I barely made the deadline for this week because I was watching the Olympics. What is it with sports and America? I have no answer, but perhaps our Good Gray Poet does.
Walt Whitman, the essential American, loved baseball. He mentions the game in “Leaves of Grass” when he tells us to “leave out lonely apartments” and “get better air in our lungs” on the ball field. In June 1858, he moonlighted as a baseball beat reporter for the Brooklyn Daily Times. The entire account can be read here: MLB historian John Thorn’s site. Readers of the Civil War, poetry, and baseball should know this site, so enjoy!
“The game played yesterday afternoon between the Atlantic and Putnam Clubs, on the grounds of the latter club, was one of the finest and most exciting games we ever witnessed. The Atlantics beat their opponents by four runs, but the general opinion was that the defeat was as much the result of accident as of superior playing.”
In his last years, living in Camden, New Jersey, Whitman had a devoted admirer at his side, Horace Traubel, who invaluably recorded their conversations. Upon reading in the newspaper of April 7, 1889, that Spalding’s world baseball tourists had returned home, Whitman said to Traubel:
“Did you see the baseball boys are home from their tour around the world? How I’d like to meet them — talk with them: maybe ask them some questions.” Traubel replied,“Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!” [Whitman] was hilarious: “That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! well — it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”