I Don’t Care if I Never Get Back

Once upon a time, before it became the Paris printing of the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune published its late sports editor Dick Roraback’s ode to baseball’s opening day each year.

Under the fold, “The Crack of the Bat.”

Away on this side of the ocean
When the chestnuts are hinting of green
And the first of the cafe 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 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 a la Fontaine or Kopa
While a little guy chikies 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 a 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

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Culture, France, Life, Not Europe, Religion by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

4 thoughts on “I Don’t Care if I Never Get Back

  1. “The sound of leather on willow” is the equivalent expression in cricket circles (ball made of leather, bat of willow wood). I’d guess a baseball is leather on the outside, but the bat… which wood is used I wonder?

  2. Originally, hickory was used. Later, during the 1930s, white ash became the wood of choice because it was lighter while still being very hard, strong and durable. Many bats of the last 10-plus years have been made of maple as a result of new wood drying techniques which produce a lighter dried maple. The new maple bats also seem to be more durable than white ash.

    Recently bamboo bats have been made, although I don’t think they’ve yet been used in professional games. Bamboo strips are first pressed into billets and then turned into bats.

  3. Soccer is arguably more corrupt than baseball in terms of doping, manipulation and the influence of big money, certainly if your reference is total audience, but maybe even also per viewer. To its credit however, soccer is still all about losing, about the improbability of scoring a goal and the fortitude of players who repeatedly try and repeatedly fail. Baseball broke my heart when the designated hitter was introduced – was it after this ode was penned?

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