Poem — NaPoWriMo: It’s Never Just a Game

The day 16 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenges me to write a poem that prominently features the idea of play.

My poem is about my memory of a game we played as children – a game still played today, albeit differently. It has been played for over a hundred years by boys and girls, now also by men and women. Essentially, it is street or vacant lot baseball played with a broomstick for a bat, bases like the manhole cover or the flag pole, and most often a rubber ball.

My gang used all sorts of balls including wiffle balls of various sizes. No one wore gloves or any form of protective gear. Our classic favorite was to use those small plastic practice golf balls with all the holes in them to increase the challenge. They could bounce off any window or person with no damage. No coaches, no adults, highly flexible rules, and we worked out our disagreements without paying lawyers.

My poem is this old fart’s memories of playing the game and living totally for the moment, for the game, to be as good as we could be, and to have fun for the sake of play.

We used handles cut from broom sticks or mops. I do not recall anyone buying a ball, but it would not surprise me to learn that the ones we used were found, or “found” (as in the bottom of dad’s golf bag). The first commercially produced stickball bat came out in the early 1950’s and sold for 89 cents. Today, you can buy a high-tech, Easton T10 Thunderstick stickball bat for $50.00.

One of the problems today is that it has become difficult to find a good wooden broom or mop handle not being used, and games like that have fallen out of favor. However, I have included a photo and video about the game. In both cases, commercial bats are used.

It’s Never Just a Game

I was in the game that day
when it was a hot midsummer afternoon
when we played in the Courtright elementary school yard
when Jimmy Lipinski hit a double off of Joe Mullins’ chest
when time outs were for injury or just to pee.

I was in the game that day
when the fight broke out between Balochi and the new kid
Smitty was new and wanted us to play by New Jersey rules,
Balochi and Smitty became close friends and grew old together
and we learned to play by Jersey rules, East End rules, and league rules,
but mostly we made up the rules based on many things.

I was in the game that day
when Teddy tripped on second base and broke his nose
when the Daniel’s kid at shortstop lit a cigarette in the third
when the school janitor came and ran us all off or he would call the cops,
when we vandalized the school cuz the Janitor was a dick,
when I got my first hit, and when I hit my last.

I was in the game that day
when Lipinski made his behind the back flyball catch
when the worst player on the team hit a grand slam
when cuts and scrapes and twisted ankles were part of growing up,
when it started to rain that day and we played on anyway,
when the game was just the game, and both sides always won.

I left the game that day
when we walked away cuz it was getting dark
when we were thinking of what in life came next
when we thought there were better things to do,
when we walked away one last time
from the game we all so loved.

Let’s go play some stickball.

(Bill Reynolds 4/16/2018)

Look both ways as you play the game.
When at bat, mind you, hit the gaps.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

4 thoughts on “Poem — NaPoWriMo: It’s Never Just a Game

  1. Honestly, I wonder if my family would enjoy this. I think I’ll mention it. Cause two on two works just fine, am I right?
    Our neighborhood sport was kickball. I was a good kicker, but a slow runner. I was usually the first one up.

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