Baseball Poetry

Christa Deitrick, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Baseball player

April is National Poetry Month, and it's also the month that Major League Baseball kicks off a brand-new season. What better way to celebrate than by combining the two? So set your beret at a rakish angle, grab some peanuts and Cracker Jack, and enjoy the following quartet of baseball poems about America's favorite pastime!

Poet, translator, and proto-hipster Paul Blackburn (1926-1971) crammed a lot of living into his 44 years. Influenced by the poetry of Ezra Pound, he was also a mentor to younger New York poets and a passionate baseball fan. The New York Times called Blackburn "a latter-day troubadour, squeezing sweetness from bitter life." Read on for a taste.





7th Game: 1960 Series
by Paul Blackburn

Nice day,
sweet October afternoon
Men walk the sun-shot avenues,
                  Second, Third, eyes
                  intent elsewhere
ears communing with transistors in shirt pockets
                 Bars are full, quiet,
discussion during commercials
Pirates lead New York 4-1, top of the 6th, 2
Yankees on base, 1 man out
What a nice day for all this !
Handsome women, even
dreamy jailbait, walk
                  nearly neglected :
men's eyes are blank
their thoughts are all in Pittsburgh
Last half of the 9th, the score tied 9-all,
Mazeroski leads off for the Pirates
The 2nd pitch he simply, sweetly
belts it clean over the left-field wall
Blocks of afternoon
Acres of afternoon
Pennsylvania Turnpikes of afternoon. One
                  diamond stretches out in the sun
                  the 3rd base line
                  and what men come down
                  The final score, 10-9
Yanquis, come home




Next up is a gem penned by good old Anonymous, that stalwart creator of so many classic proverbs and poems. The message of this poem feels as fresh and relevant today as it did when it first appeared in the Chicago Tribune back in 1886.








Slug the Umpire
by Anonymous

Mother, may I slug the umpire
May I slug him right away?
So he cannot be here, Mother
When the clubs begin to play?
Let me clasp his throat, dear Mother,
In a dear delightful grip
With one hand and with the other
Bat him several in the lip.
Let me climb his frame, dear Mother,
While the happy people shout;
I'll not kill him, dearest Mother
I will only knock him out.
Let me mop the ground up, Mother,
With his person, dearest do;
If the ground can stand it, Mother
I don't see why you can't, too.
Mother, may I slug the umpire,
Slug him right between the eyes?
If you let me do it, Mother
You shall have the champion prize.




Here's a dilly (as Vin Scully would say) from poet and literary critic Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985) that references baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb (1886-1971). Cobb was the hotheaded centerfielder of the Detroit Tigers from 1905 to 1926 whose aggressive playing style was described as "daring to the point of dementia." Bring it!


Cobb Would Have Caught It
by Robert Fitzgerald

In sunburnt parks where Sundays lie,
Or the wide wastes beyond the cities,
Teams in grey deploy through sunlight.
Talk it up, boys, a little practice.
Coming in stubby and fast, the baseman
Gathers a grounder in fat green grass,
Picks it stinging and clipped as wit
Into the leather: a swinging step
Wings it deadeye down to first.
Smack. Oh, attaboy, attyoldboy.
Catcher reverses his cap, pulls down
Sweaty casque, and squats in the dust:
Pitcher rubs new ball on his pants,
Chewing, puts a jet behind him;
Nods past batter, taking his time.
Batter settles, tugs at his cap:
A spinning ball: step and swing to it,
Caught like a cheek before it ducks
By shivery hickory: socko, baby:
Cleats dig into dust. Outfielder,
On his way, looking over shoulder,
Makes it a triple. A long peg home.
Innings and afternoons. Fly lost in sunset.
Throwing arm gone bad. There's your old ball game.
Cool reek of the field. Reek of companions.




Okay, technically this last one is a song, but lyrics, good ones, anyway, count as poetry of a sort. Written by jazz pianist Buddy Johnson (1915-1977) and pianist, bandleader, and composer Count Basie (1904-1984), it celebrates the one and only Jackie Robinson (1919-1972).


Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

by Woodrow "Buddy" Johnson & Count Basie

Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
It went zoomin' across the left field wall.
Yeah boy, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball.
And when he swung his bat,
the crowd went wild,
because he knocked that ball a solid mile.
Yeah boy, yes, yes. Jackie hit that ball.
Satchel Paige is mellow,
so is Campanella,
Newcombe and Doby, too.
But it's a natural fact,
when Jackie comes to bat,
the other team is through.
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did he hit it? Yeah, and that ain't all.
He stole home.
Yes, yes, Jackie's real gone.
Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did he hit it? Yeah, and that ain't all.
He stole home.
Yes, yes, Jackie's real gone.
Jackie's a real gone guy.




And speaking of #42...

Go, Dodgers!