The Deacon

When his name was announced
What the silence pronounced
Was the soul of the Sabbath Day crowd

They had come here to see
The last game he would be
In the uniform he wore so proud

He had played twenty years
Through the boos and the cheers
With a thirst, and a love for the game

He would send them away
Filled with awe and dismay
They could see what had earned him his fame

When he’d step to the plate
How his chest would inflate
With the crowd like the wind at his back

He knew what to do
With whatever they threw
When to take, when to give it a whack

He would focus his eyes
His selection was wise
There was steel in his arms when he swung

They were drawn to this place
To watch his style and grace
When they rose it was his praise was sung

This was his church, it’s true
And you sat is his pew
When you came out to watch this man play

He was surely to blame
This was more than a game
What spit had been mixed with his clay?

He had played 20 years
And had earned every cheer
In his mind he still had his youth

But the young hurlers knew
By the pitches they threw
That his body was feeling the truth

Here he’d dove for a ball
There he’d run in the wall
He’d been pitched at, he’d slid hard, he’d run

When his legs were too sore
When his ligaments tore
Still he played, till the season was done

Now he stood at the plate
Contemplating his fate
As the pitcher stood staring him down

“Don’t worry old bum”
Boldly these words had come
From the catcher, who spat on the ground

“It isn’t my call
But he’ll throw you four balls
That’s the way that they want it today.

You are big in this town
But I think you’re a clown
It’s a disgrace they still let you play”

As he walked down to first
He remembered the thirst
That he always had had for this game

Although out of respect
A walk didn’t reflect
Why they’d come here to honor his name

But he’d no time to stew
The next drive went on through
To the wall and he started to run

As past second he ran
He caught sight of the man
Out in center, “man he’s got a gun”

But he bobbled the ball
Played it bad off the wall
And he’d been here often before

He would challenge the play
And he’d make that man pay
If they waved him on in he would score

Once he ran like the wind
Now the legs would not bend
Still he gave it the best that he had

When he rounded third base
You could see in his face
The fervor he had as a lad

As the coach waves him in
He’s urged on by the din
But too late he knows with a gasp

With his spirit strong
He’d excited the throng
But his reach had exceeded his grasp

These last months that he’d spent
On the bench to repent
For his failings brought on by his age

Had prepared him to fail
Striving to no avail
But his heart was igniting a rage

He had not played this long
To have this his swan song
To be mocked by that boy at the plate

They were blocking him wide
Trying to force a slide
Just in case that the ball got there late

They knew with his knee
It’s the wrong place to be
He would have to reach back with his hand

The tag, they were sure
The out would insure
His hourglass was now out of sand

The catcher reached out
For the ball as a shout
From the crowd said they knew he was done

He’d given his best
But he’d failed this last test
He would never deliver this run

He could feel the knee give
And his reason to live
Would be gone when the ump made his call

It was anguish he felt
As hope started to melt
When he heard the loud ‘pop’ of the ball

There guarding the plate
Like St. Peter’s gate
Stood the catcher a sneer on his face

“Old man you’ve had your day
Now it’s your time to pay
You’re too old to handle the pace”

He could not hear the crowd
For his heart beat too loud
As for one final slide he prepared

The catcher bent down
His plight to compound
The ump stooped to see how he fared

He’d be stripped of his pride
At the end of this slide
His career would end in defeat

With the last of his strength
He extended full length
And his dive tore his foe from his feet

The crowd stood to a man
Now one unified fan
And their roar his salvation pronounced

The umps arms spread wide
The catcher lay on his side
And grabbed for the ball as it bounced

Slowly he rose
There was blood on his nose
And the pain in his knee was intense

He should have been proud
As he waved to the crowd
His legacy now was immense

But the man simply turned
To the catcher who’d spurned
This ancient, decrepit old man

For a moment he gazed
At the hand that was raised
With their shake they said all a man can

His career now was through
To this game he’d been true
For his sins he’d atoned here today

They were still in their seats
In reverence of this feat
By the man they had come to watch play

His teammates just stood
For they felt that they should
Let him walk all alone from the field

This game takes its toll
Here he’d given his soul
His redemption, refusing to yield