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On the Poetry of Baseball


There is a growing bibliography of literature about baseball, but very few of the works in it treat baseball poetry as having an important role to play in our understanding the nature of literary creation and experience. It is as if Wordsworth's nature poetry were considered a distinct category of English literature, perhaps of interest to hikers and the few eccentrics who would be willing to give serious attention to poems about walks in the country, but not a subject worth the attention of serious critics. At best, the attitude displayed in the critical treatment of poems and fiction about the sport often resembles the belief that the mythic and philosophical elements of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Moby-Dick mitigate those works' original sin of being sea-faring yarns.

I try to remedy this situation by discussing Rolfe Humphries' "Polo Grounds" and Andrés Eloy Blanco's "Romance del campeonato" `Championship Ballad,' as well as others in English, Spanish, and Japanese, an infrequent combination of subject matter.

I examine the relationship between Humphries and Blanco's two poems and subject both works to extensive close reading. I place the poems in their historical contexts as well as in that of other works in a variety of genres, including fiction, film, journalism, music,

oratory, painting, and, of course, poetry.

I test the boundaries between accepted categories by discussing a news article by Damon Runyon's as cubist narrative and treating Babe Ruth as a theorist of economics and cultural anthropology. I treat radio broadcasts of baseball games as factors in Humphries and Blanco's poems and as agents of factual transmission and distortion. I discuss the sexual energy underlying baseball and poetry. Along the way, I point out a few ways in which baseball is, itself, a form of poetry.

My dissertation resembles the radio broadcast of a double-header on a long Sunday afternoon. Although its narrative may seem to meander far from the objects it attempts to describe and understand, it always returns to the two games whose play-by-play description it provides, "Polo Grounds" and "Romance del campeonato."

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