I have a feeling that I have seen this particular poem before, though for the life of me, I do not recall where. In any case, this piece by Ogden Nash was originally published in the January 1949 issue of SPORT Magazine. Nash uses the letters of the alphabet to pay tribute to some of baseball’s most popular players.
You can find a chart listing the players each stanza stands for here.
A is for Alex
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander.
B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate.
C is for Cobb,
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren’t born.
D is for Dean,
The grammatical Diz,
When they asked, Who’s the tops?
Said correctly, I is.
E is for Evers,
His jaw in advance;
To Tinker with Chance.
F is for Fordham
And Frankie and Frisch;
I wish he were back
With the Giants, I wish.
G is for Gehrig,
The Pride of the Stadium;
His record pure gold,
His courage, pure radium.
H is for Hornsby;
When pitching to Rog,
The pitcher would pitch,
Then the pitcher would dodge.
I is for Me,
Not a hard-hitting man,
But an outstanding all-time
J is for Johnson
The Big Train in his prime
Was so fast he could throw
Three strikes at a time.
K is for Keeler,
As fresh as green paint,
The fastest and mostest
To hit where they ain’t.
L is for Lajoie
Whom Clevelanders love,
With glue in his glove.
M is for Matty,
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
brain in his arm.
N is for Newsom,
Bobo’s favorite kin.
You ask how he’s here,
He talked himself in.
O is for Ott
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.
P is for Plank,
The arm of the A’s;
When he tangled with Matty
Games lasted for days.
Q is for Don Quixote
Neither Yankees nor years
Can halt his attack.
R is for Ruth.
To tell you the truth,
There’s just no more to be said,
Just R is for Ruth.
S is for Speaker,
Swift center-field tender,
When the ball saw him coming,
It yelled, “I surrender.”
T is for Terry
The Giant from Memphis
Whose .400 average
You can’t overemphis.
U would be ‘Ubell
if Carl were a cockney;
We say Hubbell and Baseball
Like Football and Rockne.
V is for Vance
The Dodger’s very own Dazzy;
None of his rivals
Could throw as fast as he.
W is for Wagner,
The bowlegged beauty;
Short was closed to all traffic
With Honus on duty.
X is the first
of two x’s in Foxx
Who was right behind Ruth
with his powerful soxx.
Y is for Young
The magnificent Cy;
People battled against him,
But I never knew why.
Z is for Zenith
The summit of fame.
These men are up there.
These men are the game.
“If I could just find the right bat, I might find the willpower to actually swing it!”
This poem is a bit of a deviation from what one usually finds in the world of baseball writing. It doesn’t revolve around baseball per se, but around an imaginary back story to some pieces of broken glass found around home plate of a baseball diamond. This piece was originally published in 1999 in Selfwolf.
The guys who drank quarts of Busch last night
here by the backstop of this baseball diamond
had names given them by their mothers and fathers—
“Jack” and “Kenny” let us say.
Jack might be
a skinny guy in a black fake-leather jacket,
he’s twenty-five, his gray pants are too loose on his hips,
his jaws always have these little black extra hairs,
his mother won’t talk to him on the phone,
she lives on french fries and ketchup,
he hasn’t been able to send her any cash
in the last two years, ever since he lost
his job unloading produce trucks at Pathmark;
Jack’s father disappeared when he was ten.
“No big deal,” Jack says, “he was a bastard anyway,
he used to flatten beer cans on the top of my head.”
Kenny offers a laugh-noise. He’s heard all that before.
Kenny is forty-eight, a flabby man with reddened skin,
he is employed at the Italian Market selling fish
just four hours a day but his shirts hold the smell;
his female companion Deena left him a note last month:
“You owe me $12 chocolate $31 wine $55 cable TV plus
donuts—I have had it—taking lamp and mirror
they are mine.” Kenny hasn’t seen her since.
He hangs with Jack because Jack talks loud
as if the world of cops and people with full-time jobs
could be kept at bay by talking, talking loud . . .
(I’m talking gently and imaginatively here
as if the world of bums and jerks could be kept far off—)
Jack and Kenny. (Or two other guys dark to me with wounds
oozing in Philadelphia ways less ready to narrate.)
Last night at midnight they got cheesesteaks at Casseloni’s
and bought four quarts at the Fireside Tavern
and wandered into this park. After one quart of Busch
Jack said he was Lenny Dykstra
and found a stick for his bat. “Pitch to me asshole” he said
so Kenny went to the mound and pitched his bottle
for want of anything better and Jack swung in the dark and missed;
Kenny’s bottle smashed on home plate and Jack heard in the sound
the absurdity of all his desiring since seventh grade,
absurdity of a skinny guy who blew everything since seventh
when he hit home runs and chased Joan Rundle around the gym
so Jack took his own empty bottle and smashed it down
amid the brown shards of Kenny’s bottle.
Then they leaned on the backstop to drink the other two quarts
and they both grew glum and silent
and when they smashed these bottles it was like
what else would they do? Next morning
Nick and I come to the park with a rubber ball
and a miniature bat. Nick is not quite three
but he knows the names of all the Phillies starters
and he knows the area around home plate is not supposed to be
covered with jagged pieces of brown glass. Like a good dad
I warn him not to touch it and we decide to establish
a new home plate closer to the mound (there’s no trash can
handy). “Who put that glass there?” Nick wants to know
and to make a long story short I say “Bad People.”
Nick says “Bad? How come?”
As we all recover from last night’s World Series insanity, here’s a little comic relief from Pete and Clete. You know that one had to hurt.
My journey through The Simpsons continues, and I recently concluded watching the seventeenth season. It’s crazy to think that, even as far into it as I am, I still have about twelve more seasons to go to get completely caught up with the show.
The Springfield Isotopes make a reappearance in the season seventeen finale. This time, the episode gives us the opportunity to get to know one of the team’s players, first baseman Buck Mitchell. Buck is the team’s superstar, and the team is winning games thanks to his presence in the lineup. However, while his life on the diamond seems perfect, we quickly learn that Buck’s personal life isn’t nearly as great, and his play is soon affected.
Buck’s wife, Tabitha, is a well-known pop star, and she’s not just known for her singing. This becomes apparent when Tabitha halts her rendition of the national anthem to launch into one of her own songs, stripping down to lingerie by the end of the tune. Buck is understandably humiliated, and he ends up muffing several easy plays as a result. After seeing Marge and Homer on the stadium Kiss Cam, Buck shows up at their home and offers them season tickets in exchange for marriage counseling.
Homer being Homer, he jumps at the opportunity for tickets and close proximity to a baseball star. The counseling sessions prove somewhat awkward, however. While Marge makes an honest effort at helping Buck and Tabitha work things out, Homer…. well… continues to be Homer. Nevertheless, the sessions are effective enough to help Buck refocus on baseball.
After Buck catches Homer giving Tabitha a neck rub (which she not-so-subtly dupes Homer into doing), Buck slugs Homer and finds his marriage in trouble yet again. As a result, his performance on the field begins to suffer again. Tabitha, meanwhile, declares to Marge that she intends to leave Buck.
Homer decides to take matters into his own hands, and he hijacks the Duff Beer blimp, using it to pretend that Tabitha has delivered a message of “I love you” to Buck. His spirits lifted, Buck hits a high fly ball into the blimp, causing it to crash. Once Buck realizes it was actually Homer, not Tabitha, who sent the message, he starts after Homer with a baseball bat. However, Marge appears on the stadium’s Jumbo Vision screen, pleading with Buck not to hurt Homer. Marge’s display of love for Homer seems to have an effect on Tabitha, who changes her mind and tells Buck that she wishes to stay with him.
Overall, this episode honestly doesn’t rank among my favorites. The character of Tabitha annoys me greatly, and Buck isn’t a whole lot better. Granted, they do seem to fit the stereotypical mold for celebrities, I suppose, so perhaps my annoyance was a calculated expectation by the writers. The ending seemed a little thin, possibly due to the constraints of time. Nevertheless, I look forward to the Isotopes’ next appearance in the series.
The Yankees really are a popular target. I’m no Red Sox fan, either, but somehow, I still struggle to feel bad for the Yankees.
‘I am a Yankees fan,’ a first-grade teacher explains to her class. ‘Who likes the Yankees?’
Everyone raises a hand except one little girl. ‘Janie,’ the teacher says, surprised. ‘Why didn’t you raise your hand?’
‘I’m not a Yankees fan.’
‘Well, if you are not a Yankees fan, then what team do you like?’
‘The Red Sox,’ Janie answers.
‘Why in the world are you a Red Sox fan?’
‘Because my mom and dad are Red Sox fans.’
‘That’s no reason to be a Red Sox fan,’ the teacher replies, annoyed. ‘You don’t always have to be just like your parents. What if your mom and dad were morons? What would you be then?’
‘A Yankees fan.’
The Red Sox get into the Series thanks to the fact that the Yankees – who were leading the American League championships three games to none, and have all-stars at every position, not to mention a payroll larger than the gross national product of Sweden – chose that particular time to execute the most spectacular choke in all of sports history, an unbelievable Gag-o-Rama, a noxious nosedive, a pathetic gut-check failure of such epic dimensions that every thinking human outside of the New York metropolitan area experiences a near-orgasmic level of happiness. But there is no need to rub it in.
~ Dave Barry (2004 year in review)