Poem: Dodger Stadium Suite
The challenge for an old white man poet at the ball game
is a triplicate predicament:
He must not swoon over the greenness of the grass.
He must not view every little lovely detail as a metaphor waiting to be transcribed for posterity.
He must not recite rambling stories with no discernible point except to subtly imply it was all somehow better back when he was a boy and baseball was a mystery, not a business.
Do not sit next to this man gleefully noting the aural pastiche of cracks and whizzes and pops, a Henry Partch percussion symphony trimmed in wood and cowhide.
He will talk your ear off if you let him.
The Dodgers should be playing Texas Hold ‘em with their star pitchers.
Two aces in the hole.
Clayton Kershaw is hirsute and Christian, and if you would like to ask him questions
about his faith
he will be available after the game, along with a Pastor and a catcher,
to celebrate Christian Faith Day at Dodger Stadium.
Zack Grienke is mulleted and maybe Muslim, and you would not enjoy asking him questions
about his faith or anything else.
He is no-nonsense all-business ice-water-in-the-veins stony silence.
Conveniently, for those who like a rhyme in their rhapsody, you could say Zack Grienke is cranky.
Clay and Zack both have perfect poker faces. Both have gaudy earned run averages –
“numbers” among the cognoscenti of ESPN and the Top Deck, Section 12, Row M –
sparkling statistics envied by grown men with mortgages and boys in transistor radio tree forts.
Zack and Clay are both winners. Big winners.
Both are headed to the Hall of Fame.
But only one of them is going to
Says here on this sign that we’re 253 feet from home plate
up here where the people sit.
High enough to see above the stadium rim, the top of the bowl with the delicious spoonful of color and activity at the bottom.
We who take the Metro and the free shuttle bus from Union Station,
we who pack a lunch and avoid the concession stands and withstand the catcalls of cotton candy salesmen,
we can see the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Park Observatory, my 32nd of an acre rectangle somewhere
on the hillside.
The folks who pay $100 or $1,000 or whatever it costs to encamp behind home plate in a leather lounge chair and be attended to by food bringers and drink refreshers – they watch from 200 feet closer, seeing the same game
but seeing it flatter, more like a big-screen plasma HD thing. Better, by some measures.
Facial expressions. Private grunts. Off-color comments.
Affluence buys proximity and intimacy, a closing of the usual chasm between magician and audience,
Emperor and subject.
Fortunate for me and the vatos with teardrop tattoos and the girls coming straight from church on a Sunday afternoon,
word has yet to trickle down like wealth through a robust economy,
from the top-most deck to the Elysium below,
that even from 253 feet
we the people up here on the cusp of infinity
can discern the balls and strikes and sliders and heaters
more accurately than the umpire.
If you would like to be summarily excommunicated from the merry flock,
the blue and white acolytes who clap on cue and shout appropriate epithets,
all you have to do is say something less than supportive about his royal divinity
Pope Vin Scully.
Now 87 and still calling Dodger games and helping the team sell things.
Let us pray he never dies.
Mathematicians fond of geometry
ought to spend a searing Sunday in the perfectly postulated sanctuary of a seat
in the shade, beneath the kind carapace awning roof blocker lid
between us and the radiation ball surveilling the proceedings from the sky, higher even than
the LAPD helicopter and the United States Military helicopter making perfunctory pre-game appearances, the show of force and might that makes a baseball fan proud to
please rise and remove his cap during the playing of the national anthem, that charming little ditty of brotherly love.
Here is where calculus matters.
Aristotelians will note the distinct parabola arc of our blazing Lifestar, how
diminishing degrees of difference
can lead to practical magnitudes in qualitative experience,
the difference between barbecuing unprotected Caucasians the color of used lard and keeping them
pleasantly misted with a souvenir spray bottle. Battery included.
That same parabola – there it is: on a slow-roller to third,
when Justin Turner’s side-armed flip to Gonzo at first, stretching yearningly toward him like an eager lover, traces the sun
so perfectly you want to cry.
Which would make the home crowd uncomfortable, even if they totally understood why it gets you sometimes, this child’s game.
Which is why Top Deck dwellers of a certain age must refrain from reminiscing in public
about Fox Point summers spent on dirt diamonds in County parks,
being a White Sock (and one of the Sox), being a Red, being an Athletic, and, finally, a Knight.
Varsity. Started out playing second base. Pitching briefly and ignominiously. Catching for the duration.
Decent arm. Nothing special.
Always a hitter. Gifted line-drive hitter.
Preposterously high BA and OBP and every advanced metric unknown to the
high school coach who batted me 7th because he hated himself and his team.
Talked for a minute about getting serious, minor leagues and all that.
Caught the neighbor kid from Little League, Lance Painter, who pitched a perfect game in the State Finals and made it all the way
to the Bigs, to the Show,
to Dodger Stadium.
Ay, coach! I made it here, too.
And so did all the other pretty good ballplayers who imagined themselves
if only secretly and briefly
future professionals, with crisp white uniforms – u-nees we called them – soon to be besmirched with face-first slides into stolen bases, and with
autographed bats to wield like battle axes.
We cheer and jeer and let our opinion be known among the 23,000 discrete conversations filling the stadium with the harmonious dissonance of our dialogue and diatribes.
We predict pitches and pontificate on pop flys. Because, come on. We know. We get it.
That was almost us down there on the field,
on the emerald carpet, rolling around like a puppy scratching her back,
snatching grounders, skipping and pirouetting like a dervish in transcendental ecstasy,
flicking and snapping appendages for maximum leverage.
The poet would like to note the beauty of this shape and that symmetry.
The sentimental mathematician must look away from Keplerian curves.
If he doesn’t, the omnipresent parabola
seen again and always in the soft expression of gravity in a solidly struck ball falling homeward
will overwhelm him and leave him
blind as a man who stares too long
at the sun.
Extravagantly talented specimen of human male muscularity,
steroid physique without the dope
beautiful genetic freak,
we praise ye, dear Yasiel
stallion of right field, diver and diviner of sinking liners,
show pony show-off with the glow of Hollywood charisma,
kissed by Zeus you are,
stronger than most, fleet and nimble, loping and explosive.
Now that relations between your new country and your old country are becoming
in the abnormal parlance of the times,
we have a question, Mr. Puig: are you ready?
Did your translator fail to translate the coaching staff’s mandate? Do you know
all players in the field
shall assume a “ready position” before each pitch, properly prepared to spring uncoiled
when bat meets ball, redirecting bundled energy toward the all-you-can-eat Pavilion?
Sensational outlandish Puig, superhero packaged stardust,
you stand with hands on thighs, knees locked, rocking, resting,
awaiting the moment when you can once more show the world why
the usual rules don’t apply.
No, I wouldn’t call it a tragedy
that the man in the left field bleachers who had two home-runs hit directly at him
by consecutive batters, one of them improbably wonderfully the pitcher —
this poor man only saw one of the homers (the first one) and missed seeing the second
because he was celebrating the first.
No, I wouldn’t call it a tragedy that he has now been memorialized for eternity
on cable TV highlight shows
sitting in the 94-degree sunshine, without a hat,
wearing all black.
I would call it a blessing, a divine sign that God wants the Dodgers to win on this particular day,
this blessed day,
when this saucy mélange of people mixed together in the public sifter
see together what the man in black will be dreaming of until October comes.
What are they thinking about in between pitches?
What’s Jimmy contemplating as he looks into his glove? What’s Andre musing over with hands on hips?
Are they reviewing the possibilities?
Are they daydreaming of girlfriends and ribeye steaks?
Is the all-star in the outfield trying vainly to divide 20 million by 162, amusing himself through the innings with the comforting notion that by the time he emerges from a nice hot shower and addresses the media in the clubhouse and deals with the hordes who need to get a life and drives away in luxury to whatever pleasure awaits
he will have earned another $120,000 or so?
The meter runs in between pitches, you know.
While the man on the mound
paws the pitching rubber with cleated feet –
fleep – another $146 in the coffers!
What are they thinking about in between pitches?
Not what I’m thinking.
Which is why they’re playing the game and I’m up here
doing long division.
My favorite part of going to the stadium only happens once a game.
It’s better even than the calming balance of each player puzzling into place, positioned just so.
Between two of the late innings, they unleash
the Kiss Cam.
When the lens finds and focuses and fixates on a random couple (in a random universe that is uniformly heterosexual) and they see themselves emblazoned on the Jumbotron, they’re supposed to kiss.
It’s always funny and adorable and strangely touching and it makes me miss my wife
the best kisser ever as she is known in my exploding universe
who I love and who I Iove to kiss
all succulent and naturally plump are her lips.
I think they should discard the video car races and the awkward fan-in-stands guessing games and
use the Kiss Cam between every inning,
and during the game, and afterward
and we should all be kissing
even when we aren’t at Dodger Stadium
and when no one is looking.