Musings: What a Wonderful Game

By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author

WHAT A WONDERFUL GAME

 

 

I see diamond fields

And gloves of gold,

Stars ev’rywhere,

It never gets old.

And I think to myself

What a wonderful game.

 

I see blazing heat,

Sometimes a curve,

Facing them both

Takes courage and nerve.

And I think to myself

What a wonderful game.

 

A runner on the base path

Slides into second base;

Fielders chasing line drives

With speed and grit and grace.

I see kids choosing sides

Or an umpire’s call.

They’re really saying,

“Let’s play ball.”

 

I see a fly ball

Far in the air.

It’s a home run

If it stays fair.

And I think to myself

What a wonderful game.

Yes, I think to myself

What a wonderful game.

 

Louis Armstrong’s great song. “What a Wonderful World,” is an idealized look at the world around us; and it’s natural, for me anyway, to convert it to an idealized look at baseball. This is a good time to do it, too. Spring training has begun and the roster is finally in place. After a long disheartening winter we are at last talking about the game of baseball, not the business of baseball. Everyone appears healthy, everyone is brimming with confidence, everyone seems to be genuinely happy. There will be plenty of time to come to grips with the everyday realities of the regular season; the sore arms, the slumps, and the second-guessing. This is a time for rejoicing. Baseball is back – and it’s about damn time.

 

The Grand Old Game has always lent itself to song and to poetry, dating back to the dawn of the twentieth century when its universal anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” made its debut. That was predated by “Casey at the Bat,” in which Ernest Lawrnce Thayer caught lightning in a bottle by capturing the drama encapsulated in a singe at-bat. It’s a tale as current today as it was when Thayer first put pen to paper one hundred thirty years ago. We write poems (at least I do) about baseball’s mythic heroes, but also about it’s craven villains. After all, what’s a good yarn without a bad guy?

 

We in Red Sox Nation tend to hold our grudges near and dear – they are among our most valued possessions and are passsed down from generation to generation. We still haven’t forgiven then manager John McNamara for not putting in a defensive replacement for Bill Buckner, and that was thirty-two years ago. It’s been seventy years sine Joe McCarthy opted to start Denny Galehouse in that playoff game against Cleveland – and it still sticks in our craw. But those are just minor irritants compared to the greatest injustice of them all. Just thinking about it causes my stomach to turn and my blood to boil – and I have no personal memory of the dastardly deed. It took place years before I was born. But, by God, I’m madder than hell about it anyhow – and I’m not the only one.

 

I speak, of course, about the nefarious sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. It happened ninety-eight years ago and there is hardly a soul alive who actually remembers the deal going down, but we in the Nation have been picking at the scab ever since and we’re not about to let it heal.

 

Red Sox owner Harry Frazee  was the cad who was responsible. Not only did he sell Ruth to the Yankees in 1920, but also over the next three years he sold them virtually the entire pitching staff, the best in baseball. Among the victims were: Waite Hoyt (Hall   of Fame, 237 wins); Herb Pennock (Hall of Fame, 240 wins); Sam Jones (229 wins); and Joe Bush (195 wins). Oh, and Harry also sold them the starting shortstop, third baseman and catcher, too. In return he received a few fringe players and piles and piles of cash, all of which he spent on – are you ready? – himself. Don’t fall for the malarkey that he sold Ruth to finance the Broadway production of “No, No Nanette.” Ruth was sold in 1920, “No, No Nanette” didn’t open on Broadway until 1925, by which time Harry had long since dumped the Red Sox.

 

It’s small wonder that the Yankees soon began winning championships and that the Red Sox became bottom feeders for more than a decade.

 

Harry Frazee was the arch villain of arch villains. That’s worth singing a song about, don’t you think? If you remember to tune to “Peggy O’Neill” feel free to join in.

 

Harry Frazee was a son of a “B,”

The worst in all hist’try he ranks.

I’ll tell you why, because he was the guy

Who sold off Babe Ruth to the Yanks.

If he sold his soul for gold,

That’s Harry Frazee.

If the Yanks took Ruth with thanks,

That’s Harry Frazee.

If he gave them our whole pitching staff,

If he gave to the Red Sox the shaft,

He’s burning in Hell, of course.

We think that’s swell, of course.

That’s Harry Frazee!

 

When you can sing a song about a century-old grudge I guess it really is a wonderful game, isn’t it?