A Poetic Take on Baseball

Metaphor, Image, Rhythm and Form Define Both Pursuits

Baseball is the most literary of sports, bursting with metaphor, image and rhythm, and poets have long recognized the symbolic parallels between a baseball game and the events of daily life from which their poems sprout. A baseball game tells a story inside the confines of its form, just as a poem does. Its balls and strikes, hits and outs, runs and innings are very like the echoes and rhymes, stresses and stops, lines and stanzas of a poem. Check out these Hall of Fame-worthy baseball poems, selected for reading while you’re watching a game.

of 13
'Casey at the Bat' by Ernest L. Thayer (1888)

Batter missing baseball pitch
Amwell/The Image Bank/Getty Images
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game ...

of 13
'Casey's Revenge' by Grantland Rice (1907)

There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more;
There were muttered oaths and curses —every fan in town was sore.
“Just think,” said one, “how soft it looked with Casey at the bat,
And then to think he’d go and spring a bush league trick like that!”...

of 13
'A Ballad of Baseball Burdens' by Franklin Pierce Adams (1912)

    Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.
Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom’s ire
    Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob —
This is the end of every fan’s desire...

of 13

The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly

by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them —...

of 13

In sunburnt parks where Sundays lie,
Or the wide wastes beyond the cities,
Teams in grey deploy through sunlight ....

of 13

Distance brings proportion. From here
the populated tiers
as much as players seem part of the show:
a constructed stage beast, three folds of Dante’s rose,
or a Chinese military hat
cunningly chased with bodies ...

of 13

I dreamed Ted Williams
leaning at night
against the Eiffel Tower, weeping.

He was in uniform
and his bat lay at his feet
— knotted and twiggy.

“Randall Jarrell says you’re a poet!” I cried.
“So do I! I say you’re a poet!”...

of 13

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
   You can never tell with either
      how it will go
      or what you will do ...

of 13

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders ...

of 13

It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
and the mitt.
Ball hits
bat, or it
hits mitt.
Bat doesn’t
hit ball, bat
meets it.
Ball bounces
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
ground (dud)
or it
fits mitt ...

of 13

... A night game, the silver potion
Of the lights, his pink skin
Shining like a burn ....

of 13

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 ...

of 13

1. Baseball, I warrant, is not the whole
occupation of the aging boy.
Far from it: There are cats and roses;
there is her water body ...