“Baseball Days, ’61,” by Peter Balakian

Peter Balakian is an Armenian American writer and academic who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2016 for his collection, Ozone Journal. This collection includes the poem below, which shines a light on the fact that even as Roger Maris hit his historic 61st home run during the 1961 season, the world continued to move with myriad historic events simultaneously.

*

All summer the patio drifted in and out of light the color of margarine;
days were blue, not always sky blue.
At night the word Algeria circulated among the grown-ups.

A patient of my father had whooping cough, the words drifted into
summer blue. The evenings spun into stadium lights.
Kennedy’s hair blew across the screen. Castro was just a sofa.

I saw James Meredith’s face through a spread of leaves
on the evening news. The fridge sweat with orangeade,
the trees whooped some nights in rain—

a kid down the street kept coughing into his mitt.
Static sounds from Comiskey and Fenway came
though the vinyl, the plastic, the pillow—

So when it left Stallard’s hand, when Roger Maris’s arms whipped
the bat and the bullet-arc carried into the chasm the disaffections
at 344 ft. near the bullpen fence

under the green girder holding up the voices rising into the façade and over the
river
where a Baptist choir on Lenox Ave. was sending up a variation of Sweet Chariot
into the traffic on the FDR that was jammed at the Triboro

where a derrick was broken and the cables of its arms picked up the star-blast of
voices coming over the Stadium façade spilling down the black next-game
sign into the vector
of a tilted Coke bottle on a billboard

at the edge of the river where a cloud of pigeons rose over Roosevelt Island.
It was evening by the time the cars unjammed and the green of the outfield unfroze
and the white arc had faded into skyline before fall came

full of boys throwing themselves onto the turf with inexplicable desire
for the thing promised. The going. Then gone.

Edwin Jackson

Edwin Jackson, April 2010 (Steven Groves / Wikimedia Commons)

Pitcher Edwin Jackson was born on September 9, 1983 in Neu Ulm, Germany while his father, Edwin Jackson Sr., was serving in the United States Army there. He has the distinction of having played for more major league teams than any other player in Major League Baseball history. Over the course of a career that spanned sixteen years, Jackson played for fourteen MLB teams:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers (2003–2005)
  • Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays (2006–2008)
  • Detroit Tigers (2009, 2019)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks (2010)
  • Chicago White Sox (2010–2011)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (2011)
  • Washington Nationals (2012, 2017)
  • Chicago Cubs (2013–2015)
  • Atlanta Braves (2015)
  • Miami Marlins (2016)
  • San Diego Padres (2016)
  • Baltimore Orioles (2017)
  • Oakland Athletics (2018)
  • Toronto Blue Jays (2019)

Jackson was named to the American League All-Star team in 2009. On June 25, 2010, as a Diamondback, he threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jackson was also a member of the 2011 World Series champion Cardinals, though he lost the only game he appeared in. Jackson’s last MLB appearance took place on September 28, 2019 with the Detroit Tigers.

In 2021, Jackson was named to the roster of the United States national baseball team, which qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The team went on to win silver, falling to Japan in the gold-medal game.

On September 10, 2022, Edwin Jackson announced his retirement from baseball.

Edwin Jackson, 2021 (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Robert Jordan/Released)

RIP Maury Wills

Maury Wills
Maury Wills, 1960 (University of Southern California Libraries / California Historical Society / Release under the CC BY Attribution license — https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Maurice Morning Wills was born October 2, 1932 in Washington, D.C. He began playing semi-professional baseball at the age of 14 and signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, upon graduating from high school. He made his major league debut with the Dodgers, now in Los Angeles, in 1959 and spent most of his career with L.A. He was a member of the Dodgers team that won the World Series in 1959, 1963, and 1965.

Wills was named the National League MVP in 1962, stealing a record 104 bases to break the previous modern era mark of 96 set by Ty Cobb. He was named to seven All-Star teams and was the first MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1962. Wills also won Gold Gloves at shortstop in 1961 and 1962. Over the course of his fourteen-year career, Wills batted .281 with 20 home runs, 458 runs batted in, 2,134 hits, 1,067 runs, 177 doubles, 71 triples, 586 stolen bases, and 552 bases on balls in 1,942 games.

Wills was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, serving as a representative of the Dodgers Legend Bureau, from 2009 until his death. Maury Wills died on September 19, 2022, at the age of 89.

Happy Labor Day

I hope everyone has a relaxing Labor Day! If you are traveling, please travel safe in the midst of the chaos.

American flag before the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game (public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Reading Robinson panel

A few nights ago, in recognition of the 75th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum hosted a panel of authors who discussed the legacy of Jackie Robinson. The discussion covered more than just Jackie Robinson the baseball player. These gentlemen also delved into Robinson’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and what he would think of the Black Lives Matter movement today.

I missed the live stream of the panel, but fortunately, the video is still available through YouTube. It’s worth a listen, if you’re interested. There are a few ads in the beginning of the stream, so if you want to skip right to the content, it begins at 6:10.

RIP Vin Scully

Vincent Edward Scully was born on November 29, 1927 in the Bronx, New York, growing up in Manhattan. He fell in love with baseball when, at the age of eight, he saw the results of the second game of the 1936 World Series at a laundromat and felt a pang of sympathy for the badly defeated New York Giants.

Scully was best known for calling games for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, beginning in 1950 and ending in 2016. His 67-year run calling games constituted the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history, and he was second only to Tommy Lasorda in terms of the number of years associated with the Dodgers organization in any capacity. Scully was known for his distinctive voice, his descriptive style, and his signature introduction to Dodgers games: “It’s time for Dodger baseball! Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon (or evening) to you, wherever you may be.”

He is considered by many to be the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time, with his final game being broadcast from San Francisco’s AT&T Park on October 2, 2016. His many awards and achievements include being awarded the Ford C. Frick Award (1982), the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award (2014), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2016). Scully even has a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

Vin Scully passed away August 2, 2022 at the age of 94.

VinScully0308
Vin Scully, March 2008 (Craig Y. Fujii/Wikimedia Commons)

Video tour of Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame

Earlier this month, TheDailyWoo posted this video of his trip to Cooperstown, New York and his walk through the Baseball Hall of Fame. I had the opportunity to visit the town and the museum a few years ago, and this video was a nice reminder of the sights and the atmosphere of the Cooperstown experience. The town is full of nostalgia, the Hall of Fame museum is awe-inspiring, and this video reflects those feelings well.

2022 All-Star Game schedule

The All-Star break is now underway, and the All-Start game is slated to take place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Here is the schedule for the next couple of days:

Home Run Derby: Monday, July 18, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

All-Star Game: Tuesday, July 19, 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox

If you are interested in following the Home Run Derby, you can find the bracket and information about the competition’s participants through ESPN.com here.

Rosters for the All-Star game can be found here.

Dodger_Stadium,_Los_Angeles,_California_LCCN2013632442.tif
Dodger Stadium (Library of Congress)

Home Run Derby X – London

The inaugural Home Run Derby X took place in London this afternoon. I had seen some vague references to it over the past week, though nothing that caught my attention to the point of thinking that I needed or wanted to watch it. However, as I sat in my living room hiding from the heat wave that has been pummeling the Midwest for far longer than should be necessary, I stumbled upon the final of the Home Run Derby X streaming on YouTube.

I figured, what the hell, why not put it on? I let the stream run and took a moment every now and then to pause my activities to see what was going on.

Honestly? It was weird. The final of the competition featured the “Yankees” vs. the “Red Sox” (go figure). Representing the MLB for the Red Sox was Jonny Gomes. On the Yankees side, the MLB rep was Nick Swisher. From what I’ve been able to find, every team in the tournament features an individual from four different backgrounds:

  • MLB legend (in this case, Gomes and Swisher)
  • Superstar: Players who hail from the world of softball and women’s baseball.
  • Rookie: Players from the men’s baseball development system
  • Wild Card: “Influential content creators.”

I never managed to get a full handle on the rules, but based on what I was able to gather, teams can earn points not just for home runs, but also for defensive plays. Bonus points could be earned for hitting a particular target or by hitting a home run with an orange baseball. In general, the whole event felt more like a giant arcade game featuring real people, rather than an MLB event. And, in keeping with the stereotypes, the Yankees won the competition.

I won’t say that I hated it. Maybe if I had taken the time to really watch it and get an understanding of the rules and the scoring, it might have captured my interest better. I will say that I am thrilled that the event also features female athletes, because girls can play ball, too. It just seemed like a strange way to try to promote Major League Baseball in other countries.

Speaking of other countries, today’s exhibition apparently is not the only instance of the Home Run Derby X to take place this year. Upcoming competitions will take place on September 17th in Seoul, South Korea and on October 15th in Mexico City.

If you’re interested, you can watch the stream from today’s final in London below: