A baseball team from the fictional town of "Mudville" (the home team) is losing by two runs in its last inning. Both the team and its fans, a crowd of 5,000, believe that they can win if Casey, Mudville's star player, gets to bat. However, Casey is scheduled to be the fifth batter of the inning, and the first two batters (Cooney and Barrows) fail to get on base. The next two batters (Flynn and Jimmy Blake) are perceived to be weak hitters with little chance of reaching base to allow Casey a chance to bat.
Surprisingly, Flynn hits a single, and Blake follows with a double that allows Flynn to reach third base. Both runners are now in scoring position and Casey represents the potential winning run. Casey is so sure of his abilities that he does not swing at the first two pitches, both called strikes. On the last pitch, the overconfident Casey strikes out swinging, ending the game and sending the crowd home unhappy.
The text is filled with references to baseball as it was in 1888, which in many ways is not far removed from today's version. As a work, the poem encapsulates much of the appeal of baseball, including the involvement of the crowd. It also has a fair amount of baseball jargon that can pose challenges for the uninitiated.
This is the complete poem as it originally appeared in The Daily Examiner. After publication, various versions with minor changes were produced.
No one imagines that 'Casey' is great in the sense that the poetry of Shakespeare or Dante is great; a comic ballad obviously must be judged by different standards. One doesn’t criticize a slice of superb apple pie because it fails to taste like crepes suzette. Thayer was only trying to write a comic ballad, with clanking rhymes and a vigorous beat, that could be read quickly, understood at once, and laughed at by any newspaper reader who knew baseball. Somehow, in harmony with the curious laws of humor and popular taste, he managed to produce the nation's best-known piece of comic verse—a ballad that began a native legend as colorful and permanent as that of Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan.
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
the score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
they thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
they'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
and the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake,
so upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy 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 Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
and when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
it knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon 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 tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance gleamed in 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 a 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 bade 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 Echo answered fraud;
but one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
he pounds with cruel violence 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.
Thayer said he chose the name "Casey" after a non-player of Irish ancestry he once knew named Daniel H. Casey, and it is open to debate whom, if anyone, he modeled the character after. It has been reported that Thayer's best friend Samuel Winslow, who played baseball at Harvard, was the inspiration for Casey.
Another candidate is National League player Mike "King" Kelly, who became famous when Boston paid Chicago a record $10,000 for him. He had a personality that fans liked to cheer or jeer. After the 1887 season, Kelly went on a playing tour to San Francisco. Thayer, who wrote "Casey" in 1888, covered the San Francisco leg for the San Francisco Examiner.
Thayer, in a letter he wrote in 1905, mentions Kelly as showing "impudence" in claiming to have written the poem. The author of the 2004 definitive biography of Kelly—which included a close tracking of his vaudeville career—did not find Kelly claiming to have been the author.: 9
A month after the poem was published, it was reprinted as "Kelly at the Bat" in the New York Sporting Times.
Aside from omitting the first five verses, the only changes from the original are substitutions of Kelly for Casey, and Boston for Mudville.King Kelly, then of the Boston Beaneaters, was one of baseball's two biggest stars at the time (along with Cap Anson).: 9
In 1897, the magazine Current Literature noted the two versions and said, "The locality, as originally given, is Mudville, not Boston; the latter was substituted to give the poem local color."
1909 theatrical poster with DeWolf Hopper in A Matinee Idol
DeWolf Hopper gave the poem's first stage recitation on August 14, 1888, at New York's Wallack Theatre as part of the comic operaPrinz Methusalem in the presence of the Chicago and New York baseball teams, the White Stockings and the Giants, respectively; August 14, 1888 was also Thayer's 25th birthday. Hopper became known as an orator of the poem, and recited it more than 10,000 times (by his count—some tabulations are as much as four times higher) before his death.
"It is as perfect an epitome of our national game today as it was when every player drank his coffee from a mustache cup. There are one or more Caseys in every league, bush or big, and there is no day in the playing season that this same supreme tragedy, as stark as Aristophanes for the moment, does not befall on some field."
On stage in the early 1890s, baseball star Kelly recited the original "Casey" a few dozen times and not the parody. For example, in a review in 1893 of a variety show he was in, the Indianapolis News said, "Many who attended the performance had heard of Kelly's singing and his reciting, and many had heard De Wolf Hopper recite 'Casey at the Bat' in his inimitable way. Kelly recited this in a sing-song, school-boy fashion." Upon Kelly's death, a writer would say he gained "considerable notoriety by his ludicrous rendition of 'Casey at the Bat,' with which he concluded his 'turn' [act] at each performance.": 229
During the 1980s, the magic/comedy team Penn & Teller performed a version of "Casey at the Bat" with Teller (the "silent" partner) struggling to escape a straitjacket while suspended upside-down over a platform of sharp steel spikes. The set-up was that Penn Jillette would leap off his chair upon finishing the poem, releasing the rope which supported Teller, and send Teller to a gruesome death if Teller had failed to free himself by that time. Jillette enhanced the drama of the performance by drastically accelerating the pace of his recital after the first few stanzas, greatly reducing the time that Teller had left to work free from his bonds.
On July 4, 2008, Jack Williams recited the poem accompanied by the Boston Pops during the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular at Boston's Fourth of July Celebration.
On July 14, 2013, the jam rock band Furthur performed the poem as part of a second-set medley in center field of Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York.
In 1973, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra commissioned its former Composer-in-Residence, Frank Proto, to create a work to feature Baseball Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bench with the orchestra. The result "Casey At The Bat – an American Folk Tale for Narrator and Orchestra" was an immediate hit and recorded by Bench and the orchestra. It has since been performed more than 800 times by nearly every major and Metropolitan orchestra in the U.S. and Canada.
On a 1997 CD set with memorable moments and stories from the game of baseball titled Take Me Out to the Ball Game produced by Jerry Hoffman and Douglas Duer, a Vincent Price oration of the poem is a slightly altered version of the original.
In 1998, actor Sir Derek Jacobi recorded the poem with Composer/Arranger Randol Alan Bass and the National Symphony of London, with the composer conducting. This work, titled "Casey at the Bat" has been recorded by the Boston Pops Orchestra, Keith Lockhart conducting.
In 2013, Dave Jageler and Charlie Slowes, both radio announcers for the Washington Nationals, each made recordings of the poem for the Library of Congress to mark the 125th anniversary of its first publication.
A rivalry of sorts has developed between two cities claiming to be the Mudville described in the poem.
Holliston, Massachusetts – Mudville Village, Statue and Plaque Dedicated to "Casey" of "Casey at the Bat"
Holliston, Massachusetts – Mudville Village, Welcome Sign
Residents of Holliston, Massachusetts, where there is a neighborhood called Mudville, claim it as the Mudville described in the poem. Thayer grew up in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts, where he wrote the poem in 1888; his family owned a wool mill less than 1 mi (1.6 km) from Mudville's baseball field.
However, residents of Stockton, California—which was known for a time as Mudville prior to incorporation in 1850—also lay claim to being the inspiration for the poem. In 1887, Thayer covered baseball for The Daily Examiner—owned by his Harvard classmate William Randolph Hearst—and is said to have covered the local California League team, the Stockton Ports. For the 1902 season, after the poem became popular, Stockton's team was renamed the Mudville Nine. The team reverted to the Mudville Nine moniker for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The Visalia Rawhide, another California League team, currently keeps Mudville alive playing in Mudville jerseys on June 3 each year.
Kurtis Scaletta's 2009 children's novel, Mudville, is about a town where it has been raining for 22 years, delaying a baseball game between two rival towns.
Christopher Bing's 2000 children's book, an illustrated version of the original poem by Thayer, won a Caldecott Honor for its line drawing illustrations made to look like newspaper articles from 1888.
Marvel Comics published a spoof in August 1969, in the 9th issue of Not Brand Echh, featuring parodies of their popular heroes and villains, and the Bulk (parody of the Hulk) as Casey.
DC Comics' series Fables from the Vertigo Comics imprint featured an adaptation titled "Out to the Ball Game", which features a similar baseball match, with Weyland Smith playing the part of Casey against a team of goblins.
Walt Disney produced an animated short adaptation of the poem for the film Make Mine Music (1946) and uses the original text, but is set in 1902 according to the opening song's lyrics, instead of 1888. This version is recited by Jerry Colonna. It was later released as an individual short on July 16, 1954. Several differences and expansions from the original text include, but are not limited to; the team playing against Mudville is identified as Burbank, Barrows failing to get on base when he smacks the ball back into the pitcher's mitt, Flynn hitting a single (much to his own surprise) due to trying to get his bat out of his moustache which got caught in it and Blake getting a double due to an attempt by the visiting team's catcher to set his foot on fire. All the human characters in this cartoon have hands with 4 fingers instead of the real-life 5 fingers.
The poem is cited in Frederic Wiseman's documentary High School (1968) by a teacher in a classroom.
A 1976 animated short adaptation, featuring narration by Paul Frees, was released in 1976 by Fine Arts Films.
In How I Met Your Mother, the episode "Bedtime Stories" (which is done entirely in rhymes) features a subplot called "Mosby At The Bat". The start of that section of the episode begins with "The outlook wasn't brilliant for poor Ted's romantic life", a line based on the opening of the original poem.
In One Tree Hill, season 8 episode "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" was a flashback-heavy episode revolving around a baseball game with Jamie Scott narrating the poem throughout.
The song "Centerfield" by John Fogerty includes the line "Well, I spent some time in the Mudville Nine, watchin' it from the bench. You know I took some lumps when the Mighty Casey struck out."
The song "No Joy In Pudville" by Steroid Maximus is a reference to this poem.
Joe Walsh's 1973 song "Rocky Mountain Way" features the lyrics "Bases are loaded/ And Casey's at bat/ Playin' it play-by-play/ Time to change the batter."
In 2008 American composer Randol Alan Bass used the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by Alfred Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth in Casey at the Bat, a setting of the poem for concert band and narrator.
Allen Feinstein composed an adaptation for orchestra with a narrator.
An orchestral version was composed by Stephen Simon in 1976 for the US bicentennial; Maestro Classics' has recorded it with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Stephen Simon conducting with Yadu (Dr. Konrad Czynski) narrating.
For a relatively short poem apparently dashed off quickly (and denied by its author for years), "Casey at the Bat" had a profound effect on American popular culture. It has been recited, re-enacted, adapted, dissected, parodied, and subjected to just about every other treatment one could imagine.
"Casey's Revenge", by Grantland Rice (1907), gives Casey another chance against the pitcher who had struck him out in the original story. It was written in 1906, and its first known publication was in the quarterly magazine The Speaker in June 1907, under the pseudonym of James Wilson. In this version, Rice cites the nickname "Strike-Out Casey", hence the influence on Casey Stengel's name. Casey's team is down three runs by the last of the ninth, and once again Casey is down to two strikes—with the bases full this time. However, he connects, hits the ball so far that it is never found.
"Casey - Twenty Years Later", by Clarence P. McDonald (1908), imagines a different redemption for Casey, long after his retirement. The poem, which was indeed published twenty years after the original, in the San Francisco Examiner, sees Casey attending a championship game between the fictional team of "Bugville" and an unspecified opponent. In a losing effort, Bugville's players are benched and injured throughout the game, until the captain is forced to call for a volunteer from the attendees. An aged Casey answers the call and fills the role surprisingly well, culminating with him hitting the game-winning home run, in his first swing at bat. He then reveals his identity to the joyous fans and players.
In response to the popularity of the 1946 Walt Disney animated adaptation, Disney made a sequel, Casey Bats Again (1954), in which Casey's nine daughters redeem his reputation.
In 1988, on the 100th anniversary of the poem, Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford constructed a fanciful story (later expanded to book form) for what happened before and after the famous ball game.
Of the many parodies made of the poem, some of the notable ones include:
Mad magazine republished the original version of the poem in the 1950s with artwork by Jack Davis and no alterations to the text. Later lampoons in Mad included "'Cool' Casey at the Bat" (1960), an interpretation of the poem in beatnik style, with artwork by Don Martin although the ending still has Casey striking out; "Casey at the Dice" in 1969, about a professional gambler; "Casey at the Contract Talks" in 1974 (which ends with the owner telling Casey to "practice hard at home this year 'cause now you've struck out twice"); Casey at the Talks" in 1977, a "modern" version of the famed poem in which Mudville tries unsuccessfully to sign free agent Casey [the last line of which is "Mighty Casey has held out"]; "Baseball at the Bat", a satire on baseball itself, "Howard at the Mike", about Howard Cosell; "Casey at the Byte" (1985), a tale of a cocky young computer expert who accidentally erases the White House Budget Plan; "Clooney as the Bat", a mockery of George Clooney's role as Batman in Batman and Robin; and in 2006 as "Barry at the Bat", poking fun at Barry Bonds' alleged involvement in the BALCO scandal; in 2001, "Jordan at the Hoop", satirizing Michael Jordan's return to the NBA and his time with the Washington Wizards; and in 2012, "Casey at the Trial", satirizing Casey Anthony's acquittal in the case of the death of her daughter Caylee. It also includes a "Poetry Round Robin" where famous poems are rewritten in the style of the next poet in line, featured Casey at the Bat as written by Edgar Allan Poe.
Sportswriter Leonard Koppett claimed in a 1979 tongue-in-cheek article that the published poem omits 18 lines penned by Thayer, which changed the overall theme of the poem. Koppett added lines, claiming to have transcribed them off an old phonograph recording, that take the pitch count on Casey to full. Meanwhile, his uncle Arnold stirs up wagering action in the stands, before a wink passes between them. Casey throws the game.
Foster Brooks ("the Lovable Lush" from the Dean Martin Show) wrote "Riley on the Mound", which recounts the story from the pitcher's perspective. 
Author Phil Bolsta penned a parody entitled "Hrbek at the Bat" about Twins slugger Kent Hrbek which was published in 1987 in the Minneapolis Review of Baseball.
Radio performer Garrison Keillor's parodic version of the poem reimagines the game as a road game, instead of a home game, for the Mudville team. The same events occur with Casey striking out in the ninth inning as in the original poem, but with everything told from the perspective of other team.
An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures featured a short titled "Buster at the Bat", where Sylvester provides narration as Buster goes up to bat. The poem was parodied again for an episode of Animaniacs, this time with Wakko as the title character and Yakko narrating.
In the fourth season of Garfield and Friends the episode entitled "Mind Over Matter/Orson at the Bat/Multiple Choice Cartoon" features Wade Duck narrating a parody of the poem as Orson Pig experiences it in a dream sequence.
In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "Return of the Nanobots", Cindy's poem is identical to the ending of "Casey at the Bat" but replaces Mudville with Retroville and the last famed line with "cause Jimmy is an idiot!"
The New York Times published a parody by Hart Seely and Frank Cammuso in which the poem was narrated by Phil Rizzuto, a New York Yankees announcer who was known to veer off on tangents while calling the game. The poem was later published in Seely and Cammuso's book, 2007 Eleven And Other American Comedies.
David Pogue penned a parody version titled 'A Desktop Critic: Steven Saves the Mac' for Macworld magazine that ran in their October 1999 issue. It tells the story of Steve Jobs' triumphant return to a struggling Apple Inc and his early efforts to reverse the company's fortunes.
Dick Flavin wrote a version titled Teddy at the Bat, after Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams died in July 2002. Flavin performed the poem at Fenway Park during the night-long tribute to Williams done at the park later that month. The poem replaced Flynn and Blake with Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky, the batters who preceded Williams in the 1946 Red Sox lineup.
Norman Jackman wrote a reversed-outcome version in 1951 called "Bobby Thomson at the Bat," which went unknown for over 60 years until the San Francisco Giants published it in 2012. It's about Thomson's famous home run in a 1951 Giant-Dodger playoff game. In 2016, the poem was accepted into the poetry files of the National Baseball Library and Archive of the Hall of Fame.
Baseball writer and Villanova professor Mitchell Nathanson updated the poem for contemporary times in 2019, publishing "Casey @ the Bat" in The Washington Post.
There are three known translations of the poem into a foreign language, one in French, written in 2007 by French Canadian linguist Paul Laurendeau, with the title Casey au bâton, and two in Hebrew. One by the sports journalist Menachem Less titled "התור של קייסי לחבוט" [Hator Shel Casey Lachbot], and the other more recent and more true to the original cadence and style by Jason H. Elbaum called קֵיסִי בַּמַּחְבֵּט [Casey BaMachbayt].
Casey Stengel describes in his autobiography how his original nickname "K.C." (for his hometown, Kansas City, Missouri) evolved into "Casey". It was influenced not just by the name of the poem, which was widely popular in the 1910s, but also because he tended to strike out frequently in his early career so fans and writers started calling him "strikeout Casey".
A third-season episode of Storm Chasers was titled "Sean Casey At Bat". The episode featured Casey (a chaser) intercepting a tornado for the first time in TIV 2.
In the show Friends, Ross clarifies how to spell "Casey" as in "at the bat" in the Season 2, episode 14 titled "The One with the Prom Video."
In the show Containment, Season 1, episode 6 takes its name, "He Stilled the Rising Tumult", from the poem.
Casey's Corner is a baseball-themed restaurant in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, which serves primarily hotdogs. Pictures of Casey and the pitcher from the Disney animated adaptation are hanging on the walls, and a life-size statue of a baseball player identified as "Casey" stands just outside the restaurant. Additionally, the scoreboard in the restaurant shows that Mudville lost to the visitors by two runs.
A hot dog restaurant featuring the Disney character can be found at Disneyland Paris' Disneyland Park since its opening in 1992, under the name Casey's Corner.
^1998 CD: Play Ball! – Erich Kunzel – Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Recorded 1996 with Arranger/Composer Steven Reineke and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra (insert credits) – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0000064U5