Biographical Poetry posted January 8, 2022


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A father watches his son pitch in a tense baseball game

The Man with the Smile Grin

by zekeziemann




I think of him often in respectful bits and pieces
Warm memories, one told in this poetic thesis.
The character of an uncomplicated man
whose manner affected my entire lifespan.

It was 1959, the Golden Age of baseball,
with riant and rabid fans from towns big and small.

Between innings I slipped glances in his direction.
He sat quietly in the visitor's bleacher section.
Farmer's tan, solid build, calloused hands from toil,
clued a hard-working, outdoor man of the soil.
Sunday straw hat shaded a handsome face, with chiseled chin,
and his unforgettable distinct expression: the smile-grin.

Most fans cheer and chat as they watch the play,
but the he remained mute. Small talk was not his way.
A calm demeanor hinted perceptive intellection.
The smile-grin hid constrained competitive predilection.

Two bitter rivals squared off in this game.
His team led two to one in the ninth frame.
But with two outs the home team loaded the bases,
stirring wrinkled brows, and wide eyes on anxious faces.

The home crowd forgetting "do unto others" preaching
erupted in a cacophony of smarmy razzing and shrieking.
Visiting fans were restive seeing victory slip away.
They sat back and some discretely began to pray.

Though the Man's smile-grin tightened ever so slightly,
he showed no other signs of pressing anxiety.
A discerning sage deep in thought, with no specter grim.
Uncontrollable circumstances never bothered him.
But when three pitches in a row sailed out of the zone
most felt the tying run would soon be walked home.
The young pitcher, once more, wound up and fired the ball.
"Strike one!" bellowed the umpire's adamant call.

The hitter bent down, grabbed a handful of dirt,
took quick practice swings, wiped sweaty hands on his shirt.
The man's steel blue eyes narrowed. He studied the batter.
The smile-grin widened. Nerves on display matter.

The next pitch hit the mitt with an intimidating "whop".
The ump swung his right hand in an up-and-down chop.
"Strike two" triggered boos from the home delegation.
Three and two! Bases loaded! Hearts aflutter with anticipation!

Their advantage now shrinking, locals began rhythmic chants.
Rowdies taunted the pitcher with profane claptrap rants.
No one could avoid it. Men stood with clenched fists and clamped lips.
Ladies covered their eyes and peeked between finger tips.

But the Man with the smile-grin focused on the slim pitcher,
who rubbed up the ball and took the sign from the catcher.
The hurler seemed a calm youth of inherited nerve
Was the Man now thinking, "Will he throw the curve?"

But the next pitch was as fast and straight as the former.
And "crack", the hit sailed o'er the fence near the corner.
Home town fans went berserk, raised hands in a loud howl,
But then stood dumbstruck when the Ump roared. "Foul! Foul!"

Eerie silence descended as fans reflected on what might have been.
Then slowly a rising crescendo reclaimed the mood again.
The batter stepped back in the box. The pitcher was ready to serve.
The Man's mentation resumed. He whispered, "The curve, now the curve."

The wind-up, then the ball spun its path toward home plate.
It appeared inside. The hitter froze. The pitch took a sharp break.
Speechless fans held their breath. Is it heartache or glee?
The ump's arm shot skyward, with imperial finality,
and he bellowed like a drill sergeant, "Steeeerike three!'

The numbed home crowd slumped back in an obtuse trance.
As if staying longer would allow a second chance.
Visiting fans sighed in relief; some shared an embrace.
A few taunted the losers with a glare of "in-your-face".

With covert pride, his smile-grin melted into a simple a smile.
Happy fans shook his hand when he descended the aisle.
He met the pitcher at the chicken wire screen by the dugout.
With kindred grin, the young man joked. "Never a doubt!"

Then the Man's face twisted into a roguish smirk.
He rolled up some bills from the pocket in his shirt.
Lazuline eyes smiled. He stuffed three ones through the wire maze.
The boyish pitcher said "Thanks," with mirrored blue-eyed gaze.

Then the Man's taciturn resolve and competitiveness
came forth with words that went something like this:
"I like it when the count goes to three and oh,
And they razz and yell when you get ready to throw.
They're certain a walk is coming. They have no doubt.
But you come back and strike the guy out!"

I remember that game and the smile-grin.
How it pleases me to remember him,
For I was the young blue-eyed lad,
And the smile-grin belonged to my Sainted Dad.




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