In an effort to thwart others from catching wind of their plans, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ front office had a code name for their pursuit of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
They called it, “Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson,” according to ESPN’s Ian O’Connor.
Bucs director of player personnel John Spytek, who is a fan of the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” came up with the idea. In the film, farmer Ray Kinsella, portrayed by Kevin Costner, hears a voice as he’s walking through his cornfield. “If you build it, he will come,” the voice tells Kinsella, who then sees a vision of a baseball diamond.
Kinsella proceeds to build a diamond, in hopes that it will allow his dad’s favorite player, “Shoeless Joe Jackson,” to return to baseball again. Jackson, an outfielder for the Chicago White Sox, had been banned from the sport for his alleged involvement in the 1919 World Series scandal in which he and seven teammates were accused of accepting bribes to throw the Series.
After Kinsella finishes the diamond, “Shoeless Joe” does, in fact, appear.
“More than any other franchise in American sports, the Buccaneers needed an unlikely savior to suddenly appear out of a cornfield,” wrote O’Connor.
Given the parallels, Spytek would tell Bucs general manager Jason Licht the same line Kinsella heard: “If we build it, he will come. Go the distance.”
“Just having some fun with it,” Spytek told the Tampa Bay Times. “And making sure people don’t know what the hell we’re talking about if they overheard. We wanted to keep it as quiet as possible.”