Saturday, July 2, 2016

For the Glory of the Game

We received these poems from one of our regular contributors about a beloved pastime of our nation, and thought to do a summer feature about this game that inspires, that unifies—and in its essence, captured by imaginative minds in poetry, literature, and film, reflects the very heart of those who love it most.
Before we direct you to this tribute, placing you in the poetic hands of long-time WPWT contributor, Michael Ceraolo, we celebrate another unifying, shared love on this dynamic Fourth of July weekend as we report the "stats" of our magazine (debuted July 3rd, 2008). We've published 29 issues, over 338 contributing writers, 47+ interviews, 40+ artists/photographers, and have built countless incredible friendships along the way. We are a product of every person, every culture, and nation that has brought their profound literary and artistic meaning to our community. We celebrate our freedom to have created a publication that brings people together, moves readers, and cares deeply. We are a happy, harmonious melting pot, like our native land, yet honor all that makes our various facets and voices distinct. You've made a simple idea a home run and continue to do so just by joining us in the seasons of our growth. For this, we extend our deepest gratitude and want you to know we are very much your fans, too.
Baseball's origins are thought to stem from a mix of European influences and 18th and 19th century evolutions in New England and New York. It was a game that broke barriers, fostered devotion and connection across generations. The country, many of her families, grew alongside this game. When the Red Sox broke the "curse" in 2004, my family brought pennants and newspaper clippings to put on the graves of loved ones who didn't get to see the legacy they believed, rightly, would come to pass for their favorite team. There are lessons about love enduring, unconditional devotion, faith and more to be garnered from this game—according to some, it teaches philosophy, to others, aspects of theology, but beyond the sheer enjoyment it gives to many, it is about the exhilarating feel for the glory of the game and who you share the experience with.       

Poet Commentary: "Baseball has been important to me for a long time and in many ways. Figuring out batting averages, slugging percentages, and earned-run averages were great training in multiplication and division that has served me well. "Casey at the Bat" was probably the first adult poem I enjoyed. Baseball fandom has been an area of common ground with others, including family, when there was precious little common ground. I have always preferred to listen to games on the radio, and the broadcasts have served as the soundtrack of summer for me. I have always tried to picture past scenes and seasons as I've read about them, and naturally have imagined what baseball might be like in the future, including the far future long after I've ceased to be around. These three poems are part of a longer work where I've imagined how baseball might be in the future. Some of the things I've imagined are changes I approve of, while others are things I imagine could happen that I don't approve of. But don't expect me to say which changes fall into which category!"

Poetry by Michael Ceraolo

Retro Rule #1

It was never a part of baseball proper,
it had been a part of one of
the game's many ancestors:
the practice of soaking or plugging,
the batter or other baserunner could be retired
by being hit by a thrown ball
before reaching base

The Lords of the Realm,
seeing the increasing popularity
of football and other blood/combat sports
during the twenty-first century (Common Era),
made the bold reactionary move
and decided to bring back the practice
as a way to increase attendance,
only the hitting of the runner in the head
And in a nice turnabout given
all the idioms borrowed from baseball,
they took a term from football
one that was a penalty to boot):
                                  a player
who successfully put out a baserunner this way
would be credited with a target
instead of a putout or assist

Retro Rule #2

The most eternal thing about the game
was the delicate balance between offense and defense,
especially as how that affected spectatorship
(it also affected how they promoted the game
as well as how much they paid the players,
but those were tied to spectatorship
in whatever medium)
                                Too little scoring,
and the fans stayed away,
the game to be boring;
                                 too much scoring,
and the fans stayed away because
of the game's interminable length
As the Second Deadball Era extended
to several decades in the third millennium
the Lords returned to the roots of the game
and banned gloves for the fielders
(players were allowed to wear gloves
for the protection of their hands,
no pockets in which to catch a ball were allowed
First basemen and catchers who received
speedy throws were exceptions to the rule,
because of their proximity to batted balls,
pitchers were allowed the option of wearing
a glove with their mask and pads,
though nothing was mandated either way for them

Retro Rule #3

A third reversion, or retro rule change,
also had to do with bringing in more offense,
it was much more esoteric
than the first two reversions:
the return of the fair/foul basehit,
a ball that hit in fair territory
but went into foul territory
before passing first of third base
was again considered a fair ball
the bunt had become almost a lost art,
at first the rule change had little effect,
mostly fluky cue shots off the end of the bat
Soon enough though,
                                some proficient bunters
brought a modicum of offense back to the game
and were able to make a good living
and please the ghost of Ross Barnes