Posts Tagged ‘NY Yankees’

thurm

Thirty-five years ago today, I sat down, crying, and wrote this poem….

 

Beachball

 

Part of the soul
He hid in a catcher’s mitt,
Once very few stole
And none have more spirits lit.
Thin, navy lines were etched upon the skin
Of number fifteen,
The gallant
Whose talent
Went deeper than seen.

A mustache would smile
So seldom, but always real.
An overweight style
Was part of the true appeal
That drew wild roars to touch
Someone special in the clutch
Whose life had reason,
Who won our hearts every season.

Respect soaked through the Stadium
But he hardly heard the din,
Concentration at the plate
Would bring another in.
Nothing scared the Captain of the team
Not even a charging run.
When Beachball gave it all he had
We knew the game was won.

No one could replace
Or even attempt to fill
The Captain’s cleats
And so, no one ever will.
Somebody new will take the squat
And gain the esteem,
But we all
Will recall
When Beachball led the team.

ThurmanMunsonPlaque

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When I was in college I wrote a book of poetry and photography.  The title I gave it was Influence of Absence.  I gave it that title because I believed then, as I still do now, that so much of who I am, what I am, HOW I am has been greatly influenced by the absence, almost my entire life, of my father.  My mom used to tell me that I walked like him and had his dry, northwestern sense of humor.  This revelation has perplexed me for decades and the only explanation I have been able to muster is that my gait resembles his because I inherited his bone structure.  My right foot angles outward with every step because of how my legs and hips are constructed.  It’s a working theory.  As far as sharing his sense of humor is concerned, I am open to suggestions to explain this phenomenon.  It makes no sense.  He died before I had any serious verbal abilities and I find it hard to believe that something as abstract as a sense of humor is genetically transferable.  I tend to attribute it to lucky coincidence.  Because of the stories I have been told by family elders, I am perfectly willing to accept that I do indeed share my dad’s dry wit and I consider it a gift.  I embrace it.  Still, he never had the chance to influence me by his actions, by being a role model or actively sitting down to teach me things.  It was his absence that influenced me more than anything.

My oldest sister tried to take his place and she has been another significant influence in my life.  She taught me a lot about playing the guitar, appreciating all kinds of music, doing the right thing and not being afraid to be myself.  She even let me know that, although it was the 1960s and Title IX did not yet exist, it was okay, good even, for girls to be athletic.  I am a ballplayer, a lifelong Yankees fan and a New York Giants fan thanks to her.  Our favorite teams have not done so well lately, but it’s okay.  I learned team loyalty from my sister, also, and I am happy to say that I will never be a fair-weather fan.

My “stepfather” was another big influence in my life.  For pretty much the entire nine years we lived together, he was a fantastic example of how not to be.  He showed me that being cruel hurts everybody involved, that there’s nothing joyous about life as a bully, that meanness is a happiness thief.  Thanks, asshole!  I have not forgotten you, but I have pretty much forgiven you.

The best, most influential professor I had in college, Ignacio, is 80 years old now and still an active part of my life thanks to social networking.  He re-taught me how to think, as a poet and a philosopher, in my freshman year.  If not for Ignacio I would still be that dopey kid who meant well but just didn’t get it.  There’s still a whole universe of things that I just don’t understand, but now I can recognize and accept my vast ignorance.  And speaking of a vast ignorance, is it the opposite of a split infinitive?  Ignacio?

In the very early days of my professional career there was Laurel, who basically, flat-out asked me, “Are you gay?” way past the time that I should have accepted, embraced and explored this myself.  Whew!  Thanks, Laurel, for being brave and coming right out, pun intended, to plainly illustrate the obvious.  Who knows how much longer I would have gone on denying my true identity if you hadn’t come along to positively influence my life.  Where are you now, anyway?

The Merriam-Webster definition of influence, as a noun is

: the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen
: a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way
and as a transitive verb is
: to affect or change (someone or something) in an indirect but usually important way : to have an influence on (someone or something)
The key words in these definitions, I think, are power, change and important.  I am trying to be a powerful influence in the lives of my daughters, an agent of positive change.  Someday I’ll be dust, hopefully sweet memories for them to share, fodder, possibly, for their own blogs or memoirs or screenplays.  This afternoon, at a middle school meeting about the progress of child number two, I was told, by some of the teachers, many wonderful things and that I must be doing a lot right.  It felt great to hear all this, but I can’t take all the credit.  It’s a trickle-down effect.  So be good, be kind, be helpful and forgiving toward the people around you.  The effects can linger for generations.
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