Monday, April 1, 2013

Baseball and Poetry—A Match Made in Heaven

There is almost too much calendar for a blogger to handle today.  It is April 1, so naturally it is April Fools Day.  Some years I have posted elaborate hoax posts for the occasion.  The trouble is, a lot of my faithful readers turn out to be too easy to fool, which has gotten me in trouble.  On a less hectic day, I might take a stab at it again.  But not today.
This year Easter Monday, not a religious holiday, but one which some lucky folks get from their employers, falls on April 1, along with opening day for my beloved Chicago Cubs.  Talk about a celebration of renewal, the cycle of the seasons, the renewal of hope, and the tantalizing prospect of redemption, the return of baseball has it all.
The Boys in Blue will take their bow today at 12:30 C.S.T at PNC Park in Pittsburgh against the Pirates—two old school National League franchises from gritty big cities with a long history against each other.  I’m home from the day the day job today, so I can even hope to catch some innings on WGN-TV, although since I worked all night, I might end up snoozing in my chair.  It doesn’t matter.  They joy of just knowing it is  on will be enough.
Of course the Cubs aren’t expected to do much this year.  It is another rebuilding year—how many of those have I lived through?  They have a nucleus of fine young players and what the experts say is the most promising talent pool in their minor league system in baseball.  But the prognosticators say that they are a few years from that young talent maturing into a pennant winner.  In recent years the Cubs best years have been built around solid pitching.  But, alas, the rotation, looks shaky and the bullpen iffy.  All of the offensive pop from the young stars and dazzling defensive play will come to naught if Cubs hurlers cough up runs.
Cubs management seems to be spending most of their time trying to figure out how to remodel Wrigley Field and extract concessions from neighbors and the city to increase their “revenue stream.”  In the off season they sat on their wallets for the big free agents and shied from making trades with their stars-of-tomorrow so the team is padded with respectable journeymen almost all of whom will need injury free career years for the team to make a run at a division title or wild card ticket into the post season.
Cub fans know all of this and are stoic about it.  We love the game and the team anyway.  And we will even endure the merciless ridicule of White Sox fans and other low life.  Enduring the travail and the mockery ennobles us and makes us finer human beings.
In addition to opening day, April 1 is also the beginning of National Poetry Month, which this blog has traditionally observed by posting  daily poems.
So today, it make sense to mark both occasions by sharing a baseball poem that is not Casey at the Bat.  There is a surprising depth of material from some of the finest poets in American history.  Carl Sandburg, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Updike, and Gregory Corso are just some of those for whom the Great American Pastime has been an inspiration.
But today we are calling Ogden Nash, one of the wittiest poets ever to pound a typewriter, to the on deck circle.  We offer you  his 1949—coincidentally the year of my birth—ode to hardball in the form of an ABC primer.  Take a few practice swings, then it’s batter up, Nash.
Line-Up For Yesterday
An ABC Of Baseball Immortals
A is for Alex
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander.
B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate.
C is for Cobb,
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren’t born.
D is for Dean,
The grammatical Diz,
When they asked, Who's the tops?
Said correctly, I is.
E is for Evers,
His jaw in advance;
Never afraid
To Tinker with Chance.
F is for Fordham
And Frankie and Frisch;
I wish he were back
With the Giants, I wish.
G is for Gehrig,
The Pride of the Stadium;
His record pure gold,
His courage, pure radium.
H is for Hornsby;
When pitching to Rog,
The pitcher would pitch,
Then the pitcher would dodge.
I is for Me,
Not a hard-hitting man,
But an outstanding all-time
Incurable fan.
J is for Johnson
The Big Train in his prime
Was so fast he could throw
Three strikes at a time.
K is for Keeler,
As fresh as green paint,
The fastest and mostest
To hit where they ain’t.
L is for Lajoie
Whom Clevelanders love,
Napoleon himself,
With glue in his glove.
M is for Matty,
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
brain in his arm.
N is for Newsom,
Bobo’s favorite kin.
You ask how he’s here,
He talked himself in.
O is for Ott
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.
P is for Plank,
The arm of the A’s;
When he tangled with Matty
Games lasted for days.
Q is for Don Quixote
Cornelius Mack;
Neither Yankees nor years
Can halt his attack.
R is for Ruth.
To tell you the truth,
There’s just no more to be said,
Just R is for Ruth.
S is for Speaker,
Swift center-field tender,
When the ball saw him coming,
It yelled, “I surrender.”
T is for Terry
The Giant from Memphis
Whose .400 average
You can’t overemphis.
U would be ‘Ubell
if Carl were a cockney;
We say Hubbell and Baseball
Like Football and Rockne.
V is for Vance
The Dodger’s very own Dazzy;
None of his rivals
Could throw as fast as he.
W is for Wagner,
The bowlegged beauty;
Short was closed to all traffic
With Honus on duty.
X is the first
of two x's in Foxx
Who was right behind Ruth
with his powerful soxx.
Y is for Young
The magnificent Cy;
People battled against him,
But I never knew why.
Z is for Zenith
The summit of fame.
These men are up there.
These men are the game
—Ogden Nash

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