By Neal Whitman, Poetry Prof
This month, homage to The World Series; my byline, borrowed from title of 2003 book by Doug Hornig, The Boys of October: How the 1975 Boston Red Sox Embodied Baseball’s Ideals and Restored Our Spirits. Though his team lost to the Cincinnati Reds, Hornig, then a Boston cabbie, found that this Fall Classic helped him move on with life. I did not move on until 1986 when first baseman Bill Buckner let a slow ground ball roll between his legs into right field and well, and Dear Readers, wait a sec, I’m O. K. now. Really! An epiphany I put to poetry. [The Rag. December 2009]
Last month, while my wife, Elaine, and I were in San Francisco, we met a father and daughter in Green Apple Books, a wonderful independent shop. They were pretty well pumped to be going to the Giants game that night – their team destined, they felt for sure, to win the World Series this year. And, there on the used poetry shelf, I found a little treasure published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Light Books in 1978: Big League Poets by performance artist and social commentator, Mikhail Horowitz.
In this now out-of-print book, Horowitz has superimposed the faces of poets onto baseball player’s bodies with a short biography for each. Here are excerpts from nine of my favorites:
1. Lawrence Coney Island Ferlinghetti was a pitcher in the Gone World Series who starred many years for the San Francisco City Lights.
2. Iron Horse Ginsberg: Most visionary player in 56, he still holds the record for his grandslam Om runs.
3. Richard Beanstock Brautigan was a troutfielder in America.
4. e. e. candy cummings was a lower-case baseball player who committed many typographical errors in the field.
5. Jack Ti Jean Kerouac, also known as Doctor Sax of the Blue Sox, was always a gate attraction On the Road.
6. Henry Simple-Simon Thoreau was given to ruminative sitting behind the plate and had a phenomenal thoreau-ing arm.
7. Walt Whitey Whitman was a vagabond outfielder. His magnus opus: Leaves of Astroturf.
8. Franz Bugs Kafka was a futility fielder. Expelled from the game for reasons never specified, Kafka responded by invoking the infield fly rule and turning into a giant fly.
9. Dylan Young Dog Thomas twirled for the Swansea Sweetsingers. He did not go gently into that good night game.
EXTRA INNINGS? I cannot roll out the tarmac without a tribute to my new hometown hero. I give tours at Tor House, the stone cottage this line-drive titan helped build overlooking Carmel Bay. On this same boulder-strewn hill, a solo shot: the 30-foot Hawk Tower he built alone.
10. Jackie Robinson Jeffers had a craggy, jagged fastball that was capable of turning rival bats to stone. A loner at heart, he’d often withdraw from the fields of play and perch himself in the windswept bleachers, watching the ball-hawks dive and swoop below.