Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day - Poets and Baseball

Some might think that poetry and sports are on opposite ends of the spectrum of what human beings can be interested in, but there are a great many poets who are also great lovers of baseball. So, on the Opening Day of the 2011 baseball season, here is a celebration of the tether between poetry and baseball.

The following is from Donald Hall's collection The Museum of Clear Ideas. Hall is an avid lover of the sport, and authored many collections of essays as well as children's books on the subject.

Baseball is not my work. It is my
walk in the park, my pint of bitter,
my Agatha Christie or Zane Grey --
release of the baby animal's
energy into the jungle gym
of a frivolous concentration.
                   (From "The Second Inning")

In 2007, the Poetry Foundation published an article by Levi Stahl, "Baseball and Verse, from Tinker to Evers to Big Papi," which begins with Walt Whitman and follows through the great litany of poets who have loved the sport, including excerpts from the most famous of all baseball poems, "Casey at the Bat." Stahl, in his article, quotes Frost as saying "Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things."

The Poetry Foundation article also features a fantastic photo of Marianne Moore throwing out the first ball on opening day at Yankee Stadium. Check it out here. Moore was a huge baseball fan. According to the biography Marianne Moore: A Literary Life, by Charles Molesworth, Moore's last published prose essay was "One Poet's Pitch for the Cardinals to Win the World Series," which appeared in The New York Times just before the 1968 series began (pg. 428).

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I can't remember a summer when my parents didn't have the baseball game on the radio, perched on the porch railing with its speaker directed wherever in the yard we were playing. I remember my grandmother on the porch of the back house, sitting in her rocking chair, complaining about "Those bums!" whenever they made an error. But no matter how many times the Pirates lost, we still listened. Because that's what you did when you were a fan.

It's a rainy day here in Washington, DC, but to bastardize an old saying "A rainy day at the baseball park beats a sunny day in the office."

Swing, batter!

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