In Which The Kitten Pitches Into The Thirteenth

If you saw his picture after that, you saw the smile;

Not of a man basking in the joy of over a decade in The Show,

No well-earned satisfaction of having reached the top of his ten-inch mountain.

Rather, it was the wan residue of resignation,

The embodiment of the realization

That there was always something else out there just a half-step out of reach,

That vague intuition that the arbiter’s shoulders may twitch,

But he would never raise his right hand

And ring up that final, all-important third strike.

It was warm and moist in Milwaukee that night,

A harbinger of the real summer just around the corner,

But in Montmorenci Falls, it was as if it had arrived full-blown and quite angry

Thunder walking about and grumbling until well past midnight,

As if Rip Van Winkle had not heard the shouts of “last call”

And, as such, failed to call it an evening.

My mother stayed glued to our huge boxy old radio set,

From the first pitch until the bitter, incomprehensible end,

Nervously ironing every piece of linen and pair of underwear we owned

(A feat requiring no small measure of courage,

Given the uncertainties of the wiring and fuses in our rented home.)

The end came swiftly, unbelievably;

Tiger Hoak’s bobble, Adcock’s blast,

Aaron and Mantilla playing Stan-and-Ollie on the basepaths.

She would live through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the death of JFK,

A man on the moon, a president stepping down in shame and disgrace;

All these, in time, becoming trivial things in her cosmology,

Bits of agate type, tiny images on a flat and lifeless screen,

But to this very day, she can re-create in the most minute detail

How the lightning danced around the house the entire evening

Like so many animated skeletons in the cartoons

They showed between features at the old Rialto Theater,

And how the voice of Bob Prince, then at the full height of his powers,

Crescendoed and then fell silent like an orchestra’s tune-up

As Dick Stuart’s long fly in the tenth fell just short of the wall,

Disappointed and Icarus-like, into Bill Bruton’s waiting glove.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Posted–though probably only tangenitally related to– this Toad challenge .  For those not steeped in the history of the Great American Game, Harvey Haddix, on May 26, 1959, faced thirty-six Milwaukee Braves hitters without any reaching base–something not done before, since, and most likely never again in the game’s history–and ended up as the losing pitcher.  There is probably a moral in there somewhere–and I never, ever want to know what it might be.)

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22 thoughts on “In Which The Kitten Pitches Into The Thirteenth

  1. A never-to-be-repeated baseball accomplishment brought to the fans via radio…more than just tangentially related to the prompt at Real Toads, it is real honest-to-god cliffhanging radio.
    K

  2. Humorous, quirky, very nice, W.K.! So is the fictional Montmorenci Falls supposed to be near Pittsburgh? I had guessed that it was supposed to be in upstate New York.

    My grandparents, 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, were Pirates fans who didn’t like Bob Prince. I wondering if they were listening to KDKA on that night.

    Glen

    1. Your grandparents didn’t like the Gunner? Wow, I thought that was borderline sacreligious in the ‘Burgh.

      I think I mentioned once that Montmorenci Falls is an amalgamation of towns that I’ve lived in or otherwise know, and, while it doesn’t have an actual spot on the map, I think of it as being somewhere in greater northwestern Pa.

  3. Gosh, Ken, this gave me serious chills down my arms. The image of the mother ironing in a storm and listening in to the game, the awful realization her team had lost. Those last lines are nothing less than brilliant – I felt the plop of the ball in the catcher’s hands – and I know nothing about baseball that Charlie Brown hasn’t taught me.

  4. i love this, love this. can relate, though i don’t recall that particular game, i have a strong memory of listening to baseball on the radio (and of a later game with a feat from Aaron that i DO remember) with my mother and grandmother. you are so adept at detailed storytelling, amazing. i’d say directly responsive to the prompt (though i couldn’t care less how directly people respond to my music prompts, as it’s MUSIC after all, and beyond subjective).
    your writing strikes such a chord for me, for many reasons but in large part because of the places you describe that i recall, too, and the people, who often seem so familiar. i’d like to hold a book of your poems in my hands and read them together as a whole. ahem.

  5. From this intrepid baseball fan: in 1959 I was (intently) listening to Harry Caray, Joe Garagiola and Jack Buck call the ballgames! What precious memories. Like Kerry … this sent chills all over!

  6. I had just turned four, and so don’t have any first hand memory of this, but I have heard all about it. Have I ever asked you if you’ve seen the movie “City Slickers”? Helen Slater says she likes baseball, but doesn’t care who played third base for Pittsburgh in 1960. Four guys all shout “Don Hoak!” It’s hilarious.

  7. W.K., my grandparents in Ambridge, PA (Beaver County), had very strong feelings and opinions about things. You might recall, from my old blog, a thing that I wrote about my grandparents called “Grandma and Grandpa didn’t like
    Roberto.” This stemmed from the news reports that after a game against the Phillies in 1966 at Connie Mack Stadium where Roberto Clemente punched a young fan for asking for his autograph. My grandfather liked all the Pirates—– especially Mazeroski, as I recall, and Honus Wagner when he was a kid——- but they didn’t like Clemente for this reason. I don’t remember if their opinion on Clemente changed after New Years Eve, 1973.

    Yes, as far as “The Gunner” was concerned, my grandfather used to tell me that he didn’t like him because he was “a rooter.” I guess my grandfather must have been exposed to a lot of announcers for different teams in different cities—— from Ambridge, on nights when the sky was clear, he probably listened to the New York stations and most probably admired announcers who WEREN’T rooters— such as Red Barber and others. He and my grandmother didn’t like Bob Prince because he was a rooter (in the BIGGEST of ways), and, in that regard, didn’t feel that he was professional.

    But they still LOVED the Pirates, just the same. And they probably loved Clemente , too, until the news about the 1966 incident.

    Incidentally, here’s a link to a United Press International article from May 7th, 1966 reporting on the alleged Clemente incident.

    Glen

    1. I do remember that post, but I hadn’t heard about that incident; I know Clemente could be prickly sometimes, but I think much of that came from his relationship with the press, which (especially in Pittsburgh) was pretty dicey until the ’71 Series and afterward.

  8. This is brilliant writing, W.K. One of your finest. I had a hard time at first which historic game you were referencing, but I got it just before I read your explanation.
    Awesome piece of work.
    Bill

  9. if you drop the i, add a y, and go a few miles east of quebec city, there is montmorency falls.
    water drops longer there than niagara, but the only thing resembling harvey haddix
    that i ever notice is the perfection without fanfare or applause or whatever.
    i like the “warm and moist in milwaukee that night” because it still can be.
    miller park suffers no air conditioning.

    1. Steve, when did you start your blog again???? You deleted the whole thing, mysteriously, a while ago, with no explanation! And just DISAPPEARED! Did you join the Federal Witness Protection Program?????? Anyway, it’s good to see your blog up again! I was WONDERING what happened to you!

      Glen

      1. hey Glen. i think you are right about the witness protection program and now i pop up here where there is a poem about harvey haddix. i like this new found land.

  10. Legendary. Bob Prince’s voice coming from an AM radio, combined with crickets and tree frogs, was the best sound of summer.

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