Whatever happened to baseball verse? Casey at the Bat, Tinker to Evers to Chance, Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain. After that, a drought. An occasional "Leo Durocher Isn't Kosher" banner must fly in Chicago, but that would be about it. You'd think Jim Fregosi doesn't rhyme with cosi cosi, or something.
Could be, though, that there is a lot of verse around, blushing unseen, like mine. Two springs ago, when Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan of the Mets looked as though they were going to become the greatest starting rotation of all time, I wrote the following:
O Seaver and Koosman and Gentry and Ryan,
Each with a fastball as fierce as a lion,
They've all got such stuff that it eats you up whole,
And now even Ryan is gaining control.
Unfortunately, they did not become the greatest starting rotation of all time, so what demand there had been for a poem about them ebbed. A few years earlier I had written a couple of double dactyls:
Weekdays through knotholes his
Never, however, would
Do so on Sunday—his
Answer was no.
Iron Man McGinnity
Pitched doubleheaders and
Thus became famous.
These days such mound work is
Ford goes six innings and
Then becomes Ramos.
Unfortunately, not enough people appreciated oldtime Giant pitchers and the double dactyl simultaneously. Nor, as my own informal polls indicate, do they now. More people respond to limericks, to wit:
An owner of players, Charles Finley,
Now smiles, if at all, rather thinly.
McLain's on the farm,
And Blue is not warm,
And Jackson is not really frienly.
But I think what is really needed today is clerihews. The clerihew is named after Edmund Clerihew Bentley, who invented it. One of the first was:
Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
If anybody calls
Say I am designing St. Paul's."
The clerihew's first line is someone's name, its rhyme scheme is aabb and otherwise it is irregular. If that isn't suited to baseball, I don't know what is. It remains only for some concerned party to provide the aabb. The latest book by W. H. Auden, who is generally held to be the greatest living poet in English, is a collection of clerihews. One of them rhymes Thackery and daiquiri. But Auden seems not to know much about baseball, and Clerihew Bentley is dead, and so is Franklin P. Adams, who wrote about Tinker, Evers and Chance. So:
Was a good old boie.
His glove had no pocket.
He came from Woonsocket.
Had fans who liked him best of all.
They'd shout (it always brought him solace):
"Orval, Orval √úber Alles!"
Would often blank
Toss them goose eggs, horse collars, donents.
Made fewer errors than Tommy
And was one-third the size of Burl Ives.
Mordecai P. Brown
Won great renown
As one of the greatest flingers
Who ever lacked two fingers.
Is not to be confused with Remus.
Hemus had a good reliable infielder's arm, so if he'd pitched he could at least have found home.
Remus, with Romulus, founded Rome.
All right. Clerihews can commemorate the oldtimers. But what can they do for the modern scene? Can they be made relevant? I say yes.
Won't take peyote.
"If I did," he says in catcher's argot,
"I might present too high a targot."
May feel like Cardinal Mindszenty,
But he hits like a stripling.
See there, he just finished tripling.
Belongs to a different era.
Not the Mesozoic.
The one when the Yanks were heroic.
Is either an over-or under-achiebvre.
So is Joe Lahoud.
It depends on your moud.
Attracts a lot of rooton.
He throws a knuckle curve.
Of all the nerve.
May lead both liguez
In third-base looks,
But in catches no one matches Brooks.
Could any pitcher in the USA
Throw every day?
Knows the scowa.
Plays in the clutch like a victor.
Dreads being nicknamed Bowa Constrictor.
Doesn't drink sherry.
If he even sips cider
It's to add a little drop to his slider.
Is not lovey-dovey.
But when his arm comes aroun'
He'll take you downtown.
One nice thing about the clerihew is that with some expansion, which should no longer be a dirty word around baseball, it can be used to deal with the old and the new together:
Never tried to be what he was not.
Got no bonus.
Adhered to dochrane.
Looked after himsehf.
Wasn't off on some kind of weird trip.
Ray (Cracker) Schalk
Let his catcher's mitt talk.
You didn't hear all this groanin'
From Joseph Cronin.
Your Lou Gehrigs
Didn't have hysterigs.
Your George Halases
Didn't need analysis.
There may be some who will object that a football executive has been dragged in just for the sake of a rhyme. But, ha ho, George Halas spent one year, 1919, with the Yankees as an outfielder, and hit .091. There may even be those who will question the rhyming of Cochrane with doctrine. It is just such people who are keeping baseball verse down.