for the coming season as well. His devotion to baseball is legendary, so Hannon’s recent efforts at building an online baseball community (at www.thebaseballpage.com) is a logical step. Driven to connect fans, from hardcore to novice, Hannon sees baseball as both culture and sport.
(The Baseball Page was transferred in 2013 to a new owner and later closed by a fantasy sports company)
At 45, Hannon knows his best baseball-playing days are behind him. But every now and then, when he hustles to shortstop and brings his glove close to his face, the scent from the worn leather reminds him of glorious teenage days when his body could keep up with his spirit.
He also remembers how baseball was an emotional connection with his late father, and how it continues to foster friendly competition and family tradition with his own children.
And baseball has pulled him through his own personal struggles. Building Little Ebbets Field was his salvation as he reeled from a divorce, Hannon said.
The field “was my midlife crisis,’’ he quipped. “I was looking for something to bury myself in.’’ With a new love in his life, fiancee Linda Whitney, Hannon has mellowed and is enjoying what he created.
He relishes the crowds of players and spectators who arrive every year for seemingly endless Wiffle Ball tournaments, Hannon said, and takes that laid-back attitude to the Baseball Page as well, connecting people who simply love baseball.
“We all watch the same game, and we all come away with something different,’’ he said.
He recalled watching Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series with his father, who was losing his battle with cancer. While the game, famous for pitcher Curt Schilling and his bloody sock, was cause for great celebration among Sox fans, Hannon’s memories are bittersweet. It was the last one he ever watched with his dad.
“No game will ever mean what that game meant,’’ said Hannon, describing the father and son’s elation in the sterile hospital atmosphere. “It was awesome,’’ he said. “It was a great memory. I think that is what is different. In basketball or football, fans don’t remember it like that.’’
At home, he welcomes people to Little Ebbets Field. Neighbor Cathy Richard did not expect a ballpark when the Hannon’s moved in but has no problem with it. Her husband even did the excavation work.
“It didn’t bother us,’’ she said. Hannon “did a really nice job with it.’’ And when the Richard family had a cookout, they took Hannon up on his offer to use the field.
Hannon knows magic can happen with a ball, a bat, and the mystical camaraderie of players on a field. He is most content when others catch his spirit.
“I used to live down the street,’’ said Alex Salucco, 17, of Beverly, during a recent game. He would ride on the bus with Hannon’s son “and get excited to see it.’’ Salucco heads for Amesbury when he gets the chance. “This is the best sports experience I ever had,’’ he said.
Those words are music to Hannon’s ears. “On nice nights in June or July when it is not too hot, the grass is green, it is so beautiful, and you just take it all in,’’ Hannon said. “Baseball is everything good in life.’’