This piece by Rochelle Nameroff was first published in 1990 in the collection Into the Temple of Baseball. It reminds me a lot of playing ball, really just sports in general, in the backyard with my brothers as a kid. My oldest brother is twelve years older than me, and he was (still is) quite the sports fanatic. Thus, he took it upon himself to pass on to his younger siblings (and now on to his two sons) whatever knowledge he could about the different sports and how to play them well.
“There are two theories on hitting the knuckleball.
Unfortunately, neither of them works.”
It was all so serious
as he taught me,
digging the knees together:
a deliberate hunkering,
the back & forth wiggle
shifting the weight.
It screws yr behind in the ground he said.
Protection I guess
or the secrecy of boys.
He called it
The Stan Musial Crouch,
& man how I practiced
getting it right to unwind
breathless exquisite & deadly.
The permission to love
without going crazy.
& o big brother,
how much I remember.
There are times when you’re tired and times when you don’t believe in yourself. That’s when you have to stick it out and draw on the confidence that you have deep down beneath all the doubts and worries.
The Mets lose an awful lot?
Listen, mister. Think a little bit.
When was the last time you won anything out of life?
The biggest thrill a ballplayer can have is when your son takes after you. That happened when my Bobby was in his championship Little League game. He really showed me something. Struck out three times. Made an error that lost the game. Parents were throwing things at our car and swearing at us as we drove off. Gosh, I was proud.
People say, ‘Don’t live in the past.’ But I guess it depends on how interesting your past is.
The glass shall not persuade me I am old.
But when I begin to miss the fastball,
Even when no Time’s furrows I behold,
The end of my career has come to call.
For all the honors that have covered me
Are but a memory when it’s time to part.
Living in record books for all to see,
Though sometimes disguised in a fancy chart,
It shows me a solid professional;
Mostly I played to my ability.
(This poem is not a confessional
Of those times when I lacked facility).
Overall I hope I gave fans pleasure,
What the game gave me in equal measure.
You can have money piled to the ceiling but the size of your funeral is still going to depend on the weather.
This piece by Yusef Komunyakaa was published originally in Magic City in 1992. It serves as a nod to black baseball as well as a depiction of baseball as play in juxtaposition to the working lives of black Americans. Life is hard for these young men, but the game provides them with an outlet to help them get through it all.
Most were married teenagers
Working knockout shifts daybreak
To sunset six days a week–
Already old men playing ball
In a field between a row of shotgun houses
& the Magazine Lumber Company.
They were all Jackie Robinson
& Willie Mays, a touch of
Josh Gibson & Satchell Paige
In each stance and swing, a promise
Like a hesitation pitch always
At the edge of their lives,
Arms sharp as rifles.
The Sunday afternoon heat
Flared like thin flowered skirts
As children and wives cheered.
The men were like cats
Running backwards to snag
Pop-ups & high-flies off
Fences, stealing each others’s glory.
The old deacons & raconteurs
Who umpired made an Out or Safe
Into a song & dance routine.
Runners hit the dirt
& slid into homeplate,
Cleats catching light,
As they conjured escapes, outfoxing
Double plays. In the few seconds
It took a man to eye a woman
Upon the makeshift bleachers,
A stolen base or homerun
Would help another man
Survive the new week.
You lose, you smile, and you come back the next day. You win, you smile, you come back the next day.
~Ken Griffey, Jr.
The adrenaline is pumping before or during a game – you’re excited, you’re anxious. But the biggest things are just having fun and being confident. There really is no alternative because you just can’t be negative. And a huge part of developing that confidence is by working hard every day, and I don’t think that is limited to the baseball field. I think that bleeds over to all aspects of anything that you’re doing or working on in life.