Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Chess on Grass

I understand some of you don’t like baseball. I forgive you if you forgive me my dislike of opera and feta cheese. Yesterday’s game was almost operatic. The home run that turned the assembled from despondency to jubilation was deserving of a curtain call. Instead, the diva of the Dodgers received high-fives from everyone in the dugout plus a rib-crushing hug from the old man of the team who turns 42 in a few months.

As for feta cheese I have nothing to say. My tongue has been rendered inarticulate.

Baseball may seem boring and too slow for some. More’s the pity. These unfortunate souls don’t understand how baseball is another version of chess played on grass. Aficionados look at the field as a board game with strategies six moves (innings) ahead. Positioning half a step to the left or right to protect against an extra base hit can be decisive. Checkmate.

As for being slow I regard that as a plus. Life is slow. Reading is slow. Eating is slow unless we gobble. I can watch a game and read a book at the same time. And then there are leaps. Deliberation turns into a thrill-a-minute. Slumps morph into streaks.

In recent years baseball has grown more and more reliant on analytics. Everything is noted and quantified. Yet in spite of it all, the inexplicable happens as if to defy the statistics. Numbers only tell what has already happened but performance is altered by age or a tired arm or matrimonial strife or busted shoe laces. Baseball is life.

The game even looks like a cross section of the male population. The pot-bellied and the lanky play by side by side. Some six ft. 3 in. men built like Adonis can neither run, throw or hit their weight. Stoics and eccentrics wear the same uniforms. Some even like feta cheese. Baseball makes room for the rest of us. 

Baseball has been a fixation for many poets and writers. It captivated John Updike and George Will. Even Walt Whitman was a fan of the early game. Marianne Moore couldn’t get enough of it, nor could Robert Frost. Donald Hall, Poet Laureate in 2006, saw the sport with a poet’s eye. I attended a poetry reading in which Robert Pinsky inserted the name of a baseball player (Sibi Sisti) for no reason other than the odd sound immediately recognizable to fans of game. I approached him after the reading and we got a good laugh over it.

Peggy became an ardent fan about a dozen years ago. We would root together from the couch where she renamed every player. The bearded redhead (Justin Turner) became the Hairy Tomato. Chris Taylor who seemed unable to smile she called Grimace. When she noted our first baseman (Cody Bellinger) always seem to talk to the opposing player who got a single she christened him Chit-Chat. That’s the poetry of baseball.





  1. I first watched a baseball game with Peggy during the 1965 World Series, the famous Sandy Koufax didn't pitch on Yom Kippur series. She was quite enthusiastic indeed, in spite of not having any clever names for Sandy, Don Drysdale, or Maury Wills.

  2. It takes a lifetime to regain your childhood. One of Peggy's last words was, "I'm a hundred year old teenager."