This song is amusing in a way that almost hits too close to home. Even though we know it is okay not to be perfect, we all worry that our own “Buckner moment” will come at the most inopportune and humiliating time.
On June 23, 1963, Mets outfielder Jimmy Piersall faced Phillies pitcher Dallas Green to lead off the top of the fifth. Piersall swung on Green’s offering and blasted what was career homer number 100.
To celebrate the milestone, Piersall then decided to take Duke Snider up on his clubhouse bet and ran around the bases backward. He completed his trip around the bases in the correct order: first, second, third, and home — he just faced backwards. Piersall essentially backpedaled all the way around the infield.
This poem starts out nostalgic, and then becomes very serious very quickly. It points to some uncomfortable issues, including Sammy Sosa’s skin bleaching. This poem was originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner.
To this day I still remember sitting
on my abuelo’s lap watching the Yankees hit,
then run, a soft wind rounding the bases
every foot tap to the white pad gentle as a kiss.
How I loved those afternoons languidly
eating jamón sandwiches & drinking root beer.
Later, when I knew something about the blue collar
man—my father who worked with his hands & tumbled
into the house exhausted like heat in a rainstorm—
I became a Mets fan.
Something about their unclean faces
their mustaches seemed rough
to the touch. They had names like Wally & Dyskstra.
I was certain I would marry a man just like them
that is until Sammy Sosa came along
with his smile a reptile that only knew about lying in the sun.
His arms were cannons and his skin burnt cinnamon
that glistened in my dreams.
Everyone said he was not beautiful.
Out on the streets where the men set up shop playing dominoes
I’d hear them say between the yelling of capicu
“como juega, pero feo como el diablo.”
I knew nothing of my history
of the infighting on an island on which one side swore
it was only one thing: pallid, pristine. & I didn’t know
that Sammy carried this history like a tattoo.
That he wished everyday to be white.
It is a perfect game this race war, it is everywhere, living
in the American bayou as much as
the Dominican dirt roads.
It makes a man do something to his skin that seems unholy.
It makes that same man change eye color like a soft
summer dress slipped on slowly.
It makes a grandmother ask her granddaughter
if she’s suffering
from something feverish
because that could be the only excuse why
her hair has not been straightened
like a ballerina’s back dyed the color of wild
daffodils growing in an outfield.
Sammy hit 66 home runs one year
& that was still not enough
to make him feel handsome
or worthy of that blackness that I believe a gift
even today while black churches burn & black bodies
disappear from one day to the next the same as old
I think of him often barely remember what he looked like
but I can recall his hunched shoulders in the
dugout his perfect swing
& how maybe he spit out something black
from his mouth after
every single strike—
The Kansas City Cowboys were admitted to the American Association on January 17, 1888, after the New York Metropolitans folded. The Brooklyn Dodgers purchased what remained of the Mets, hoping to obtain the services of the now-unemployed New York players. The Cowboys, meanwhile, would have a rough inaugural season, finishing with a 43-89 record, putting them in last place in the AA.
Tom Seaver won the National League’s Rookie of the Year on November 20, 1967. The right-handed Seaver compiled a 16-13 record that season with a 2.76 ERA.
On November 17, 1964, Yogi Berra signed a two-year contract with the New York Mets as a player-coach for $35,000 per season. He played only four games with the Mets in 1965, collecting two hits.
Tom Seaver became the highest-paid pitcher in baseball pitcher on February 21, 1974 when he signed a one-year, $172,500 contract with the New York Mets. “He’s the best pitcher in baseball,” said Mets general manager Bob Scheffing, “and we’re paying him for what he is.” Seaver pitched in 32 games in 1974, posting an 11-11 record with a 3.20 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 236 innings pitched.