“The Reason for Rainbows,” by J. Patrick Lewis

I thoroughly enjoy reading this piece.  It has a nice rhythm to it and it is dripping with metaphor.  Plus the idea of being whisked away to play baseball just has a wonderful feel-good aspect to it.

*

There was an Old Man of Late Summer
Met a Winter Boy out of the blue,
And he whisked him away
From the city one day
Just to show him what country boys do.

He taught him three whys of a rooster,
And he showed him two hows of a hen.
Then he’d try to bewitch him
With curveballs he’d pitch him
Again and again and again.

He taught him the reason for rainbows,
And he showed him why lightning was king,
Then he fingered the last ball—
A wicked hop fastball—
He threw to the plate on a string.

Oh, the Old Summer Man and the Young Winter Lad
Spent the light of each day—every moment they had—
In the wind and the rain, or the late summer sun,
Where he taught him to pitch and he taught him to run
In the wind and rain and the late summer sun.

But when that Old Man of Late Summer
Met the Winter Boy out of the blue,
He said to him, “Son,
You can pitch, you can run,
But to hit here is what you must do:

Just pretend that the stick on your shoulder
Is as wide as a bald eagle’s wing.
You’re a bird on a wire
And your hands are on fire—
But you’re never too eager to swing.

Stand as still as a rabbit in danger,
Watch the pitch with the eyes of a cat.
What will fly past the mound—
Unforgettable sound—
Is the ball as it cracks off the bat.”

Oh, the Old Summer Man and the Young Winter Lad
Spent the light of each day—every moment they had—
In the wind and the rain, or the late summer sun,
Where he taught him to pitch and he taught him to run
In the wind and rain and the late summer sun.


World’s Largest Baseball: Muscotah, Kansas

A few weeks ago, a co-worker came by my office and mentioned that she would be going on a day trip to see the world’s biggest baseball.  She knew the information would interest me (it did), and it amazed me to discover that this baseball resides just over an hour’s drive from where we stood, in Muscotah, Kansas.  Muscotah also happens to be the birthplace of Joe Tinker, the famous Cubs shortstop of the renowned Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double-play combination of the early 20th century.

I learned in my research that the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Baseball is not really a baseball.  Rather, the people of Muscotah took an old water tank to create the twenty-foot diameter ball, using rebar to fashion the stitches.  The eventual goal for the project is to create a Joe Tinker museum on the inside of the hollow, steel baseball.  As things stand, my co-worker informed me the week after her visit, the World’s Largest Baseball isn’t much to look at.  Nevertheless, I knew I wanted to check it out for myself, and I took advantage of the opportunity to do so this weekend.

I left in the morning, shortly after breakfast.  The route consisted primarily of small, winding, two-lane highways through rural Kansas.  I took a couple wrong turns along the way, thanks to some confusion in the directions, so the trip took slightly longer than anticipated, but fortunately I had no reason to hurry.  I passed through a number of small towns on the drive, though I noticed that Muscotah never appeared on any of the highway distance signs.  The population of Muscotah, it turns out, was a mere 176 people as of the 2010 census.

When one finally reaches the city limits along highway US-159, one of the first things you notice is the welcome sign:

Muscotah welcome

I continued driving for a couple more blocks, and the giant baseball itself proved hard to miss.  I turned off the highway onto Kansas Avenue, where the ball stood, and maneuvered my car into an acceptable parking position in the tall grass along the side of the street.

As for the World’s Largest Baseball, well, it definitely looks like a very large, steel baseball:

Muscotah World's Largest Baseball
I walked around and poked my head into the entrance of the hollow tank, and while it seems it’s still going to be quite some time until any kind of museum takes shape, there was at least the faint promise of it in the form of building materials on the interior floor:

Muscotah Largest Baseball 2

Muscotah Baseball interior

Not too far from the steel baseball stood a trio of baseball player silhouettes, no doubt intended to represent the threesome that was Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance.

Muscotah Tinker-Evers-Chance

0525190936a

Tinker to Evers

Evers to Chance

Evers to Chance

As my co-worker forewarned, there really wasn’t much to see beyond the baseball and the silhouettes.  It would have been easy (and it was tempting) to just hop back into my vehicle and head home straightaway, but I decided to walk around for a few minutes to stretch my legs.  But in truth, there doesn’t seem to be much to Muscotah itself.

0525190940

Some of the older, run down buildings do seem to carry echoes of a more vibrant time in the town’s past:

Muscotah old house

And I do have to comment that this is quite possibly the smallest post office I have ever seen:

Muscotah post office

All in all, Muscotah is just a quiet, rural Kansas town, silent and still with sleepiness on this warm May weekend.  I certainly wouldn’t say that the World’s Largest Baseball is a “must-see” attraction worth traveling halfway across the country to catch a glimpse.  However, for any hardcore baseball fans who just happen to be in the area, it does make for a different and relaxing daytrip destination.

 

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

~”Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” by Franklin Pierce Adams


“Gum Based Good Times,” by David S. Pointer

As a kid, chewing bubble gum always seemed to me as much a part of baseball as wearing a baseball cap.  Published in 2010 in Spitball magazine, this piece seems to agree with me.

*

The antique gumball
machine tech patted
his little globe dispenser
saying it was “the gum”
that really got each
baseball game started
and helped a fastball
burn hot as a fireplace
front or brought out a
cartridge box boom
at the crack of the bat
or helped the coach
keep up maintenance
on all our game gear
stored in that Nicaraguan
coffee gunny sack
season after season,
so in baseball’s brief
little league time line
it’s the chewing gum
that may be going down
into history with the
chomping rest of us.


A baseball limerick

Either the pitchers are really, really good, or the other team’s offense leaves a lot to be desired.

baseball limerick

W. Galbraith


Poem on Lou Gehrig’s trophy

gehrig

The ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter

Shortly following Lou Gehrig’s retirement from baseball, due to his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the Yankees declared July 4, 1939 “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.”  On this day, Gehrig delivered his now-historic “Luckiest Man” speech to the fans of Yankee Stadium.  During that ceremony, Gehrig’s teammates presented him with a trophy, and on that trophy they had the following poem, written by John Kiernan, engraved.

*

To LOU GEHRIG

We’ve been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.
Idol of cheering millions,
Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you
Decked you with laurel leaves.
But higher than that we hold you,
We who have known you best;
Knowing the way you came through
Every human test.
Let this be a silent token
Of lasting Friendship’s gleam,
And all that we’ve left unspoken;
Your Pals of the Yankees Team.


“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.