I really enjoy reading this poem. It talks about two Yankee greats, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, but even better than that, it talks about life and love. Baseball frequently serves as a metaphor for both, and Kittell really does hit it out of the park with this one.
On the scorecard you gave me, I find
the difficult scratchings, the notes and stats
you ask me to read looking
for something about success
Twenty-three times, Lou Gehrig
came to bat for the Yankees
with the bases loaded
and hit a grand slam.
Then I see you’ve added: Shouldn’t love
be that way? Shouldn’t love be
a grand slam every time?
Lou Gehrig played baseball
for seventeen years and everyone knows
he played in most every game. Everyone knows
he played only for the Yankees.
But up in the stands, maybe–like you–studying a program,
sat his wife, sat Eleanor
who watched Gehrig carefully enough
to see when his step
began to falter, to notice how
ground balls hit
him in the chest and his long-armed swing
barely dribbled out
a single. Eleanor Gehrig watched
the Iron Horse dwindle
to ninety pounds and never stopped to say:
“You’re not the man
you used to be,” never told him she saw
the end of the game.
I imagine she only held him
closer at night
and went on.
Joe DiMaggio reached the Show
two years before Lou Gehrig
left, two years before the Iron Horse began
to fade. And what you and I remember first
about Joe was his once
ridiculous coffee ad, or maybe his once
failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Just like
we never saw Gehrig play, we never saw
DiMaggio, every day of your life
and more, send roses to a grave, or imagined
her fingers dialing his number, her voice calling
Joe, Joe into the dead air. Joe,
she told him once, you’ve never heard
such cheering! Yes, I have, he said to her quietly.
Yes, I have.
My husband Ron was born in 1951 and 1951
was the last year DiMaggio played. By seventeen,
Ron was the best player in Idaho, the fastest
in the outfield, most solid at first base, and sometimes
wild but always hard
when he took the mound. But our life, it seems,
has turned far from glamorous. We take
our turns, Ron and I, in the stands. I watch him
with you, throwing rocks across a brook and know
the next day his arm
will throb from trying. He watches me
try to toss a good metaphor, one that will zing
and flash at your center. I say:
look deeper into the game, friend. I say:
look deeper into a life, a love.
To make anything last, there’s got to be more
than a grand slam.
There has to be a good coach
to draw the line-up and good men
already on base. There have to be players
in the minors and wives
in the stands. There has to be someone
to say that love
ain’t always perfect, that love
doesn’t always win the game, that love
might not be lots of cheering or a neatly blackened square
on a scorecard.
No, Sherman, love
might be quiet–a fire crackling, birds reappearing
on the edge of lawn, the center of you knowing
that once you slip it on and oil it up,
that old worn glove will feel
than when it was new.
I am honestly surprised that I haven’t posted this classic tune yet. Apparently, Joe DiMaggio was actually annoyed by the inclusion of his name in this song, until Paul Simon explained the meaning to him.
“I happened to be in a restaurant and there he was,” recalls Simon in the interview. “I gathered up my nerve to go over and introduce myself and say, ‘Hi, I’m the guy that wrote “Mrs. Robinson,” ’ and he said ‘Yeah, sit down . . . why’d you say that? I’m here, everyone knows I’m here.’ I said, ‘I don’t mean it that way — I mean, where are these great heroes now?’ He was flattered once he understood that it was meant to be flattering.”
The 1939 All-Star Game was held on July 11th at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, where the American League defeated the National League, 3-1. Two of the three AL runs were driven in by Yankees players (the third was an unearned run scored on an error), including a DiMaggio home run. Indians pitcher Bob Feller, only twenty years old at the time, threw 3.2 scoreless innings to earn the save.
The box score for the game can be found here.
Here’s a documentary on Joe DiMaggio by ESPN that aired in 1999 as part of the SportsCentury series. It’s obviously an abbreviated documentary, not going into a lot of depth, but it is still certainly worth a watch.
DiMaggio’s grace came to represent more than athletic skill in those years. To the men who wrote about the game, it was a talisman, a touchstone, a symbol of the limitless potential of the human individual. That an Italian immigrant, a fisherman’s son, could catch fly balls the way Keats wrote poetry or Beethoven wrote sonatas was more than just a popular marvel. It was proof positive that democracy was real. On the baseball diamond, if nowhere else, America was truly a classless society. DiMaggio’s grace embodied the democracy of our dreams.
Ted Williams was the greatest hitter I ever saw, but DiMaggio was the greatest all around player.
In the first game of a doubleheader played on August 27, 1938, the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, hit three consecutive triples against the Indians. DiMaggio’s feat helped the Yankees en route to an 8-7 victory over Cleveland.
The box score for the game can be found here.
I came across this audiobook, Baseball Legend Joe DiMaggio, through the local library and spent my lunch break yesterday listening to it. Written and narrated by Geoffrey Giuliano, I wondered at first why this biography came only in audio format, with no hard copy or even ebook version. As I listened, however, the reason quickly became apparent.
The recording opens up with a broad, sweeping biography of DiMaggio, which takes up only about the first five or ten minutes of the hour-long book. This biography serves to set the foundation for the rest of the book, which turns out to be a sort of audio documentary of Joe DiMaggio’s life.
The audiobook features recordings of a variety of interviews, some with DiMaggio himself, others with broadcasters from both that era and the present day. Also included are snippets from actual radio broadcasts during that era. Giuliano provides the context for the various audio clips, which cover everything from DiMaggio’s early life to his war service, his 56-game hitting streak to his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, his relationship with his teammates to his life post-baseball.
Overall, I found it a fascinating experience to listen to the various clips. As I mentioned, the entire audiobook is only about an hour long, which made for an enjoyable lunch break. If you enjoy listening to old interviews and other audio clips, it’s worth checking out.
Ted Williams won the American League Most Valuable Player award on November 14, 1946. The award was bestowed upon Williams after having finished second to the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio (1941) and Joe Gordon (1942). The Splendid Splinter missed the last three seasons due to serving in the military during World War II, but returned to baseball hitting .342 with 38 homers and 123 RBIs.
If you’re having a hard time waking up this morning, this song might help. The tune is quite peppy and the lyrics are pretty amusing.