Last week I got to sit down and talk with my friend Sandra Marchetti about a collection of poems that she wrote about baseball and the Cubs called “Aisle 228.” The book is a fascinating group of poems that cover a wide range of baseball topics, and quite a few of them are about the Cubs. Sandy and I sat down and wound up talking for 45 minutes about her fandom, the writing and publishing process, along with some great discussions on food and just poetry in general. I was really interested in her own muse, as well as her connection between the poems and the game.
Hopefully, you will find out just how astute of a mind she has, not only when it comes to poetry, but also when it comes to baseball. She has a keen eye for the finer points of the game as well as a way to put that into both the spoken and written word.
Let’s get to just a few of the questions that I asked her about those processes.
NSB: I know you have talked often about going to baseball games at an early age. How old were you when you first started going to Cubs games?
“I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and I want to say I probably went to games before I can remember but I can remember going to games around the ages of three or four. I have a story that I told a couple times about sitting way way up next to the fencing in the last row and being young and I was really scared that I was going to fall out into the street. And that was years before I went to Guaranteed Rate Field which is really high up and really scary. So, I was very young and probably, still to this day, 90% of the games I go to to are with my dad.”
Did you have a favorite player as a kid?
“Yeah, I definitely did. I think a lot of people in my generation did, especially since we watched the Cubs on WGN when we got home from school. And probably my favorite pitcher of all time is Greg Maddux. And the reason I loved to watch him so much is that there were stories of him listening to audio tapes because I think at the time that’s what was available to him of his games in Wrigley Field to feel the momentum and juice. There are stories of him knowing exactly where the hitter is going to hit the ball before he throws the pitch. Which, as a kid, is sort of magical and mystical.
For me, the thing that I like the most is how well he fielded his position. My father would alway say to me, look how he ends his delivery in the ready position to field the ball. I thought it was so amazing about his repeatable delivery and all the gold gloves and everything like that. He was definitely one of them but I remember drawing a lot of pictures. I have Barry Bonds in the picture and I have Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg.”
Here is one of the poems she has previously published and it is also included in the book.
Maddux Listens to the Game on Tape
As one might expect, more
than anything, he
listens. Recalls the mound
behind his eyes,
neck tilted slightly
and mouth ajar.
He floats back to hear
what caught the black,
for the scene between
himself and the catcher:
a shiver of light
his arm shuffles through.
When Uncle Mo spins,
the sigh of a career
near done, he with Wrigley,
the crowd a choir
on the tape catching,
spooling, and righting
I just love that poem! I really do. It’s quiet and beautiful, and filled with such minute details that elevate the poem.
I then asked her when she wrote that poem and that turned into a lengthy discussion on the evolution of actually putting together a book of poems.
“That was one of my earlier works for the book. I want to say I started writing these poems in 2013 or 2014 when the Cubs were not a good team. No one can accuse me of being a bandwagon fan, but I think some can accuse me of being a bandwagon writer. But that’s not true. The early poems written way before the Cubs were good. I read some article, and my father told me the story too, about Maddox, listening to his games. He would often talk about uncle Mo for momentum, especially for playoff games. I think I wrote that poem in 2014. Always thinking about how it was all coming to an end for him.
I would say the book was 75% written by the time the Cubs won the World Series. Not to brag about it, but there were a few publishers at that time that said, we’d love to publish this now let’s jump on the publicity, and the Cubs being in the news, but the book really wasn’t ready. I had like 30 poems and I needed to have like 45. Probably about 2017 or 2018, I had what I would consider a manuscript.
Then I spent a lot of time sending the book out. As I was sending the book out, I do have a full-time job, but I would say that I would rearrange it, edit it, there were poems I took out, and some re-written. So the last four years from 2018 to 2022, I was just sending it out and doing little nips and tucks and hoping that it was going to get picked up.
It’s always hard to place poetry, that’s just the way that goes. I sent it to many sports publishers. They were so interested because of the poetry angle. There were others who said I love this, but I don’t know how to market it. The poetry press was like “What is sports ball?“ They were not interested at all. It wasn’t really in their wheelhouse. It took a long time to find the right publisher. I was lucky that Stephen F, Austin State published some other things that have to do with athletics. They also published a lot of poetry and I think it was just the right fit. I got accepted a year ago.”
On the sleeve of the jacket of the book is a quote that I just found fascinating.
It is from John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball. And he has taken a shine to Sandra’s poetry.
I concur with John’s opinion.
You can buy the book online at Barnes & Noble. Sandra also has a couple links you can order from the publisher on her Twitter account in her pinned tweet.
To hear the full 45 minute interview,, click here.