This piece, published by Spitball Magazine in 2013, was written by a Tigers fan living in California. I think it’s safe to say that every baseball fan has the experience outlined in this poem at some point or other.
It’s all I can do
To pay attention and drive
While the last half of the 9th is played out
The last battle of the regular season
It’s now or never
A baseball cliche, but who cares?
It is now or never
I listen to games from spring to autumn
Grab the morning paper
Read, critique, coach aloud to no one and anyone
I count the games, study the box scores
When the magic number is 1
I believe in magic
Until the third out.
It happens in the parking lot.
I leave my car and wander down the street
Buy some bread I do not want
Stare mindlessly at a purse in a shop window.
Then I see the clerk in the wine store, his head in his hands,
Eyes covered, and I know, I know despair.
I back up, go inside.
He has the game on,
The final season wrap-up among all the bottles of wine.
He lifts his head, looks at me
“Let me know if I can help you,” he says dejectedly.
“Thanks,” I say, and pretend to shop. Just to keep company.
We both know there is nothing to be done.
But baseball was different. Schwartz thought of it as Homeric – not a scrum but a series of isolated contests. Batter versus pitcher, fielder versus ball. You couldn’t storm around, snorting and slapping people, the way Schwartz did while playing football.You stood and waited and tried to still your mind. When your moment came, you had to be ready, because if you fucked up, everyone would know whose fault it was. What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?
~Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding
I have a vague memory of seeing this clip in the midst of my Saturday morning cartoon experience growing up. I love the implied conflict of brains versus brawn in this and some of the literal translations of phrases one might hear on a ball field.
At Fenway Park on August 15, 1916, Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth came out victorious over Walter Johnson and the Senators, 1-0 in 13 innings. Though Johnson managed to keep Boston to four hits over the first twelve innings, he gave up three more hits in the 13th, thus allowing Jack Barry to score the game’s lone run.
The great thing about baseball is there’s a crisis every day.
I never really could understand the idea of becoming “one with the bat.” Wouldn’t that hurt?
In the second game of a doubleheader on August 12, 1921, the Phillies’ right-handed pitcher George Smith gave up 12 hits, and yet he still managed to pitch a shutout against the Boston Braves, winning 4-0. Smith had also started the first game of the doubleheader, but in that game, he gave up three runs on four hits and was taken out in the second inning.