Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Fungos Of Our Fathers

Once at Fenway Park during batting practice
I watched Don Zimmer standing behind
the home on-deck circle hit fungoes to outfielders. 
Left field, right field and center.  Boston is
an ugly city when looking straight ahead,
but in the green confines of Fenway watching
the arc of a white baseball against a blue sky can
be mesmerizing.

Zimmer, who would later be a manger of the team,
was a  tobacco chewing  Shrek precursors. 
The Red Sox then had a wonderful centerfielder
with movie-star good looks named Freddy Lynn.
But in the hands of a master, the fungo bat is a thing
of effortless ability.  In between pitches Zippy
would, with a flick of the wrist, hit a ball to left,
right and center.  But when it came to center he
would put the baseball arcing through the
sky to the furthest  part of the ball park.  Lynn
would turn and retreat to the warning track
420 feet away (probably more from where Zippy
was standing) and leap against the wall where
the ball would ricochet no more than two feet
above his glove.  I saw Zimmer do this three
times in a row until Lynn put his hands on his
hips and walked into the bull pen.   

Once at Fenway Park with my father I saw
Ted Williams play deaf and dumb to a fly
ball hit towards him in left.  Part of the left field
lower seats had been roped off because Williams
was in the habit of spitting at fans who were not,
well, fans of the splendid splinter. He also wore
his first baseman’s mitt which at the time caused
controversy, too. 

Well, as the fly ball wended its way toward the
score board, Williams, of all things, had his hand
outside of his mitt and was  cleaning his fingernails.
Jackie Jensen, no major league slouch in his own right,
comes running at Williams from right-center – maybe
250 feet away - yelling at Williams whom he suspects
hasn’t seen the ball.  At the last moment, Williams
takes a step forward and effortlessly catches the ball
and flips the ball to Jensen who, red in the face from
running, gripped the ball as if he were going to crush it.
My father spent endless hours teaching me
baseball in our back yard.  We’d play catch,
or he’d hit me grounders.  I’d field the ball
and pitch it back to him as if I were throwing
to first base.  If I threw it behind him, he’d
nonchalantly swing the bat one-handed
behind him and hit it back to me.

He was also a master of the fungo.  He’d
hit a ball straight up in our backyard so
that it would come down no more than
a few feet  from where he stood.  These
were massive elevator shots, straight up
and straight down.  Even on a windless
day trying to catch a ball falling straight down
from two-hundred and fifty feet or so
requires enormous concentration.  Depth
perception is useless and the predicting
a rainbow arc of a ball’s flight is easy
by comparison.  During this time, my father
would look at his finger nails or be lost in
thought as if he were waiting for a bus. 
I’d pound my glove, circle this way or that,
and at the last moment have to make a flat
out lunge for the ball.  I’d get to my knees
and flip him the ball and then . . . upsidaisy again.

These fungo shots came to an end one day, though.
Our backyard on Spring Street was not large and
whether my father put too much muscle in his
swing or the wind took the ball at its highest
point, I first backed up and then sort of line
danced south of the house, bumping into our
birdbath before breaking into a too-late-too-
catch it-run.  I watched as the ball hit the road,
took one super bounce and ricocheted of a limb
directly through Stan Gordon’s parlor window.

I looked back at my father who had come
around the back of the house to see where
I had disappeared to.  He looked the culprit
with the fungo weapon still on his shoulder.
He flipped the bat to the ground the way
homerun hitters sometime do with a twirling
baton flourish and scampered past me and
into the Gordon’s house.  Luckily they were
away for a couple of days and my father had
the parlor cleaned up, retrieved the ball and
repointed and puttied in a new pane before
they got home.  

I know the mind plays tricks with certain memories
that are over sixty years old, but I’m sure my father
was laughing as he scampered by me to break into
the Gordon’s house. 

I am sure he was laughing.

FG  4/9/2015

The construction, destruction and reconstruction of human lives is best seen is sports.  My mother knew what my father had done and probably spilled the beans to Violet Gordon saying something like I hope you don’t walk barefoot in your parlor.  Violet no doubt took this as a snub and railed at Stan “Do you know what that Polly Greenwood just told me!”  Stan, I like to think, put X, Y, and V together, saw the unpainted putty on the window outside, and I hope, chuckled.  


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