(This being the season of Passover and Easter and Opening Day, a time of rejuvenation of body and soul and spirit and good writing about sport, I am sharing the Charles Barasch poem about the first President to throw out the first ball on opening day.)
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.)
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.