The photos in yesterday’s Globe of the early arrivals reminded me of one significant fact in baseball–how many young players will play their guts out and never make the show.First there was the shot of Pap, looking perhaps like he needs to shed a few pounds, but possessing still his steely determination.Then there were the beautiful shots of “minor league players” unnamed, on the mound and strapped by workout parachutes. Parachutes not for landing anywhere but for pulling you deeper against the wind while running. As everything will seem to go with them, the game speeding them along to professional ranks, the reality of the greatness of so many others crowding the path will grow in front of them, in the grapefruit’s damp mornings and afternoon heat.
One of the great things of the game, which these players already know on so many deeper levels than I will ever know, is how one can return to it again and again for meaning and understanding. I love how the rituals of spring keep growing, with the celebrations for Truck Day and Pitchers & Catchers, etc. . It is sign to me that we want more from the game, with an almost insatiable desire. In celebration of every ritual, big and small, for Spring, and for the minor league players running wind sprints in Fort Myers, as I write this far north of them, and who will be still out there as the sun is setting, here is a poem by Mairead Small Staid:
IN THE TWILIGHT
A diamond is geometric, perfect,
lasting; no mathematician understands this
as we do. Paley found a watch,
believed in a watchmaker–
we do not question three strikes, three outs,
nine innings. We know like we know nothing else:
gods hewed this gem. Nothings less
could gild the grass in such a dying sun.
Nothing less could blur time like a field in haze.
The lanky leadoff, now, freckled wrists jutting,
crowding the plate, young enough to be cocky
& terrified–his bat kisses the ball, sweet & hard
& brief: we stand to watch this moment
arcing in the twilight, these boys
exploding into men.
(Published in The Southern Review, Spring 2010, page 297)
Mairead Small Staid is a resident of Massachusetts and a student at Pomona College. She has other work in The New York Quarterly
Headline writers have fun, don’t they? Whether you buy newspapers like the New York Post or even the likes of the Global News, if that’s what it’s called, whatever your political party, sometimes titles are the most entertaining element of the news. So I thought I would follow the Globe’s “Shock and Awful” (with reminders of the bellyaches we are experiencing now) and toss a little shocking news out there with a title that might alert readers.
It’s not the same as “Man eats his way out of whale that swallowed him,” but you see when one types in “Red Sox’ on Google, the third or fourth choice links us naturally with the Yankees. Fiction writer Ron Currie Jr. has written one damn amazing essay about being a Sox fan, with the title I have inserted tonight as my own(titles can’t be copyrighted right?)
If you are feeling awful right now, following one of the most frustrating losses of the year, any good doctor would prescribe reading Currie’s essay, with a few drinks and good cigar maybe. I have been talking about The Southern Review’s Special Issue on Baseball since the season began. It’s loaded with great pieces, poetry, fiction, as well as non-fiction by fans and former players. Currie’s essay had me rolling in the sand, laughing out loud the other day.(ex. “Of course the big daddy of all disappointments, the event that made living in New England feel an awful lot like getting a rectal exam from Poseidon in the ninth circle of Hell, was the 1986 World Series.”)
One central piece of the guru’s(Currie in this case) wisdom is that “[b]aseball is a game in which injuries often determine the outcome of the season, so you learn to(try to) accept that.” The problem, the real pain, the true awfulness aiding and abetting some of the shock of today’s loss(and other parts of the season) is our list of the disabled. I am going to take a risk and suggest that the most crucial season-changing injuries are those to our catchers.
Vmart and Tek have suffered and so then our pitchers have turned beautiful leads into painful digits added to the loss column, right at the time we were making a move. I will have to ask around and throw this theory out to you to see if it has any weight. Maybe, like the bottom of a muddy pair of cleats, my brain isn’t operating clearly tonight after wanting to rip the Sox hat off my head, along with my head, and throw both into a fire and turn on Monday Night Football. There is a time, Currie says, when next year feels already like next year, but I am telling you, I won’t have any of it. Not yet.
Ron Currie Jr. is the author of Everything Matters! (2009) and God Is Dead(2008). He is the recipient of the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, as well as the Addison M. Metcalf Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The Major League team leader in blown saves since 2008 is not the Red Sox.
My notes for this entry, what might have been my focus with a victory, were initially focused around the 98 99 mph fastballs Pap was throwing. That was gas to match the Bard.
After John Lackey gave up the hit to Dustin that ended his no-hit bid against the Red Sox two years ago, catcher Jeff Mathis walked up to the mound, perhaps to console or something, and Lackey said, “Give me the f**king ball.” He didn’t want to hear it. Let me get back on the mound and forget I had this no hitter thing going and let’s win, he seemed to say.That’s Lackey. And that’s what I love about him. Gritty, fiercely competitive, tough, and unrelenting. He gets the job done. And we are happy that his socks are Red Sox red.
So last night’s win wasn’t “poetry in motion,” as we often hear about fluid, graceful, or beautiful plays. But even poetry isn’t always “poetry in motion.” Take some of the greatest American poets, such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, or Anne Sexton(all from Boston by the way). Sometimes their work has a lyrical, natural syntax and form. Other times it is awkward and rugged. Still, it is beautiful and sometimes gut-wrenching and raw.
As quoted in my bio, the great novelist and short story writer, John Cheever, said, “All men of letters are Red Sox fans.”
If you are interested in this meeting of baseball and literature, check out the new issue of The Southern Review, one of the top literary mags out there, which is entirely dedicated to Baseball. Art, poetry, fiction, and essays.