Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Thursday, 3 June 2010

Interesting Losers


.




The St. Louis Browns were maybe the worst major league baseball team of all time.

That was maybe why as a young person I liked them, they were interesting losers.

The losing was the interesting thing.

(An American person was meant to like the winners in everything, that's what it meant to be American, to be a winner.)

Later I wrote a poem about the St. Louis Browns, Interesting Losers.

All this was long ago, of course.

I submitted a manuscript containing this poem to a national prize competition.

I lost, naturally.

The contest judge, the famous American poet Tess Gallagher, said she didn't like my "locker room ethos".



Baseball St. Louis Browns 717_1234 by Western Historical  Manuscript Collection - Stl.



But I did not take this defeat to heart.

I was still only a relatively young person at the time.

I knew even then that life is long and there was going to be a lot more losing to do before the game was finally over.



Baseball St. Louis Browns 819_254 by Western Historical Manuscript  Collection - Stl.



Beau Bell of St. Louis Browns tagged out at home by Detroit Tigers catcher Ray Hayworth, Sportsmans Park, St. Louis, August 18. 1936: photo by Joe Wood, 1936 (Western Historical Manuscript Collection, St. Louis)

St. Louis Browns player leaping to make a catch at Sportsmans Park: photo by Arthur Witman, 1941 (Western Historical Manuscript Collection, St. Louis)

Detroit Tigers player slides in safe at home against St. Louis Browns, Sportsmans Park, May 25, 1942: photo by Joe Wood (Western Historical Manuscript Collection, St. Louis)

9 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Great to read this, see these classic photos of those "interesting [understatement] losers" -- thanks. We who follow our teams could all learn a 'lesson' here, The Giants, who can sometimes pitch but rarely hit this year, had scored 1 run in 3 games until, late in last night's game, they came from behind to score 4, and thus became an "interesting winner" last night. And what next?

6.3

grey whiteness of cloud against invisible
ridge, robin calling from branch in left
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

meaning in which being rests,
at any time is founded

presented, left out too much,
previous hint of dream

grey-white cloud reflected in channel,
wingspan of osprey flapping across it

TC said...

Steve,

Here in the ache-y break-y rainy morning

I suspect maybe losing might just be that elusive

meaning in which being rests,
at any time is founded

Ruth said...

I remember feeling this way about the Cubs, of whom my sister was an undying fan.

I don't know if the timing of your post is because of the Tigers' heartbreak last night, but it was nice to read this now. Funny how they were not losers of the game last night, but the loss of the perfect game feels far more important than the winning or losing of the game. Interesting losers indeed.

doowman said...

Tom,

Now you can truly appreciate yr reach knowing that I was studying BTP while watching the perfect game unfold on local Detroit TV.

(It prompted a phone to Bruce Shlain with my "you'd better watch, Gonzo's put down 18 in a row." His reply, "Galarraga? He'll never make it.")

When the unspeakable happened, who I really wanted to call was YOU -- that seeming a bit intrusive in this shared cultural context. But see, eventually you always hold up your end of this virtual bargain.

I guess we always knew James Joyce needed a stronger prescription. Today he's behind the plate at 1pm edt.

TC said...

Well, Ruth and Doowman, as you can see from the top and bottom photos, at least the Tigers had things all their own way when they were playing the Browns.

But so did everybody.

I worked as a youth at Cubs games, and so am familiar with that venerable tradition. But in that case the pleasant cozy environment of the park, the relatively pleasant urban neighborhood and above all the touching, undying loyalty of the fanbase, made things seem somehow not so bad.

(You know the old Ernie Banks line, "Let's play two." Which of course meant, "Let's lose two.")

Whereas the Brownies where... the word that first comes to mind is "abject".

Look at those empty Sportsman's Park stands. Pure vacancy.

Too bad about Armando Gallaraga losing his rightful place in history to human error. Perhaps that umpire will be hired on by BP as an engineer.

Nec said...

@TC The Browns were not the best drawing team in history, that is true. But consider:
1) The only surviving two-team cities in baseball have ballparks in geographically distinct areas of town. For their entire history, the Cards were never more than 4 blocks away. And from 1922 on were in the same exact park as the Browns! If you are going to journey to "destination A" and had your choice, would you ratehr see the winning team or the mostly-losing team?
2) But St. Louis loved its Brownies as much as any city loved any team. In 1952, the Browns penultimate year, Browns attendance almost doubled while major league baseball was in its third year of a four-year steep attendance drop (and losing 1.5 million in total gate between '51 and '52, about 10%).
3) If the Browns had made it into the era of night baseball, you wouldnt have seen such paltry figures. Overall baseball attendance is up 5 times from 1952, largely as a result of night games.

Hey Tom, where can I find this poem? Thanks.

TC said...

Nec,

Thanks for your interest.

Those are fair points you have made.

The Cards were swell in that era but the Brownies were losers for the ages.

Bill Veeck vowed to drive the Cards out of town. Famous last words.

(Well, as we know, those were actually a long way from being Veeck's last words.)

And here, at your request:

From Interesting Losers

Poet Red Shuttleworth said...

Walt Judnich (Browns slugger in the forties) tossed Dirty Al Gallagher (future SF Giants 3B) and me out of his San Francisco (near Seals Stadium) bar (for being underage)around 1960. Gallagher or I shouted from the street, "This ain't over." But that was about it and Judnich went back to serving cheap beer to those who didn't care that he wasn't one of Joe DiMaggio's cronies.

TC said...

Well, Red, as you know it's never over till it's over... though for the Brownies, some years it seemed to be over before it ever started.

In the early 40s, however, with ablebodied players starting to go off to war, the Browns, fielding kids and old guys, did have their chances.

My Lord, didn't Stuffy Sternweiss win a batting championship!

The Yankees, wartime or peacetime -- seems they could always afford to throw away players who ended up making their careers elsewhere.

Like Walt Judnich,