A.D. Winans: baseball poem

For Joe Sprinz

He coached the old San Francisco Seals
baseball tem
a former catcher who was part of a fool stunt
to catch a baseball dropped from an airplane
at the San Francisco World Fair

The ball hit the ground bounced up
and broke his jaw
he was never again the same ball player
his major league dreams shattered
like his jaw
but he would come regularly
to Golden Gate Park
and slow pitch for two teams of kids
he put together

He had a son with one crippled arm
who played the outfield flawlessly
he would catch the ball in his glove
drop the glove transfer the ball
to his good hand and throw it back
as good as any of us kids
with two good hands

My boyhood dream was to play for the Seals
to make it to the big leagues
like old Joe had dreamed to do
and I was thrilled to sit on the team bench
as his invited guest
to shy to ask other players for their autograph

How magic it was to watch those players
field ground balls during practice
hear them chatter, “huba huba,”
as vendors in the stands yelled out
”Peanuts Crackjack, get your
Peanuts and Crackerjack here.”

The grass smelled of heaven
and there was no pollen in the air
old Joe at the batting cage giving
batting hints
Lefty O’Doul the manager
eying the action like a hawk

The game seems slower now
the heroes less heroic
no double-headers
no players mingling with fans
but in the summer heat
in a tight game
the magic reappears

The umpire sweeps off home plate
and I see old Joe there
at the batting cage
Dino Restelli shagging fly balls
in the outfield
and the crowd rising in the home half
of the seventh inning singing
”Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

Old Joe had no job when
the old Triple “A” Coast League
became a ghost
he died in his eighties working
as a doorman somewhere
in the city

but he’ll always be my hero
and baseball should be ashamed
for not taking care of their own


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