Baseball is a dance, according to Nashville author Robert Benson, so consuming and ritualistic that "It is a little like going to any Catholic or Anglican church ... on a Sunday morning." And this particular
Sunday is Opening Day
, truly one of the holiest days of the year, the day when baseball resurrects itself for another summer.
The poet Philip Dacey puts it this way:
No one know the man who throws out the season's first ball.
His face has never appeared in the newspapers,
except in crowd scenes, blurred.
Asked his name, he mumbles something
about the beginnings of hard times.
Each team fields an extra, tenth man.
This is the invisible player,
assigned to no particular position.
Runners edging off base feel a tap on their shoulders,
turn, see no one.
Or a batter, the count against him, will hear whispered
in his ear vague, dark
rumors of his wife, and go down.
Vendors move through the stands
selling unmarked sacks,
never disclosing their contents,
never having been told.
People buy, hoping.
Pitchers stay busy
They are everywhere.
One man rounds third base, pumping hard,
and is never seen again.
Teammates and relatives wait years at the plate,
An outfielder goes for a ball on the warning track.
He leaps into the air and keeps rising,
beyond himself, past
the limp flag.
Days later he is discovered,
descended, wandering dazed
Deep under second base lives an old man,
bearded, said to be
a hundred. All through the game
players pull at the bills of their caps,
Robert Benson is a Nashville resident and the author of The Game: One Man, Nine Innings, A Love Affair with Baseball
. Philip Dacey, who lives in New York City, is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Boy Under the Bed
from which "Mystery Baseball" is excerpted with permission.