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Off The Diamond photo

for Ed ‘Skip’ Olsen


He could say from experience

that Babe Ruth was an asshole,

but he never said it on the field.


He’d say “Great hitter,” or “knew the game.”

Standing most of his 70 years on a diamond

from Heyday Yankees to coaching kids


at a two-year college, never changing

his black shorts that didn’t reach

halfway to his knees despite your hopes


that just one day he’d wear pants

and you’d forget how his leg veins

pulsed in synchronization with neck


and temple when you missed a grounder,

threw a wild pitch, struck out.

But when you threw up after laps


in the 103º heat he’d take off his cap,

rest his palm on your heaving back

and tell you to sit down, have a drink.


Leaving the same year—I to a university,

he to retirement—he finally acquiesced 

to a happy hour beer at The Second Wind


Grossmont College’s nearest and dearest

dive bar, complete with perpetually sticky floors

15 watt light bulbs and weekly karaoke.


Three Coors Lights later, without turning from 

the TV bolted to the wall playing the Padres

he mumbled just loud enough to hear


“Wish I could live forever,” eyes shining

up at these ‘boys’ in tight striped pants

and caps “so I could keep coaching.” 


Without saying another word he tipped

the last bit of amber to his lips and ambled 

into the doorway glowing with setting sun.

image: Caryn Rose