Away on this side of the ocean
When the chestnuts are hinting of green
And the first of the café commandos
Are moving outside for a fine
And the sound of spring beats a bolero
As Paree sheds her coat and her hat
The sound that is missed more than any
Is the sound of the crack of a bat.
There’s an animal kind of a feeling
There’s a stirring down at Vincennes Zoo
And the kid down the hall’s getting restless
Taking stairs like a young kangaroo
Now the dandy is walking his poodle
And the concierge sunning her cat
But the heart’s with the Cubs and the Tigers
And the sound of the crack of a bat.
In the park on the corner run schoolboys
With a couple of cartons for props
Kicking goals à la Fontaine or Kopa
While a little guy chickies for cops
“Goal for us,” “No it’s not,” “You’re a liar,”
Then the classical shrieks of a spat
But it’s not like a rhubarb at home plate
Or the sound of the crack of a bat.
Here the stadia thrill to the scrumdowns
And the soccer fans flock to the games
And the chic punt the nags out at Longchamp
Where the women are dames and not dames
But it’s different at Forbes and at Griffith
The homes of the Buc and the Nat
Where the hotdog and peanut share laurels
With the sound of the crack of a bat.
No, a Yank can’t describe to a Frenchman
The rasp of an umpire’s call
The continuing charms of statistics
Changing hist’ry with each strike and ball
Nor the self-conscious jog of the slugger
Rounding third with the tip of his hat
Nor the half-smothered grace of a hook slide
Nor the sound of the crack of a bat.
Now the golfer is buffing his niblick
And the tennis buff’s tightening his strings
And the fisherman’s flexing his flyrod
Like a thousand and one other springs
Oh, the sports on both sides of the ocean
Have a great deal in common, at that
But the thing that’s not here
At this time of the year
Is the sound of the crack of a bat.
Dick Roraback is a former sports editor of the Herald Tribune. His springtime elegy has appeared in this space since the 1960s.
Thursday afternoon was Opening Day for the Oakland Athletics Baseball team. Although I have missed the last three seasons, I have always gone back for Opening Nite. Not this year. Friends posted many photos on Facebook. As I looked at them, I could see the green grass, the blue sky, Jeanni in a sleeveless blouse (it’s still really cold in Paris), the smoke from Opening Day fireworks rising over the Coliseum. I felt such nostalgia. I could feel the sun on my shoulders, the happiness of the first day of the season when everyone is in 1st place. But I couldn’t hear the crack of the bat. What a sound that is. Every baseball fan loves it–the ball hitting the sweet spot and the absolute certainty that it will be a home run.. It’s only a sound but it’s more than a sound. It’s six months of the year. It’s Ken Korach’s voice rising in exhilaration at another A’s homer. They seem so much better at that than at small ball.
When I moved to Paris, all my friends in the Bay Area had the same two questions: “What about baseball?” “What are the Oakland A’s going to do without you?” No one could believe I would miss a season of Baseball. And that was when I was just coming for one year! This will be the fourth season I am missing.
Subscribing to MLB.tv turned out not to be an option for me. I could only get the A’s when they played on the East Coast and it was daytime. So I’ve been subscribing to audio. Last night as I was doing something else, a dialogue box flashed across my screen; ‘The Angels now lead the Athletics 1-0.’ Wow, the game was on! And I was awake. I hurriedly found all the right buttons and heard Ken Korach, one of most favourite people in the world, announcing the top of the 1st inning, Game 3: A’s vs Angels; Game 3 of the 2018 season.
We baseball fans, just like the players, are extremely superstitious when it comes to baseball. Within the first twenty minutes of listening, two A’s dropped the ball, blew two chances for a double play, missed an outfield fly ball and all in all played just like minor leaguers. By the bottom of the second inning, the score was 3-0 Angels. “Nothing has changed” I thought to myself. “Maybe it’s my fault and I shouldn’t listen to any more games” second thought.
But, as Marty Lurie says, every game is a new chapter in an unfolding book. No one knows who is writing it or how it will end. And that’s why we go to games. Because we love baseball, anything can happen and to hear the sound of the crack of the bat.
Thank you to my friend, Darcy, who sent me the poem Crack of The Bat.