Tag Archives: baseball

Baseball in Gary, Indiana: June 2014

The cool breeze carries the nostalgia down the toll road
Over the skyway and into the once proud city

In the center of the old city is a shiny gem
In the center of the storied city is a diamond
It sparkles amidst the ruins of industry
The ruins of progress
The ruins of neglect

Throughout the waving sea of green seats
Signs of life are beginning to emerge

In a dance that was once uniquely American
Men of dubious haberdashery stretch their limbs
In a most reptilian fashion

Old men in Dickies wipe down each seat
With the same reverence they did 40 years ago
Wiping the seats at Wrigley or Comiskey
Finding loose change and pencil stubs on the littered concrete

When you love the game there is nothing you won’t do
To hear that singularly familiar sound of the cowhide against a wood bat

The smells deliver ghosts to the base paths
Where barrel-chested umpires bark their unforgiving calls

The smells deliver you to summer days sitting next to your father
Trying to figure out the score card between hot dogs and root beers

The smells deliver you to high school hooky and getting caught in the bleachers
Reaching for a home run while cameras snapped from around the park

Our game has traveled around the world but the soul and the history remains here
The soul and the history belong to the men who sacrifice for the chance to play

The men and boys who may never make the big dance
But will play until the last out of the last inning

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The Great Blue Heron

for Kristina (again)
July 24, 2013

My love is like an in-the-park home run on a perfect evening in July
It is sudden and exciting and rare and everyone pretty much stands there – looking surprised

My love is like a Great Blue Heron in a Japanese garden on a perfect afternoon in July
It is rare and grand and graceful and we watch it fly away – but it always comes back

My love is like a perfect day in July in Chicago with a sweet song on the wind off the lake
It is soulful and rare and I promise if you spend the day there – you will never forget it

The Cracker Jack Guy at the Ball Park on a Tuesday in July

(for Kristina)
There is no one lonelier than the Cracker Jack guy at the ball park on a Tuesday in July
He doesn’t have the heart to call it out the way the beer guy does with evangelistic passion
He can’t deliver the overhand fastball-bag of peanuts like the old black lady with plastic visor
He doesn’t get the kids circling him – pointing at the pink clouds offered by the cotton candy guy
He just has a wilted plastic duffle bag full of waxy cardboard boxes of crunchy goodness
(A prize in every box – they say)

No one seems to remember how important Cracker Jack is to the game of baseball
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack is a mandate not an ambiguous statement
If you’re going to take me out to the ball game –you better buy me some Cracker Jack
I don’t want Dipping Dots or Ropes or Vines – or a helmet full of nachos and cheese

No one notices the tired young man trudging up and down the stairs wishing he it was peanuts
Past the optimistic kids with the oversized mitts and the red nosed ballpark vets in faded jerseys
Past the candy-wielding grammas who know how to save a buck and still get the kids sugared up
Past the stat-fan in the retro jersey and the pencil stub working the program – keeping score

Enough Cracker Jack has been sold to stack end-to-end more than 63 times around the earth
And the sad truth is this
There is no one lonelier than the Cracker Jack guy at the ball park on a Tuesday in July

August

Trying to wrest some logic out of a perfect Saturday afternoon in August
To extract some meaning from the flawless day that finds you moving – easily –
between the rays of sunshine
The pace – on days like these – alternates between lazy and slow
And you stop for a minute to try and capture it
To lock it away on this fresh little tablet – procured from the grocer
You can bring these recollections out on a less than perfect day
Maybe you can betray these words for pieces of silver in hopes of making an impact:

I
There are boys in the schoolyard behind the square residential units
Their biggest fear is not being able to hit the longball
Their only flaw is their aluminum bat
Where is the wooden bat tonight?

There is a girl in the schoolyard on rollerblades
A lifetime ago she would have interrupted one of our games
She is the original distraction factor
But boys could never cry

II
There is a melancholic nostalgic feeling gripping the young man’s gut on a breezy, sunny
Saturday afternoon
The feeble roar of the man-made waterfall does nothing to assuage or incite the grip
The sound is simply a static irritant like when you can’t tune in the radio
Like when you fall asleep in front of the TV and wake up after the station has signed off
This is not a summer sound – it is not rhythmic or sensual – it is ugly
The young man sits on a rock and scratches words onto a fresh little tablet
His stomach and his heart are locked in this melancholic embrace
His mind rolls back the black and white film of all of the Augusts before this one
The Augusts before life began to pin his shoulders to the mat
That brief flicker of time when nothing mattered and he didn’t care if it did
His body was stronger and much more flexible back then
Minutes seemed like hours then and distance was completely distorted
Each day was a symphony – his soul was the conductor
Each day was a joyful sonic mystery that he was unaware of at the time
But now he misses them desperately
He is sitting on the rock composing the final movement of the concerto he’ll call August

III
The artist is growing slowly older
He forces the words onto the paper
The waning days of summer get caught in his throat
He doesn’t want to write so much
As he wants to hold the pen up
Let the pen do the writing
The waning days of summer are on the tip of his tongue
The last days of another August
The last few bittersweet minutes
Of the waning days of summer
Roll around in his stomach
When he steps out into the humid night

A Sort of a Baseball Poem

I was never as good at baseball as I would have wanted to be
But I loved the gallery of faces and the litany of stories surrounding the game
I learned the clichés and the archetypes and the history without memorizing one stat

It was a threatening and brutish sky the night that I found out about Old Moose Skowron
The craggy lightning separated the sky like the creases separated his face
Somehow the boy of summer became an old man of many long winters

I read about it in a weekly while driving my bus full of young kids around the city
These kids probably didn’t go back any further than Rollie Fingers or Catfish Hunter
The thunder rolled hard and without mercy across the purple night sky

I met Moose once at his bar and was surprised at how big he was for an old man
I met Moose once and was surprised at how big he was for a baseball player
I met Moose once and he was all that was good about baseball in the old days

My father was a left-handed pitcher in a league that favored right-handers
Sometimes I feel like I am a left-handed man in a world full of right-handed people
The sky is quiet now – Moose and my father are in the same place
And I am ripping open sunflower seeds and thinking about tomorrow’s game