POEMS #16-20: 162 Baseball Poems 2015

(4.21 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)

* * * * * * *

(4.22 No.17)

THE GROUNDS

Like a complicated military campaign
We gather sandwiches, coats, mitts, a baseball,
Cheese popcorn, Cracker Jack, bubble water,
Coke, paper towels, sweaters, knit World Series caps,
A parka,
And drive across the Golden Gate Bridge,
Little L. playing his video game as I state,
“This is the most beautiful bridge in the world!”
and I get the response the gathering fog gets;

Walking towards the ballpark,
My arms ache hauling our two bulbous bags
Of clothes and snacks,
While Little L. tosses the baseball against concrete steps,
Snagging the rebound with his mitt;

Outside the stadium on the grass triangle,
I throw the ball as high as my sore arm permits,
He’s a dervish out there, in his orange Giants shirt,
Camping under popups like he’s Brandon Crawford;

After diving catches, he gazes at the passing fans,
to see if they’ve seen him:
Everyone ’cept the Dalia Lama wants to be famous;

I’ve brought the lightest mitt from my collection,
To alleviate the load,
But its leather worn thin from thirty years of pounding,
Permits my hand to sting from Little L.’s hard throws,
Permits my middle and ring finger
To stray against the loose pocket,
To get binged on the tips into numbness;

We munch snacks and sip soda on the green triangle,
The fans flowing past,
The stadium looming,
Bumgarner Vs. Kershaw looming;

This is where poetry serves me,
So,
years and years later,
I recall.

(Giants 3—Dodgers 2)

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

(4.24 No.18)

BABE RUTH AT THE BAR

“I enjoyed,
When guys came in,
Their terrified eyes,
Bodies stiff;

“As a pitcher, it was hard to step back and chuckle,
’cause I was in the main action;
But out in right field,
I have time to watch it all,
As fans call out friendly hellos in the Bronx,
Or yell, ‘Fat slob!’
‘Booze hound!’
‘Die Ruth!’
In Boston, Philly, D.C., here in Cleveland…;

“When I’m in right field,
That’s the spot where I enjoy the rookies,
Stepping up to the plate for the first time—

“But look at Gehrig, at Rogers Hornsby, at Goose Goslin—those guys,
Their first games,
Stood in there and though their eyes were like dinner plates,
Face muscles unmoving,
Their bodies knew what to do;
Their bodies are geniuses;

“That’s the thing:
Your brain can mess with your body,
But your body can’t mess with your brain”;

His tuberous finger reached across
And pushed my forehead right between the brows;

“So you don’t have to buy me this drink,
But I’ll drink it anyway;
Here’s to a long life, kid!”

* * * * * * *

(4.26 No.19)

“TURKEY” MIKE DONLIN

From St. Louis in 1898,
To Baltimore,
The Giants,
Ending in 1916:
Lifetime .333 AVG,
Lifetime .854 OPS;

At the Polo Grounds,
a precursor star
To Babe Ruth;

He loved him some Vaudeville,
And after his .356 1905
Helping lead the Giants to the championship,
His 1906 ended in May with a Buster Poseyesque broken ankle,
And in 1907, he switched careers to Vaudeville—
To the dismay of the sporting press,
And Giants fans,
Met and married Mabel Hite,
A Vaudevillian,
And they put on “Stealing Home” thousands of time;

But “Turkey” Mike—
So named for his jaunty, gobble gobble strut—
Returned to Christy Mathewson and John McGraw’s Giants
In 1908, hitting .334,
And leading them to the Cubs-Giants “Bonehead” Merkle game,
And its aftermath,
That year marking the last year
The Cubs ever ever won
The World Series;
Perhaps it’s a
Fred “Bonehead” Merkle
Curse upon the Cubbies,
(Try out that one Billy Goat Steve Bartman),
Now 107 seasons old;

But don’t canonize Mike Donlin:
In 1904 he smashed up a guy on a train,
A victim of the Mike/booze/people combination;
And sometimes Mike’s contracts stipulated
That he couldn’t drink during the season;

Over the early teens Mike exited
And returned to the Giants
With bundles of hits;

Young Mabel died in 1912
Of cancer,
And at Errol Flynn’s urging,
Mike travelled west,
Appearing with Buster Keaton,
In “The General,”
Drinkingly burning bridges,
Getting bit parts
Dying in 1933.

.333 lifetime average,
1218 hits, 213 stolen bases, 3854 at-bats,
No, it’s not enough of a sustained career,
To have a brass plaque,
In the Hall of Fame,
Where fans
Could know about him;

But it would have been a lot of fun,
To stand in the Polo Grounds,
To cup hands around mouth,
To shout, “That’s the way, Mike!”

* * * * * * *

THEY’RE NOT PLAYING A GAME IN BALTIMORE

(4.27 No.20 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

By Steve Hermanos

No heavy rain is falling in Baltimore right now,
No snow pellets are dropping,
There wasn’t an earthquake earlier,

The ball field is uncovered,
Perfect;

But baseball muckety-mucks are canceling
Tonight’s Baltimore-Chicago White Sox game,
As people are ripping up cars,
Setting cars afire,
Driving through fire,
Attacking police,
On Eutaw Street,
Which leads straight to the ballpark;

“Why can’t people just be happy?”

Well—
I won’t be too happy if cops
Stop and frisk me for nothing;
I won’t be too happy if the CVS workers
humiliate me every time I step in;
I won’t be too happy if people
get all frenzied
about an esoteric game,
talking about rules I don’t understand;
I won’t be too happy if my spine is snapped
in a police van;

Baseball is complicated,
And if it’s America’s game,
Then we’ve all got to share its beauty,
With each other,
To coach it, to play it.

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

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