Bardball didn't start from a deep love of poetry, but from a swelling revulsion of Barry Bonds.
In 2007, friends were emailing scathing limericks back and forth about the chemically enhanced slugger. They were too funny to waste, so Stuart Shea and I were inspired to build a website for fans' poetry. While some diamond devotees like to crunch batting averages and ERAs, we thought it would be fun to commemorate an entire season — games, players, oddities, hot dogs and all — in verse.
Baseball and poetry have a long history. After "The Night Before Christmas," one could argue that "Casey at the Bat" is America's best known piece of doggerel. (Doggerel is defined as "crudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous or burlesque nature." Tell that to our contributors, who include Canada's first poet laureate.)
Back in the early 20th century, when professional sports consisted of baseball, boxing and horse racing, newspaper writers needed to fill column inches to sate fans' hunger.
It's easy to see why baseball attracts poetic efforts. The long games and season provide many gaps to fill with chinwag and jabber. It has the heroic figure of the lone batter (again, "Casey"), the tense duel between batter and pitcher, and the balletic moves of the best fielders. It's also a game of failure, in which the top hitters fail in two out of three at-bats. Failure can give birth to art; happiness inspires Hallmark cards.
Could other sports inspire poetic flights of fancy? It's doubtful. Football poetry would employ too many single-syllable words. In basketball poetry, the final two lines of the piece would have too much importance. Hockey bards would have a devil of a time rhyming words like "concussion" and "
Ballplayers' names, on the other hand, are almost poetry themselves, especially for Latin American players. Recite "
Non-player events also deserve the poet's touch: Pittsburgh's "Racing Pierogi" scandal, the Madoff-spawned financial problems of the
Some of the most moving poems Bardball has posted have been about passings, like the tragic death of Mark Fidrych and the demolition of Yankee Stadium.
But one poem stands out in my mind, written by a teenager I know. When he was 9, he hit his first Little League home run. As soon as he got home, he grabbed some paper and wrote a free verse about the feeling of contact and the thrill of touching each base. Simple and heartfelt, now it's recorded for the ages, for all fans to relive.
James Finn Garner is the author of "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories" and "Honk Honk, My Darling: A Rex Koko, Private Clown Mystery."
First Home Run
By Buster Browne
Not a thwack
Not a pow
just a tap
soars through the air
first hit of the season
first home run
2012 Chicago Rebuilding Checklist
By James Finn Garner
First, install a cornerstone
(Try not to leave the payroll blown),
Then festoon with fresh young faces
To mask the loss of former aces
Pray for rebound years for some,
Like ALL the Cubbies, Rios, Dunn
Arrange a massive ad campaign
Learn to say
Keep hoping Theo is the guy, and
Steer Robin clear of Nolan Ryan.