Elegy for Tiger Stadium

by Jim Daniels

Wrap yourself in nostalgia’s blankets
it’s cold outside.

But even the blanket’s moth-eaten,
ragged with grief.

For today Tiger Stadium comes down.

*

Oh, the old green wooden seats
banging to start up a rally

Oh, the corrupt ushers
in their crooked ties

barking at kids sneaking down
to the good seats

Oh, the long urinal troughs in the men’s room
the line up of drunks and young boys on tiptoe

Oh, the bullpens along the baselines
watching the wonderfully evil Goose Gossage
warm up, the ball exploding in the catcher’s mitt.

Oh, the waxy plastic beer cups stacking up
beneath the bleacher benches

Oh, my three-year-old daughter in her sundress
smiling in her Tiger hat that last season, last game.

Michigan and Trumbull, Michigan and Trumbull.
Cochrane and Kaline, Cochrane and Kaline.

*

Oh, so you want me to wrap things up do you?
A game permanently shortened by rain.

Just remember stepping through shadows
up the narrow fenced ramp
into the upper deck
and into the explosion of sunshine on green grass.
Sunshine and green grass.

Squint and be a good boy.
Squint, and don’t cry.

Remember your first game ever
before anyone lied to you.

Let me call them out: Harmon Killebrew,
Boog Powell, Dick McAullife, #3,
with the stance of a mad scientist
trying to kill his creation.

Come on back for your cup of coffee
in the bigs, Purnell Goldy.

Come back for your one good season
Champ Summers. Let me say it again,

Champ Summers. Gates Brown.
Earl Wilson, the pitcher who pinch-hit,

Ron LeFlore, the ex-con. Jim Northrup,
grand-slam king. Bases loaded, dude.

Ray Oyler, come on back and crack .200.
Stormin’ Norman Cash come on back
and hit 361 again and show it was no fluke.

A high foul ball. A major league pop-up
and Freehan has the mask off, and Lance
Parrish has the mask off, and Mickey Cochrane
has the mask off.

Oh, big Frank Howard hitting one over the roof.
Oh, Dave Rozema karate-kicking his way
out of baseball just because he was young
and excitable.

Okay, Bird, I know you’ve been waiting,
come on back and tell the ball a few things
you forgot to say.

Bleachers or General Admission
Ladies/Retirees Day. Polish-
American Night.

50,000 kids with free bats bouncing them
off concrete. Bring back the father-son games

Charlie Dressen is my grandfather. Mayo Smith
my great uncle. Billy Martin the dark sheep.
Al Kaline, kind uncle. Gibby the cousin
the parents worried about.

Roll off the tarp, drag the infield.
Herbie do the Shuffle one more time

Bring back Jake Wood and Jerry Lumpe.

Mickey Lolich, come back in from the Donut Shop.
Denny McLain, come back from prison one last time.

*

Did I say I was going to stop? The rain’s letting up some.
The Orioles are in town with the Robinsons.
The Yanks are in town with Mantle and Maris
and did McLain really groove one to Mantle in ’68?

Just an organ in between innings.
No rock and roll scoreboard hi-jinks razzamatazz.

Ernie, take the mike.
We’ll all pull up a Stroh’s and stay awhile.
We’ll come down from Paradise to catch a foul ball.

Charlie Maxwell, come on back from Paw Paw.
It’s baseball. Nobody’s died. They’re all still alive.

Rust and cracks in memory’s stadium.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Trammell and Whitaker have one more double play
to turn.

Sock It to ’em Tigers.
Bless you, Boys.

I’m squinting into the sun.
All my life I’ve never seen such green.

Jim Daniels is a professor in the creative writing program at Carnegie Mellon University, and has written more than 25 books of poems and stories.


Published in Ballparks, Detroit Tigers, Free Verse, History, Players, Youth | Link to this poem | 3 Comments

Elegy for Tiger Stadium: 3 Comments

  1. Todd Herges wrote,

    Wow. What a reverious romp across a green field of fond reflections. Brings to mind a thought from Gaston Bachelard (written the same year Rocky Colavito hit 35 HR with only 87 RBI; when Jim Bunning K’d 201 and had an ERA of 2.79 but lost 14 due to a lack of run support): “Reverie is not a mind vacuum. It is rather the gift of an hour which knows the plenitude of the soul.”

    Thank you, Jim, for sharing these memories.

  2. James Finn Garner wrote,

    This really is one of my favorites that we’ve ever published. Not many poems mention Ray Oyler and Jerry Lumpe, that’s for sure.

    For more of Jim’s poems, check out The Long Ball.

  3. Todd Herges wrote,

    Yes, Oyler and Lumpe. And Detroit River water, which doesn’t get NEAR the publicity outside of Motown that Old Style receives beyond the Friendly Confines.

    Last I knew my family’s bar STILL sells a couple of cases of Stroh’s a week though, in downstate Illinois no less!

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