Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Baseball and Classicism

I don’t really remember where I first came across this poem, but as the summer drones on and I find myself wasting away in front of the tv watching baseball games, baseball highlights, and baseball news, I often return to this one simple question: why? Why do I care so much who starts in left field for the Blue Jays against lefties (Kevin Mench) or how many runs are scored on average in day games at Seattle (8.3/game)?

And when I get carried away and find myself absorbed in the minutia of score cards and box scores, I think of this poem:

by Tom Clark

Every day I peruse the box scores for hours
Sometimes I wonder why I do it
Since I am not going to take a test on it
And no one is going to give me money

The pleasure’s something like that of codes
Of deciphering an ancient alphabet say
So as brightly to picturize Eurydice
In the Elysian Fields on her perfect day

The day she went 5 for 5 against Vic Raschi

It’s easy for me to imagine just what Clark was thinking when he wrote this, and I think that even a non-baseball fan can relate to this too. It’s really just a portrait of (healthy, non-threatening) obsession. In terms of things non-physical/sexual, why do we love what we love? What makes us care about the things we care about, even if we’re “not going to take a test on it/ and no one is going to give [us] money”???

What I don’t easily see is why Clark chose to use Eurydice as his main allusion. She was, according to Greek mythology, the loving and loved wife of Orpheus, the poet and musician. In the Oedipus trilogy, she was the wife of Creon, the selfish king of Thebes and uncle/brother-in-law to Oedipus. I can cay beyond any shadow of doubt that I have no idea what either of those references has to do with baseball.

In can tell you, though, that Vic Raschi was pretty good pitcher for the Yankees, Cardinals, and A’s in the 40’s and 50’s. He’s well-known among baseball fact-junkies as the guy who gave up the first of Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs.

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