After barrel-chested Earl Torgeson
(my father's favorite) & workmanlike
polite Bill Tuttle (my mother’s) had vanished
into the bus in the shadows outside
Comiskey Park, I found myself
asking my idol, Al
Kaline, how to connect with the curve balls
I had already seen coming at twelve,
& he answered
shyly, a twenty-two-year-old crew-cut
blond “phenom” speaking from experience,
You have to find

your own way. It happened my way
would mean taking a page from the curves’ book
& winding down—as on a spiral stair—
into the ground along the lines
of the biggest curve imaginable,
which ends up in the dirt. No star, I knew
I’d never rise above the earth,
but sometimes I’d feel light-headed descending
on the spin my English put on each step
I took. In a word, I would make a virtue
of necessity, which, like rules,
freed me to play the game I’d choose.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 9 Number 8, on page 33
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