In "Maris in the Fall," a chapter in Bobby in Naziland about Roger Maris's quest, in 1961, to break Babe Ruth's "unbreakable" home run record, I referenced four parody poems that ran in the April 8, 1962, edition of the New York Times Magazine. The poems were part of a feature, "Maris in the Spring, Tra-la, Tra-la," comprised of 19 poems by Milton Bracker, the Times Rome bureau chief.
The poems, published to coincide with opening day of the baseball season, are a classic example of doggerel. But when I read them at age nine, I thought they were fantastic—even the footnotes rhymed! They were better than any poem Edgar Allan Poe ever wrote, and I used to think nothing could beat "The Raven."
I memorized most of Bracker's poems, recited them to anybody willing to listen, and hoped that someday I, too, would be able to write such extraordinary poetry.
I wanted to quote some of the poems at length in Bobby in Naziland, but when I contacted the Times to get the rights to approximately 50 words, the non-negotiable price they stated was outrageous. You'd think they were selling me an original handwritten manuscript by Shakespeare.
So I did what I've often done in similar situations: sliced and diced a total of 16 words—enough to communicate the poems' flavor while staying well within the bounds of "fair use."
Since this Website is both "educational" and not for profit, in celebration of this weird season of pandemic baseball (and the normalcy of seasons past), I will now quote the four poems in full (and still remain within the bounds of fair use).
I Love Maris
I love Maris in the springtime,
I love Maris in the fall;
I love Maris
If he just h-i-t-s that ball.
The Electronic Age
Why do so many people go
To ball games with a radio
That tells each hapless nearby being
Exactly what his eyes are seeing?
(But since, at short, he was a whiz
With every drive and bouncer,
No wonder Phil Rizzuto is
My favorite announcer.)
Near Coogan's Bluff
(Oct. 3, 1951—Giants win playoff on sensational home run in 9th, 5–4)
Bobby Thomson took a bat,
Knocked the Brooklyn Dodgers flat,
Said, aware he was much richer,
"Glad I wasn't born a pitcher*."
*Pity, indeed, Ralph Branca's plight:
Pitched that day. Tossed all night.
The Last Time I Saw Maris
The first time I saw Maris,
His bat was coming round;
I loved the way it smote the ball,
I loved the shot-like sound.
The next time I saw Maris,
He loped from base to base;
He didn't have to run at all,
He set a hero's pace.
The last time I saw Maris,
He wore a handsome tux;
He wasn't making runs at all—
But he was making bucks!