BASEBALL, OR THE MYTH OF THE ETERNAL RECCURENCE / a new poem by Tom Evans

Dear Ken, FDR wrote to Judge Landis

shortly after Pearl Harbor when it was

being decided whether major league games

should continue during the war,

America needs baseball as a recreational diversion for a nation

that will of necessity be working longer and harder than ever

 before in the coming times.

 

My friend Rich, when I stood beside him

in his hospital bed during his last days,

echoed a similar sentiment,

asking me to talk about baseball

for a while. I knew, that despite having

the mathematical mind of the engineer

he was, it wasn’t the facts he normally

craved- standings, statistics, playoff probabilities

of each team (especially those of his beloved

Phils)- that he wanted, he had the newspaper

lying next to him for that.

 

I chose instead to talk about the beauty

of the game we loved beyond measure, its

history, the evolution of its

rules, some of the players we loved- Cobb, Wheat,

Ruth, Mathewson, Parker, Stargell, Omar

the Outmaker, Schmidt, Carlton, and Richie

(call me Dick) Allen, the fact that it had

brought us together, what we would do

after the final out was made, but more particularly

of the time Ferris Fain (of the other

Philadelphia team) went 5 for 5

against Vic Raschi for his team (including

a game-winning  home run) in our

Strat-O-Matic baseball game.

 

Thank you for the diversion, he said,

looking up at me when I had finished.

I leaned over and kissed him good-bye.

Afterward, when asked by his wife to give

his eulogy, I declined. I couldn’t- wouldn’t-

discuss our friendship in front of strangers-

it was private, cherished, and ultimately ineffable.

 

I offer this elegy instead.

 

for Richard Swiniuch (1952-2001)