Baseball Cards

by Dan Quisenberry  (KC Royals, 1979-1988)

.

that first baseball card I saw myself
in a triage of rookies
atop the bodies
that made the hill
we played king of
I am the older one
the one on the right
game-face sincere
long red hair unkempt
a symbol of the ’70s
somehow a sign of manhood
you don’t see
how my knees shook on my debut
or my desperation to make it

the second one I look boyish with a gap-toothed smile
the smile of a guy who has it his way
expects it
I rode the wave’s crest
of pennant and trophies
I sat relaxed with one thought
“I can do this”
you don’t see
me stay up till two
reining in nerves
or post-game hands that shook involuntarily

glory years catch action shots
arm whips and body contortions
a human catapult
the backs of those cards
cite numbers
that tell stories of saves, wins, flags, records
handshakes, butt slaps, celebration mobs
you can’t see
the cost of winning
lines on my forehead under the hat
trench line between my eyes
you don’t see my wife, daughter and son
left behind

the last few cards
I do not smile
I grim-face the camera
tight lipped
no more forced poses to win fans
eyes squint
scanning distance
crow’s-feet turn into eagle’s claws
you don’t see
the quiver in my heart
knowledge that it is over
just playing out the end

I look back
at who I thought I was
or used to be
now, trying to be funny
I tell folks
I used to be famous
I used to be good
they say
we thought you were bigger
I say
I was

.

Published 9/2/2009


Published in Fans, Free Verse, History, Kansas City Royals, Players, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Youth | Link to this poem | 2 Comments

Baseball Cards: 2 Comments

  1. Stu wrote,

    relief pitchers make great poets? RIP, Dan.

  2. Weekend Reading: Twitpocalypse Now | pitchers & poets wrote,

    […] Dan Quisenberry! […]

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