To Satchel Paige


Dear Mr. Paige,
                        the only regret I have
about being born
                        when I was
is that I didn’t get to see you pitch
                                                in a live game;

to see you throw
                        your Jump Ball,
                                                be ball,
            two-hump blooper,
Midnight Creeper,
                        Bat Dodger,
                                    or hesitation     pitch,

I would have loved to hear
                        you tell Jackie Robinson
and the rest
                        of your infielders
and outfielders
                        to sit down
while you struck out the side.

I would have loved to see
                                    you intentionally walk
two batters
                        in the 1942 Negro League World Series,
so you could face
                        the great Josh Gibson
with the bases loaded
                                    and tell him where
each pitch was going to go
you struck him out
                        on three straight pitches.

It would have been beautiful
                        to watch you help
                                    the 1948 World Series,
months after
                                                my mother was born—

with other pitches,
                                    such as a screwball,

and the Eephus pitch;
                                    my jaw dropping
like a drawbridge;

people embracing
                        in the Terminal Tower,
and every single fountain
                                                in Kansas City
            gurgling your name.


To Dave Kingman

Dear Mr. Kingman:
was it fun handing out chrome
fountain pens

to New York-based sports reporters
on your first day
of Spring Training? 

This is on my mind
when I see
a small envelope

from a stranger
in Texas. I open it:
your baseball card

from 1975 has arrived,
like summer. It’s in
better shape than I thought:

sharp corners, no creases
or scuffs. Then I notice
an expression of resignation

on your face,
as if posing for the picture
was necessary for you

to get on with your workday,
and my spirits sink
on your behalf,

like car keys hurled
into an ocean. Why
do I feel so connected

to someone I’ve never met?
How is it that being a fan
of yours: of admiring

all of the moonshots
you launched in your career,
77 of them

at the time this card was made
and distributed,
can have such an affect

on me? I mean,
would you feel empathy
for me if I got a rejection letter

from The New Yorker?
Maybe it’s because I was raised
with tough love:

to hide my feelings
so that no one would use them
to hurt me, like the press did to you

when you didn’t have a good game.
Maybe it’s because I saw the pain
in your eyes when you struck out

when I watched you on TV
when I was a child
in my parent’s house

when this card first came out,
when your image
was as constant of a presence

in my family’s living room
at least as much as any adult’s,
Seeing you demonstrate your talents

to perform superhuman feats:
making legendary home runs
with your bat

might have caused some to forget
that no one can be at their best
every single moment

of their work or personal lives.
As a friend of mine told me,
even computers

need down time.
As you told a reporter,
Everyone is hot and cold, I guess.

Perhaps it’s also to do with sharing—
watching ballgames with my father
and the rest of the men of my family,

with their swagger, Italian style:
their unbuttoned polyester shirts
exposing their hairy chests,

chains, charms, and crosses,
sinking whiskey, spritzers, and beer,
having smokes, telling dirty jokes,

and swapping ballplayer stories
gave me a sense of belonging,
of being able to listen,

and converse with adults
in a common language
and horsehide vernacular.

Recalling days of yours
and my father’s prime,
when you were both at your strongest,

most vibrant, and visible,
comforts me
in these uncertain days

which has exposed
how vulnerable
all of us are

and always have been.
Although I don’t know exactly
how it felt

to be a young adult in 1975,
I feel for you and my father—
his focus on raising me

to be a person of steely resolve,
your focus on trying
to do your job, to perform

like a hard-nosed actor
on the field, yet protect
your privacy off of it,

your sensitivity as powerful
as your swing,
as you try to get a hold of one

in the San Francisco cold,
The Golden Gate Bridge
gripped in mist.


To Dwight Evans

Mr. Evans, I was raised to hate
all things Boston, especially
the Red Sox, by my father,
even though I had cousins
on my mother’s side of my family,
the more direct European part
of my Italian American lineage,
who lived in Beantown’s North End
and in Back Bay.

Had my eyebrows not been incinerated
by my father’s petrol glare
when I said Wow, after
watching you throw: when you gunned down
Sweet Lou Piniella at the dish
from Yankee Stadium’s right field;
had my mother’s parents not been estranged
from their Boston family members;
had I grown up there or anywhere

in New England
instead of New York,
I would have cheered for you
louder, and more often.
I would have been a Red Sox fan.
I would have worn 24,
your number, in my little league years
if my uniforms ever had them,
imagining myself at Fenway,

sharing the outfield with Fred Lynn and Jim Rice;
sharing franks and beers with friends and family
who I never had a problem with;
who were okay with teaching me
how to say Yankees suck
or I love you in authentic Italian
then chanting your nickname: Dewey, Dewey,
a dashing moustache of jet-black hope
growing on my fanatic face.

To Ted Simmons

Dear Mr. Simmons: Simba,
my grandfather never visited
St. Louis, Milwaukee, or
Atlanta, but that didn’t stop him
from appreciating your gritty game
behind the plate and at bat
for the Cardinals, Brewers,
and Braves. He said
you were tougher than any bus
or Sherman Tank he drove
in civilian life and in World War Two,
and that you gunned down baserunners
as if they slept with your wife, even when
your knees felt like dinosaurs, pelted
and overcome by meteorites: their sky
ablaze, like crashed warplanes.

# # #

Joey Nicoletti was born in New York City. He works in Buffalo.