William Taft’s Dream
The players liked my ceremonial
pitch, so when Walter Johnson’s arm
gives out, he points, beckons me
from the stands. I hand my suitcoat
to Helen, remove my tie
and cuff links, roll up my sleeves.
An usher opens a gate, and when I step
onto the grass, for a moment
I’m confused, the crowd’s roar
surrounds me and I feel weightless,
as if lifted by an ocean surge. I’m afraid
I’ve gone down with the Titanic, but
then an urgent chant,“Big Bill,” shakes
the stadium. I wave to the throng
and ascend the mound.
Cobb has never seen pitches like mine,
the first two race past him
faster than Barney Oldfield,
and he swings over a drop-pitch,
my hummingbird. Frank Merriwell strikes out too,
and then it’s Booker T. Washington’s turn,
but W.E.B. DuBois pinch-hits, shoves him aside.
He glares as I wind up and uncoil
like a cobra, and now the pitch buzzes in
like an army airplane. He swings
and the ball sails into the sky, but I sprint
across the outfield and snag it.
Helen comes out of the dugout.
I ask her if I can stay and play baseball,
but she says no, I have to be president.
I throw my glove on the ground and follow her home.
(Poem originally published in “Dreams of the Presidents,” by North Atlantic Books -- 43 poems, each a president’s dream. Many of Barasch's other baseball poems are in the anthology, “Baseball, I Gave You All the Best Years of My Life,” also published by North Atlantic Books.
(Barasch and I played softball a few times back on Long Island; now he teaches and writes poetry in Vermont. Two years ago, into his 60s, he played hardball against Bill Lee. Yes, that Bill Lee.
"Luckily, he threw me a fastball; his curveball is impossible for me. I blooped it over the shortstop but the left fielder, playing me appropriately shallow, caught it."
So many baseball memories end with documentable failure which is why it is such a wonderful sport for writing or reading.)