“What Baseball Tells Us About Love,” by Linda Kittell

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.

*

for Sherman

1
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
or failure:
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?

2
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.

3
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.

4
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
even better
than when it was new.


“Backyard,” by Rochelle Nameroff

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.

*

For Larry
“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.


Quote of the day

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.

~Jim Abbott

jim abbott

ESPN


Quote of the day

The Mets lose an awful lot?

Listen, mister. Think a little bit.

When was the last time you won anything out of life?

~Jimmy Breslin

 

Jimmy Breslin 2008

Wikipedia


Quote of the day

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.

~Bob Uecker

Bob_Uecker_1962

Wikipedia


Quote of the day

People say, ‘Don’t live in the past.’ But I guess it depends on how interesting your past is.

~Effa Manley

Effa Manley

Wikipedia


“Shakespearean Baseball Sonnet #22,” by Michael Ceraolo

Here is another great Shakespearean Baseball Sonnet from the talented Michael Ceraolo.  This piece was published by Spillwords Press earlier this week.

*

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.


Quote of the day

You can have money piled to the ceiling but the size of your funeral is still going to depend on the weather.

~Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner

ESPN.com


“Glory,” by Yusef Komunyakaa

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.


Quote of the day

You lose, you smile, and you come back the next day. You win, you smile, you come back the next day.

~Ken Griffey, Jr.

ken griffey jr

Wikipedia