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Baseball is the most literary of sports, bursting with metaphor, image, and rhythm, and poets have long recognized the symbolic parallels between a baseball game and the events of daily life from which their poems sprout. A baseball game tells a story inside the confines of its form, just as a poem does. Its balls and strikes, hits and outs, runs and innings are very like the echoes and rhymes, stresses and stops, lines and stanzas of a poem. Check out these Hall of Fame-worthy baseball poems, selected for reading while you're watching a game.
'Casey at the Bat' by Ernest L. Thayer (1888)
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game…
'Casey's Revenge' by Grantland Rice (1907)
There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more;
There were muttered oaths and curses -every fan in town was sore.
“Just think,” said one, “how soft it looked with Casey at the bat,
And then to think he'd go and spring a bush league trick like that!”…
'A Ballad of Baseball Burdens' by Franklin Pierce Adams (1912)
Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom's ire
Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob -
This is the end of every fan's desire…
'The Crowd at the Ball Game' by William Carlos Williams (1923)
The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly
by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them -…
'Cobb Would Have Caught It' by Robert Fitzgerald (1943)
In sunburnt parks where Sundays lie,
Or the wide wastes beyond the cities,
Teams in grey deploy through sunlight…
'Tao in the Yankee Stadium Bleachers' by John Updike (1958)
Distance brings proportion. From here
the populated tiers
as much as players seem part of the show:
a constructed stage beast, three folds of Dante's rose,
or a Chinese military hat
cunningly chased with bodies…
'Dream of a Baseball Star' by Gregory Corso (1960)
I dreamed Ted Williams
leaning at night
against the Eiffel Tower, weeping.
He was in uniform
and his bat lay at his feet
- knotted and twiggy.
“Randall Jarrell says you're a poet!” I cried.
“So do I! I say you're a poet!”…
'Baseball and Writing' by Marianne Moore (1961)
Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go
or what you will do…
'Baseball Canto' by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1972)
Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders…
'Analysis of Baseball' by May Swenson (1978)
and the mitt.
bat, or it
hit ball, bat
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
'The Night Game' by Robert Pinsky (1991)
… A night game, the silver potion
Of the lights, his pink skin
Shining like a burn…
'Baseball and Classicism' by Tom Clark (1992)
Every day I peruse the box scores for hours
Sometimes I wonder why I do it
Since I am not going to take a test on it
And no one is going to give me money…
'The Seventh Inning' by Donald Hall (1993)
1. Baseball, I warrant, is not the whole
occupation of the aging boy.
Far from it: There are cats and roses;
there is her water body…