“At the Ball Game” is a short poem in free verse, its thirty-six lines divided into eighteen stanzas of two lines apiece. The title suggests events occurring at a traditional American pastime, a baseball game; its function, however, is darker, as what actually happens at the ball game shows a side of the American character that most people would prefer to keep hidden.
The poem is written in a third-person dramatic style, with the narrator commenting on the mood of the crowd as it watches the game and observes individuals in its midst. One never enters directly into the mind of anyone in the crowd, but one sees from this more objective perspective how quickly normal spectators can be transformed into a snarling pack.
“At the Ball Game” begins with a scene that most Americans will recognize: a crowd at a game existing for one purpose only—to delight in the beauty of “the exciting detail/ of the chase/ and the escape” (lines 5-7). The crowd, described with the personal third-person plural “they” and “them,” may be witnessing a runner racing to first base; it may be witnessing an “error/ flash of genius” (lines 7-8) that either helps the runner reach base safely or sees him put out in the nick of time. It is of no real consequence to the crowd or poet whether the runner is “out” or “safe” ultimately; they simply want to see athletic prowess—the skill and grace of players enjoying and excelling in their sport....
(The entire section is 561 words.)