“The Reason for Rainbows,” by J. Patrick Lewis

I thoroughly enjoy reading this piece.  It has a nice rhythm to it and it is dripping with metaphor.  Plus the idea of being whisked away to play baseball just has a wonderful feel-good aspect to it.

*

There was an Old Man of Late Summer
Met a Winter Boy out of the blue,
And he whisked him away
From the city one day
Just to show him what country boys do.

He taught him three whys of a rooster,
And he showed him two hows of a hen.
Then he’d try to bewitch him
With curveballs he’d pitch him
Again and again and again.

He taught him the reason for rainbows,
And he showed him why lightning was king,
Then he fingered the last ball—
A wicked hop fastball—
He threw to the plate on a string.

Oh, the Old Summer Man and the Young Winter Lad
Spent the light of each day—every moment they had—
In the wind and the rain, or the late summer sun,
Where he taught him to pitch and he taught him to run
In the wind and rain and the late summer sun.

But when that Old Man of Late Summer
Met the Winter Boy out of the blue,
He said to him, “Son,
You can pitch, you can run,
But to hit here is what you must do:

Just pretend that the stick on your shoulder
Is as wide as a bald eagle’s wing.
You’re a bird on a wire
And your hands are on fire—
But you’re never too eager to swing.

Stand as still as a rabbit in danger,
Watch the pitch with the eyes of a cat.
What will fly past the mound—
Unforgettable sound—
Is the ball as it cracks off the bat.”

Oh, the Old Summer Man and the Young Winter Lad
Spent the light of each day—every moment they had—
In the wind and the rain, or the late summer sun,
Where he taught him to pitch and he taught him to run
In the wind and rain and the late summer sun.


“Father Time is Coming,” by J. Patrick Lewis

Without a doubt, Satchel Paige was one of those pitchers whose accomplishments will stand the test of time.  He threw just about any pitch you could think of, plus more that you haven’t even imagined.  I like how Lewis captures the spirit of Paige’s style in this piece, originally published in Slant in 1995.

*

 Out of a windmill windup,
 the whipcord arm grooves a dartball
 on a string past the hopeful, waiting
 at the plate for a miracle.

It might have been the bee ball,
     the looper,
         the drooper,
             the jump ball,
                     the wobbly ball,
         the two-hump blooper,
                 the bat dodger,
                     the famous hesi-
             tation pitch,
     or the radioball ("You hears it,
             but you never sees it").

Joe DiMaggio couldn't hit him.
 And said so.

Babe Ruth never faced him.
 Lucky Bambino.

"I'm Satchel," he said,
 "I do as I do."

“A Swing and A Miss,” by J. Patrick Lewis

This piece by J. Patrick Lewis was published in Light Quarterly in 1954.  It presents some lively descriptions of the various pitches a batter faces at the plate.  When one considers such a dynamic target, it’s no wonder that successfully earning a hit in one-in-three at-bats makes for an accomplished hitter.

*

The fastball
that you hope to poke
is smoke

The curveball
that you thought was there
is air

The knuckler
wobbling up to you
can dipsy-do

The screwball
an ironic twist
hits your fist

The sinker
comes as a surprise:
it dies

The let-up pitch
you can’t resist?
you missed

The spitball
that by law’s forbidden
(is hidden)


“First Girls in Little League Baseball,” by J. Patrick Lewis

Having played Little League Baseball myself, I am especially supportive of letting girls play, not only baseball, but all sports in general.  There are some phenomenal women athletes in the world.  In December 1974, Title IX of the 1972 Education Act was signed, granting equal opportunity in sports for girls as well as boys, and thus allowing more of them to shine through.  This poem, written by J. Patrick Lewis, was published in A Burst of Firsts: Doers, Shakers, and Record Breakers (The Dial Press, 2001).

*

The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen,
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is “Atta boy!” and “Atta girl!”