TAGGING THE STEALER
by Greg Delanty
So much of it I hadn't a bull's notion of
at first, and like the usual ignoramus
who casts his eyes at, say, a Jackson Pollock
or "This Is Just to Say," I scoffed at it.
I didn't twig how it was as close to art
as art itself with its pregame ballyhoo,
antics, rhubarbs, scheming, luck; its look
as if little or nothing is going on.
How often have we waited for the magic
in the hands of some flipper throwing a slider,
sinker, jug-handle, submarine, knuckle, or screwball?
And if we're lucky the slugger hits a daisy cutter
with a choke-up or connects with a Baltimore chop,
instead of batting a fish to slug a pop fly.
And if he really fouls up he swings a rusty gate,
caught with his foot in the bucket,
and a ball hawk catches a can of corn
with a basket catch and the ball rounds the horn.
Oh, look, Davo, how I'm sent sailing
right out of the ball park just by its lingo.
But I swear the most memorable play I witnessed
was with you on our highstools in the Daily Planet
as we slugged the elixirs of our Saturday-night beers.
The Yankees were playing your Toronto Blue Jays.
They were tied at the top of the ninth.
I can't now for the life of me remember
who won, nor the name of the catcher, except
he was an unknown, yet no rookie either.
Suddenly behind the pinch hitter's back he signaled
the pitcher, though no one copped why until seconds later,
as the catcher fireballed the potato to the first baseman,
tagging the stealer. It doesn't sound like much,
but everyone stood up in the house Ruth built,
like hairs on the back of the neck -- because the magic
was scary, too. O Jesus, give each of us just once
a poem the equal of that unknown man's talking hand.
American Wake (1995).
The Atlantic Monthly; June 1997; Tagging the Stealer; Volume 279, No. 6; page 86.