“Pitcher, Catcher, Fielder, Batter”: The Poetry of Yankee Stadium
By M. R. |
Like most of the world, I have never stepped foot inside Yankee Stadium and watched the talented baseball players give their all to win against their opponents. Instead, I have imagined what it is like as I hear the roar of the crowds from eight blocks away while watching the stadium lights shine outside my apartment window. I know that the huge HDTV screen behind the limestone exterior of Gate 6 is there to comfort those who aren’t within the stadium to watch but who can sit on the benches outside, yet I still wish I was sitting on the edge of my seat inside the stadium, as I imagine the rest of you reading this do too.
The new Yankee Stadium, on 1 East 161 Street in the Bronx, stands across the street from the original grounds. This magnificent structure can make anyone feel small in comparison, due to its massive size and the amazing legacy it carries through the weight of its name. The original Yankee Stadium was built in 1923 and stayed open until 1973 before it was closed for renovations. It was then reopened in 1976 only to be closed in 2008, and demolished in 2010. The stadium that exists currently opened its doors in 2009 and, as far as I know, is going strong with games played every year from summer to fall and with other functions throughout the year, such as college football, college graduations, soccer games, and even concerts. Lying on the original grounds of the stadium is Heritage Field, with a small jungle gym and its own miniature baseball park, in which many a little league hosts their games for anyone who happens to pass by.
Most of the little leaguers playing across from the gigantic stadium are comprised of Hispanic kids who wish to be a part of the big leagues, which goes to show just how much representation is important. They look up to legends like Bernie Williams, Luis Arroyo, Mariano Rivera, and Robinson Cano, men who show what it means to be an American: someone free enough to be themselves, to inspire others, and to carry a legacy that will last through many generations even underneath the wide baseball cap that is the New York Yankees. I was shocked to find out that Major League Baseball (MLB) is comprised of so many men who are from outside of the United States, especially from the islands where my parents hail from: Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic (even though Puerto Rico is technically a Commonwealth of the United States). According to the College of Business Administration’s Institute for Diversity & Ethics in Sports’ Racial and Gender Report Card for 2016, the percent of Latino players slightly decreased from 29.3 percent in 2015 to 28.5 percent in 2016. That is still a pretty large figure when compared to 1.7 percent Asian players or the 8.3 percent of African-American players. Of course, there is a 59.07 percent of Caucasian players in MLB, but I’m still proud of the percentage of Latinos on the field.
For those who have never been inside Yankee Stadium, baseball writing offers a way to experience vicariously the the feverish energy that courses through a fan whenever she watches a game. The American modernist poet Marianne Moore’s poem “Baseball & Writing” (1961) helps those of us on the outside feel what it’s like to be in Yankee Stadium, surrounded by other fans watching legendary players like Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Luis Arroyo. We feel the exhilaration alongside the crowds in the stands and the players, just wishing, hoping, and praying that they’ll win. Moore, a devoted fan of the Yankees, brings this out for us in right from the start of her poem, scribbling down her thoughts that strike the rest of us to the core:
Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go
or what you will do;
a fever in the victim—
pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
To whom does it apply?
Who is excited? Might it be I?
Considering that I am a huge fan of writing and a sometimes fan of baseball thanks to it being a generational pastime in my family for the last 60 years, I can understand Moore’s sentiments. Both activities are exciting; your heart beats fast with every second that passes by whether you are writing a bit of prose or watching the game on your TV screen. To be a “victim” in this case, as Moore puts it, is to be consumed by the sport and to watch with hope but no real ability to change the outcome that the Yankees will pull through and win another game. Unfortunately, teams have bad streaks, and the Yankees haven’t won the World Series in a while, but that doesn’t stop fans from coming in waves to visit the stadium during the season and the off-season as well. Marianne Moore was captivated by Yankee Stadium and its players with good reason. The New York Yankees are winners in the hearts of their fans, are legends in the eyes of the little leaguers who want to play for the big leagues, and their stadium, despite the renovations, demolitions, and rebuildings has stood the test of time since its inception in 1923.
A poem by Ray Hansell speaks of the old Yankee Stadium, with its rich history of hard hitters, quick players, and legendary wins. Where Moore makes us remember the rush of adrenaline we feel during a game, in “The Old Yankee Stadium,” Hansell implores us to remember the reasons behind it. We look to the men who came before today’s players and give our respects for their having paved the way for the next generation:
To the monuments in the outfield
To the numbers on the wall
The history of the Yankees
Has so very much to recall
The Babe, Lou, Joe, Yogi and The Mick
Just to name a few
There were so many others
Many fans never knew
Some will be forgotten
Others will live on forever
But the memories they gave us
Will always keep getting better.
If we reflect on what it means to be an American, we think of Major League Baseball. In New York, especially in the South Bronx, we think of the Yankees. Sometimes we think about hot dogs and catching a home run in the stands if we ever get to go to a game, and the feelings of excitement that is channeled in Moore’s poem coupled with the memorializing reflections of Ray Hansell. However, we really think about what baseball means for the next generation, especially Hispanics, who are huge fans of baseball and have the second highest percentage of players in the Major League. I should know—a few of my cousins played as kids yet, sadly, none made it to the big leagues.
Hunter, Ray Hansell – Poem. “The Old Yankee Stadium (The House That Ruth Built) Poem.” PoemHunter.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-old-yankee-stadium-the-house-that-ruth-built/>.
Lapdick, Richard, Dr. “MLB Racial & Gender Report Card.” The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. College of Business Administration, 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <http://www.tidesport.org/mlb-rgrc.html>.
Moore, Marianne. “Baseball & Writing.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/baseball-and-writing>.
“New York Yankees Roster.” ESPN.com. ESPN, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <http://www.espn.com/mlb/team/roster/_/name/nyy/new-york-yankees>.
“New York Yankee Stadium Comparison Chart.” Official Site of the New York Yankees. New York Yankees, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/nyy/ballpark/new_stadium_comparison.jsp>.