“Carlton Fisk Is My Ideal,” by Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer is an American poet, writer, and visual artist who has written in a wide variety of genres. This poem was first published in The Golden Book Of Words in 1978. The video below is from October 2014, when Mayer visited the Writers House to give a reading with fellow poet Philip Good.

*

He wears a beautiful necklace
next to the beautiful skin of his neck
unlike the Worthington butcher
Bradford T. Fisk (butchers always
have a crush on me), who cannot even order veal
except in whole legs of it.
Oh the legs of a catcher!
Catchers squat in a posture
that is of course inward denying orgasm
but Carlton Fisk, I could
model a whole attitude to spring
on him. And he is a leaper!
Like Walt Frazier or, better,
like the only white leaper,
I forget his name, in the ABA’s
All-Star game half-time slam-dunk contest
this year. I think about Carlton Fisk in his
modest home in New Hampshire
all the time, I love the sound of his name
denying orgasm. Carlton & I
look out the window at spring’s first
northeaster. He carries a big hero
across the porch of his home to me.
(He has no year-round Xmas tree
like Clifford Ray who handles the ball
like a banana). We eat & watch the storm
batter the buds balking on the trees
& cover the green of the grass
that my sister thinks is new grass.
It’s last year’s grass still!
And still there is no spring training
as I write this, March 16, 1976,
the year of the blizzard that sealed our love
up in a great mound of orgasmic earth.
The pitcher’s mound is a lightning mound.
Pudge will see fastballs in the wind,
his mescaline arm extends to the field.
He wears a necklace.
He catches the ball in his teeth!
Balls fall with a neat thunk
in the upholstery of the leather glove he puts on
to caress me, as told to, in the off-season.
All of a sudden he leaps from the couch,
a real ball has come thru the window
& is heading for the penguins on his sweater,
one of whom has lost his balloon
which is floating up into the sky!


“Money,” by Grantland Rice

This poem is short, but I think sports fans can all identify with it.  It’s unfortunate that money has become such a pervasive force in professional sports, but then, I suppose it is the money that makes them professional and not amateur.

*

Money to the left of them and money to the right,
Money everywhere they turn from morning to the night,
Only two things count at all from mountain to the sea,
Part of it’s percentage, and the rest is guarantee.


“Railroads and Baseball,” by Dudley Laufman

I have never seen nor heard anything like the story about Ted Williams in this poem, but I do like the idea behind it. As the author comments, it makes for a great story. This piece by Dudley Laufman appeared in Sptiball Magazine in January 2010.

*

That time there in Warner, New Hampshire,
game between Bradford and Warner,
someone clouted a drive across the railroad tracks
just in front of the afternoon run
of the Concord to Claremont commuter.
Ump made it a ground rule double.

I think I told you this one,
Arlington – Waltham.
Spy Ponder hits one over the tracks
in front of the 6:15 to Lexington,
Watch City outfielder scoots through the underpass,
comes back waving the ball,
wants a ground rule double,
ump says home run.
Yeah, I told you that one.

But get this.
I don’t know if this is true or not,
but it makes a good story.
The Red Sox are enroute Boston-Providence
for an exhibition game in Pawtucket.
Train passes through Sharon or
some little town like that.
Train whistles along the edge of the ball field,
sandlot game, mix of grubby uniforms,
and someone lines one towards the train.
Ted Williams is standing out on the back platform,
reaches out, snags the ball, and keeps it.
Train rumbles on to Pawtucket,
Williams clutching their only ball.

Next day (the Sox stay over),
train headed back to Beantown.
The boys are out on the field
(they found another ball).
The Kid is out on the platform again,
and he throws the ball back,
autographed by all the Bosox.


“MLB Begins,” by Robert Heemstra

This piece is a few years old, but I came across it this morning, and I would say the timing is still appropriate.  The weather might still be iffy in spots, but only five days remain until spring officially arrives!

*

Preseason Baseball
two-thousand-sixteen
is now underway
oh what fun it is
watching baseball played

the grapefruit league
the cactus league
in Florida
Arizona

who’ll make team
and who won’t
get in shape

April
for real

play

See the source image


“They Lived Too Soon”

This piece, written by an anonymous author, was first published in the Chicago Record in 1896.  I find the poem a touch humorous in that it indicates that for all the incredible accomplishments these great men of history achieved, they missed out big time because they didn’t have the opportunity to experience baseball.

*

George Washington was President
and honored in his day,
He was the father of the land and
all things came his way;
He had a basketful of fun, a wagon
load of fame—
But he never was a rooter at a base
ball game.

Napoleon conquered half the world
and had a crown of gold,
And in his time his cup was just
as full as it could hold.
It looks from here as though he
should have had his share of fun-
But her never strained his vocals
when the home team won.

And also Julius Cesar, who had his
share of sport,
He won his share of battles, and
always held the fort.
He killed lost of people, regard
less of the cost—
But he never booed the umpire
when the home team lost.

And also Alexander, he turned most
every trick,
And then shed tears because there
were no more worlds to lick,
He climbed ‘way up the ladder, as
high as people get—
But he never pawned his scepter to
pay a baseball bet.


“A Perfect Game,” by Yesenia Montilla

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
pennies.

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—


“Polo Grounds,” by Rolfe Humphries

George Rolfe Humphries was born in 1894, the son of Jack (John) Humphries, an 1880s professional baseball player.  Rolfe Humphries grew up to write poetry, translate literature, teach Latin, and coach athletics, but naturally, his interests also gravitated towards baseball.  “Polo Grounds” is his tribute to New York Giants baseball — as well as, it appears, to his father.

*

Time is of the essence. This is a highly skilled
And beautiful mystery. Three or four seconds only
From the time that Riggs connects till he reaches first,
And in those seconds Jurges goes to his right,
Comes up with the ball, tosses to Witek at second,
For the force on Reese, Witek to Mize at first,
In time for the out—a double play.

(Red Barber crescendo. Crowd noises, obbligatio;
Scattered staccatos from the peanut boys,
Loud in the lull, as the teams are changing sides) . . .

Hubbell takes the sign, nods, pumps, delivers—
A foul into the stands. Dunn takes a new ball out,
Hands it to Danning, who throws it down to Werber;
Werber takes off his glove, rubs the ball briefly,
Tosses it over to Hub, who goes to the rosin bag,
Takes the sign from Danning, pumps, delivers—
Low, outside, ball three. Danning goes to the mound,
Says something to Hub, Dunn brushes off the plate,
Adams starts throwing in the Giant bullpen,
Hub takes the sign from Danning, pumps, delivers,
Camilli gets hold of it, a long fly to the outfield,
Ott goes back, back, back, against the wall, gets under it,
Pounds his glove, and takes it for the out.
That’s all for the Dodgers. . . .

Time is of the essence. The rhythms break,
More varied and subtle than any kind of dance;
Movement speeds up or lags. The ball goes out
In sharp and angular drives, or long slow arcs,
Comes in again controlled and under aim;
The players wheel or spurt, race, stoop, slide, halt,
Shift imperceptibly to new positions,
Watching the signs according to the batter,
The score, the inning. Time is of the essence.
Time is of the essence. Remember Terry?
Remember Stonewall Jackson, Lindstrom, Frisch,
When they were good? Remember Long George Kelly?

Remember John McGraw and Benny Kauff?
Remember Bridwell, Tenney, Merkle, Youngs,
Chief Meyers, Big Jeff Tesreau, Shufflin’ Phil?
Remember Mathewson, Ames, and Donlin,
Buck Ewing, Rusie, Smiling Mickey Welch?
Remember a left-handed catcher named Jack Humphries,
Who sometimes played the outfield, in ’83?

Time is of the essence. The shadow moves
From the plate to the box, from the box to second base,
From second to the outfield, to the bleachers.

Time is of the essence. The crowd and players
Are the same age always, but the man in the crowd
Is older every season. Come on, play ball!