These are the saddest of possible words:
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
One of the great things about the original poem is how the meter mimics the rhythm of a double play. "Howard" throws off the dactylic meter, but it still turns...two.
But what's the connection between baseball and poetry? Is baseball more "poetic" than, say, football? Is there a connection between American poets trying to locate a national identity in literature and the poem addressed to baseball, "America's sport"? And if the rumors are true about football replacing baseball as America's sport, will there suddenly be more football poems?
Top of the 8th, after
The poem reads like a play-by-play commentary on the radio, including all the jargon of pitch counts and so on, but the field of attention isn't simply on the "play," or putting the ball into play (the pitch, the swing, the fielding, and so on). Instead, there's a play of attention between official play ("four fouled off," "fouls/two more off," "bounce to the shortstop, out at first") and unofficial play of a plastic bag blowing "over home plate" and Cash speeding it "on its way/with his bat." Blackburn was a master of the music and rhythm of language. Here, his description of this unofficial play is paradoxically like someone not watching every play: attention in inattention, attention to the unintended and unscripted events that happen between plays. And maybe this is what's "poetic" about baseball--attention to all that happens between plays, like poetry attentive to all that happens between words.
A couple of other things to note: The structure of Blackburn's poem mimics the temporal cadence of Cash's at-bat. And note the linebreaks--that long last line, for example, where the ball's put "into play," and the indented lines that measure pauses in play (and "in play" in the poem), mimicking, for example, Cash stepping out of the batter's box, then back in.
Another favorite baseball poem--Robert Kelly's "A Pastoral Dialogue on the Game of the Quadrature."
*A final note on baseball and the imagination: According to the Baseball Almanac, Gary Gentry wasn't even pitching on that windy April day at Shea Stadium. The Mets lost 2-0. Steve Blass pitched a complete-game shutout for the Pirates, Dave Cash went 1 for 4, as did Roberto Clemente.
So much for poetry as factual document. Then again, there is no record in the Baseball Almanac of a plastic bag blowing across home plate.