Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Bullpen Catcher Considers His Condition

 Red Shuttleworth, bullpen coach,
Texas City Stars
(a Class-A minor league team
in the Lone Star League)

The Bullpen Catcher Considers His Condition

With the big leagues out of my grasp, I lean against
the dugout wall and dip half a can of Copenhagen snuff.
The acrid smell of Texas City sinks onto the field
at dusk, oily, like the inside of a plastic
soda pop bottle.  There's that to look
forward to, and mosquitoes biting like mad.

But I love this no-frills minor league,
the scraggy-faced teenaged girls who come
to watch us, their thin hands scraping
for popcorn in carton bottoms, solid bellies
rising toward ivory halters, boots tapping
every night to the same Jerry Jeff Walker song.

Death is so far away tonight, like Thanksgiving
or my childhood, and we're here slinging balls
as if having money piled in banks is something alien,
as if this is all the love we can give or take.

This poem first appeared in The Texas Review, edited by Paul Ruffin, in that journal;s spring/summer 1985 issue.

 The manager of the Texas City Stars in 1977 was "Dirty Al" Gallagher, former Major League 3rd baseman for the San Francisco Giants and California Angels.  Al and I grew up together in San Francisco.  He managed in the minor leagues from 1976 to 2012, both for major league farm system teams of the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians... and for numerous indie minor league outfits. 

An after batting practice, pre-game snapshot taken in Texas City in 1977 of Jeff McKay (journeyman minor league pitcher, later a scout for the Kansas City Royals) Red Shuttleworth (coach), and John Harness (minor league pitcher).  I was clearly the happiest guy there. 

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