The Phillies moved into a tie for first place in the NL East last night with the NY Mets. Philadelphia is going a little cuckoo this morning. But the events have prompted Ron Silliman to meditate on the relationship between baseball and poetry, without mentioning Bull Durham even once:
Baseball & poetry have a long, complementary history in the United States. Baseball is almost the official sport of poets, dating back at least to the writing of William Carlos Williams, if not to Whitman. Jack Spicer’s baseball poems are among his very best, and even Tom Clark has written eloquently of the late Roberto Clemente. Baseball’s sense of tradition for tradition’s sake even closely rhymes with the impulses of the School of Quietude, content forever to replicate this 19th century past-time. When change has come, it has largely been through expansion. Where I grew up with 16 major league teams, there are now over 30. 450+ creative writing programs have churned out thousands of MFAs. The lone publication in Ploughshares and a single small press volume is the poetry equivalent of the September call-up in baseball, when teams expand their rosters after the end of the minor league seasons around Labor Day. For more than a few ballplayers (and for more than a few poets), that’s a career.
The rest of the post is pure baseball -- Silliman's memories of learning the game with his grandfather and watching the Giants from across the bay in Oakland, and how the Phillies have great bats but no pitching.
However, when Silliman (indirectly) calls Chase Utley "the best second baseman in baseball, the best really since Joe Morgan was still a Red," my inner Walt from The Squid and the Whale shouts, "That's way off-base, Ron. That's way off-base." Ron may have grown up watching Willie Mays, and Chase Utley certainly is pretty, but anyone who grew up in Detroit in the 1980s would know that the best second baseman since Joe Morgan was, and is, Lou Whitaker. Nobody made ninety feet off of his back foot look so easy.