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NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 12.2 (2004) 173-175
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Dan Zamudio. Catcher in the Wry: Baseball Poems. Jefferson nc: McFarland, 2002. 128 pp. Paper, $23.95.
Joseph Stanton. Cardinal Points: Poems on St. Louis Cardinals Baseball. Jefferson nc: McFarland, 2002. 128 pp. Paper, $23.95.
For a nonpoet to take on the task of reviewing two books of poetry is slightly more treacherous than reviewing one book of poetry. Doing either is both treacherous and foolish. Obviously, I cannot and will not attempt to assess the technical or literary merit of this work. What I can and will do is try to make a few comments on what appeals to me or does not appeal to me in these two collections.
I have always enjoyed baseball poetry as well as other forms of poetry because of the ability of the poet to use language to convey mood, feeling, and meaning in ways not available to the rest of us mere mortals. In baseball poetry what I am hoping for is this quality of language—the ability of the poet to say something about this subject that others cannot say or have not said with the same effect.
These two works, by Dan Zamudio and Joseph Stanton, do have some convergence of their own. Zamudio is a Cub fan, a Chicago Northsider, who brings a great deal of passion to his subject. Like all Cub fans he appreciates the finer points of failure and is probably a bit too effusive when describing Cub overachievers. Stanton grew up a Cardinal fan and now lives in Hawaii. Like all Cardinals in exile, Stanton has a tendency to overvalue the true church and exaggerate the beauty of its appointments.
Zamudio's poetry ranges well beyond the Cubs and touches on many marks and landmarks of the game, taking us beyond the friendly confines to other venues past and present. He references the broader baseball experience from across his years and captures a nice feel for the game along the way. His language is spare, and at times cryptic, delivered with a wink or a knowing smile. My favorite from this collection is a brief and sharp piece entitled "Hustle and Energy," in which a high school baseball coach makes it clear to his players the requirements to make the team. The response of the players is wry and wonderfully understated.
Joseph Stanton's poetry is more directly concerned with the Cardinals and is, in fact, an attempt to present a history of the St. Louis Cardinals through poetry. Organized chronologically, Stanton's work pays tribute to the great moments and great players in Cardinal history, beginning with Cy Young and coming down to Albert Pujols. [End Page 173]
In contrast to the poems of Zamudio, Stanton's poems are less economical, which is not to say that they are excessive. Only a true Cardinal fan could fully appreciate this volume, but a number of excellent pieces evoke fond memories of the game from over a century of baseball history.
The non-Cardinal aficionados may find it difficult to enthuse over the memory of Flint Rhem, Joe Hoerner, and Carl Warwick. However, Stanton offers more with moving tributes to Harry Caray and Jack Buck, captures the essence of Bob Gibson and Stan the Man, and evokes the memories of Dizzy Dean, Pepper Martin, and the Gas House Gang. You don't have to be a Cardinal fan to enjoy the poetic images of Sosa and McGuire or feel the loss of Darryl Kile.
In the end both of these small volumes are a delight for anyone who has more than a passing interest in baseball, and both serve to remind us what it is about baseball and memory that keeps us tied to the game.
As Stanton notes in this small section of "Committing Harry Caray in the Windy City":
But it's his voice,
in the heartwood of our minds,
that makes us care...