Celebrating Baseball Poetry with Chris Arvidson
March 27, 2023 by Mark West
For Chris Arvidson, now is a special time of the year. As a lifelong baseball fan, Chris is looking forward to March 30, which is Opening Day for Major League Baseball's 2023 season. As a Charlotte poet, Chris is also looking forward to April, which is National Poetry Month. Chris's love of baseball and her interest in writing poetry are reflected in her two most recent books. In 2017, she published a co-edited volume titled The Love of Baseball: Essays by Lifelong Fans. In 2022, she published a poetry collection titled The House Inside My Head. For readers who want to know more about Chris and her publications, please click on the following link: https://www.chrisarvidson.com/index.htm
I contacted Chris and asked her how she is preparing for this special week. Here is what she sent to me:
I have been searching for some Faygo Red Pop, and I'm dismayed to find that neither Harris Teeter nor Publix seems to carry it any longer. Red Pop, a Detroit original, is my favored choice of beverage for opening day. I shall persevere and figure out where to find it before March 30, when my Detroit Tigers play their first game of the season. On March 31, I'll be at the Charlotte Knights ballpark, in glorious anticipation of the summer to come. I cannot deny that I tear-up for the national anthem that first Spring outing…every time.
Just last week, I stumbled upon The National Baseball Poetry Festival on Facebook. The organizers are throwing a weekend-long baseball poetry event based at a Boston Red Sox AAA affiliate in Worcester, MA. Events include a poetry contest, ballpark tours, an open mic… not bad for a first-year event. You can see more about the festival at: baseballpoetryfest.org.
It really made me think–Worcester? Really? Charlotte could TOTALLY do something like this. Maybe even expand it to a whole writing-about-baseball thing, that wouldn't just be poetry. Although this most poetic of sports certainly does lend itself in that direction. So far, my husband, Henry, thinks it's a great idea, and Jay Ward, Charlotte's first poet laureate, sees merit, too. So, stay tuned. I might just see what I can cook up.
I also asked Chris if she would be willing to share examples of her own baseball poems, and she agreed to do so. The first poem that she provided is about Frances Crockett, the woman who served as the General Manager of the Charlotte O's. The Charlotte O's was the AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles from 1976 to 1987. She was the first woman General Manager in professional baseball.
Here is Chris's poem:
Dear Frances Crockett
By Chris Arvidson
Just about every day
I walk around the ballpark
Where flags with the pictures of past
Ballplayers, owners, and managers wave to me
The legends of Charlotte baseball.
Yours is my favorite – the only woman
You look so serious and businesslike
So smart and professional
Your blond hair stylish and smooth
It's not how I remember you.
I see you decades ago out at the old ballpark
The wooden one that sometimes burned
That sat in the middle of a middle-class neighborhood
Through the open door of the rickety trailer near the front gate
That served as your general manager's office.
You're sitting at a beat-up old desk
A huge fluffy white dog at your feet
And do I recall a cigarette in one waving hand?
The other holding a phone to your ear
As you conducted the team's business.
(This poem appeared in "Nine: A Journal of Baseball History & Culture" Vol. 30 Nos. 1-2, Fall/Spring 2021-22.)
The second poem that Chris shared with me is about Ryan Ripken, a minor-league baseball player. He is the son of baseball legend Cal Ripken, Jr., who played for the Charlotte O's in 1980. Here is Chris's poem:
Hello Ryan Ripken (For Robyn)
By Chris Arvidson
Ryan Ripken came up to bat last night
The designated hitter for the Norfolk Tides
Baltimore's AAA farm team.
Fluttering in the tepid breeze outside the park
A banner sporting his father's young face flew
A nostalgic image from Cal the legend's tenure as a Charlotte Oriole.
Ryan's twenty-eight now
It looks like Grandpa, Uncle Billy, and Ironman Dad
Will post the big-time family's big-league careers without him.
He stands tall at bat in the farm team uniform
And takes up more physical space at the plate
Than the other famous Ripkens.
I wonder if he saw that flag on his way into the ballpark tonight
Snapping in the wind over the players' entrance.
I thank Chris for sharing her baseball poems and for her many contributions to our community. When it comes to doing her part to make Storied Charlotte a more interesting place to live, Chris is always ready to play ball.