Thursday, April 06, 2006

On travel

As obvious from the bizarre dual nature of this blog, I live in DC and grew up in Ohio - saw my first Reds game in San Diego at one year old. My parents were from Southwest Ohio but lived in Southern California at the time, hence the Padres game, good old Jack Murphy Stadium. Since my birth over 29 years ago in the land where rain never dampens a baseball game, I've lived in such places as Luxembourg, Ireland, California, and Texas.

Baseball games used to be shown on network television and nothing else. I can remember the Reds playing on most weekends when there were no cable contracts. There was no evil Comcast or Fox Sports Net, which, by the way, has total control over the teams with which it has contracts and allows less than 1% of the games to be broadcast on network television. Even with the weekend games, we didn't have the option of watching all of the games, so cable does a service, if you are inclined to purchase it. During the games that weren't broadcast on television, we listened to Marty and Joe on 700 WLW, a station which Jack Kerouac said had the furthest reach of all stations in the country in On the Road. (I wish I could find the quote for you.) On clear days, I've been able to pick up the station here in DC.

Joe Nuxall is semi-retired these days. He does a few games a year, and he's doing the game tonight as I listen to the radio broadcast and watch the Pirates feed, and his voice is a sweet song of nostalgic baseball bliss. At least Marty is still there day in and day out, giving his opinion without any care about who hears it. If there is anything constant in my life and my moving around all of the time, it is Marty Brennaman doing the Reds play by play on the radio.

I've missed two Opening Days in my life in all of my travels. Nothing rings truer than The Crack of the Bat, a poem I meant to post on Opening Day, one that completely resonated with me as I spent time in Euroland. I like Whitman. I like Shakespeare. I like Browning and Byron and Keats and Yeats. Still, nothing hits me like the simple verse of this poem, which the International Herald Tribune publishes every year on Opening Day. Anyone who has spent a summer away from the U.S. of A. and its national pastime during Opening Day and the season can relate:

Away on this side of the ocean
When the chestnuts are hinting of green
And the first of the cafe commandos
Are moving outside for a fine
And the sound of spring beats a bolero
As Paree sheds her coat and her hat
The sound that is missed more than any
Is the sound of the crack of a bat.

There’s an animal kind of feeling
There’s a stirring down at Vincennes Zoo
And the kid down the hall’s getting restless
Taking stairs like a young kangaroo
Now the dandy is walking his poodle
And the concierge sunning her cat
But the heart’s with the Cubs and the Tigers
And the sound of the crack of a bat.

In the park on the corner run schoolboys
With a couple of cartons for props
Kicking goals a la Fontaine or Kopa
While a little guy chikies for cops
“Goal for us,” “No it’s not,” “You’re a liar,”
Then the classical shrieks of a spat
But it’s not like a rhubarb at home plate
Or the sound of the crack of a bat.

Here the stadia thrill to the scrumdowns
And the soccer fans flock to the games
And the chic punt the nags out a Longchamp
Where the women are dames and not dames
But it’s different at Forbes and at Griffith
The homes of the Buc and the Nat
Where the hotdog and peanut share laurels
With the sound of the crack of a bat.

No, a Yank can’t describe to a Frenchman
The rasp of an umpire’s call
The continuing charms of statistics
Changing hist’ry with each strike and ball
Nor the self-conscious jog of the slugger
Rounding third with the tip of his hat
Nor the half-smothered grace of a hook slide
Nor the sound of the crack of a bat.

Now, the golfer is buffing his niblick
And the tennis buff’s tightening his strings
And the fisherman’s flexing his flyrod
Like a thousand and one other springs
Oh, the sports on both sides of the ocean
Have a great deal in common, at that
But the thing that’s not HERE
At this time of the year
Is the sound of the crack of a bat.

Hat tip: Fistful of Euros

Casey lifts his helmet to the crowd who gives him a standing ovation. I miss him. He signed a one year contract, and I still have delusions about him returning to Cincy next year. Or even in the middle of this year, when the Reds offense has carried them into contention and the Pirates are out of it. !!!

Oh, one other thing. WHY IS WOMACK PLAYING OVER FREEL??!!!!!???!!!


Anonymous said...

I couldn't believe I found the poem "Crack of a Bat". I lived in Paris from 1966 to 1969 and became friends with the author of the poem, Dick Rohrback, a sports writer for the International Herald Tribune. His poem indeed rang true to us ex-pats.

Daedalus said...

Thanks for your comment. I've had the good fortune of being abroad a few times on Opening Day and it is just as relevant today as it was when it was written, although with MLB.TV, we can watch our favorite teams - at decent hours, too, since they're day games! I typed up the poem from a copy I made of it in 1997 when it was republished in the Herald Tribune while I was in Luxembourg.

I'm going to Opening Day in Cincinnati for the second year in a row - I might do it every year for the rest of my life.