The Immaculate Inning
There is little doubt that few noticed this rarity in baseball that took place August 26th — An Immaculate Inning pitched by the Boston Red Sox's Chris Sale.
Though I doubt it will resonate with many here, it is truly a beautiful thing to watch unfold. For me, baseball has the capacity to be a complete metaphor for life.
I remember when I first joined the Eratosphere poet John Whitworth would at times reference his love for cricket. It always gave me a sense of reassurance that a poet as talented as he could also become engrossed in a game. Poets can be sports fans, too.
Does anyone have a particular sport, sports term (like “Immaculate Inning”), sports event, story, movie, artwork or literature on the subject of sports that confirms for them that sports can at times elevate itself to being art?
If you care/dare to watch the Immaculate Inning pitch by pitch, here it is. No? I didn't think so : )
I watched that game too, Jim, and yes, I've been a die-hard Sox fan for ages. Watching Chris Sale pitch is baseball bliss, I think. Of course pitching like him is an art, if art has anything to do with well-timed legerdemain and telling the truth with beautiful lies.
You must know this poem by Robert Francis, another Massachusetts poet who loved baseball:
His art is eccentricity, his aim
How not to hit the mark he seems to aim at,
His passion how to avoid the obvious,
His technique how to vary the avoidance.
The others throw to be comprehended. He
Throws to be a moment misunderstood.
Yet not too much. Not errant, arrant, wild,
But every seeming aberration willed.
Not to, yet still, still to communicate
Making the batter understand too late.
No, I don’t think I have read that before, or just don’t remember it. But that seems unlikely since it is a perfect pitch of a poem. Thanks for that.
I love John Updike’s writings on baseball. There was one about Ted Williams’ last at bat and then there was another one published in the Boston Globe on opening day. I’ll try to get my hands on that one and post it here because as I recall, it expressed perfectly (for me) why baseball is the game that explains so much about life. Updike called Fenway, "a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities."
Great to know you are a Red Sox fan! I grew up in New Jersey equidistant from NYC and Philadelphia and was a rabid Phillies fan. My father was a life-long die-hard Yankee fan. I cried coming home on the school bus as I listened on my transistor radio to the Phillies losing their final game of the season, squandering a 10 game lead to lose the pennant. I was devastated.
When I finally ended up in Boston I immediately fell in love with the Red Sox. I fell in love with my wife partly because she was a Red Sox fan and took me to my first Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Fenway is a great place to be on game day, though I hardly ever go these days. Ticket prices are through the roof.
I don't have a sporting affinity, but my Dad does, and (for what it's worth) felt inspired enough about a folksong about Sir Stanley Matthews in the 1960's that I think is still kicking around somewhere on the web.
He's a cricketing man at heart, though. I am a heathen, who likes cricket for the teas and long-time-drawn-outness of it all. The murmurs of it.
I love the idea of an 'immaculate inning' and I will go and look as soon as I can (although I will not understand it). I wonder if each sport has its own vernacular, and where they cross and where they differ.
And might as well put Francis's other baseball poem out there:
The Base Stealer
by Robert Francis
Poised between going on and back, pulled
Both ways taut like a tightrope-walker,
Fingertips pointing the opposites,
Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball
Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on,
Running a scattering of steps sidewise,
How he teeters, skitters, tingles, teases,
Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird,
He's only flirting, crowd him, crowd him,
Delicate, delicate, delicate, delicate - now!
A stolen base is a thing of beauty.
Sarah-Jane, yes, baseball (and all sports) has its own vernacular. I think baseball language is poetry.
Here is what might be considered found poetry, though no one actually said it or wrote it down. It is my own accounting of the Immaculate Inning described in baseball vernacular.
The Immaculate Inning
(On the occasion of Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale’s historic third Immaculate Inning pitched, August 26, 2021)
From his high place he eyes the plate.
He leans in, shaking off, then taking the sign
delivering untouchables numbering nine:
Fastball, inside, swinging strike one.
Curveball, catching the inside corner, looking strike two.
Fastball, upstairs, swinging strike three.
Fastball, outside corner low, swinging strike one.
Curveball, off the plate low outside, fouled off strike two.
High heat, at the shoulders, swinging strike three.
Slider drops in, down the middle, looking strike one.
Fastball, inside corner, swinging strike two.
Slider, the bottom falls out of it, check-swing strike three.
The Immaculate Inning.
Something to see.
Selection. Control. Velocity.
Here's a villanelle I wrote about the time I moved from New York (home of Murderer's Row and the perennial world champion New York Yankees and their unassuming fans) to Boston in the early 80's, and had great fun with at poetry readings in the Boston-Newburyport corridor - it was my closer, and the New England poets would pelt me with tea bags and beer cans (were you there, Jim?), while police grudgingly protected me and led me from the reading. My home team, the Powow River Poets, disowned me. All this ended, unfortunately, in October, 1984, when the world turned upside down.
...(A poem for the city of Boston. And environs.)
It is ordained that things will fall apart.
Do not delude yourself – remember that
when summer ends I get to break your heart
with dark and practiced skill that makes an art
of pain, turns every champagne bubble flat.
It is ordained that things shall fall apart
again. You have no charts that can outsmart
a lack of will; no joyful entrechat
when summer ends. The bullpen breaks your heart,
the pitchers drink, the fleet no longer dart
from base to base; with every splintered bat
it is ordained that things will fall apart.
And yet you dance and hope for hope to start
each year, and dreams become your habitat,
till summer’s final ball shall break your heart;
the beer cans, bouncing, clatter from the cart,
the fat relievers shame the Theocrat:
it is ordained that things will fall apart.
When summer ends I get to break your heart.
Psssst. There's going to be an Immaculate Outing at any moment. "No posting of own poems". Innit.
Which is a pity because they're rather lovely.
Would you mind having this moved to Drills and Amusements? Would that work, Ann?
My son's best friend in high school was a star football player who went on to Clemson and is now making millions a year on the defensive line in the NFL. The sad thing was the kid loved baseball so much more than football and so much wanted to try to pursue a baseball career. But he was 6'6'', weighed 335 lbs, and was fast as lightning off the point. He had no other choice but to pursue football. His predicament sums up what I think happened to the U.S. overall when football replaced baseball as the most popular sport. Poetry on the field was replaced by two giant corporations running into each other. It was as sad for everyone as it was for David Reader.
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