Poetry Wednesday: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Except for “Casey at the Bat,” which I think I originally saw on Wonderful World of Disney-–which dates me if anything does—I didn’t put baseball and poetry together until a couple months ago, when I heard the guy behind me recite this:

One runner’s safe, one runner’s out,
Or so the ump has beckoned.
The one who’s safe touched second first,
The one who’s out, first second.

I made him repeat it again so I could write it down.* He didn’t know anything else about the poem, so I did some resarch. It’s called “Numbers Game,” and was written by Richard Armour around 1975.

Along the way, I found more poems about the game, including an in-depth description that appealed to me a lot more than my husband’s explanation of the inside fly rule (is that what that’s called?):

Umpires have a tough, thankless job. Sunny’s godmother’s oldest is a Minor League umpire, and let me tell you, it’s tough to hear the things people yell. Notice the date; this abuse has been going on for more than a century!

Slug The Umpire
(Anonymous, 1886)

Mother, may I slug the umpire
May I slug him right away?
So he cannot be here, Mother
When the clubs begin to play?

Let me clasp his throat, dear mother,
In a dear delightful grip
With one hand and with the other
Bat him several in the lip.

Let me climb his frame, dear mother,
While the happy people shout;
I’ll not kill him, dearest mother
I will only knock him out.

Let me mop the ground up, Mother,
With his person, dearest do;
If the ground can stand it, Mother
I don’t see why you can’t, too.

Mother may I slug the umpire,
Slug him right between the eyes?
If you let me do it, Mother
You shall have the champion prize.

But this one—this one is for Janie (that’s her softball trophy to the right there):

The New Kid
(Mike Makley, 1975)

Our baseball team never did very much,
we had me and PeeWee and Earl and Dutch.
And the Oak Street Tigers always got beat
until the new kid moved in on our street.
The kid moved in with a mitt and a bat
and an official New York Yankee hat.
The new kid plays shortstop or second base
and can outrun us all in any place.
The kid never muffs a grounder or fly
no matter how hard it’s hit or how high.
And the new kid always acts quite polite,
never yelling or spitting or starting a fight.
We were playing the league champs just last week;
they were trying to break our winning streak.
In the last inning the score was one-one,
when the new kid swung and hit a home run.
A few of the kids and their parents say
they don’t believe that the new kid should play.
But she’s good as me, Dutch, PeeWee or Earl,
so we don’t care that the new kid’s a girl.

*This tickled him. He told me he’d been watching me scribble stuff down all season—I do some of my best writing at the ballpark—and wondered what I’d been doing. “You a poet?” he asked. “Nope,” I said. “Eavesdropper.” He laughed, but his wife wasn’t sure.


13 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

  1. I, too, love the eavesdropper comment. Your post inspired me to go rummaging through my old poetry (I went through a baseball metaphor phase). Thanks for this.

  2. I believe it’s called the infield fly rule. For some reason, the combination of baseball and poetry puts me in mind of the movie ‘Little Big League’. I love the scene where the kid/manager gets himself invited to play a pick-up game, and the song that plays over it (‘Centerfield’ by John Fogerty).

    • I knew I had that wrong . . . 🙂

      I never saw Little Big League, but I’m a sucker for Angels in the Outfield, both versions, flapping arms and all.

  3. whenever i think of baseball, i think of poetry. specifically, susan sarandon reading walt whitman to tim robbins who she has tied up in bed. bull durham holds a special placed in my heart for that scene alone. i always wanted to be susan’s character when i was younger. now i just want her character’s body.

  4. I absolutely love “The New Kid” and I can’t wait to share these with Jon. He played baseball in high school. I’m definitely with you about having never put poetry with baseball, but that first poem certainly is poetry; and good poetry, too. Great find.

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