Baseball and Poetry (repost)

My inner poet cut her teeth on baseball.

Let me explain: When I was a kid, baseball games were my bedtime stories. I grew up in a baseball house–and growing up in southern California, within striking distance of Los Angeles, the baseball my family latched onto was the Dodger brand of ball. Now my dad wasn’t so much a Dodger fan as a baseball fan. Transplanted from the Midwest, if pressed, Dad would pledge some allegiance to the St. Louis Cardinals. But I cut my teeth on Dodger baseball, and there were years of my childhood in which, if cut, I, like Tommy Lasorda, bled Dodger blue.

At night, during baseball season, I’d climb into bed and turn on the radio. And Vin Scully told me bedtime stories. Vin Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers for decades now (61 seasons!), carrying generations of fans and players through the play-by-play action of the Dodger baseball season. Scully’s voice carried over the airwaves and out my clock radio speaker in mellifluous tones that wrapped me up in the action. He announced the game as if telling a story, narrating a dramatic production—and Dodger Stadium, tucked away in Chavez Ravine, was the stage (at least for home games).

And there was plenty of drama to narrate. Those were good years for the Dodgers—the late seventies, early eighties. I grew up following a pretty consistent core of players. The solid infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey—and Yeager behind the plate. Dusty Baker out in left field (Bakersfield, we called it). Hooton on the mound, or Sutton, or Tommy John, or later Fernando Valenzuela, and later still, Orel Herscheiser. Lopes gave way to Sax, and Yeager to Scioscia, and I kept bleeding Dodger Blue under Tommy Lasorda’s enthusiastic leadership.

And Vin Scully’s story-weaving play-by-play. It’s masterful, really. Often poetic.

I love baseball. But truth be told, I probably love Vin Scully’s version of it. The version that pulls the story out of the play-by-play. The version that magically spins the straw of statistics into golden threads that mean something to the plot. That actually solidify the player in your mind rather than hanging off him awkwardly like so many cobwebs.

I have to think that the poet in me owes something of her development to the hours I drifted in and out of sleep listening to the voice–and the story-telling poet–of Dodger baseball, Vin Scully.

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