“We’re Human Beings,” by Jill McDonough

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that the players we watch from the stands or from the comfort of our own homes are just as much flesh and blood and bone as we are.  Julio Lugo was certainly no stranger to criticism during his career, and admittedly, it was his own fault oftentimes.  The thing about being in the spotlight is that your mistakes get magnified ten-fold.  That doesn’t excuse them, of course, but I do still think it’s important for us as fans to remember that we all know folks in our own immediate lives who make the same kinds of mistakes, but are fortunate enough to not have a spotlight shone on them.

*

That’s why we’re here, said Julio Lugo
to the Globe. Sox fans booed
poor Lugo, booed his at-bat after
he dropped the ball in the pivotal fifth.

That ball, I got to it, I just
couldn’t come up with it.

Lugo wants you to know
he is fast: a slower player
wouldn’t even get close
enough to get booed. Lugo
wants you to know he’s only
human: We’re human beings.
That’s why we’re here. If not,

I would have wings.
I’d be beside God right now.
I’d be an angel.

But I’m not an angel.
I’m a human being that lives right here.

Next day, all
is forgiven. Lugo’s home run, Lugo’s
sweet comment to the press.

I wanted to make a poster like the ones that say
It’s my birthday! or First Time at Fenway! or, pathetic, ESPN.
Posterboard, permanent marker to say Lugo: me, too.
I’m a human being that lives right here
, decided
it’s too esoteric, too ephemeral a reference, but it’s true:
Oh, Lugo, Julio Lugo, I’m here with you.


“Voices of the Game,” by Joe Kyle

There is definitely a difference between watching a game on TV and listening to it on the radio that extends beyond the visual aspect of it.  The auditory experience of catching a game via radio is incredibly rich, and in my opinion, seems to mimic actually being at the ballpark more than watching it on television does.

*

You see fans holding their radios here and over there,
Intently watching the game, yet listening with care.
Some think us strange that we bring our transistorized friend,
Then they sit too close, and try to listen in.

So many, many voices of baseball present and past,
A very select few can make you feel that home run blast.
The team in the booth at times is the best,
The fans can hope for along with the rest.

Some of these voices have now faded away,
Going, going, gone to their final play.
The restless nights they talked us to sleep,
Just waiting for someone to take one deep.

Harry was the greatest Cub there ever could be,
There will never be another like him at ol’ Wrigley.
Vin Scully still bleeds that Dodger blue,
While Scooter will always be a Yankee too.

Nuxhall and Brennaman are my favorite radio men,
They have been a duo since way back when.
I was a boy when I first heard that familiar winning call,
“This one belongs to the Reds” now has its own place in the Hall.

So the next time you search for the game on TV,
Turn the volume way down, grab a radio, and you will soon see.
The voices of the game do much more than that old screen,
They bring you the nation’s game in a fashion unseen.


“Nolan Ryan,” by Gene Fehler

Hitting a Major League fastball is a difficult feat against any pitcher, but against Nolan Ryan, the task was even harder.  Gene Fehler captures the difficulty of doing so when he compares it to hitting a pea with a toothpick in this poem published in 1991.

*

He threw a white pea
fast faster faster fastest
of them all,
Try hitting a pea
with a toothpick
and you’ll see what it’s like
to bat against the
fast faster faster fastest
of them all.


“Don Larsen’s Perfect Game,” by Louis Phillips

This piece by Louis Phillips was published in Spitball Magazine in December 2014.  I like the contemplation of that moment as soon as a perfect game has come to a close.  In between that final pitch and the outburst of celebration, there must be a moment in the pitcher’s mind where they are thinking … something.  Honestly, I cannot even fathom what one would think in that brief winking transition from being a pitcher who might pull off one of the most difficult feats in baseball to a pitcher who has actually completed it.  I imagine no small dosage of relief is mixed in there, and perhaps a sprinkling of disbelief.  Perhaps even the pitcher doesn’t know what he’s thinking.

*
When you came to the end of your perfect game,
And you stood alone with your thoughts,
While your chums sang out “Hurray, Hurray!”
For the joy your feat had brought,
Did you think what the end of a perfect game
Had meant to the baseball crowd?
Watching the batters go down in flame
Had made your teammates proud.

Well. it was the end of a perfect game.
At the end of the Series too;
And it left its mark in the Record Book
Where every stat is true.
My memory recalls that day
Every pitch, catch, & out,
With Yogi running out to the mound,
To leap & hug & shout.

When we think on the glory of your perfect game
Does it make us young again?


“7th Game : 1960 Series,” by Paul Blackburn

 

paul blackburn

Paul Blackburn (Wikipedia)

This piece by Paul Blackburn provides an abridged look at Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Living in New York, he describes the experience of Yankees fans, and there is something almost mystical about the City That Never Sleeps quieting down for a baseball game.  I imagine that silence must have continued for a few days after that blast by Bill Mazeroski, the only winner-take-all walk-off home run in World Series history.

 

*

Nice day,
sweet October afternoon
Men walk the sun-shot avenues,
                          Second, Third, eyes
                          intent elsewhere
ears communing with transistors in shirt pockets
                 Bars are full, quiet,
discussion during commercials
                            only
Pirates lead New York 4-1, top of the 6th, 2
Yankees on base,   1 man out
What a nice day for all this  !
Handsome women, even
dreamy jailbait, walk
                     nearly neglected :
men’s eyes are blank
their thoughts are all in Pittsburgh
Last half of the 9th, the score tied 9-all,
Mazeroski leads off for the Pirates
The 2nd pitch he simply, sweetly
                                CRACK!
belts it clean over the left-field wall
Blocks of afternoon
acres of afternoon
Pennsylvania Turnpikes of afternoon . One
                  diamond stretches out in the sun
                          the 3rd base line
                  and what men come down
                  it
                  The final score, 10-9
Yanquis, come home

“The Outfield Boy,” by Andrea Dietrich

I like how this piece captures the general feeling of standing in the outfield.  On one hand, you are playing the game you love.  On the other hand, the closest person to you is still quite a ways away.  You can make a play, and for a brief moment, you get a little attention for it.  But as soon as the next pitch gets thrown, outfielders return to their anticipatory solitude.

*

The outfield boy stands waiting all alone,
playing the game that many children love.
From the pitcher’s mound, a ball has been thrown.
The outfield boy stands waiting all alone.
The ball has been hit. See how it has flown
straight into the glowing boy’s baseball glove!
The outfield boy stands waiting all alone,
playing the game that many children love.


“Standing Alone,” Author Unknown

I’m not sure where this poem originated, but I really like it.  Even as I grew up, there always seemed to be a parent at every level of play who was just determined to take the fun out of the game.  It makes me wonder how many potential Major Leaguers gave up the game early due to incidents like this.

*

He stands at the plate
with his heart beating fast.
The bases are loaded
the dye has been cast.

Mom and Dad cannot help him
he stands all alone.
A hit at this moment
would bring the boys home.

The ball nears the plate
he swings hard but misses.
There’s a groan from the crowd,
with some boo’s and some hisses.

A thoughtless voice cries out,
“Strike out the bum!”
Tears fill the boy’s eyes,
the game’s no longer fun.

Parents and spectators
with faces of stone;
Remember, he’s just a boy
who’s standing alone.

Please open your heart
and give him a break.
For it’s moments like this,
a great man you can make.

So keep this in mind,
if you hear someone forget.
He’s just a small boy
and not a man yet.