“Baseball Canto,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I’m a pretty big fan of the Beat poets, so I’m rather excited about the discovery of this 1972 piece by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  While his style is a bit different from the New York Beats, Ferlinghetti is closely associated with the movement, and he acted as publisher for much of their work.


Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up for the National Anthem,
with some Irish tenor’s voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops in their black suits and little
black caps pressed over their hearts,
Standing straight and still like at some funeral of a blarney bartender,
and all facing east,
as if expecting some Great White Hope or the Founding Fathers to
appear on the horizon like 1066 or 1776.

But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first,
and a roar goes up as he clouts the first one into the sun and takes
off, like a footrunner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
as he keeps running through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleechers go mad with Chicanos and blacks
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up,
and the Chicano bleechers go loco again,
as Juan belts the first ball out of sight,
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going and hits paydirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

But it don’t stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the territorio libre of Baseball.

9 thoughts on ““Baseball Canto,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  1. Wonderful! Many of the Beat writers have this wonderful baseball side to them, don’t they … maybe that’s why we are attracted to them as writers! 🙂

    As a teenager, Jack Kerouac had his own fantasy baseball league that he invented with made-up teams and players and games, and then wrote about them.

    I love the tangled web of baseball fans! Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Jim Brosnan books; The Long Season and I forget the other one; maybe the only books written by a baseball player that might do well read out loud in a crowded cafe filled with hungry poets from 1957.

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