INDIANAPOLIS – Major League Baseball is approaching 120 years in its two-circuit setup and it continues to amaze me how often the “firsts” still come along.

Take light hitting Chicago White Sox catcher Seby Zavalas, who last week became the first in history to smash his first three home runs in the same game. Or the guy Zavalas replaced, Yermin Mercedes, who back in April became the first in history to go 5-for-5 in his first major league start, and began his career going 8-for-8, his bat headed for Cooperstown. His personal slogan had been “the best or nothing,” though he has since been sent back to AAA Charlotte.

At 7 tonight on Fox, another first will occur: The first game played in “heaven.” Or as actor Kevin Costner put it in the 1989 movie classic “Field of Dreams,” the first in “Iowa.” The White Sox and New York Yankees will meet outside of tiny Dyersville, Iowa (population 4,000). Costner will be on hand along with 8,000 Iowans, in the game to be called by IU graduate Joe Buck for Fox Sports.

Sox reliever Liam Hendriks has a checklist for Iowa. “I want to do my own Shoeless Joe kind of feeling, walk through the corn to the actual field,” Hendriks said during a conference call Monday. “I was raised to embrace the history of the game,” Sox manager Tony La Russa added. “Too often we lose parts of it.”

Watching Ken Burns’ PBS class documentary “Baseball,” what transpired in the mid-19th Century was a game that evolved from British “rounders” to one played in every American community and college, from below Coogan’s Bluff in New York City to French Lick (home of the barnstorming Plutos). In 1869, big city dominance began with the Cincinnati Redlegs, and the owners, who put in the “reserve clause” that gave them power and control over the players.

Thus, the Big Leagues were anchored in American cities, which is one of the reasons why “Field of Dreams” became such a cultural milestone. It returned the thrust of the game to Middle America, amidst the Iowa cornfields. 

When former White Sox manager and current broadcaster Ozzie Guillen drove the four hours from Chicago to Dyersville for Tuesday’s NBC Chicago pre-game show, he was giddy. Guillen, who led the Sox to the 2005 World Series title, apparently had never seen rural America. As that broadcast ended, Guillen was reportedly at the Field of Dreams souvenier shop, gathering up momentos for his family.

Back in 1919, the young White Sox were poised to become a dynasty (they had won the World Series in 1917). But legendary sportswriters Ring Lardner and Hugh Fullerton figured out the fix was in in their series against the Cincinnati Reds, and the new Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis (who grew up in Indiana, though he was named for a Civil War battlefield) forever banned Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ed Cicotte, Swede Risberg, Lefty Williams and others.

The scandal inspired two movies. “Eight Men Out” in 1987 (starring John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Chicago author Studs Terkel and a bit part by then-Goshen Mayor Max Chiddister) was filmed at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis.Two years later came “Field of Dreams” starring Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster.

Shoeless Joe Jackson’s baseball star shone once again, this time as a ghostly apparition stepping out of the cornfields, after the wind had whispered, “If you build it; he will come.” Jackson (played by Liotta) then disappears into the corn.

Had the Black Sox scandal not happened, the New York Yankee “Murderers Row” dynasty of the 1920s might not have been as prolific. Instead, it cast the Chicago franchise into 90 years of funk until they finally ended the drought with the 2005 World Series title.

Jackson apparently was not in on the fix, just as former Reds player and manager Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on games although he never placed a wager on his team losing. The irony is that gaming companies like FanDuel are now “partners” with the Sox and other clubs.

What hasn’t changed is the pilgrimage scores of American families make to MLB ballparks every summer. Mine came in 1963 when my Uncle Jerry took me to a Sox-Yankees game at old Comiskey Park. From our outfield seats, I saw the legendary Yankee outfielders Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

A cherished family photo was one I took of my stepdaughter Renee in the “Bob Uecker seats” at the new White Sox stadium (we were literally in the stratospheric last row of the upper deck) with a tiny Carlton Fisk batting at the plate.

With the advent of Facebook, I fondly watch young families bring their kids into this American rite of passage, as Trevor and Whitney Foughty did on July 29 at Wrigley Field, taking 5-year-old daughter Abby to her first Cubs game on her birthday. Abby was handed the stadium mic and proclaimed on the video boards: “Play ball!”

That’s what the White Sox and Yankees will be doing tonight in “heaven,” or Iowa.