(8.27.2015 No.115 — http://www.162BaseballPoems.com)

By Steve Hermanos

“They chew tobacco?!” the confused child asks.
“That’s digusting! Why do they chew tobacco, dad?!”
And so, revealed to the youngster at this moment:
Baseball players chew tobacco,
The players’ cheeks and lips bulge with the bitter stuff,
They spit brown spit;

How can you, the parent, respond?
“It’s just what they do,
They’ve always done it”;
That’s Exhibit A of the charge Extremely Lame Parenting;

Over here in San Francisco,
The City Council,
Passed a measure to ban chewing tobacco at public parks,
And Mayor Ed Lee stamped it;

Since the greensward abutting the bay,
Is a public park,
The Giants de la San Francisco,
And their 29 opponents,
Will be breaking the law if they stuff a chaw;
This all, theoretically,
Is effectual, Opening Day, 2016;

Yes I’m thinking of Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn,
One of the greatest hitters ever, ever, ever,
Hall of Famer,
A chaw of tobacco stuffed in his cheek;
Tony Gwynn fans: 100,000,000
Tony Gwynn haters: 0

Salivary gland cancer,
A face chopped apart,
Chemo, radiation,
More chopping,
And dead from the cancer last year,
Age 54,
You, Tony Gwynn;

Then there’s Curt Shilling,
Former great pitcher,
Current expert baseball commentator and
Ignorant political commentator,
Is getting chopped and radiated
For oral cancer,
Oral cancer tied to tobacco chaws;

Meanwhile Giants superhero Madison Bumgarner
Admits to chewing tobacco since 5th grade;
Giants pitcher Jake Peavy,
When on the mound,
Looks like he’s
Masticating a squirrel;
Maybe 2/3rds of the guys chew, chew, chew,
Spit, spit, spit;

Tobacco is in the soul of America,
The Indians chewed its harsh-sweet, moist leaves, going back millenia;

The Americans did,
As Americans do,
Making it the most valuable export in the land,
Spreading the drug ’round the globe,
Bringing in piles of gold and mansions,
Benefacting museums and colleges;

Spittoons lined the floors of Congress,
(And still do in our Senate),
Spittoons lined bar rails,
Court rails,
Church pews,
Train station waiting rooms,
Sloshed at the end of train cars;

If you worked in a coal mine,
Wheat field,
As a carpenter,
You could shake your pouch,
Into your mouth,
Without dropping dirt on it,
Arrange the burning shreds with your tongue,
Settle it in your cheek or lip,
And get back to work,
Enjoy the pounding-heart, eye-focusing burst—
Count your coins on payday;

On both sides of the Civil War,
A hundred thousand troops chewed tobacco,
Sharpening eyesight, quickening trigger fingers;
After the CW,
When our game spread and grew with the professionals in Cincinnati,
When baseball-playing miners and farm boys were offered dollars
To take their mitts to cities and towns across America,
They brought their tobacco pouch,
Spitting jets of “juice” onto the diamond;

Few people then suspected,
That the stuff triggers cancer;

So now,
With the Mayor of Boston
commending San Francisco’s impending
chewing-tobacco ban,
Where do I stand on it,
The poet,
A guy who’s beaten the Big C. a couple times,
A guy who loves this game?

I’ve seen little league coaches,
Unwind a tin of snuff,
Place a dab in their lip,
Witnessed by gawking 11-year-olds—
If those dudes snap out of their unconsciousness,
By the publicity of a ban,
That’s exceedingly good;

Maybe affixing photos of Tony Gwynn’s
Chopped-apart face,
To tobacco tins—
That might be good;

On banning the stuff at AT&T Park,
Where fog banks of marijuana exhalations,
Drift over the stands, the stands, the stands—
Now if you want to make the case,
That marijuana is less harmful than tobacco, OK,
Make it;

And, I’m good with banning smoking—
Exhaled smoke is nasty for us bystanders;

But an adult chewing,
An adult fully aware of its potential destructiveness?
It’s sort of like illegalizing,
Riding a motorcycle without a helmet—
Who’s that potentially bothering,
Other than the idiot with the wind in his hair,
Atop the bike?

Who is Madison Bumgarner hurting,
Other than himself,
His wife,
His future brood of babies,
His 100,000,000 fans?

In the old days,
The days before television cameras
Pointed into the dugout,
Players and coaches would sit smoking cigarettes;

And if the Chaw Police,
Are gonna sit in the dugout with tongue depressers and pen lights,
Barking, “Say ahhhhhh!”
The players’ll slide down the tunnel to some privacy,
And over by a batting cage,
They’ll set some lounge chairs,
Around a big table,
Festoon it with packs of cigarettes,
And ashtrays;

The season is six months long,
Sprinkled with 2 a.m. plane trips,
Messed-up sleep,
Varying game times,
Nocturnal shenanigans further distracting sleep;

They chew tobacco, son,
Because they are tired, worn, exhausted,
Bone-sore, jet-lagged, hung-over, in pain;

Their steroids and human growth hormone,
Their speedy greenies,
Have been stricken from their lives,
Leaving nicotine;

Or, I guess,
They can pop,
The beans of espresso,
San Francisco’s a coffee town, right?
Men—start crunching!
But boys—life’s too short,
Go ask Tony Gwynn.

—end of poem

* * * * * * *


(8.30.2015 No.116 — http://www.162BaseballPoems.com)

By Steve Hermanos

Who’s Jake Arrieta?
We all know now,
Having just no-hit the Dodgers,
Down in Dodgerland;

Jake Arrieta of the Cubs,
Scuffled on the Orioles for a bunch of years,
Traded in 2013 for Scott Feldman,
You could call him a below-average pitcher until age 28,
When, last year, he
Dropped his ERA to 2.53,
Won 10, lost 5,
And this year:
2.11, 17 wins, 6 loses;

These Cubs are playoff bound,
Now 5 ½ games ensconced for the Wild Card;

He’s up there with Kershaw, Greinke, Bumgarner,
All the best pitchers,
In this age of strong pitchers,
And hitters molded by Pilates instructors;

Jake Arrieta’s emerged from his chrysalis;
Look at him.

—end of poem

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