Check me on this, but my sources tell me that April is National Poetry Month. OK, “sources” is a former boss of mine who told me of this in 2004. Besides that, a couple of events make me take note of it.
It was early April 2004. I was standing at the corner of—no, not 12th Street & Vine like an old song says—but of Brookline & Lansdowne in Boston. A few hours before, I had come off a plane trip from California. Rather than sleep the day away, I dropped my duffle bag, showered, and soon after took the subway to the station nearest that corner. By now you may be asking, “what’s with that particular street corner already?” That corner is near Fenway Park. And that was the corner to line up in vain hopes of getting a ticket to the Red Sox home opener.
Also on that corner was a 29 year old guy…kind of ragged, rugged, and scruffy…passing out postcards. I took one from him, then noticed that the person pictured on the card was the same guy. His name was Brendon Bates. A young playwrite, he was pushing a performance of his play “The Savior of Fenway.” It is now easy to forget how in danger Fenway Park was of getting the wrecking ball before the current ownership saved it. The threat of losing the Olde Ball Yard brought about a grass roots campaign with bumper stickers to save it. It was also a great emotional and metaphorical connection for a play. Brendon and I both agreed that there is a lot of theatre inherent in Baseball.
Around the same time, I had been wandering through a bookstore in Coolidge Corner, Brookline. Walking past a bunch of Red Sox and other baseball books, I thought to myself, “yeah they look great, but I’ve seen it before.” And then one of them grabbed me enough to pick it up. It was an anthology called “The Red Sox Fan Book” by Leigh Grossman (now with subsequent updates). A poem by author Robert Macomber opened the book. It had so much humor and pathos for fans who “have been there.” Having been a fan for many years before I moved to Boston, I understood most of the references. Actually, “understood” doesn’t do it justice. I felt the warmth of the experiences. I cringed from the pain. Yet more than anything I smiled. And laughed. I was chuckling so much while reading this opening poem that I half expected a tap on the shoulder from a store employee, who would tell me to leave the store or buy the book. Or at least stop disturbing the other customers with my laughing. Fortunately that did not happen. And fortunately for the store, I had decided midway through that opening poem to buy the book for a good friend in California, who is also a longstanding/suffering Red Sox fan.
Here is the connection. Baseball has a poetry to it. Why was April picked to be National Poetry Month? I do not know. But I could easily be convinced the answer is because April is when Baseball Season starts.
There have been good songs to go with Baseball at least since the ‘40s. If you need good Baseball music for the season, a great place to start is Rhino Records Baseball’s Greatest Hits albums. There are at least two volumes (Volume 1 starts with an excerpt of Doc & Merle Watson’s “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and also includes “The Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” by Steve Goodman, reason enough to recommend it). Chuck Brodsky has recorded his own rich collection of Baseball songs. You’ve heard some of his stories behind the uniform on WUMB. He’s written songs about some of the game’s most interesting yet little known characters. There is Eddie Klepp, a White player in the Negro Leagues, and Moe Berg—also the subject of the book “The Catcher Was A Spy.” Berg played a few seasons with the Red Sox. Many of Chuck Brodsky’s ode to the game’s stories are gathered on his The Baseball Ballads.
Musicians Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, Peter Buck, and Scott McCaughey come together now and then as The Baseball Project (more on the rock & roll side, with the occasional language warning needed). They have two albums out under that name, and I kept hearing last season that they were working on a third, inspired by events as they developed.
Ahh, Baseball is back. Those are some musical suggestions to help you say, “bring it on!”
Go Red Sox (and Dodgers),
Thank you for supporting WUMB!
P.S. If you’ve got a few favorite songs or books on Baseball to share, I’d love to hear them! For
now, I’m going to go to my nearest ballfield and breath in the thrill of the grass (apologies
to W.P. Kinsella). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions!