162 Baseball Poems: POEMS #30-#39

(5.6 No.30 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

BRYCE HARPER HATE

Why does everybody
Hate Bryce Harper?
He’s only 22,
Loaded to the hair follicles,
Brimming with talent & desire—
Josh Hamilton without the drugs—

I think he’s got
A Nancy Reagan problem;

There in DC;
Nancy, if I remember right,
Back in ’81,
Was complaining ’bout
The White House dishes
The White House rugs
The White House draperies;

Nobody liked her,
The little fashionista with the big head,
Pasted with the nickname “Queen Nancy”;

Homer 1st at bat,
Homer 2nd at bat,
Homer 3rd at bat;
Bryce Harper joins Mel Ott,
Juan Gonzalez,
Eddie Mathews,
As 22-year-olds bludgeoning 3 homers in a game;

And millions of Americans still hate him;

Here’s an idea, Bryce:
Pick up some oversized eyeglasses,
Stand at a podium,
Announce a new endeavor:
“Just Say No!”

(Nationals 7—Marlins 5)

* * * * * * *

(5.7 No.31 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

661

By Steve Hermanos

Alex Rodriguez blasts a homer to center
At Yankee Stadium,
Career Home Run Number 661,
Passing Willie Mays’ 660;
Yankee fans cheer A-Rod out of the dugout,
For another hurrah and a wave for 661;

Everyone hates cheaters, right?

Now it’s
762 Barry Bonds
755 Henry Aaron
714 Babe Ruth
661 Alex Rodriguez
660 Willie Mays

2 of those 5
brimmed with steroids
while whacking homers

And the unstained list:
755 Henry Aaron
714 Babe Ruth
660 Willie Mays

5386 total homers in 2006
4957 in 2007
5042 in 2009
4934 in 2012
4661 in 2013
4182 in 2014

That’s 22 percent fewer homers in ’14
Compared to ’06,
Since testing,
And A-Rod steroids banishment for all of last year;

That 714 stood
As Mays and Aaron and Mickey Mantle and Ernie Banks
And Willie McCovey and Harmon Killebrew
And Eddie Mathews
Consistently piled up 25, 30, 40 homers a year
Through the late 1950’s and 60’s and early 70’s,
Career homers rose like flood tides
Could any of them rise higher than the Babe?

The New York Times
Kept a tracker
In the baseball pages
Of Aaron’s homers
In 1973,
A silhouette of a baseball,
With 685,
699,
700,
702,
Ending the season at 713;

And that winter,
It’s all I could think about,
In the Spring of ’74
Topps put out its set,
The first seven cards
Devoted to Henry Aaron,
Card #1
“New
All-Time
Home Run
King”
We kids wondered,
Was Topps jinxing Hank Aaron,
He hadn’t tied,
Or passed
The Babe;

On April 8th,
Monday Night Baseball,
Hank hit number 715,
And I jumped for joy on the shag rug,
Into the living room,
All over the apartment;

In August,
The Mets held “Hank Aaron Day”
Gave out a poster of Aaron;
Dad and I were sitting in the Loge,
Along left field,
Watching Aaron down there,
King of homers;
And every time he came up to bat,
I wished out loud to see a Hank Aaron homer;
There was a long drive to left—
And for a moment it might go!
But it short-hopped the wall,
And 40-year-old Henry Aaron
Cruised into second base.

Now,
41 years later,
A-Rod,
Significantly lighter
Than his peak steroids years,
Soon-to-be himself 40 years old;

We looked to sports for purity,
And now, when there are so many riches
Up for grabs,
Purity is when
you have the cow-shod ball in your hand;

I’ll take the measure of my life in love,
And not in anyone else’s 661;

The Yank fans are standing and ovating,
Thanking him for helping them
Attain first place,
After a spate of losing seasons;

But I do wish A-Rod well,
Wish him, in his shrunkenness,
To play beautifully
In great talent and dedication
Under blood testing.

(Yankees 4—Orioles 3)

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

DATELINE NASHVILLE

(5.9 No.32 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

By Steve Hermanos

Jarrod Parker—
He of the 25-16 career record,
He of the devastating curveball,
He of the two Tommy John surgeries on his forearm—

Jarrod Parker,
Having missed all of last season,
And the first bit of this,
Clawing his way back to the Athletics,
With a stop here in triple-A Nashville,
throws his 87th pitch
Of the night,
Cries out,
Crumples off the mound,
As the ball flies high to the backstop;

The Nashville fans stand,
Silent,
Major Leaguer Jarrod Parker
Supine on their grass,

He’s only 26 years old,
Was a top-tier starting pitcher,
And his arm…
Disintegrating;

Surrounded by manager
Steve Scarsone, the trainer,
Parker sits,
Then stands and walks off
The playing field
To applause.

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

HELMAR BASEBALL CARDS

(5.11 No.33 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

By Steve Hermanos

You can’t go back
A hundred years
Rip open a box of Cracker Jack,
Pull out a baseball card—
Joe Jackson on a red background;

You can’t scrounge 1915 junk stores
And ask the cigar-chomping troll,
“Do you have any cigarette cards?”
as you collect Mathewson, McGraw, Lajoie,
and maybe, oh just maybe, Honus Wagner;

But my friend,
You can type Helmar baseball cards
Into your computer,
Leading you to eBay,
And a hundred cards available now—
Babe Ruth, Babe Didrikson, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig,
All the greats,
And the scoundrels—the Black Sox—

And if you win one,
You’ll rip open the sturdy white envelope,
Pull out the card,
Unwrap its cellophane,
Hold it in your hand—

Now here we digress to what has happened to baseball cards:
Completely commodified,
Big 1990’s crash;
Awash in worthless cards;

The good cards are now sent away to
3rd-party grading services,
Which encapsulate each card,
Put a bar code on it,
And grade its condition on a scale
from 1-10, or 1-100;

Type PSA 8 into eBay and see what comes up;

But the problem:
People are holding a piece of plastic,
With a baseball card inside—

Now open your Helmar card,
Hold it in your hand;
Notice that the genius at Helmar,
—my friend Charles Mandel
and his team—
(I write the backs of some cards,
And blast out his weekly newsletter)—
Clip edges, scrape, scuff, poke each card,
Then dab a scented wax potion
And voila,
The card feels 100 years old,
It looks 100 years old,
Its odor fascinates, evokes;
You are transported
To that player’s life;
Career,
Knocking bat to ball,
Stealing bases,
Pitching past hitters;

Mr. Mandel has studied
Poster art,
Gas Light signage,
Color theory,
Printing techniques,
Old Master composition,
The House of David baseball team(s),
Paper,
Glue,
Die cutting machines,
Cuban baseball history;

19th century baseball great, Buck Ewing’s, belief
That the earth is flat;

So we see Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean together;

We see the great Josh Gibson in the 1933 Goudey set,
The set that featured 4 Babe Ruths, but 0
Josh Gibsons, the man called “The Black Babe Ruth”
Who died,
Eaten from the inside,
two years short
Of being in the major leagues;

We see 1920’s outstanding female athlete Babe Didrikson,
We see Fleetwood Walker,
Banned by the majors in 1884,
In a composition, and baby-blue, of the Northern Renaissance,
The last African-American player
In the Majors,
Until Jackie Robinson in 1947;

There’s Ty Cobb looking crazy/confident,
Cy Young holding a garish trophy,
Babe Ruth in his Red Sox uniform,
Lou Gehrig in his Columbia,
Joe Jackson of the Black Sox,
In cards that should’ve come out way back;

Stuff a shoebox full,
Beautiful baseball cards.

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

(5.12 No.34 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

90 YOGI 90

By Steve Hermanos

I am old,
But not old enough
To’ve seen Yogi Berra
Play baseball;

I saw him manage the Mets
To the World Series in ’73,
Be a human pressure valve for the all-time
Most pressurized human,
Billy Martin;

Get canned as Yank manager
by George Steinbrenner
in 1985,
after the 16th game,
one of the most savage cannings in history
(Perhaps the nadir of George Steinbrenner’s
Life of abuse);

Yogi vowed to never again
set foot In Yankee Stadium—
And no one could blame him
(King George formally apologized a dozen years later);

I stood in his presence as he signed a baseball in green ink,
“Here ya go”,
friendly;

And he was baseball’s greatest poet:

• It gets late early out here.
• If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark,
nobody’s going to stop them.
• Pair up in threes.
• You can observe a lot by watching.
• We make too many wrong mistakes.
• The future ain’t what it used to be.
• It’s déjà vu all over again.
• Love is the most important thing in the world,
but baseball is pretty good, too.
• Baseball is ninety percent mental,
and the other half is physical.
• I never said most of the things I said.
• You should always go to other people’s funerals.
Otherwise, they won’t come to yours.

Today he’s 90,

He’s outlived Steinbrenner and Martin
Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard,
Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer,
Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson,
His wife Carmen,
Married 65 years;

Well, Mr. Berra,
You’ve got the rest of us,
The baseball populace—

Nice guys finish first!

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

(5.12 No.35 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

THE PRODIGAL PABLO SNAGS ANOTHER BAUBLE

By Steve Hermanos

Pablo returns to San Francisco,
Quietly—

He’s gathering in the lobby of the St. Francis Hotel,
With Giants’ Bruce Bochy, Larry Baer, Bobby Evans,
Where Mr. Baer holds out a ring box,
Pablo opens it
The 2014 World Series ring,
Dons the $18,000 ring;

Does he say, “Thanks”?

Yeah, I’m sure;

I know that guy,
He does his talking with his bat,
His glove,
His body;

That big opening in his face,
Is best at
taking in hoagies & pizzas & Smashburger;
Not spouting words;

His hand-eye speed is Einsteinian,
Ruthian,
Quick as Groucho Marx’s wit;

So all that nasty stuff,
That emanated about our Giants,
Is washed away in a hug of Bruce Bochy
And Larry Baer,
And a big handshake for new G.M. Bobby Evans;

In 20, 30 years he’ll be signing autographs alongside
Tim Lincecum and Brandon Belt and Joaquin Arias,
And we’ll be one team again;

After the smiles in the St. Francis lobby,
The pats on the back,
The goodbyes and good lucks,
After the ring is stuffed in his pocket,

Pablo Sandoval is driven onto the Bay Bridge,
Glimpsing his old ballpark down to the right,
Gazing at it for a moment,
The memories,
As the black SUV carries him towards Oakland,
Where he dons his Red Sox uniform,

And in the top of the 11th inning,
He hits the game-winning home run;

It’s another great day,
For Pablo Sandoval,
And not,
For the San Francisco Giants,
Not for me.

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

(5.12 No.36 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

PABLO INSOMNIA

By Steve Hermanos

Pablo Sandoval is back in San Francisco,
With the Red Sox,
Having vanquished
the A’s tonight,
The game-winning homer,
In the top of the 11th;

I’m in my living room,
At 3:48 a.m.
The autographed photo of smiling Pablo with the bat on his shoulder,
His framed baseball cards,
The San Francisco Chronicles proclaiming championships,
The rectangles of glass and plastic,
reflecting blankly,
blue and black,
In the darkness;

Is he out tonight, still,
After swatting the game-winning homer?
Him, and Big Papi, and Hanley,
In a private room at some swanky restaurant,
Stuffing hundreds in the hands of waiters and bartenders
To stay open, and serve them more,
“What’s the most expensive bottle of Champagne you got?”

In my silent living room—

Little L. and I are going, tomorrow
(later today)
To A’s-Red Sox,
We’ll see Pablo,
Unscreened by the TV lens,
Or computer,
Not reproduced—
Nothing between him and us,
But pure Oakland air;

Little L. has said that he’ll boo Pablo;

But, but, but…
Even though it’s the (hated) Red Sox…
Even though, in 2010 Pablo ate himself out of the lineup…

I’ll heat water for tea,
Let the blue gas flame tell me something;

Who hit 3 homers in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series,
And brought a second championship to the Giants?
Who hit over .400 in the 2014 World Series,
And helped bring a third championship to the Giants?
Who caught the last out, after a nightmare of outfield foulups
threatened to let in the tying run in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series?
Whose hands are faster than Bruce Lee’s?
Whose smile repeatedly lit up 43,000 fog-blasted fans?

The sky is lightening to blue,
The black is going,
And this night’s sleep is ruined as roadmeat;
I hope my lack of sleep doesn’t later
create costly work blunders;

Shaving early,
I’ve poured out and separated
this huge fetid stew
of emotions,

And thusly I resolve,
That no matter what ghastly homers,
Unbelievable catches and throws,
He might perpetrate against my teams,
That I’ll never,
In my life,
Boo Pablo Sandoval,
Ever;

It’d be as obscene
As booing
My very son.

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

(5.13 No.37 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

TO THE HEIGHTS OF PARNASSUS

By Steve Hermanos

We’re up,
In Section 209 in Oakland,
Little L. and I, amidst
The fattest of fans
Like icebergs,
Draped in A’s green and gold,
Having risen from the sea-green seats,
Only their jaws and jowls are active,
Mawing variously-molded brown fried sustenance;

The Red Sox go down quietly in the 1st,
And other than the massive A’s fans,
We’re surrounded by Red Sox,
In their cutely-styled caps,
And clean clothes,
Manicured,
Not being from these-here parts;

Well,
Neither am I—
From NYC;
But Little L. is a native,
As we lustily cheer
Marcus Semien whacking a high arc,
Off the top of the wall—triple;
Josh Reddick singling in Semien,
Stephen Vogt cracking the ball,
arcing past our eye level,
Into the right field seats—homer!

I shout, “That one’s for Copley Plaza!”
The Red Sox fans are mute;

A’s 3—Red Sox 0

Bottom 2nd,
Brett Lawrie singles,
Eric Sogard doubles him in;

We’re high-fiving
The meaty hands reaching out
From the green-and-gold mountains,
Brown smiles break through the fat;
The Red Sox fans are mute;

A’s 4—Red Sox 0

Bottom 3rd;

Josh Reddick homers;

“That one’s for the Back Bay!”

A’s 5—Red Sox 0

Red Sox fans are mute;

Stephen Vogt and Max Muncy walk;
Brett Lawrie singles,
Loading the bases,
“More runs!” we yell;
Red Sox fans are mute;

Eric Sogard singles to center,
Vogt and Muncy score;

A’s 7—Red Sox 0

Red Sox fans are mute;

Little L. tells me,
His great
Phys Ed teacher
Is at the game;
“Really?”

My opinions are mixed
about technology,
These phones,
Distractions from real life,
I tap tap tap;

5 minutes later,
Mr. P.E. is at our seats,
To Little L.
It’s like the president of the world
Has sat with us;

I ask where he’s sitting,
And he points down,
And far away,
to the Red Sox dugout;
Incredulously, I ask, “What?”

“The second row;
I know some people;
I think there’s an extra seat”;

Marcus Semien cranks a homer;

“That one’s for the Prudential Center!”

The Red Sox fans are quiet;

A’s 8—Red Sox 0;

After the Dot Race,
I grab the two stuffed bags,
And we three depart the land of happy icebergs,
And whispering Red Sox fans,
Descend the concrete steps,
To field level,
Zipping past ushers,
Who let us by for no particular reason,
Maybe because I’m Little L. is cute,

Mr. P.E. leads us,
To the second row,
Behind the Red Sox dugout,
Introduces us to his friend,
And I won’t be rude and ask,
“How did you get these tickets?
Are you really a high-tech C.E.O. and teaching
P.E. is a cover persona?”
As Billy Butler grounds out
For the bottom of the 7th,
And the Red Sox return to the dugout—
Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and look,
There’s Pablo Sandoval,
The same as last year,
The year before that,
The year before that,
And all his years with the Giants,
But he’s wearing a different uniform,
Maybe it’s like seeing
Your high school buddy
For the first time
In a suit
It’s still the same guy,
But the familiar rags are gone—

Little L.’s mouth is open
And he’s not booing,
He’s not moving;
He’s never before been
This close to major league players,

As Mike Napoli,
Before entering the least-appointed
dugout in the Majors,
tosses a ball into the stands, near us;
Little L.’s eyes are wide as a baseball;

He sits on my lap,
Watching,
Mitt on,
As we can see the sweat
On Shane Victorino’s bare head,
We can see Pablo coming back to the dugout
After grounding out,
And after innings;

The game swiftly ends;
Little L. leaning on the dugout roof,
Holding his glove up to the field;
Mike Napoli rolls a ball up the roof,
To Little L.,
Who snags it;

Those around us cheer the kid,
Little L. is numb with delight,
I give him a hug;

Maybe he’ll keep this ball,
And the memory of this night,
And pass it down to his kid,
Or kids—

Well,
I can’t wish for too much,
When life is so great.

(A’s 9—Red Sox 2)

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

YOU CAN’T MANAGE WITH YOUR HEART

(5.13 No.38 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

By Steve Hermanos

“You can’t manage with your heart,”
says Terry Francona,
manager,
Of the Indians of Cleveland,

Cleveland;

Have you been there recently?
To the acres of housing bulldozed?
Scads of its denizens slow and ill-looking?

Tonight, Corey Kluber,
In the first 8 innings,
struck out 18 St. Louis Cardinals
And the record is 20 in 9 innings,
Set by Kerry Wood de la Cubs—

The Cardinals,
The juggernaut team with the best record in baseball, 23-9,
And Corey Kluber is making them look
Like neophytes—

Will? Terry Francona permit Corey Kluber to pitch the 9th,
After 113 pitches, which isn’t that much
In the opinion of poets?

Kerry Wood, too,
Seemed invincible,
And flamed out with the Cubs,
As the millennium turned,
The Cubs who last won the Series in 1908,

But during Wood’s 20-strikeout game, 1998,
Chicago was effervescent from Michael Jordan’s Championships,
Had bubbled wit Da Bears of 1985;

Cleveland?

They possess that out-of-control, short,
backup quarterback from Texas,
They possess LeBron leading the Cavs, fighting through the playoffs,
They possess the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame,
And a smattering of great restaurants,
And nice people and some fine bookstores,
But shining brilliance on the field of play? No;

No sports championships in decades,
The Indians haven’t reigned since
The prez was Harry Truman,
And Cleveland was not a pile of blight,,
Bypassed by America,
And the Midwest,

Cleveland,
Man-boob capital of the world;

So Terry Francona
(from his clubhouse office,
Having been ejected from the game
For arguing)
Is now barring Corey Kluber
From taking the field for the 9th inning,
Barring him from being a warrior, a hero,
From charging after the single-game strikeout record,
From finishing one of the best-pitched games ever, ever, ever,
My God!

The fans boo Indian Cody Allen,
Relieving for the 9th;

It’s almost another joke,
A river afire,
On downtrodden Cleveland—

Cleveland, which is 8 games back,
11 wins, 20 losses,
Settled in last place, blech,
Why shackle Corey Kluber to the bench,
With 18 strikeouts and one inning to go?

But, but, but,
For the Cleveland Indians, and
Chief Wahoo,
And the Corey Kluber years ahead,
Terry Francona is correct in his cruelty;

“It’s the right move,”
Says Al Pacino in The Godfather,
The right, coldhearted move,
Protecting Corey Kluber’s arm,
And the future,
Such as it might be;

I’d’ve let Kluber pitch the ninth,
And that’s one of many good reasons,
They won’t ever hire a poet
To manage,
The Indians.

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

* * * * * * *

BLOOD ORANGE

By Steve Hermanos

(5.18 No.39 — 162 Baseball Poems 2015)

Friday 10-2,
Saturday 11-2,
Sunday 9-8,
The Giants sweep Cincinnati,
Climbing to 20-18,
Two games above .500!
Can they break above this
Narrow band of mediocrity,
With the Dodgers 4 ½ games up,
And coming to town tomorrow?

Ah Cincy,
Remember 2012,
The Reds taking the first two playoff games
In our Fogpark,
Then on the banks of the Ohio River,
Reds fans brandishing red-painted brooms,
Pre-celebrating a sweep of the Giants?
And what happened…
Oh let me brush off
Some cobwebs and dust,
Take down this book of lustrous history:

The Giants swept the Reds,
Went on to beat the Cards,
Vanquish the Tigers,
Take the second of their glittering, jeweled triple crowns,
Parade and celebrate;
Yes, that reminiscence
Makes today better;

Sorry Reds fans,
I’m looking forward to seeing your ballpark,
To walking down Pete Rose Way,
The glory of the NL pennant in ’70 and ’72
(losing the World Series to the Orioles, the A’s),
Winning the whole shebang in ’75 and ’76,
(over the Red Sox, the Yankees):
Sparky, and Joe Morgan, Don Gullett,
Cesar Geronimo, Davey Concepcion,
Tony Perez, George Foster, and Johnny Bench,
Round shoulders, round red helmets;

Under the rim of his hat,
Pete Rose’s straight hair flopping as he ran,
A forceful black heart beat;

A team of beltless
bicentennial pants,
The Big Red Machine
Is 40 years old;

And our, the San Francisco Giants,
Is best in the NL since then,
Perhaps better,
With Bumgarner, Buster Posey,
Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval (sniff, sniff, gone),
Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Matt Cain (D.L.),
Tim Lincecum (a shadow of his former self),
Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javy Lopez, J. Affeldt,
a carrousel of crumbling veterans
holding up for a while;
And Bruce Bochy, outmanaging the opposition
When it counts,
In the playoffs and World Series;
Count ’em
Three,
2010, 2012, 2014
World Series;
And maybe we’ll bag another,
Before the end of the decade:

The Big Orange Miracle

http://www.SteveHermanos.com

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