Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beer League Box Score

Standing in left field at the Portrero Rec baseball field—a weekend afternoon, under a clear San Francisco afternoon sky; there was a mild breeze blowing toward right field. I can picture this moment so clearly in my mind’s eye, tho it happened about 15 or 16 years ago.

& of course, it was a moment when “nothing” happened—there was no crack of the bat, no race to field a ball, not even a pitch being thrown; all of those things happened at some point before & after this moment, but I don't recall the specifics. It must have been between batters—I don’t even remember the context, other than it was one of the many pick-up baseball games I played between 1994 & 1997—& many of those were at the same ballfield atop Portrero Hill.

I should hasten to add that I was never a skilled baseball player—this blog is certainly not the memoirs of an aging jock—by no means!  I had my moments: a hit I recall here & there, a decent catch or play in the field, but by & large these were the exception. I had a “slow bat,” & when I did hit it tended to be to right field—the so-called “opposite field” for a righthanded hitter—not by design or strategy, but simply because I couldn’t get around on a decent fastball. In the field in pick-up games I may have worked my way to marginally passable as a defender, but that’s about it. I did have a pretty ok arm.

The pick-up games were the highwater mark of my baseball experience, & that experience reaches back into the 1960s. My sister, who was a much better athlete than me, was MVP of her high school fast pitch softball team as a pitcher, & she idolized Sandy Koufax. Of course, given the divergent paths she & I have traveled, it would make sense that she loved a Dodger—I’ve found myself rooting for the Giants since the late 1980s! But my first baseball glove was a Sandy Koufax autograph model, & was a gift from her, probably from the sporting goods store & soda fountain across the river in North Walpole, New Hampshire. I can still remember long ago Sunday evenings leaving that store—the name of which now escapes me—with ice cream cone in hand & my dad driving the family VW bus back across the Arch Bridge to Bellows Falls, Vermont. But I digress.

But after all, baseball is so much about digression. We anticipate a thread of dialogue, but as one of the most multi-layered sports, there are so many threads of dialogue happening at any one time, we can be constantly surprised by the next one that surfaces. Baseball is also a game about memory, perhaps more than any other.

So: “another poet/musician’s baseball blog”: yes, that’s what I am, a poet & musician on the threshold of my “golden years,” who decided one rainy spring afternoon that he wanted to do something he’d always wanted to do: write about baseball. What will I write?

Memory—thoughts about what baseball “means”—curiosities of the game—the stars & notable players I remember from my youth & those I remember from later years—the times I strayed from baseball, & why—pick-up games, & playing in a “beer league”—because, yes, eventually the pick-up games led a number of us to do that—box scores & statistics & damned statistics & liars, because memory is a great source of lies, whether intentional or not.

& why a relatively non-athletic poet/musician would fall in love with the game in the first place. If you love the game too, take a seat, & let’s talk some baseball.

Pic shows a box score from 1876; from Wiki Commons—links to its source. Image is in the public domain.
The pic in the banner shows the Winter 1994-1995 Mission Team from the Roberto Clemente League in San Francisco. Yours truly is at the far right of the second row—the bearded guy.


  1. I like the look of things here, John; I'll be back later to read, when I'm not on my iPod.
    Who knew there were so many baseball bloggers? Wow!

    1. Hi Kat: Thanks for leaving a comment! I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing here, but I'm excited about it! I picked a blog for each of the Major League teams & then a few more that I thought were interesting/informative--I assure you, that's just scratching the surface!


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