Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baseball Is Poetry, Vol. II

A favorite college professor of mine posted this wonderful baseball poem of his yesterday, and it put me in the mood to do another one of these.

The Cliff's Notes:
First: on Monday, MLB.com posted a 2009-All-Star-rosters tribute to Ogden Nash's delightful 1949 poem, "Line-up for Yesterday". That was fine and all, but I decided to do my own tribute to Nash, comprised mostly of players from post-'49. I'm sure it's been done before, but I don't care. Loyal readers may detect one slightly satirical entry.
Second: last night's Home Run Derby recapped in Haiku form. I was really hoping to do an entry for Minerva's latest poetry challenge, but I'm afraid I've run out of hours in the day (and night, and most of the next morning). I tried--sonnets are freaking hard. Anyway, away we go:

A Lineup for Nearer Yesterdays
A is for Aaron,
who topped seven-fourteen;
his passion and pride
before and since, unseen.

B is for Barry
and Bonds too, of course;
an unparalleled talent
from sense quite divorced.

C is for Calvin
Edwin Ripken, Jr.;
when it came time to play
he'd never defer.

D is for Doby,
the AL's pioneer;
the stats show he did
more than just persevere.

E is for Eckersley,
mulleted closer sublime;
he'd enter and the other guys'
death knell would chime.

F is for Ford,
Casey Stengel's top gun:
save him for the big games,
consider them won.

G is for Griffey,
or Junior, to you.
Played just the way
we'd all like to do.

H is for Henderson,
base-stealing's top name--
Rickey played 'til they kicked
Rickey out of the game.

I is for Ian Kinsler
'cause there just ain't no I's;
the fine slugger of Texas
defaults into this prize.

J is for Jackie,
bigger than any game.
The world got a little better
because Jackie came.

K is for Koufax,
the ace of L.A.,
turning visiting lineups
into a fine-cut fillet.

L is for Larry
(but you know him as Chipper);
sixteen Hall of Fame years for
one Hall of Fame skipper.

is for Maddux and Musial,
Mantle and Mays;
as great as great gets,
each worthy of praise.

N is for Niekro,
the lord of the flutter,
winning 20 for teams
often found in the gutter.

O is for Ortiz,
the much-feared Big Papi;
his bat is a force,
tho' his defense is sloppy.

P is for Pujols
and his incomparable power--
he keeps getting better,
almost by the hour.

Q is for Quiz,
the wisecracking sidewinder;
to catch sight of his sinker
you'd need a depth finder.

R is for Ryan,
of the seven no-hitters;
his uncontrolled heater
still gives batters jitters.

S is for Spahn
the tireless lefty,
who'd face fearsome lineups
and butcher them deftly.

T is for Torre:
at the bat and the helm,
Joe had the stuff of
the Hall of Fame's realm.

U is for Utley,
the king of sack two.
Don't try to dissuade him:
he says "boo? Eff you!"

V is for Valenzuela,
enigmatic Fernando;
he killed in '81--
sustain he could not, though.

W is for Williams,
the Thumper, the Kid;
if a hitter on God's Earth
can do it, Ted did.

X is for Eckstein,
the X Factor to you;
hustles into your heart
and onto this list, too.

Y is for Yaz,
the basher of Beantown,
and still last to wear
the three-titled Crown.

Z is for zenith,
the apex, the best;
these stars all stand there--
so the records attest.

Home Run Derby Haiku Recap
Inge comes up empty--
that's just eleven less than
he hit all last year.

Mauer, Al, Pena
in a three-way-tie swing-off.
Yeah, Joe's got no chance.

"Ball Track" trails ball's flight
with a goofy yellow line;
worse than Berman's jokes.

Fielder wins it all,
hits the night's four longest shots;
Big Man Hit Ball Far.


  1. Consider yourself forgiven for flaking on my Poetry Challenge again. I think I am going to use Nash's abcedarian as my challenge for this week. :)

  2. I like the Kinsler tribute - "he defaults into this prize", that's good. But did you forget Ivan Rodriguez, or did you just like the Kinsler piece better? It might be easy to forget I-Rod if one thinks of him as Pudge or if one pronounces his name "E-von" rather than "I-vin" (though I'm sure the former is correct).

    Great stuff, though, Bill. Very enjoyable.

  3. Damn, I did totally forget Pudge. There's no easy way to find players by the first letter of their first name, and for some reason "Ian" popped into my head first.
    Well, when The New Yorker inevitably comes calling, I'll put this in instead:

    I is for I-Rod,
    age-defying backstop;
    the drives from his bat
    by his arm alone were topped.

    Or something. :-)

  4. and many thanks for the kind words.

  5. These are terrific! Well done. You should send the alphabet one to a sports-radio show.

  6. Well, at the very least, you can download yourself the MS Access version of the lahman database. It's not as detailed as Retrosheet, of course, but it works pretty well for career and seasonal information. Plus, it'd make it easy to search on players' first names. You can also reinforce that database with the Win Shares data found here.