I enjoy the juxtaposition of old vs. new baseball in this piece. I do think that baseball today has more redeeming qualities that it often gets credit for, but I can also understand the nostalgia for how things used to be.
Complete games were routine for some,
watched by hats and ties through fragrant cigar smoke.
Great Scott – home run derby – M&Ms – Maypo (hold the juice).
Baseball is Topps and a nickel is king.
September’s done. Eight teams dream of afternoon October fun.
Save this. DH that. Pitch count. Everyone looks like a catcher now.
Corporate heads sit and talk while starting pitchers transact business with the bullpen.
Only birds get flipped.
Jokers and wild cards blow on hands. Stars under stars
while witches and ghosts and goblins play.
I haven’t been able to confirm whether the man who wrote this poem is the same John W. Knight as this guy, but it seems like it might be a strong possibility, no? Regardless, it’s an enjoyable piece.
The game was tied in the bottom of nine
A runner on third and two out
In the dead still air a mosquito’s whine
Was all you could hear, then a shout
“Do something Ben, murder the ball,
For crying out loud get a hit.”
Ben strode to the plate to answer the call
The now restless fans knew this was it
He dug in his right foot then positioned his left
And tapped the plate twice with his bat
Then he pulled it back slowly as to measure its heft
And tensed his whole frame like a cat
The pitcher glared in, the Ump hunkered down
Then the ball on its way like a shot
Ben pulled the trigger, his body unwound
And the ball hit the bat with a “Thock”
This is the sum that the game’s all about
This instant is not just a dream
The split second physics, a hit or an out?
Each player and fan poised to scream
After the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series, Dick Flavin, known as the poet laureate for the Red Sox, released this poem written in their honor. I love this guy’s energy and sense of humor. It’s a lot of fun to listen to him read it.
The 1978 World Series pitted the defending champion New York Yankees against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a rematch of the previous year’s World Series. Although the Dodgers won the first two games of the Series, the Yankees swept the next four, winning in six games to repeat as champions.
The Series featured some memorable confrontations between Dodgers rookie pitcher Bob Welch and Reggie Jackson of the Yankees. In Game 2, Welch struck Jackson out in the top of the ninth with two outs and the tying and go-ahead runs on base to end the game. In Game 4, Jackson avenged the strikeout when he singled off Welch to advance Roy White to second, allowing White to eventually score the game winning run on a Lou Piniella single. In Game 6, Jackson hit a two-run homer off Welch in the seventh inning to increase the Yankees’ lead to 7–2 and solidify the Yankees’ victory to win the Series.
The poem below was written by AP correspondent Jules Loh. In a tribute to the famous “Casey At the Bat” verse, Loh writes about Jackson’s Game 2 strikeout to Welch to end the game.
The outlook wasn’t brilliant
for the Yankees in L.A.
The score stood 4-3, two out,
one inning left to play.
But when Dent slid safe at second
and Blair got on at first
Every screaming Dodger fan had
cause to fear the worst.
For there before the multitude —
Ah destiny! Ah fate!
Reggie Jackson, mighty Reggie,
was advancing to the plate.
Reggie, whose three home runs
had won the year before,
Reggie, whose big bat tonight
fetched every Yankee score.
On the mound to face him
stood the rookie, young Bob Welch.
A kid with a red hot fastball —
Reggie’s pitch — and nothing else.
Fifty-thousand voices cheered
as Welch gripped ball in mitt.
One hundred thousand eyes watched Reggie rub his bat and spit.
“Throw your best pitch, kid, and duck,” Reggie seemed to say.
The kid just glared. He must have
known this wasn’t Reggie’s day.
His fist pitch was a blazer.
Reggie missed it clean
Fifty-thousand throats responded
with a Dodger scream.
They squared off, Reggie and the kid, each knew what he must do.
And seven fastballs later,
the count was three and two.
No shootout on a dusty street
out here in the Far West
Could match the scene:
A famous bat,
a kid put to the test.
One final pitch. The kid reared back
and let a fastball fly.
Fifty-thousand Dodger fans
gave forth one final cry…
Ah, the lights still shine on Broadway,
but there isn’t any doubt
The Big Apple has no joy left.
Mighty Reggie has struck out.
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.
“Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” featuring the famous double play combination of “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” was first published on July 12, 1910. However, the original name of the the poem was “That Double Play Again.” Six days later, the New York Evening Mail would republish the poem, this time with the title we know it by today, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”
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.