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“Casey at the Bat” — baseball’s second best poem — was published 125 years ago

May 29, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT

Casey at the Bat

Well, 125 years ago this coming Monday. Today, however, Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger has a remembrance of baseball’s most famous poem, as well as some background on those who have tried to update “Casey at the Bat” for a more modern, more integrated game in past century and a quarter:

We integrated baseball 66 years ago, so why hasn’t anyone ever conceived of a more multicultural Casey?

“It seemed to be a natural,” [Lawrence] Hogan said. “I’ve been immersed in black baseball for so long, I’m always looking for different ways to tell its stories, and the time was right for this.”

So Hogan decided to apply one of baseball’s great pieces of fiction to the African American tableau, and the results will be shared over the next three nights at a symposium at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Sounds cool.

But it’s certainly not the first time efforts have been made to place baseball’s changing racial and ethnic face into poetry. Indeed, my favorite baseball poem is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Baseball Canto,” which is at turns hilarious and revealing as it describes an inning featuring the heavily black and Latino San Francisco Giants of the 1960s. It’s even better when heard aloud in Ferlinghetti’s own voice:

Just another example of baseball — an inherently conservative institution — serving as a vehicle for change. Or, at the very least, a reflection of it.

  1. The Dangerous Mabry - May 29, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Then there’s that old poem about the Red Sox minor leaguer. I think it starts “There once was a man from Pawtucket” or something like that.

    • gloccamorra - May 29, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      Hah! Good one. For those who don’t know it, here’s the two verses, the first from the Brown University student paper:

      There was an old man from Nantucket
      Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
      His daughter, named Nan
      Ran away with a man
      And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

      The Yale student paper responded:

      Paw followed the pair to Pawtucket
      (the girl and the man with the bucket).
      Paw said to the man
      “You’re welcome to Nan.”
      And as for the bucket, Pawtucket.

      It’s been rumored that a Brown student editor went insane, trying to work Woonsocket into another verse.

    • dickclydesdale - May 29, 2013 at 4:09 PM

      Casey at the bat poem mirrors the career of Carlos Beltran. You cant find another more feared guy in his playoff prime that goes with this 125yr old tale.

  2. pjmitch - May 29, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    My favorite Baseball poem is Baseball’s Sad Lexicon, Tinker to Evers to Chance……short and sweet

    • hep3 - May 29, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      There was also these two from the Dodgers-Giants of the early sixties:

      The Dodgers poem:
      The difference in Davises
      Is seen in many skills
      for Tommy is not Willie
      and Willie is not Wills

      The Giants version:
      The difference in Davises
      is seen in many ways
      for Tommy is not Willie
      and Willie is not Mays.

    • 18thstreet - May 29, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      Spahn and Sain, and pray for rain.

  3. nolanwiffle - May 29, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    I never knew who Lawrence Ferlinghetti was, and thought his appearance in The Band’s “The Last Waltz” was a low point in an otherwise epic film. I guess he’s just some beat poet?

    • billybawl - May 29, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      If you’re curious, I suggest you look at the Wikipedia pages for him or City Lights Bookstore. Not only is he an important poet, but he defiantly published controversial authors and was an important defender of the First Amendment at a time when it was under serious attack.

      • nolanwiffle - May 29, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        Thanks for the suggestion. An interesting life for sure.

      • cubanxsenators - May 29, 2013 at 1:21 PM

        He also was a pioneer in publishing serious works in paperback. He bought paperback rights to many literary, philosophical and intellectual works and made them available for far cheaper than they had been — a true democratizer of knowledge and thought.

        Haven’t seen him recently, but as recently as 5-6 years ago, he could still be seen walking in North Beach.

    • clemente2 - May 29, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Or better yet, get a copy of the book “Coney Island of the Mind”, and open yours.

      “Sarolla’s women in their picture hats….”

  4. dowhatifeellike - May 29, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    “Baseball Canto” is great. Thanks for sharing.

  5. stoutfiles - May 29, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    “baseball’s second best poem”

    In your opinion. “Casey at the Bat” is well known for a reason.

  6. captainwisdom8888 - May 29, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    I gotta be honest with myself…I think poem is just flat out awful.

    • recoveringcubsfan - May 29, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Hopefully you mean both of them. Baseball Canto is some maudlin, sappy shit. But fuck whitey, amirite?

      • cubanxsenators - May 29, 2013 at 1:23 PM

        Go read Pound’s Cantos and get back to us and tell us ifuareright.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 29, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        Yeah…kill whitey!

      • cubanxsenators - May 29, 2013 at 5:38 PM

        Ugh, it’s about refuting fascism & anti-Semitism, people.

        And lest you think those things died at the end of the War, Pound was openly supporting Fascism and Fascist causes into the 1960s, at least. Pound’s Cantos are full of such ugliness.

        Ferlinghetti is delighting in the oppressed asserting strength & ability and in those with a history of oppressing being tweaked. No one is killing anyone.

  7. skerney - May 29, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    I’ve always been partial to Ogden Nash’s “Lineup for Yesterday.”

  8. pike573 - May 29, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    All I know is that Craig is good at taking one piece of information (125 year anniversary of Casey) discounting it, and then telling us what he likes better… is a blog I suppose… not a news site

  9. tmohr - May 29, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Cepeda runs to field the ball
    So does Hiller so does Miller
    Miller hollers Hiller. Hiller hollers Miller.
    Haller hollers Miller points to Hiller with his fist.
    And that’s the Miller-Hiller-Haller Hallelujah Twist!

    • hep3 - May 29, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      Big Frank……… BUNTS!

  10. derklempner - May 29, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    Previously, I’ve posted the full text to my favorite modern-day version/parody of Casey at the Bat, so this time I’m just linking to my rarely-updated blog where you can read the poem in its entirety:

    Selig at the Bat

  11. scyankee64 - May 29, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Riley On The Mound
    Foster Brooks – 1978
    If I were to say to you
    That Riley was me name
    I expect that you might say,
    So what’s your claim to fame?.

    I don’t suppose you’ve heard of me
    Their ain’t much doubt about that
    But I’m the guy who made ’em write
    “Casey At The Bat”.

    I was on the mound that day
    When Casey met his doom
    I turned a very happy town
    Into a state of gloom.

    I’d heard about this guy a lot
    A “hero” in Mudville town
    And I decided right then and there
    To make that bum a clown.

    I remember the big game very well
    We were leadin’ four to two
    Git ’em out just one more time
    Was all I had to do .

    Cooney was the first man up
    And tried to start some trouble
    When he lined a single to deep right field
    But we nipped his stretch for a double .

    Burrows was next in the batter’s box
    And drove one clear to the wall
    He stumbled as he turned first base
    And we beat ‘im to second with the ball .

    Two men out – Flynn was at bat
    And he was about their worst
    But I must’ve eased up ’cause he caught one
    And wound up standin’ on first .

    Blakey came up and belted one
    I got a little careless I reckon
    Flynn was safe then on a slide to third
    As Blakey pulled in at second

    The roar that went up from the grandstand
    Could be heard for twenty miles
    Five thousand fans goin’ stark ravin’ mad
    Their faces all covered with smiles

    I knowed what it was that set ’em off
    Their “Hero” was comin’ to bat – ha ha ha
    Ol’ “Mighty Casey” was strollin’ to the plate
    But I could take care of that .

    He wouldn’t get lucky like Blakey and Flynn
    On him I’d really bear down
    Like I said before – I’m the guy
    Swore to make the bum a clown

    He tipped his cap and waved his hand
    And that made the fans more wild
    But it didn’t bother me one little bit
    I just stood there and smiled .

    He’d been on twice on two bad calls
    And once on a very close play
    But here – it was time to go to work
    And put this joker away .

    I put me fast one just inside
    And Casey let it go by
    “Strike One!” the umpire screamed
    And Casey didn’t bat an eye .

    Some of the fans started for the field
    But stopped when Casey raised his hand
    And I’ve always thought – if he hadn’t done that
    They might’ve torn down the bloomin’ stand .

    When the umpire called the next one a strike
    I thought they’d chase ‘im out of town
    And it looked as though they might’ve too
    If “Ol’ Case” hadn’t calmed ’em down .

    The pressure was getting’ to us both by now
    I pulled me belt up a hitch
    And let one go that had to be
    Me number one “Sunday Pitch” .

    Casey swung with all his might
    He gave it all he had
    And even though I struck ‘im out
    I couldn’t help feelin’ sad .

    Sure, we won the pennant
    But when I looked at the crowd
    They all turned their backs on the “Great Casey”
    As he walked away head bowed .

    Now – All this took place many years ago
    And ever since then we’ve read
    About poor ol’ Casey strikin’ out
    It should’ve been about me instead

    So when you guys are sittin’ around
    Jawin’ about our favorite game
    Remember Casey if you want
    But it was Riley put ‘im to shame

    • jimeejohnson - May 29, 2013 at 9:07 PM

      Foster Brooks: a very funny man.

    • tuloisgod - May 30, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      I’ve always been fond of Garrison Keillor’s “Casey at the Bat (Road Game)”:

      It was looking rather hopeful for our Dustburg team that day:
      We were leading Mudville four to two with an inning left to play.
      We got Cooney on a grounder and Muldoon on the same,
      Two down, none on, top of the ninth- we thought we’d won the game.

      Mudville was despairing, and we grinned and cheered and clapped.
      It looked like after all these years our losing streak had snapped.
      And we only wished that Casey, the big fat ugly lout,
      Could be the patsy who would make the final, shameful out.

      Oh how we hated Casey, he was a blot upon the game.
      Every dog in Dustburg barked at the mention of his name.
      A bully and a braggart, a cretin and a swine-
      If Casey came to bat, we’d stick it where the moon don’t shine!

      Two out and up came Flynn to bat, with Jimmy Blake on deck,
      And the former was a loser and the latter was a wreck;
      Though the game was in the bag, the Dustburg fans were hurt
      To think that Casey would not come and get his just dessert.

      But Flynn he got a single, a most unlikely sight,
      And Blake swung like a lady but he parked it deep to right,
      And when the dust had lifted, and fickle fate had beckoned,
      There was Flynn on third base and Jimmy safe at second.

      Then from every Dustburg throat, there rose a lusty cry:
      “Bring up the slimy greaseball and let him stand and die.
      Throw the mighty slider and let him hear it whiz
      And let him hit a pop-up like the pansy that he is.”

      There was pride in Casey’s visage as he strode onto the grass,
      There was scorn in his demeanor as he calmly scratched his ass.
      Ten thousand people booed him when he stepped into the box,
      And they made the sound of farting when he bent to fix his socks.

      And the fabled slider came spinning toward the mitt,
      And Casey watched it sliding and he did not go for it.
      And the umpire jerked his arm like he was hauling down the sun,
      And his cry rang from the box seats to the bleachers: Stee-rike One!

      Ten thousand Dustburg partisans raised such a mighty cheer,
      The pigeons in the rafters crapped and ruined all the beer.
      “You filthy ignorant rotten bastard slimy son of a bitch,”
      We screamed at mighty Casey, and then came the second pitch.

      It was our hero’s fastball, it came across the plate,
      And according to the radar, it was going ninety-eight,
      And according to the umpire, it came in straight and true,
      And the cry rang from the toilets to the bullpen: Stee-rike Two.

      Ten thousand Dustburg fans arose in joyful loud derision
      To question Casey’s salary, his manhood, and his vision.
      Then while the Dustburg pitcher put the resin on the ball,
      Ten thousand people hooted to think of Casey’s fall.

      Oh the fury in his visage as he spat tobacco juice
      And heard the little children screaming violent abuse.
      He knocked the dirt from off his spikes, reached down and eased his pants
      “What’s the matter? Did ya lose ’em?” cried a lady in the stands.

      And then the Dustburg pitcher stood majestic on the hill,
      And leaned in toward the plate, and then the crowd was still,
      And he went into his windup, and he kicked, and let it go,
      And then the air was shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

      He swung so hard his hair fell off and he toppled in disgrace
      And the Dustburg catcher held the ball and the crowd tore up the place,
      With Casey prostrate in the dirt amid the screams and jeers
      We threw wieners down at him and other souvenirs.

      We pounded on the dugout roof as they helped him to the bench,
      Then we ran out to the parking lot and got a monkey wrench
      And found the Mudville bus and took the lug nuts off the tires,
      And attached some firecrackers to the alternator wires.

      We rubbed the doors and windows with a special kind of cheese
      That smells like something died from an intestinal disease.
      Old Casey took his sweet time, but we were glad to wait
      And we showered him with garbage as the team came out the gate.

      So happy were the Dustburg fans that grand and glorious day,
      It took a dozen cops to help poor Casey away,
      But we grabbed hold of the bumpers and we rocked him to and fro
      And he cursed us from inside the bus, and gosh, we loved it so!

      Oh sometimes in America the sun is shining bright,
      Life is joyful sometimes, and all the world seems right,
      But there is no joy in Dustburg, no joy so pure and sweet
      As when the mighty Casey fell, demolished, at our feet.

  12. grumpyoleman - May 30, 2013 at 7:08 AM

    It would have been number one but they didn’t have robots calling balls and strikes and the first guy was lucky to get on base.

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