Archives for posts with tag: Baseball

My Grandfather, The Billy Goat Curse,
and Game Seven of the 2016 World Series

by Howard Richard Debs

I was ready, baseball cap and all.
He took me by the hand
as we boarded the crowded
Clark Street streetcar headed
for Wrigley Field, it was
game day, my
first with grandpa Eddie,
the first of many

It’s 5-1 Chicago heading into
the bottom of the 5th inning
then Cleveland scores 2 runs,
narrowing the lead to 5-3

He told me all about the
curse that day, how it came
to be in 1945 because a
pet goat smelled bad he
had to leave so the pet’s owner
got mad and hexed the team

In the 6th Chicago gets
another run making it 6-3
but in the 8th Cleveland
comes back with 3 of their
own to tie the score at 6 all

We had seats way up in
the bleachers. He told me
we had to keep rooting
for the Cubs no matter what,
never give up he said,
then he bought us hot dogs

After a stalemate in the 9th
with a rain delay before the start
of extra innings, in the 10th
Chicago brings in 2, with 2 away
Cleveland gets 1 more run but
a ground out gives the
Cubs the World Series win

We ate peanuts later in the game,
let the cracked shells fall at our feet,
when it came time for the 7th inning
stretch the whole crowd sang
Take Me Out to the Ballgame—
some things. . .you never forget.

–Dedicated to Cubs’ mega-fans Emily Jo Scalzo and her father, the late Stephen M. Scalzo — he was here for the win.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in my current Cubs baseball cap (not the one I had as a kid — that childhood hat is gone forever, but not the childish glee) — here shown celebrating as my beloved team depicted doing likewise on TV having won game 7 and thereby finally once again The World Series.


AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At left, the infamous William Sianis, the man who committed the dastardly deed, with his pet goat Murphy. A baseball is sewn together with 108 stitches. Maybe it’s coincidence, but it has been 108 years since the Cubs’ last title, so perhaps it was destined for “the curse” to end in 2016. At right, my maternal grandpa Eddie, a haberdasher by trade, here shown in front of his shop window, so this piece related to a hat is certainly “well-fitted.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Howard Richard Debs received a University of Colorado Poetry Prize at age 19. After 50 years in communications, and an Educational Press Association of America Distinguished Achievement Award, he resumed his creative pursuits. Finalist and recipient 28th Annual 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, his work appears internationally in numerous publications recently in Yellow Chair Review, Silver Birch Press, Syzygy Poetry Journal, Dime Show Review, and the Clear Poetry 2015 Anthology. His essay “The Poetry of Bearing Witness” appeared in On Being – On The Blog, and his photography has been featured in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. His full-length work Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words is forthcoming in early 2017 from Scarlet Leaf Publishing.


A Little Cy Young
by S.L. Kerns

At 10 years old, I stood day in and day out behind our faded, white farmhouse. Tall weeds and trees surrounded me in a square patch of grass, freshly cut for my training grounds. The Kentucky summer sun beat down on me in my navy blue Angels jersey, but I refused to strip it off.

Baseball was my passion, and I believed pitching was my destiny, even if the coaches always placed me in the outfield.

The cistern’s protective wall—concrete and on a slope—proved itself a worthy hind catcher that summer with every perfect pitch bouncing back from the chalked-up strike zone and rolling back towards me, never making me leave the dirt mound I had made.

With the only ball I owned in my right hand, I flipped it around in my black Mizuno glove—a birthday gift from Dad—testing different grips across the worn-out seams. My body and arms wound up and twisted like a contortionist caught in a cyclone, mimicking all my favorite major-leaguers: Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Hideo Nomo, and the legendary Cy Young.

In my mind, I threw fastballs, palmballs, knuckleballs, curveballs, and changeups against the greatest batters: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, and the short-fused Ty Cobb. None of them could even connect a foul tip off my wicked pitches. Of course, Ty Cobb often got pissed, and even charged the mound a few times.

I threw the ball hard against that concrete surface hour after hour, day after day. Each time it returned to me there’d be a new scratch, dent, or tear. Eventually, there was nothing left, and my private, summer training ended.

PHOTO: The author in 2015 at Chuo Park in Takamatsu, Japan, wearing a Yomiuri Giants  [Tokyo] Kiyohara jersey.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since moving to Japan, I’ve rediscovered my love for baseball, and wish I could go back and play again.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: S.L. Kerns may have southern roots grounded in Kentucky, but has branched out to a life in Asia. He spent nearly six years lost in Bangkok before moving to his current home in Japan. He loves soaking in words of wisdom from being an avid reader and a good listener. He also loves bodybuilding, and likes to think of himself as one of the physically strongest prose writers since Mishima or Hemingway. He teaches English and has recently begun writing, using his surplus of wild experiences to fuel his stories. His work has been published or is forthcoming online in Flash Fiction Magazine, 101 Words, Silver Birch Press, Visual Verse, Degenerate Literature, Funny in Five Hundred, Eastlit, and in print in Kill Those Damn Cats: Lovecraftian Anthology, Anonymous Anthology, Out of the Cave, Pure Slush: Summer, and 47-16: A Collection of Poetry and Fiction Inspired by David Bowie Volume I and II. He also blogs for Muay Thai Lab. Follow him here:

Jimmy Piersall1
Becoming Jimmy Piersall
by Jimmy Pappas

“Probably the best thing that happened to me was going nuts. Nobody knew who I was until that happened.” — Jimmy Piersall

I wanted to be “Jimmy” just like him, not “Jim.”
When my favorite center fielder hit his 100th
home run, he ran backwards around the bases.
I tried that with some friends but stumbled
to the ground going into second base.

Once at a Red Sox game, while all my Little League
buddies screamed at each play, I focused my attention
on Piersall. During a pitching change, Jimmy sat
on the ground tossing dirt against the left field wall
known as the Green Monster. Another player tapped
him on the shoulder to get him over to his position.
The mystery of that moment never left me.

At the time I knew nothing about his electric shock
therapy and never thought of him as mentally ill,
just different, not fitting in with the world around him.
When I watched the movie of his life story,
Fear Strikes Out, with his role played by Anthony Perkins,
who also starred as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s
Psycho, it only added to Piersall’s appeal for me.

Now, standing at the edge of a still pond,
I gather up some pebbles and toss them in,
watching where the ripples end up.

PHOTO: Jimmy Piersall (born 1929). Photo courtesy of Caption Under Photo: Back with the Red Sox after suffering a nervous breakdown last summer (1952), Piersall could become one of the league’s top fielders.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Whenever I am introduced as Jimmy, people continue to insist on calling me Jim. This poem is the true story of what originally inspired my preference for being called Jimmy. Here’s my one-that-got-away story about playing center field in the Little League: I reached over the fence to rob someone of a home run, à la Jimmy Piersall, when a boy on a bike knocked the ball away. My one chance for glory ruined.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jimmy Pappas received an MA in English Literature from Rivier University. His poems have been published in such journals as Atticus Review, Misfit Magazine, Kentucky Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Off the Coast, Boston Literary Magazine, and War, Literature and the Arts. He is a recent first-prize winner of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s National Contest.

PHOTO: Jimmy Pappas reminiscing about baseball.


Patrick at the Bat
by Patrick T. Reardon

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds his bat, he glares ahead, he readies for…but wait.
From out the dugout comes old Mac, the Mudville chief o’ state.
He points a finger at ol’ Case, and clears him from the plate.

“I’ve had it with you, diva. You’re just a psychiatric.
Get out of here, and we will win with ‘Thunder-hitter’ Patrick.”
“Fraud!” cries the maddened thousands. “No, no, not ‘Thunder-hitter.’”
The name’s a joke, a josh, a jest. They are outraged and embittered.

Patrick’s average is .091. He has no vicious clout.
None in the crowd have any faith that Patrick won’t strike out.
He is not just a hoodoo, but also a devil’s food cake.
But here he comes, his eyes so wide, up to the sacred plate.

There is fear in Patrick’s manner as he steps into his place.
There is gloom in Patrick’s bearing and terror on his face.
“Fraud!” cries the maddened thousands. But Mac has quite a scheme.
He’s bet, you see, all his dough on a win for the other team.

Two quick strikes on weakling swings, and Patrick’s in a hole.
The Mudvilles need three runs to win. He’s praying for his soul.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it wing,
And now the crowd is shattered by Patrick’s empty swing.

A strike out, sure, but, wait, look now. The catcher missed the ball.
As Patrick lumbers down the line, the catcher trips and falls.
Flynn and Blake, they both touch home, and Patrick heads for two.
The catcher throws. The shortstop waits. The toss is all askew.

At third, the Thunder-Hitter turns and heads now for home base.
The guy in right, he throws the pill and so it is a race.
The catcher reaches, grabs the ball as Patrick nears the plate.
And in the cloud of dust and blood, the umpire signals………….“Safe!”

PHOTO: Patrick T. Reardon, a Chicagoan born and bred, is a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees. He would have abandoned the writing life if he could have played first base for the Yankees.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Most people are familiar with “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. I borrowed some of his lines and used them to new purpose in this alternate-universe version of Casey’s tragedy.  I also relied on the reader’s knowledge of the original poem so as not to have to explain, for instance, who Flynn and Blake are. Unlike Thayer, I didn’t add a final verse of the world as it existed after the game. In my mind, I guess, I think time should stop forever at the final moment, an eternal freeze-frame.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon had an .091 batting average during his Little League career, but he played a mean first base.

by Victoria M. Johnson

I have no regrets.

My home.
My family.
My skinny legs.
At peace.

Five championships.
“Stay humble.”

Being surrounded by friends and family.

At home with my loved ones during the holidays.
To be able to play the piano.
To be more adventurous.
A spoiled dog.

SOURCE: Derek Jeter Proust Questionnaire (Vanity Fair, April 2011).

PHOTO: Derek Jeter by Ken Allison (2007).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Derek Jeter is a class act. He has brought much excitement and awe to the game of baseball. Yet throughout his impressive athletic career and numerous accomplishments he has remained humble and grounded. I’ll miss watching him play.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria M. Johnson is a Latina writer currently living in Los Gatos, California. She is published in fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing poetry, she also writes and directs short films and micro documentaries. Visit Victoria’s website at and follow her on twitter @ByVictoriaJ or facebook.

by Patrick T. Reardon

Do you understand?
My first love.
I owe it.
Paying the price.

SOURCE:  “Exclusive Interview: Yankees’ Rodriguez discusses his enduring ‘love’ for baseball” by Joel Sherman, New York Post (July 20, 2013).

IMAGE: “To Be or not to Be in MLB” by Dan Haraga. Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’m a New York Yankees fan, but not especially an Alex Rodriguez fan. His interviews are fascinatingly vapid, and I wondered if there was some kernel of beauty hidden away somewhere. The one I used can be found here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a Chicagoan born and bred, is a former scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library.

by Stuart Dybek

I once hit clothespins
for the Chicago Cubs.
I’d go out after supper
when the wash was in
and collect clothespins
from under four stories
of clothesline.
A swing-and-a-miss
was a strike-out;
the garage roof, Willie Mays,
pounding his mitt
under a pop fly.
Bushes, a double,
off the fence, triple,
and over, home run.
The bleachers roared.
I was all they ever needed for the flag.
New records every game—
once, 10 homers in a row!
But sometimes I’d tag them
so hard they’d explode,
legs flying apart in midair,
pieces spinning crazily
in all directions.
Foul Ball! What else
could I call it?
The bat was real.

SOURCE: “Clothespins” appears in Stuart Dybek‘s collection Brass Knuckles (Carnegie Mellon, 2004), available at

PHOTO: “Clothespins” by A River Runs Through It, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stuart Dybek is the author of three books of fiction: I Sailed With Magellan, The Coast of Chicago, and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Dybek has also published two collections of poetry: Streets in Their Own Ink and Brass Knuckles. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Poetry, Tin House, and many other magazines, and have been widely anthologized, including work in both Best American Fiction and Best American Poetry. Among Dybek’s numerous awards are a PEN/Malamud Prize “for distinguished achievement in the short story,” a Lannan Award, a Whiting Writers Award, an Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, several O.Henry Prizes, and fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2007 Dybek was awarded the a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

by Lisa Olstein

At first he seemed a child,
dirt on his lip and the sun
lighting up his hair behind him.

All around us, the hesitation
of year-rounders who know
the warmer air will bring crowds.

No one goes to their therapist
to talk about how happy they are,
but soon I’d be back in the dugout

telling my batting coach how
the view outside my igloo seemed
to be changing, as if the night

sky were all the light there is.
Now, like two babies reaching
through the watery air to touch soft

fingers to soft forehead, like blind fish
sensing a familiar fluttering in the waves,
slowly, by instinct, we became aware.

Off-field, outside the park, beyond
the gates, something was burning.
The smell was everywhere.

Source: Radio Crackling Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press, 2006)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Lisa Olstein received a BA from Barnard College and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her first book of poems, Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (2006), won the Copper Canyon Press Hayden Carruth Award. Olstein is also the author of the poetry collections Lost Alphabet (2009), named one of the nine best poetry books of the year by Library Journal, and Little Stranger (2013). Her poems have appeared in the Iowa ReviewDenver QuarterlyLIT, and other journals. She has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Centrum. She teaches in the New Writers Project at the University of Texas-Austin. (Source:

PHOTO: Ron Santo, born in Seattle, Washington in 1940,  was a third baseman in Major League Baseball who played from 1960-1974, all but the last year with the Chicago Cubs. A nine-time National League (NL) All-Star, he batted .300 and hit 30 home runs four times each, and is the only third baseman in major league history to post eight consecutive seasons with 90 runs batted in (RBI) (1963–1970). He was the second player at his position to hit 300 career home runs, joining Eddie Mathews, and also ended his career ranking second to Mathews among third basemen in slugging average (.464) and third in runs batted in (1,331), total bases (3,779) and walks (1,108). He passed away in 2010. (Source:

Poem by Gerald Locklin  

When Lassie is introduced  
At half-time of the Mets’
A voice rings out: “It’s an imposter!”

by Joan Jobe Smith

I’ve begun to drink from The Joe
DiMaggio Cup I’ve kept put away for
years, a black, rather pretty thing
with a wing-like handle Joe DiMaggio
drank Cappuccino from I served him
one night when I worked as a cocktail
waitress in a swanky hotel and when
Joe DiMaggio didn’t want a second one
I snuck the cup into my purse,
Joe DiMaggio’s lip prints were washed away
years ago but I like to imagine them
still there handsome-thick, dark Italian
barely middle-aged next to mine as I
sip from The Cup and wonder: if only
I hadn’t asked him something personal
about Marilyn Monroe, maybe he might’ve
flirted with my fishnet stockings
and asked me my name.