Poetry: World Series

October 22, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


ROBERT PINSKY: Sports and sports heroes can be like a blank screen on which we project our feelings.

The two great lefthanded pitchers of my youth, White Ford and Sandy Koufax, were like that for me. To my pleasure, Jane Leavy’s new biography of Koufax quotes my poem, “The Night Game.” Here are some passages from the poem:

Already famous
After one year in the majors,
Whitey Ford was drafted by the Army
To play ball in the flannels
Of the Signal Corps, stationed
In Long Branch, New Jersey.

A night game, the silver potion
Of the lights, his pink skin
Shining like a burn.

Never a player
I liked or hated: a Yankee,
A mere success.

But white the chalked-off lines
In the grass, white and green
The immaculate uniform,
And white the unpigmented
Halo of his hair
When he shifted his cap:

So ordinary and distinct,
So close up, that I felt
As if I could have made him up,
Imagined him as I imagined

The ball, a scintilla
High in the black backdrop
Of the sky. Tight red stitches.
Rawlings. The bleached

Horsehide white: the color
Of nothing. Color of the past
And of the future, of the movie screen
At rest and of blank paper.

The emerald
Theater, the night.
Another time,
I devised a left-hander
Even more gifted
Than Whitey Ford: a Dodger.
People were amazed by him.
Once, when he was young,
He refused to pitch on Yom Kippur.

I wish kids who are now the age I was then much pleasure in the World Series.