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Unread 08-29-2021, 02:08 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 3,523

Andrew: "When it comes to poetry and baseball pitchers, Jim, another game and pitcher comes to mind for me: Pedro Martinez striking out 17 Yankees in September 1999. I watched that game in a bar in Boston, and it was pure poetry."

Pedro's entire career is pure poetry, IMO. I wish I could remember what game it was where I was sitting in a sports bar in Raleigh NC watching Pedro dismantle the opposition batter by batter. The patrons were going wild. They loved him. They weren't Red Sox fans per se, they simply loved to watch Pedro pitch. I never felt more proud to be a Red Sox fan then that night in Raleigh. Pedro was a Rembrandt.

But there is also the darker side of life that baseball does justice providing a metaphor to: war, conflict, mistrust, bad intent, violence, etc. in the form of brawls. In particular, the Yankee / Red Sox brawl that saw a young Pedro throw the old Zim Don Zimmer to the ground. That whole brouhaha (as it unfolded from pitch to pitch, inning to inning) is pure poetry. Here it is.


Last edited by Jim Moonan; 08-29-2021 at 06:31 PM.
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Unread 08-29-2021, 07:48 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Plum Island, MA; Santa Fe, NM
Posts: 10,963

Just to change the subect a bit, here's one on football which was originally in my first book, Life in the Second Circle. I never had no formal poetry education, so - like most of my poems - this one flows very directly from my own life. Boston area residents - and I assume many others - will recognize the Doug Flutie/Gerard Phelan references. I actually met Phelan on business, and wrote a first draft of the poem the following week and then sat on it for years. He was very much as described, and the last line is a direct quote.

The Man Who Caught the Pass

This is the time of year, year after year,
in the rooms of this winter-dismal city,
when Billy Crowther, slim as a young God,
vanishes himself again and again
into an alien stadium’s twilight, sees
that football arching, arching towards him
and somehow, falling backwards, reaches out
towards blackness, finds and grabs a golden ring,
and ends up on his ass, possessing now
a ball, a game, a life.

............................... You can see it
as often as you want these days on YouTube -
twenty years ago, but always just the same
six seconds on the clock, the team down four,
as legendary Sweeney waves the crowd
to silence, sprints imperiously right
to find a quiet patch of turf, then plants –
and hurls – a sixty-seven yard long lightning bolt, a javelin
that Billy Crowther gathers in, becomes
and that will be his name

..................................... forevermore.
Sweeney won the Heisman that next week.
It was The Play, they said, The Greatest Pass
That Ever Was. He posed and smiled handsomely,
turned pro, and was a superstar for years,
sold breakfast cereal, and pushed his charities.
Billy Crowther signed a lesser contract,
blew out his knee before the second game
and never played again – a cameo,
a Rosencranz, a Guildenstern, whose role
was simply to be there.

.................................. His job was done.
We wonder what it must be like, at twenty two,
to be so well defined, to spend your life
as anti-climax to an accident –
a safety gets confused, a coverage blown –
that’s all it takes. The Man-Who-Caught-The-Pass
is who you are, and almost every day,
unless you find yourself a mountain-top,
someone will bring it up, and you will smile,
and make a gracious joke, so they can think
how nice he is, The-Man

I met him once on business, recently –
a typical Vice President of Sales –
attentive, friendly, poised and capable;
and realized this was exactly what
he would have been if he had dropped the pass.
There was no tragedy to end the play:
he’d never spiraled downhill, never read
the script, was unaware how things should be.
Our business done, I called out as he left.
He paused, and turned his head.
.............................................“Nice catch,” I said.
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Unread 08-30-2021, 10:44 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 3,523

Great account Michael of a timeless game — You may want to find a way to avoid the "twenty years ago" time lock on the poem (S2L3) and give it a more timeless feel.

It was a Thanksgiving weekend to remember, for sure. I've been to lots of BC home football games and it is definitely the House that Flutie built.

While we're the subject, Doug Flutie (in his last professional football game I believe) pulled of a rarity with this dropkick for the Patriots. One hadn't happened since 1941.

I've been wanting to share a baseball ballad I wrote but can't find a copy and don't have it completely memorized. Grr.

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Unread 08-30-2021, 01:29 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 6,630

Hi folks,

Here's an adequate little poem I wrote about a great American game, Ultimate Frisbee, which I've been playing for lo these thirty-five years. It appeared in my first book of poetry, Allegro. We have a saying in the game which goes like this: When a ball dreams, it dreams it's a Frisbee.


Up and down the field we ran,
throwing things and catching things.
We moved in unison; a man
will do this. All our offerings

we gave to air, that they be caught.
We leapt, we dived. We stuck a hand
out into air, and thus we brought
our team downfield. The things we planned,

we moved to execute, until
the team we faced got in the way.
We bent the world to match our will,
and won our game. That’s why we play.


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Unread 08-30-2021, 05:10 PM
RCL's Avatar
RCL RCL is offline
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,303
Default Doh!

OOOO A Carried Ball

Why run or catch one, get concussed,
against a team that’s tough and strong?
In violent games the pigskin’s tossed—
why catch or run one, get concussed?!
Is snagging rawhide missiles the cost
to score for praise in print and song?
I ran and caught them, get concussed,
outdoing teams both rough and strong.

This did I and concussed got, grades 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. And still love the game, would it do again. Smiling!
Drooling. Played the games I write about (Lettered 4 years and All State).

Last edited by RCL; 08-30-2021 at 09:17 PM.
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Unread 08-31-2021, 01:30 AM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Old South Wales (UK)
Posts: 6,124

I have been fascinated by "inning". To see the word without an "s" on the end seems so quintessentially American, more so even than bathroom and suspenders.

It made me miss John Whitworth, sharply and suddenly, and I wished he were here to join in this pleasant conversation. His love of cricket has already been mentioned and I recall that he once asked me, during one of our long email exchanges, whether there would be cricket in Heaven. My reply formed part of a longer poem and went thus:

Oh, will there be cricket in Heaven -
The impact of missile on bat,
The sensation of play
Going on miles away
From the place on the grass where you’re sat?

But of course there’ll be cricket in Heaven
For isn’t it just what God meant;
Making poor flannelled fools
Follow mystical rules
For the promise of tea in a tent?

I miss John. His innings was cruelly curtailed and the team is the poorer for his dismissal.
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Unread 08-31-2021, 03:04 AM
F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Gloucestershire, UK
Posts: 1,790

That's lovely, Ann. I didn't know John, but I appreciated his kindness to me and others (e.g. Daniel Kemper) and of course his sense of humour. The thread 'Autumn John Whitworth' was easily the funniest thing I've ever read here. And I'm pretty sure cricket came up during the discussion.
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Unread 08-31-2021, 04:40 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 3,523


Ann, John Whitworth's poem that you posted above is one I saw a few years back — I believe someone referenced it here on the Sphere — and it grabbed hold of my heart in the most gentle way. It made me like cricket, though I don't know much about it.
The revelation that good poets like John Whitworth can also be sports fans buoyed me as I mustered the rationale for posting the Immaculate Inning and the achievement it represents. It's also partly the reason why I thought I'd start this thread and hope for the best in terms of ferreting out poetry on sports.

Michael's "October Speaks" above and David's post of "When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease" along with the Robert Francis poems tap that well of childhood that we only hear faint echoes of after we leave that state of innocence and enter into adulthood, dry-mouthed and thirsting for our childhood sense of destiny and heroes and failures and all the other things sports make into metaphors. They are my own meager mythology, I guess. Just the name "Ted Williams" or Willie Mays" or "Babe Ruth" produce a sense of awe in me.

But not all sports produce the kind of poetic passion of cricket and baseball. Michael's American football poem is good, but I have mixed feelings about the game. It has robbed American of it's favorite pastime, Baseball, and it speaks volumes to where our country is headed, I think.

And there are no good tennis poems, that I'm aware of. Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rapheal Nadal are all pure poetry.

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Unread 08-31-2021, 06:08 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 6,630

Jim, there is a rather well-known tennis poem by the Englishman Sir John Betjeman. It is worth a read:

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Unread 09-01-2021, 03:37 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Plum Island, MA; Santa Fe, NM
Posts: 10,963

And here's a few on basketball, also from my first book. Basketball was my best sport. I believe I got as far as All Schoolyard, Third Team, Honorable Mention when I left Junior High. There's a little bit of me in both poems.

The Rabbi’s Son

Jack Sugar slid away from Jacob Zuckerman
at Shabbos morning services; threw on a blue
and faded sleeveless tee, and grabbed a train downtown.

Inside the Fourth Street cage the black guys knew
that Jack was strong and fast – could make those tough,
quick moves and take it to the hoop and stuff –
but also had a point guard’s street smart sense.
So when he hit the court the whispers flew
about this uptown dude named Sugar, who
blew kisses to the shiksas near the fence,
then spun in mid-air, pumped a jumper, dunked

the winner
as the great crowd’s cheers drowned out the hum
of Kaddish, and he shushed them not to interrupt
the closing prayers, final blessing, and “Shalom”.

The Sugar Man

At try-outs, sweet Jack Sugar was the one
with all the moves, who walked his sloping walk
as athletes do, who called himself The Hawk,
the Sugar Man! – who nonchalantly spun
two basketballs on fingers on a run
across the gym, and bowed as we all gawked.
But we were sharp, and mean, and soon the talk
was that he was all show – a greedy gun
who threw up brick on brick, and played no “D”.
Jack had the look and style – smooth as glass –
but couldn’t make a shot and wouldn’t pass:
by next semester he was history.

Oh Sugar Jack, Jack Sugar, here’s my plan.
You have to find a you that sets you free
to do just what you do - make style the key!
Be poet, politician, businessman;
you need a place where you can sky and soar,
and that’s what counts – not baskets made or missed –
but misdirection, magic tricks, and twists;
and how you look is how they keep the score.

Things come around. Years later - in the nineteen-sixties - I was an unstoppable force as a ringer for the Yokohama Country Club (I don't do country clubs, but this was an exception) in the Japan Industrial Basketball League. Games were on weekend mornings, we generally had five or six guys show up, a number of us were reasonably sober; the opposing stands were packed, and they had cheerleaders and uniforms with numbers on them and shit; and we absolutely obliterated teams of accountants and engineers from Hitachi Heavy Industries, Sumitomo Trading, and the like.

Last edited by Michael Cantor; 09-02-2021 at 05:02 PM.
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