Through the years of elementary and high school, as I walked down our street in warm weather and approached our house, a little bungalow on Sunset Road in Mayfield Heights, Ohio the next door neighbor’s radio blasted out the progress of the daily baseball game. Seeing Mr. Shambach smoking lazily as he sat on his front porch steps, wearing a sleeveless white undershirt and chino slacks with suspenders hanging from the waistband, is as embedded in my memory as is the voice of the man on the radio calling out the plays. My school friends and I played in the street tossing a softball and batting at it as best we could, every summer. We moved late in my senior year and the scenery changed.
The year I was twenty-one a young man I had been dating took me to a real baseball game and with no other understanding of the sport and no exposure, probably because I had no brothers and my father and uncles were not inclined toward sports, I recall standing up at the seventh inning stretch, gathering my bag and coat and expecting to leave our spot on the bleachers.
When I found a collection of the poetry of Donald Hall, I was delighted to purchase the book and as I slogged through White Apples and the Taste of Stone, I found myself weighed down by two recurring themes, the sadness about the death of his wife and baseball. One poem, called Baseball actually had eight innings, with no seventh inning stretch and dragged on for pages, which I forced myself to keep reading though I was seriously tempted to whisk past. The problem with being so determined to finish it all is that the more lovely pieces were lost in the cardboard flavor of a few I really did not enjoy.