Tag Archives: yankees

Marianne Moore, the baseball fan

I just learned from Chris Fischbach, publisher of the great Coffee House Press, that Marianne Moore once threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium.  I always thought she was a Dodger fan!  My hope is that she threw the pitch and then said “I, too, dislike them.”

I forgot that there was actually baseball in this poem!  See:

the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
                   do not admire what
                   we cannot understand: the bat
                             holding on upside down or in quest of something to
eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
        a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that feels a flea
                                                                                         the base-
       ball fan, the statistician—


(line breaks kind of destroyed by WordPress, sorry)

I’m actually not sure how to read this — I think the catalog here is not delineating who “we” are, but rather what we cannot understand and thus do not admire.  What makes a baseball fan hard to understand?  Maybe this makes more sense in 1924, when the first version of the poem is written, and we’re not so far from the point where the term “fanatic” for a baseball rooter acquired its permanent abbreviation.  But why is it hard to understand the bat looking for something to eat?  The other animals in the poem are, indeed, engaging in some weird repetitive unparseable motion, but the endless quest for food seems like something we fail to admire precisely because we do understand it.

The appearance of the “bat” before baseball is presumably on purpose but I don’t really understand the work it does.

Also, the famous phrase from this poem, “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” is not so far off as a description of mathematics.

Anyway, per BaseballLibrary, Moore was a Dodger fan for most of her life but felt so betrayed by the team’s move to Los Angeles that she switched to the Yankees.  Understandable but unforgivable.  She’s the baseball equivalent of those people who repent for their youthful liberal overreach by becoming right-wing culture warriors.



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Which teams in the AL East are for real?

Not the Blue Jays — and I knew it before the Orioles beat them twice in a row.  They’ve been leading the division all season; but half their games have been against the woeful Central, while the other good teams in the East have been beating up on each other.  If you keep their winning percentage against each division constant, but change their number of games played against each division to match the Orioles’ totals, the Jays wind up in fourth place at 21-25, only a game ahead of Baltimore.  (To be fair, our interleague games were against the even more woeful Nationals, while Toronto drew the Braves.)

Not the Yankees — they’re outscoring their opponents by about a quarter of a run per game, which means they ought to be a shade over .500.  They won’t win 70% of their one-run games all year long. (Though their scoring will improve with Rodriguez back in the lineup.)

Anyway, none of this matters, since Friday is Matt Wieters Day and the Orioles are playing .750 ball from then on.

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Two good Orioles endings

Good ending 1: The Orioles hang 3 runs on Mariano Rivera for the second time this year to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th, then win on a Melvin Mora bunt in the next frame, simultaneously clinching at least a tie in the season series and cementing the Yankees’ first second-place division finish since 1997. If that wasn’t enough, we got to beat up on Mike Mussina too. Rivera’s lifetime ERA against the O’s rises to a pedestrian 3.72. The three runs, by the way, were on a bases-clearing Jay Payton triple — his second triple of the night.

Good ending 2: Stat of the Day brings us the game of June 3, 1977; Royals catcher John Wathan comes up against the O’s Tippy Martinez, bottom of the 9th, Orioles up 7-5, but the Royals have the bases loaded and nobody out. Wathan hits a fly to right. Runner on third tags and scores. Runners on first and second tag too, but the throw from Pat Kelly comes in in time for Mark Belanger to tag the runner at second — now the runner on his way to third is caught in a rundown, and he’s out too. When the smoke clears, the Orioles have won the game 7-6, and Wathan has hit into a game-ending triple play and collected an RBI in the same at-bat!

There was something about Tippy that struck confusion into the minds of baserunners — let it never be forgotten that he is the only pitcher in the history of baseball to pick off the side. (The link is a beautiful account of this crazy game from Swing and a Miss— I implore you to follow the link and spend a little time with your 1983 World Champion Baltimore Orioles.)

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