Baseball, of course, is a language of its own, speaking to those who for some divine reason or another hear it clearly and understand.
Growing up, I always lost myself in the poetry of Jack Buck's play-by-play on KMOX. Occasionally, Dad would score tickets to a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium, setting up memorable road trips from my hometown in Pinckneyville, Illinois, nearly 75 miles from St. Louis.
The farms and fields of the Mississippi River bottoms wrapped around the long stretches of Interstate 64 West leading to the big city, their rural sovereignty gradually giving way to the suburbs of Fairview Heights. From there, anticipation always spiked and I craned to get the first glimpse of the Gateway Arch and hazy gray St. Louis skyline from the other side of the river.
If we were going to a night game, the return trip home almost always included a stop at Steak 'n Shake in Fairview Heights for a 10:30 p.m. meal. Chili mac never tasted better than during those late nights with Dad. If we had gone to a Sunday afternoon game, I always sank into the cushy seat of our Chevy Suburban as the sun followed suit in the western sky, drowsy from the summer heat and the Busch Stadium experience with Mom along for the ride.
These memories feed a poetry collection I call Songs of the Horsehide. And what an honor I received late last year when two of the pieces were selected to be published in the much-respected, award-winning Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine. The cover features The Cobra, Dave Parker, one of my favorite ballplayers from my youth.