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The Boys of October

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]

On Balance

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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.

2 Responses to “The Boys of October”

  1. mikhail horowitz says:

    Nice to see that a few folks remember my skinny tome for City Lights. The publisher visited my then hometown—Woodstock, New York—for a poetry festival about 12 or so years ago, and I introduced myself as someone he had published back in 1978. He didn’t recognize me, or for that matter my name, but when I told him the title of the book, he said, “Oh, yes—it didn’t do too well, did it?”

    My one regret was not including any women poets. I atoned for that a few years ago by adding Dickinson, Akhmatova, and few more to the collection. These have been published online, at smokesignalsmag.com (at least I think that’s correct; they might spell out “magazine” in the url). Look for them under “A League of Their Own” on the site map.

    Mazeltov on the Giants (at least so far!).

    Cheers,
    Mikhail

  2. Neal Whitman says:

    What a treat — not a trick — to hear from the author of that used book I bought in S.F. And, yes, the Giants swept in four. Got to be honest, born in Beantown, I consider Calfornia Baseball the start of The Decline of America. I think we should all tip our ball cap to Mikhail. Dear Man, when you put this book together, you did not have photoshop to get those faces on the ballplayers. Mikhail, you are a real slugger.
    Peace,

    Neal

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