Casey at the Bat

March 30, 2008

Around this time of year – baseball season – I wonder about the mythology and history surrounding this great game. I guess mythology is incorrect because the players might think they’re gods, but they’ve got nothing on Zeus and all those other guys.

But in honor of the Red Sox defending YET ANOTHER World Series title and the opening day of Major League Baseball, I recorded a dramatic reading of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s Casey at the Bat. Here is the MP3 file.

And here are the words if you want to follow along.

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

It looked extremely rocky
for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood two to four,
with but one inning left to play.

So, when Cooney died at second,
and Burrows did the same,
A pallor wreathed the features
of the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go,
leaving there the rest,
With that hope which springs eternal
within the human breast.

For they thought:  “If only Casey
could get a whack at that,”
They’d put even money now,
with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey,
and likewise so did Blake,
And the former was a pudd’n
and the latter was a fake.

So on that stricken multitude
a deathlike sentence sat;
For there seemed but little chance
of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single,
to the wonderment of all.
And the much-despised Blakey
“tore the cover off the ball.”

And when the dust had lifted,
and they saw what had occured,
There was Blakey safe at second,
and Flynn a-huggin’ third.

Then from the gladdened multitude
went up a joyous yell–
It rumbled in the mountaintops,
it rattled in the dell;

It struck upon the hillside
and rebounded on the flat;
For Casey, mighty Casey,
was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner
as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey’s bearing
and a smile on Casey’s face;

And when responding to the cheers
he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt
’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him
as he rubbed his hands with dirt,
Five thousand toungues applauded
when he wiped them on his shirt;

Then when the writhing pitcher
ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed from Casey’s eye,
a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere
came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it
in haughty grandeur there.

Close by the sturdy batsman
the ball unheeded sped;
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey.
“Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people,
there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves
on the stern and distant shore.

“Kill him!  Kill the umpire!”
shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him
had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity
great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult
he made the game go on;

He signaled to the pitcher,
and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it,
and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands,
and the echo answered, “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey
and the audience was awed;

They saw his face grow stern and cold,
the saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let
the ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lips,
his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel vengence
his bat upon the plate;

And now the pitcher holds the ball,
and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered
by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land
the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere,
and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere men are laughing,
and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville–
mighty Casey has struck out.

More to come…

***OH. If your name is Molly F., then I want you to apologize to your husband for me. I never connected the two of you in my mind because you’re so stunning and brilliant that anyone would fade slightly into the background when they’re around you. You can ridicule me all you want, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.***