Sunday, April 3, 2016

New Lineup For Yesterday

My grandmother's favorite poet was Ogden Nash (1902-1971). He was known for quirky rhymes. In 1931, he wrote his most famous lines: "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker." In 1968, addressing the rise of the hippies, he made it, "Candy is dandy, liquor is quicker, pot is not."

Nash was a big baseball fan. In the January 1949 issue of SPORT magazine, his poem "Lineup for Yesterday" was published. He honored 24 players, plus himself, and the game in general.
Of those 24, all but one either had been, or would be, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The one who hasn't been, and never will be, was Louis "Bobo" Newsom, who pitched most of his career for the early American League's two legendary losers, the Washington Senators and the St. Louis Browns, although he did win a World Series with the Yankees in 1947. Nash, whose own surname started with N, needed one. Why not Hal Newhouser, I wonder?

Here's his original text:

(Grover Cleveland Alexander)
A is for Alex
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander.

(Roger Bresnahan)
B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate.

(Ty Cobb)
C is for Cobb
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren't born.

(Jerome "Dizzy" Dean)
D is for Dean,
The grammatical Diz,
When they asked, Who's the tops?
Said correctly, I is.

(Johnny Evers)
E is for Evers,
His jaw in advance;
Never afraid
To Tinker with Chance.

(Frankie "Fordham Flash" Frisch)
F is for Fordham
And Frankie and Frisch;
I wish he were back
With the Giants, I wish.

(Lou Gehrig)
G is for Gehrig,
The Pride of the Stadium;
His record pure gold,
His courage, pure radium.

(Rogers Hornsby)
H is for Hornsby;
When pitching to Rog,
The pitcher would pitch,
Then the pitcher would dodge.

(Ogden Nash, the author)
I is for Me,
Not a hard-hitting man,
But an outstanding all-time
Incurable fan.

(Walter "the Big Train" Johnson)
J is for Johnson
The Big Train in his prime
Was so fast he could throw
Three strikes at a time.

(Willie Keeler)
K is for Keeler,
As fresh as green paint,
The fastest and mostest
To hit where they ain't.

(Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie)
L is for Lajoie
Whom Clevelanders love,
Napoleon himself,
With glue in his glove.

(Christy Mathewson)
M is for Matty,
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
brain in his arm.

(Bobo Newsom)
N is for Newsom,
Bobo's favorite kin.
You ask how he's here,
He talked himself in.

(Mel Ott)
O is for Ott
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.

(Eddie Plank)
P is for Plank,
The arm of the A's;
When he tangled with Matty
Games lasted for days.

(Connie Mack)
Q is for Don Quixote
Cornelius Mack;
Neither Yankees nor years
Can halt his attack.

(Babe Ruth)
R is for Ruth.
To tell you the truth,
There's just no more to be said,
Just R is for Ruth.

(Tris Speaker)
S is for Speaker,
Swift center-field tender,
When the ball saw him coming,
It yelled, "I surrender."

(Bill Terry)
T is for Terry
The Giant from Memphis
Whose .400 average
You can't overemphis.

(Carl Hubbell)
U would be 'Ubell
if Carl were a cockney;
We say Hubbell and Baseball
Like Football and Rockne.

(Charles "Dazzy" Vance)
V is for Vance
The Dodgers' very own Dazzy;
None of his rivals
Could throw as fast as he.

(Honus Wagner)
W is for Wagner,
The bowlegged beauty;
Short was closed to all traffic
With Honus on duty.

(Jimmie Foxx)
X is the first
of two x's in Foxx
Who was right behind Ruth
with his powerful soxx.

(Cy Young)
Y is for Young
The magnificent Cy;
People battled against him,
But I never knew why.

Z is for Zenith
The summit of fame.
These men are up there.
These men are the game.

*

I've decided to update it, for my lifetime.

I originally had, "M is for Maddux. He wasn't no cheater, and proved you could win 300 without a heater." Then I realized I'd forgotten Mickey Mantle (who retired before I was born) and Willie Mays (who hung on until right before I turned 4).

I couldn't find a place for my favorite player of all time. But after hearing him endorse Donald Trump, I decided to remove another favorite, Paulie Pinstripes, for whom I'd written, "O is for O'Neill, who might throw his helmet, but could also take a pitch and then overwhelm it." Then I adjusted the focus slightly, and my man, Number 44, fits in.

A is for Aaron
called Hammerin' Hank
who rolled to the record
like an old army tank.

B is for Bench
of the Big Red Machine.
In my lifetime, the greatest
catcher on the scene.

C is for Clemens
the fiery Rocket.
Both plaudits and controversies
he could well stock it.

D is for Dawson
the Montreal Hawk
who also made fans
at Wrigley Field squawk.

E is for Eckersley.
Once he could start
until he superbly
played a fireman's part.

F is for Fingers
known for his mustache
but the pitching of Rollie
had lots of panache.

G is for Gooden
the fell-from-grace Doc
but on one night in Pinstripes
he turned back the clock.

H is for Henderson
the ego-rich Rickey.
Let him get on base
and things could get sticky.

I is for Ichiro
the slapping Suzuki
who has long since proven
he wasn't just fluky.

J is for Jeter
the glorious Captain.
Those 5 Yankee titles?
They didn't "just happen."

K is for Kaline
whose 3,000 hits
made Michigan baseball fans
love him to bits.

L is for Larkin
the Cincy shortstop.
His bat had some clout
and his arm had some hop.

M is for Mantle
and also for Mays
who started off millions
on the baseball craze.

N is for Niekro
who tossed from the knuckle
and for 24 seasons
not once did he buckle.

O is for October
the time of Reggie Jackson.
Those World Series balls he hit?
They ain't coming back, son.

P is for Pujols.
He may not be Stan
for a generation of Cardinal
fans, he's The Man.

Q is for Quisenberry
the sumbarining Quis.
The Royals' best pitcher?
That reliever still is.

R is for Rodriguez
the puzzling A-Rod.
What goes on in his head
is known only to God.

S is for Schmidt.
When he took a hack
it was a long drive, outta here
for Michael Jack.

T is for Thome
the powerful Jim
who crushed lots of homers
with vigor and vim.

U is for Utley
the young man named Chase
who won for the Phils
but Met fans call him disgrace.

V is for Vladimir
the hard-hitting Guerrero
whose hits are more common
than the Golden Sombrero.

W is for Winfield
a stunning athlete.
No baseball specimen
may have been more complete.

X is the last letter
in baseball's network.
I wonder how their announcers
managed to get work.

Y is for Yastrzemski.
When pitching to Carl
the pitcher would throw
and Yaz would make him snarl.

Z is for Zero.
I'm all out of names.
But you can't predict baseball
in any of its games.

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