Dick Flavin is the Official Laureate of the Boston Red Sox. That means he gets to write poetry about baseball! He has compiled all his poems in one book, Red Sox Rhymes, Verses and Curses, which was released in July. This new book appeals to all Red Sox fans, young and old, as Flavin shares the joys, struggles, victories, and losses throughout the years of Red Sox Nation. His poems are historical, hysterical, and memorable. With his charismatic personality, sense of humor, and oratory skills, he never fails to delight the audience when he recites his poems. (If the poetry wasn’t enough, Flavin is also an Emmy-award winning television writer and commentator. And he serves as a Red Sox PA announcer at games.)
I recently had a chance to speak with Flavin about his poetry, writing Red Sox poems, and what he does when not thinking in verse.
When did you start writing poetry and specifically Red Sox poems?
I did not start writing poems until several years after graduating from college, when I realized that writing and speaking in verse was an effective way to get people’s attention. Despite my love for baseball and the Red Sox, it did not occur to me to write about the team in that way until about 15 years ago. I wish I had started sooner, but I’m glad that I finally put poetry and the Red Sox together.
Who are your favorite poets and what is your favorite poem?
My favorite poet is Ernest Lawrence Thayer. He wrote only one work of note, but it is by far my favorite poem, “Casey at the Bat.” I also really like Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling.
How long have you been a Red Sox fan? Who is your favorite player?
I’ve been a Red Sox fan 70 years when my father took my brother and me to Fenway Park for the first time. My favorite all-time player was Dom DiMaggio. When I was a kid I had to wear glasses, and in those days it was thought that kids with glasses shouldn’t or couldn’t play sports. Dom was one of the only players in the major leagues who wore them. Although he was not as big and strong as his more famous brother Joe, he was an all-star every year. He should be in the Hall of Fame.
What are some of your favorite Red Sox memories?
I was at Fenway Park when Carlton Fisk hit his famous home run in the 1975 World Series. I’ve had a chance to see many great players beginning with Ted Williams, right up to the present day. But my favorite memory is the very first time I walked up the ramp and saw the Green Monster and the grass and the stands. It was like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the movie switches from black and white to Technicolor.
Why do you memorize your poems? Which one is your favorite?
I memorize my poems because I love to recite them. They’re not as much fun for the audience when you have to read them. My favorite poem is “Long Live Fenway Park” because it speaks to the history of the place and the great players who have worn the Red Sox uniform.
I know you recite your poems at various events. What are some of your most memorable audiences?
When the Red Sox held a memorial for Ted Williams, I recited “Teddy at the Bat” from home plate. I’ve also recited it at Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops Orchestra and at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I also recently recited a lot of my poems at the Edward Kennedy Institute, which has an exact replica of the United States Senate chamber, and that was pretty cool.
What are some of your other hobbies?
I used to play a lot of golf but don’t anymore. I read a lot. I’m at the stage in life when my work is my hobby, and I love it!
What makes baseball a good theme for poetry?
Baseball is the most lyrical of all sports. It plays out before us like a dream. I like football, but there is not much poetry about sacking a quarterback of even dunking a basketball. But trying to hit a round ball squarely with a round bat when it’s coming at you at 95 miles an hour, you can write a poem about that.
Why should kids read and maybe write poetry?
Words are the way we communicate, whether spoken of written. Whether they be tweets from a smartphone or carvings on a stone tablet from 2,000 years ago, it has always been the same. The better we are at using words, the more success and satisfaction we’ll have.
What is your best advice for aspiring young poets/writers?
My best advice to aspiring poets and writers is to do it! A ballplayer doesn’t get good without practicing. Neither does a singer or a piano player. Practice, practice, practice.
Photos: Courtesy Dick Flavin (cover, author photo), Maxwell Surprenant (Max with author)