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Riding in a hot air balloon


Major league baseball and writing Fathers Playing Catch with Sons
Donald Hall Poet
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The three years that we were married in Ann Arbor, a number of things happened... sort of adventures.  Actually just before we were married I tried out for a major league baseball team, and that is ridiculous. I weighed 255 pounds at the time, and I was always a terrible athlete, but a literary agent of mine, who's a baseball fan, got the notion of suiting up a number of total amateurs and visiting spring training, at the very beginning of spring training, when things were pretty loose, and writing about it. So, I was the only... the only one who really did it much, I mean I was out there man. Jane and I - not Jane and I - Jane and I...sorry, sometimes I say Jane by mistake. Jane and I went down and I put on the uniform and went out and started doing laps with the players... the first moment of spring training for the major league baseball team - the Pittsburgh Pirates - and I did one lap, and then by the time - it was merely a lap around the base pass, rather short - by the time I got to second base the second time, two young catchers who are strong and hardy types, picked me up under the elbows and carried me the rest of the way.  And a tall black pitcher, said, 'Man, you out of shape', and that was Dock Ellis who was a famous pitcher at that time, and he and I became friends.  And I did batting practice which was called BP and I did infield practice. I was sort of trying out for second base because the throw to first base is short enough so I could almost make it.  And I once hit a ball out of the infield in batting practice - in general it was ludicrous and... and fun, it was enormous fun.  The entire team would gather to see me take batting practice because it was a comedy hit of the sensation.  And I wrote about it - an essay called Fathers Playing Catch with Sons - where I remembered my father who played baseball better than I did, and his involvement with baseball, and mine, and all sorts of things... more memoir which I've done so much of.  And it was published in Playboy as a matter of fact.  And then later it was the title essay of a collection of sports essays of mine - Fathers Playing Catch with Sons - but it was great fun and I got to know ball players and then later wrote a book about Dock Ellis, so I got to hang around the major leagues more. The only way I could make the major leagues was to write about it obviously.

The 14th US Poet Laureate Donald Hall (1928-2018) was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, then earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1951 and a BLitt, from Oxford in 1953. He published many essays and anthologies of both poetry and prose including String too Short to be Saved: Recollections of Summers on a New England Farm, White Apples and the Taste of Stone, Without: Poems, and Ox-Cart Man, a children's book which won the Caldecott Medal. Hall was editor of the magazine Oxford Poetry, literary editor of Isis, editor of New Poems, and poetry editor of The Paris Review. He won many awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a Robert Frost Medal. At the end of his first Oxford year, he also won the university's Newdigate Prize, awarded for his poem Exile.

Listeners: Kendel Currier

Kendel Currier started working for Donald Hall in August of 1994 as his correspondence typist. Later she took on his manuscript typing as well, and in October of 1998 moved 100 meters down the road from Donald and became his personal assistant, adding many various new tasks to her work. As well as working for Donald for the last 10 and-a-half years, Donald Hall and Kendel Currier share a set of great (or for Kendel great-great) grandparents, making them distant cousins and part of a similar New Hampshire heritage.

Tags: Ann Arbor, Pittsburgh Pirates, Fathers Playing Catch with Sons, Playboy, Dock Ellis

Duration: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008