Indians vs Yankees, August 16th, 1920
He doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t want any.
That’s the only way Mays can pitch,
because he doesn’t play the game
of fraternity formed on summer ballfields.
He plays a higher game: The one played alone.
The one passed down from his father,
preaching the Word around strange Missouri.
The one not played on Sundays
(for baseball is not a game: it’s unrest and Sundays are for rest).
The one where the ball is offered to the earth for extra grip,
its lumped and beaten body predestined
and browned from tobacco juice spit into the scuff.
The one where a ball against the skull is as good as bat-crack
(for baseball is a game played by the body).
The one where he fields the shallow bounce and throws to first
before Chapman stumbles two steps down the line and falls.
The one that states, whereby his fall, Chapman is out
(for this is a game played by the body and Chapman’s had broken –
caved left temple and blood-filled right ear).
The one that does not stop for carting off or procession
but keeps him on the mound, impatient and praying
his next pitch through the loosened seams.
The one that leads him to tell a group of spring-fresh arms six months after:
If you got to knock somebody down to win a ballgame,