Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Monday, April 30, 2012

Baseball Poems by Tim Peeler

As I wait for students to visit my office hours to discuss final papers and a poetry-portfolio, as I listen to cloud-bursts come and go, and as early-baseball-season begins to ripen into mid-season (for S.F. Giants fans, this brings thoughts of the June Swoon), I'm ordering a raft of books from a variety of online sources: the bibliophile's spring fever, I reckon.

Two books I just ordered are Touching All Bases: Baseball Poems and Waiting for Godot's First Pitch: More Baseball Poems, both by the talented, accomplished North Carolina poet Tim Peeler.  I hope they arrive as quickly as a fastball for Satchel Paige in his prime.

One of my favorite baseball poems is "Analysis of Baseball," by May Swenson.  Some of Tom Clark's baseball poems from back in the 70s day are pretty good too--although Oakland-A's-centric. I have a feeling Peeler's poems have set a new standard.

I can't prove the following: That IF American poets are interested in a sport (and interested in writing about it), that sport will likely be baseball.  But that's my guess.  The ritual, the time for reflection, the quirkiness (and the uncanny quirkiness of names), and so on: these have a certain potential appeal for poets.

Anyway, I hope you'll look into Tim Peeler's baseball-poetry-books, not to mention his other poetry books: look into them after you buy them, I mean.

One must assume that Godot's first pitch will be, ahem, long-delayed because of rain and other factors, but should it ever arrive, I'm thinking it will be in the dirt. Don't swing!

Oh--one other note.  I've been an S.F. Giants fan since I was six, and in m pre-teen years, I actually wrote a few fan-letters. One was to Gaylord Perry, who became famous for his spit-ball, and for his elaborate, charming denials of throwing a spitball. "Sometimes the fog rolls in, you know, and your fingers get wet--what are you going to do?"  At any rate, I got back not just the standard black-and-white photo postcard, but a real letter--on hotel stationery--from Gaylord, who was staying in (wait for it) North Carolina. He also included his business card: he was selling insurance.  Gaylord ended his career in Seattle, where he was nicknamed, of course (and here we circle back to poetry) the Ancient Mariner.

And a coda: One of my favorite ball players from the Sixties who wasn't a Giant was Smoky Burgess, a native of North Carolina.  Smoky became one of the great pinch-hitters of his day.  He was portly, and not a great athlete, but he had a great eye and a quick bat.  And he looked just fine in the Pittsburgh Pirates jersey.  A tip of the cap to the late Smoky.
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