Branca

Branca

You remember how Bobby Thomson
hit that home run
in the last of the ninth
& Durocher and Stanky wrestled for joy
& Jackie Robinson watched
& the announcer Mel Hodges screamed: “THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!”
& Laraine Day, in the stands, clapped her hands
& the Polo Grounds shook with the honest ecstasy of
A GREAT MOMENT IN SPORTS
& the tall man on the mound,
with bowed head and sloped shoulders
walked slowly out of focus and into the dugout. . .
and the next thing we heard was how well he took it,
and how hard it was to be the one,
and how he had prayed a lot. . .

And then all of sudden
there he was in person
on that field in Westchester,
where I was trying out for the County All-Stars
and none of my friends made the first cut,
not Buzzy Heim, not Tommy Henderson, not even
Curt Atkinson, who seemed headed for stardom,
but Branca liked the way I threw the ball
and passed me along
and my friends walked away stunned,
and none more than I.
And I thought: I can’t be on this team alone
with the semi-pro kids from Scarsdale
(private coaches and special lessons since grade four)
and the tough kids from New Rochelle will kill me
and my friends will never forgive me
so, concealing the worst,
I explained this to Branca,
who looked down at me, his long face somber,
his dark eyes abstracted, one fist closing and unclosing
on the baseball,
and he thought about my palaver for a minute and then said:
“Sure, kid, I understand,”
and somehow
I knew he did.

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