162 Baseball Poems

This might be the dumbest idea I’ve ever had: I plan to write 162 baseball poems this baseball season. What’s the point of it, other than there are 162 baseball games in a major league team’s season? I guess the point is that I’ll figure out the point along the way. Or I won’t figure out the point and I’ll have 162 baseball poems of wildly varying significance and quality. Perhaps one way to approach it is to not worry about it too much. It’s like going on an around-the-world journey or climbing a big-ass mountain: just make sure you’ve got a bottle of water, snacks and go.

Also, I write haikus, and haikus are so short I’m not counting them as full-length poems. I think I’ll count them as 1/10th of a poem. Or 1/9th of a poem—9 players on the field or in a lineup. That’s about right.

Also, I live across the bridge from San Francisco. I go to a good amount of Giants games, and some A’s games. I’ll try to write about all the teams this year, but I’m not promising anything.

* * * * * * *

Note: (4.5 No.1) means April 5th, Poem Number 1. Writing out the whole date seems distracting.

Feel free to email me if you’re confused, or have comments.

Here we go:

* * * * * * *

PLAY!

(4.5 No.1)

We’re spinning
mid-air
zipping in
past Chris Carpenter
Thwopping David Ross’ mitt—

Strike one
Has been pitched
By Jon Lester—
& so it has commenced;

sweep up the tree needles
burn the dusty wrapping paper
in a Papal puff
announcing
This new season;

It’s all 0-0
And millions of us
Are brimming,
Hope flowing down our sides,
Fronts and backs—
There is zero disappointment;

Lester fires a fastball,
Matt Holiday slices it off into right
New guy Jorge Soler bobbles it,
Heywood rounds third and his foot
Claps home plate
1-0;
Cubs fans groan;

Imbalance,
Like the Big Bang,
birthed.

(Cardinals 3—Cubs 0)

* * * * * * *

NEW COKE

(4.5. No.2)

You notice that
Rectangular pane
Of virtual glass
ESPN 2 is hovering
Above the plate,
As if an off-season suggestion
By Star Wars’ George Lucas,
Or Sci-Fi writer Harlan Ellison,
Or perhaps those
Who sold us
New Coke,
The Edsel,
Windows Vista (or 8),
The Extreme Football League,
Or Gerrymandering?

The world’s better off without any of that,
And now I’ll switch to
Where that virtual pane
Of glass does not exist—
Ahhhhhh, radio.

* * * * * * *

Low on Wry: R.I.P. Lon Simmons

(4.6. No.3)

The world today,
Has been depleted of
Wry;
That special sauce
Of great baseball broadcasters;
Cracking apart
A rain delay;
Or while 9 men
Are standing still,
And we’re waiting;
Lon Simmons,
Giants broadcaster,
All through San Francisco
(Plus some significant A’s),
Has decided to go on
To a field full of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson,
Satchel Paige, Mickey Mantle, Lefty Gomez,
Addie Joss, Josh Gibson, Christy Mathewson,
The greats and the characters,
The drinkers and the teeth-grinders,
Floating above it,
Behind home plate,
Lon’s splattering descriptions
And quips;
It’s one thing,
That’s gonna be wonderful,
On the other side.

* * * * * * *

(April 7. Poem #4)

Popup over 1st twisting high
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt
Jerks after it,
Halts (as if shot),
Hops,
Stops (the ball plops foul);

Blasting onto the field,
Trainer Dave Greshner, Manager Bruce Bochy
Assess and comfort
Bent-over, stationary
Brandon Belt;

Last year it was his thumb,
Then a concussion on a ball thrown at him,
The year before, his kinked neck,
A strained elbow,
A shaving accident,
A pedicure gone wrong,
An old lady cutting him off at Whole Food,
Cracking his rib on her shopping cart;

Gingerly,
Brandon Belt walks off,
Disappears down the dugout,
Inoperable.

(Giants 6—Diamondbacks 7)

* * * * * * *

April 8

That’s Him (Haiku 1/9th)

Adrien Gonzalez
3 homers and a single—
Can’t ignore him now

(Dodgers 7—Padres 3)

* * * * * * *

April 9 (Poem #5)

Amidst the blooming aroma of hot French fries
A pair of pigeons zips
Over the packed concourse,
Serving as the Air Force flyover
For the Oakland Coliseum,

Real fanatics
Real players on the field,
No TV glass or virtual anything;

Here in the last rows of Section 116,
Under the overhang,
The field in green checks,
The players hear our clapping hands
Our loud encouragement;

We’re here to see Kendall Graveman,
Part of the passel of compensation for
Trading A’s All-Star Fan Favorite Josh Donaldson
To the artificial surface of Toronto;

(Off the A’s carrousel: Donaldson;
Onto the A’s carrousel:
Brett Lawrie, third baseman
Sean Nolin, pitcher
Kendall Graveman, pitcher
Franklin Barreto, 18-year-old shortstop)

So we’re here to see Graveman
Make his first major league start,
See part of what we got for Hero Donaldson;

And I’m filling my scorebook with new A’s
Ben Zobrist (Rays), “Country Breakfast” Billy Butler (Royals), Brett Lawrie (Jays), Ike Davis (Pirates, Mets, Bad News Bears),
And no-names Canha and Semien,
I, a middle-aged, baseball expert,
Mildly baffled and indignant
At the speed of the spinning carrousel;

Top 1st, no outs, a walk and a hit—
Rookie Kendall Graveman first a pickoff to centerfield,
And the runners advance to 2nd and 3rd;
Adrian Beltre chopper to 3rd,
Lawrie fires home; catcher Vogt drops the ball;
Fans groan: 1-0;

Fat Prince Fielder knocks a single to center: 2-0;
No out, runners on 1st and 2nd,
Anxiety floods
Those paying attention;

Kendall Graveman’s 1st A’s inning ends 3-0:
That’s a 27.00 Earned Run Average;

But up here in the cool shade of poured concrete,
Surrounded by a moat of empty green plastic seats,
And fortunately,
My concrete ceiling shields the view of the hyped new scoreboard,
Though the powers-that-be
Replaced the ancient yellowish bulb scoreboard
That rimmed the thing lip
Of the 2nd deck
With bands of
Computerized LEDs
And though I don’t much like “upgrading”
The strips look good
In the old stadium
Stylish and bright and not flashing too much,
Contrasting nicely
With the static forest
Of fading green tarps
Covering 17,000 upper deck seats;

They’ve got fans here
To watch baseball,
Leave your sushi remnants in the
Heating greenhouse of your car;
But they’ve also got
Ike Davis batting
And I might be as good a hitter as Ike Davis,
Neither of us deserves
To be on the field.

No one,
Except the Visa Card company
Knew I was headed to this game,
Until,
Scorecard and peanuts packed,
Iced tea sports bottled,
Mrs. L. entered the house
Her canvass bag crammed with work drawings and plans;
Like being caught playing hookey,
I disclosed my destination,
And she said, “Have a great time.”
What a life!
What a wife!

Graveman surrenders 2 runs in the 3rd,
3 in the 4th,
And is gone,
His first Big League start
As successful as the Charge of the Light Brigade;

Notice the CLOCK beyond centerfield,
At the third out, set at 2:30, counts down,
And play begins near :30,
Shaving, I believe, that :30 off every inning,
And the batters don’t stray much from the box,
And the game goes by quite crisply,

Though it’s a mess for the A’s,
And everyone’s missing Josh Donaldson.

(Rangers 10—Athletics 1)

* * * * * * *

CHAMPIONS

(4.13 No.6)

My black shoes
Step from concrete stands,
Onto the crushed brick that rims the grass of the field of the Giants,

Joe Panik cracks batting practice hits,
Giants and their coaches stand around the batting cage,
Analyzing Panik, chatting to each other;
Those not in uniform shuffle near the dugout,
Some writers interviewing Giants prez Larry Baer,

As Nori Aoki’s bat smacks liners,
In an hour and a half,
They’ll bring out the third World Series trophy,
Raise the flag of 2014 triumph;

Is this the best place in the world right now,
Better than a café in Paris, a beach in Tahiti,
A card table in Vegas, the lip of the Grand Canyon?

And why are you here, poet,
In the company of the daily journalists who cover the Giants?
Now I’m interviewing Mrs. Larry Baer, asking her,
“The Giants’ve won 3 World Series in 5 seasons. What does it mean to you,
personally?”
“Personally?” she asks, then answers, “Momentous,
Our children don’t realize what an unbelievable era,
We’re living in.”
(So pleasant and confident in her role as Wife of The Boss);

And so I will ask the same question to
Former Prez Peter Magowan,
To sports writer Ray Ratto (“To me it’s meaningless”),
To ushers, fans, beer vendors, a photographer,
Compile all the answers into my latest sports column for the
San Francisco Marina Times;

And so red field dirt speckles the rims of my black shoes,
And a security guard quietly tells me, “I hate Opening Day.”

(Rockies 2—Giants 0)

* * * * * * *

A GUY IN A BASEBALL UNIFORM ON A HORSE

(4.13. No.7)

Four mounted horses on the warning track,
42,000 screaming fans;

One of the riders dismounts,
Madison Bumgarner,
Wearing cream colored uniform #40,
Mounts,
Accepts the triangled flag from manager Bruce Bochy,
Slowly Bumgarner guides his horse along the warning track,
The fans are laughing/cheering,
Bumgarner stops at the centerfield wall,
Hands the flag up to Sergio Romo,

Romo and a passel of Giants ascends the bleacher,
Backs slapped,
Hands slapped,
Curve round to the cable car,
Run the flag up the pole:
2014 World Champions,
Fireworks blast;

Let us not ponder
Our team’s crappy injuries,
Loss of Panda,
3-4 record;

We shoulda had
This ceremony
In the fall,
During the drought,
Keep this team,
For months,
Off the field;

Banish these thoughts, man!
Get a beer,
Celebrate!

(Rockies 2—Giants 0)

* * * * * * *

ARENADO

(4.14. No.8)

Gregor Blanco pops foul,
The ball dropping towards the rolled tarp,
Rockies 3rd baseman Nolan Arenado,
Sprints away from the diamond,
Full speed snags the ball,
Smashed tarp,
Helicopters onto the tarp, low fence
(as Giants fans ((traitors)) brace him);

Angel Pagan tags from second,
Racing to 3rd,
Arenado rises from the tarp
Like a God from an ancient epic,
Throws the ball like a bolt of lightning,
And Pagan is safe at 3rd;

This joins the pantheon
Of the best baseball plays ever;
Go Google it,
It’s there;

Now most everyone’s a fan
Of Nolan Arenado.

(Rockies 4—Giants 1)

* * * * * * *

HARD KNOCK

(4.16 No.9)

Letting Little L.’s hand go,
At baseball camp,
I watch the infield practice;
Warm, windless,
Behind the fence;

A grounder approaches Little L.’s friend,
Who doesn’t bend low enough,
The ball scooting through his legs,
He turningly steps left cleat atop right laces, trips,
Falls on his ass,
Bang!

Life teaches us—

Is it an endless river of failure?
Or a river of success, roaring past
Occasional Failure Boulders?

I’m standing here,
In foul ground,
Turning aside,
Not even competing anymore,
Occasionally doting out blathering advice;

I’m choosing the metaphor of a thousand-layer cake, or thousand-layer moussaka,
Put that fat wedge on its side,
Somehow
Mine out the caviar, the truffles,
The oysters and French fries.

* * * * * * *

HEROES

(4.16 No.10)

I’m talking with Andy Baggarly,
All-Star baseball writer,
In a bar on San Francisco’s Union Street,
He’s signing his books;

Right now, just me and him and a hefty guy in a Bumgarner All-Star jersey,
And up on the TV,
There’s Miami Marlin Ichiro Suzuki,
Sliding towards home plate at Queens’ Citi Field,
The Mets catcher reaching towards Ichiro squirming—
Like an Octopus doused in paint thinner—
For the plate;

Out! deems the ump!

We three watch the replays,
Ichiro’s slow-motion hand groping towards the plate,
Like Michelangelo’s Adam reaching for God’s finger,
The catcher swiping after Ichiro;

And in the Marlins dugout,
Ichiro removes his helmet,
Revealing an ancient warrior’s head of gray;
As the umps don the earphones,
And the unseen Judge of Secaucus,
Rises from his Barc-A-Lounger,
To eyeball his TV,
Deeming Ichiro

Safe!

Ichiro and Baggarly,
Two greats.

(Mets 7—Marlins 5)

* * * * * * *

NO ADVICE MARRING THE PERFECT MOMENT

(4.16 No.11)

Little L.’s standing down the yard in the twilight,
Shaking off a sign;
I’m on a kiddie chair, pink plastic,
Holding out my mitt over a blue rubber square
With the number 3 on it;

Jon Miller’s description of the Giants game blooms
Like a million red roses,
Out the portable radio;

I’ve suggested to Little L. 100 times
To throw overhand,
But he twirls like Luis Tiant Jr.,
His back to me, then fires sidearm—
Strike;

My sore arm tosses the ball through the evening;

I’ll let a future coach be the hard-ass.

* * * * * * *

(Haikus #2-5—April 16)

Bumgarner lets go
Ball spinning invitingly
Paul Goldschmidt homers

* * *

Bumgarner folds over
Failure not before witnessed
In this dimension

* * *

Giants losing tying
Losing tying now losing—
In twelve painful frames

(Arizona 7—Giants 6)

* * *

Our huge treasury,
Once overspilling with ’10, ’12, ’14 gloriousness—
Now I see the floor

(Giants 3 wins—8 losses)

* * * * * * *

(4.20 No.12)

FRONTIER JUSTICE

All a-flutter
Is sports radio
With the A’s’ Brett Lawrie
Getting plunked and almost-beaned
By various K.C. pitchers,
After Lawrie slid like a toboggan
Into K.C. shortstop Alcides Escobar
Who couldn’t crawl off the field without help;

After firing 99 m.p.h.
In the vicinity
Of Lawrie’s head,
Kelvin Herrera pointed at his own head,
Which threateans, “The next one might go to the coconut,”

Escobar will be O.K.,
Lawrie will be too,
They’ll all be O.K.,
Herrera will get a suspension;

Talking about violence,
Or threatened violence;
Time to shut up, find a ball, toss it.

* * * * * * *

LACK OF RINGS

(4.21 No.13)

So we didn’t go to the Giants’ ring ceremony,
Where they gave out
40,000 championship rings;

$135 a ticket,
$270 for me and Little L.,
$405 for Mrs. L. too,
$12,475 for the neighborhood;
Or zero to stay home and not freeze;
I cheaped out;

The next day,
Little L.’s friend show us his ring,
Glittering and chunky,
2014 World Champions;

Those rings are nice.

* * * * * * *

PATRIOTS DAY

(4.20 No.14)

They’re playing Major League baseball
At 11:15 am,
Fenway Park Time,
8:15 am on my XM radio,
Dropping Little L. at school,
We hear the first pitch pop;

At my office, I listen through my computer,
Noticing No Pablo Sandoval
In the Red Sox lineup;

The Orioles Wei-Yin Chen,
Is pitching;
And the Red Sox announcers tell me,
“Pablo Sandoval is struggling
Versus lefties,
Hitting oh for 13;
In 2014 he hit only .199
Against lefties”;

Has it started?
So soon?!
This Boston doubting,
Of Pablo,
Whispers of regret;

In San Francisco,
We didn’t publicly
Chitter-chatter
About Pablo’s lefty/righty splits;

At each of last year’s World Series games here,
Probably 1,000 fans,
Out of the 42,000
Knew about Pablo’s .199 from the right side;

We believed
In the whole fella,
With the silhouette of Frosty The Snowman;
He hit .429 in last year’s World Series,
With 12 clutch knocks in the 7 games,
Kung Fu Pandaed the heck out of 3rd base,
And after Gregor Blanco/Juan Perez’s penultimate heart-attack muff,
Pablo camped in foul territory
under the final fly ball,
And sealed the Tiffany trophy,
In a baby-blue box;

We here in San Francisco don’t dissect our heroes,
Into miniscule parts,
And complain if a section’s not perfect;

Because no one is perfect,
Nothing,
Except, perhaps, victory.

* * * * * * *

(4.21 No.15)

T-SHIRT

My friend Mike,
Texts me a photo:

A t-shirt,
Featuring Oakland A’s’ Rickey Henderson,
Holding 3rd base aloft,
The steal that
Broke Lou Brock’s all-time record:

“Everything I learned about stealing,
I learned
In Oakland.”

* * * * * * *

(4.22 No.16)

THE NEW GUY

Arcing towards the right field line,
Yasiel Puig’s foul ball,
Giant Justin Maxwell,
Races after it—

My squinty, cynical eye discerns
There’s no way he’s gonna snag it,
That this 4-1 Giants 8th inning lead,
Will remain tenuous with Dodgers on 2nd and 1st,
Puig at bat, dangerous Adrian Gonzalez on deck,
The Giants 6 games behind the Dodgers
in this barely-birthed season

—As Maxwell slides through the crushed cinders,
Catches the ball, jams his knee into the wall,
Tosses the ball to hold runners from scoring;

Puig, in the dugout, applauds the replay;
Gonzalez grounds out;

Just for gravy, extra sauce,
And what-the-heck let’s go for a second round of filet mignon,
In the bottom of the 8th,
Maxwell smacks his first homer.

(Giants 6—Dodgers 2)

* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *

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