“The New Kid,” by Mike Makley

This piece by Mike Makley was published in 1975. I particularly love the twist at the end, and the fact that this was written so long ago, when girls playing ball was generally frowned upon, makes it all the better.

*

Our baseball team never did very much,
we had me and PeeWee and Earl and Dutch.
And the Oak Street Tigers always got beat
until the new kid moved in on our street.

The kid moved in with a mitt and a bat
and an official New York Yankee hat.
The new kid plays shortstop or second base
and can outrun us all in any place.

The kid never muffs a grounder or fly
no matter how hard it’s hit or how high.
And the new kid always acts quite polite,
never yelling or spitting or starting a fight.

We were playing the league champs just last week;
they were trying to break our winning streak.
In the last inning the score was one-one,
when the new kid swung and hit a home run.

A few of the kids and their parents say
they don’t believe that the new kid should play.
But she’s good as me, Dutch, PeeWee or Earl,
so we don’t care that the new kid’s a girl.


“Rain Delay: Toledo Mud Hens, July 8, 1994,” by Martin Espada

This poem by Martin Espada was published in his 1996 book of poetry titled Imagine the Angels of Bread, and Espada worked as groundskeeper for the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens for a time. This piece paints such a vivid picture of rural America; it’s certainly the kind of scene I would expect to find in a movie set in a small town.

*

Despite the rumors of rain,
the crowd spreads across the grandstand,
a hand-sewn quilt, red and yellow shirts,
blue caps. The ballgame is the county fair
in a season of drought, the carnival
in a town of boarded factories,
so they sing the anthem as if ready
for the next foreign war.
Billboards in the outfield
sell lumber, crayons, newspapers,
oldies radio, three kinds of beer.

The ballplayers waiting for the pitch:
the catcher coiled beneath the umpire’s alert leaning;
the infielders stalking with poised hands;
then the pitcher, a weathervane spinning in the wind;
clear echo of the wood, a ground ball,
throw, applause. The first baseman
shouts advice in Spanish to the pitcher,
and the pitcher nods.

The grandstand celebrates
with the team mascot
prancing pantomime in a duck suit,
a lightning bug called Louie
cheerleading for the electric company.
Men in Caterpillar tractor hats
rise from seats to yell at Louie
about their electric bills.

Ballpark lit in the iron-clouded storm,
a ghost dirigible floating overhead
and a hundred moons misting the grey air.
A train howls in the cornfields.
When the water strikes down,
white uniforms retreat from the diamond,
but in the stands
farm boys with dripping hair
holler their hosannas to the rain.


“Spring Training,” by Philip Raisor

There’s a lot of great imagery in this poem. It’s also quite nostalgic, full of memories expressed by the narrator. This piece was published in Philip Raisor’s poetry collection, Headhunting and Other Sports Poems.

*

I carry my spikes and step on the field an hour
ahead of the others. Last day of March with April
offering tickets for the new season. I’m full of sun
on wet grass, in love with blistered benches.

A sparrow sits on the backstop, watching, ready
to dart if I catch its eye. I drop my bag on home plate
and swirl my foot in the dust the way my cousin does
with his fingers on the skin of a drum head. Next year

he’ll be released with the others who spent mornings
breaking windows and trashing vacation homes
like drunks in the right field bleachers. Here, I’m alone
with a sparrow and the smell of a baseball morning

settling around me like a comforter. I start trotting
to first base, the ankles loosening, then the knees,
as the dust begins to lift into the breaking light.
Around second and third I stretch my arms

in a rotary motion ready to fly. A hand waves back
from a passing car, someone who knows me
or remembers rising one morning when the game
of who you are is played out in your mind,

and around you a stadium full of fans begs you
to do what you usually do in the clutch. The bat I pull
from the bag for the first time is my father’s
Louisville Slugger, thirty-three inches, wood barrel.

I thought enough time had passed, the attic dust
hard in the grooves. I stroke it slowly like a weapon
you love to touch but would never use. He hit .304
at Omaha the season he was drafted, all-star

rookie-of-the-year. He said we’d join him soon.
Then that other draft. He would have been here.
I swear he would. The silence feels oppressive now.
I dig for a scuffed ball and throw it up, shoulder high,

but let it fall. A natural hitter, my father said, holding
my hands. I grip the tar-stained handle. Tears blur
the wall that’s so far away it looks warped. I aim
for marrow deep inside, April hungry for the kill.


“Along Came Ruth,” by Ford Frick

This poem by Ford Frick ends with the line, “Nothing’s simpler than that!”, which is quite fitting, as this piece is pretty straightforward. This was published in Ford Frick’s memoir, Games, Asterisks, and People: Memoirs of a lucky fan.

*

You step up to the platter
And you gaze with flaming hate
At the poor benighted pitcher
As you dig in at the plate.
You watch him cut his fast ball loose,
Then swing your trusty bat
And you park one in the bleachers-
Nothing’s simpler than that!

Ford_Frick_at_1937_All-Star_Game - Library of Congress

Ford Frick at the 1937 All-Star Game (Library of Congress)


“The Miners, the Minors, Carbondale, Illinois,” by Edie Meade

This piece by Edie Meade was published in Skyway Journal in April 2021. The author describes attending a game featuring the Southern Illinois Miners while playing with the homophonic natures of ‘Miner’ and ‘minor’.

I don’t attend minor league or independent league ballgames nearly as much as I should, and pieces like this remind me that I really ought to change that.

*

I come from a no-team town to see the Miners play,

fall down drunk in the stands with you, obnoxious

off the train from Chicago

in your Pittsburgh stovepipe,

Expos jersey, beard shaved to handlebars

for a bygone day in downstate minors country.

Spilling, lisping, rubbing up

against you, admiring

sinew-ripping throws, welp, he’s going nowhere

fast like that. I lament

poor Miners, poor minors, poor Carbondale

a literal coal field, spent.

Confessions & taunts & kisses & curses, wise cracks

of bats & beer cans, getting backward looks –

he’s probably that player’s grandpa, poor grandpas, you know

I don’t like baseball

fans, but I’m a fan of baseball

men. You get a piece

of the action when a foul ball pops

me, inattentive

yet rapt, as I get

drunk & near-sighted in the sun.


“Enthusiasm,” by Charles Harper Webb

I find that I relate to this poem quite a bit. Like the narrator, I had a penchant for taking things to extremes when I was young. Anything I was interested in, I dove into with intensity. This approach to things frequently led to burnout.

As an adult, I’ve reined that tendency in quite a bit. Sure, every now and then I find myself getting into something obsessively for days or weeks at a time, but overall, I’m much more about moderation.

*

“Don’t overdo it,” Dad yelled, watching me
Play shortstop, collect stamps and shells,
Roll on the grass laughing until I peed my pants.
“Screw him,” I said, and grabbed every cowry

I could find, hogged all the books I could
From Heights Library, wore out the baseball
Diamond dawn to dusk, and—parents in Duluth—
Gorged on bountiful Candy dusk to dawn.

Not until a Committee wrote of my poems,
“Enthusiasm should be tempered,”
Did I change my song. I write now
The way I live: calm and sober, steering

Toward the Golden Mean. The Committee
Was right to withhold funds. I’d have bought
A hundred box turtles with lemon-speckled shells,
Flyfished for rainbows six months straight,

Flown to the Great Barrier Reef and dived
Non-stop among pink coral and marble cones,
Living on chocolate malts, peaches, and barbecue.
I’d have turned into a ski bum, married

Ten women in ten states, written nothing
Poetry would glance at twice, instead
Of rising at 5:00 as I do now, writing
‘Til noon about matters serious and deep,

Teaching ’til 6:00, eating a low-fat meal
High in fiber and cruciferous vegetables,
Then bed by 9:00, alarm clock set
Five minutes late: my one indulgence of the day.


“A Fisherman’s Tale,” Anonymous

This piece was published in 1942 and it references Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. In the novella, the main character, Santiago, idolizes DiMaggio and is a big Yankees fan. To Santiago, DiMaggio represents an ideal, and he compares himself against the ballplayer as a way to measure his own success and worth.

*

Ernest
Hemingway
Immortalized
Joe
DiMaggio
and
Joe
DiMaggio
Immortalized
Himself
And
So
Did
Ted Williams
that wonderful slugger from Boston.


“Casey Bats Again,” by Disney

In 1946, Disney released an animated adaptation of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem, “Casey At the Bat.” The short film proved so popular that in 1954, Disney made a sequel, Casey Bats Again, in which Casey’s nine daughters redeem his reputation.

I’m so glad we now live in a world where girls playing baseball is becoming more widely accepted and appreciated.


“Back at the Ball Game”

I like the imagery in this piece, and the wonder of a child watching a baseball game is always enjoyable to think about. I’m not sure of the author’s actual name, as the poem is posted only with the username, Obthompson. You can find the original post here.

*

The scoreboard reads:

Bottom nine.
2 out;
3 on.

“Batter up!” comes the shout,

Way back in the stands sits a child effervescent with joy;
His father beside him speaks to him softly;
Close your eyes and think,
That could be me.

The roar of the throbbing crowd longing for victory,
Seats teeming with fans
some sad with worry, some happy with glee.

The scuffing of shoes,
The clearing of throats,
The build up to when pandemonium ensues.

That old smell of peanuts,
The roll of the organ,
The batter steps up to take his cuts.

He steps up to the plate,
Breathes; and takes it all in
He closes his eyes and thinks to himself;
Why me and not him?


“Tiant’s Apprentice,” by Denise Newbolt

I enjoy the imagery presented in this piece. The metaphor comparing a pitcher to a dancer can be a good one, especially with some pitchers, like Luis Tiant, who have some rather elaborate windups.

*

Clear August sunlight spotlighted the dancer
he twirled in the style of Tiant           
technical in spin, placed practiced choreography. 

A white ball, laced red with a season’s skill and hope,
hurled to the stanched batter,
who would nick it to the dirt

In his 7th inning finale
a foul, a strike released in a summer’s era,
the spiraling pitcher spun to a season’s final ovation,
in late afternoon shadows.