"Casey at the Bat" as it first appeared, June 3, 1888
"Casey at the Bat" as it first appeared, June 3, 1888

"Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888" is a poem written in 1888 by Ernest Thayer. It was first published anonymously in The San Francisco Examiner (then called The Daily Examiner) on June 3, 1888, under the pen name "Phin", based on Thayer's college nickname, "Phinney".[1] Featuring a dramatic narrative about a baseball game, the poem was later popularized by DeWolf Hopper in many vaudeville performances.[2][3] It has become one of the best-known poems in American literature.

Synopsis

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.

Text

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.

Martin Gardner, American Heritage[1]

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.

Inspiration

Thayer said he chose the name "Casey" after a non-player of Irish ancestry he once knew named Daniel H. Casey,[4] 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.[5][6][7]

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.[8]: 9 

Composition and publication history

"Casey at the Bat" was first published in The Daily Examiner on June 3, 1888.

A month after the poem was published, it was reprinted as "Kelly at the Bat" in the New York Sporting Times.[9] Aside from omitting the first five verses, the only changes from the original are substitutions of Kelly for Casey, and Boston for Mudville.[10] King Kelly, then of the Boston Beaneaters, was one of baseball's two biggest stars at the time (along with Cap Anson).[8]: 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."[11]

Live performances

1909 theatrical poster with DeWolf Hopper in A Matinee Idol
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 opera Prinz 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.[1]

"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."[1]

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."[8]: 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.[12]

Recordings

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External video
2014DworskyKeillor.jpg
video icon Casey at the Bat, Garrison Keillor with Rich Dworsky, Prairie Home Companion, 5:29, July 14, 2013

The first recorded version of "Casey at the Bat" was made by Russell Hunting, speaking in a broad Irish accent, in 1893; an 1898 cylinder recording of the text made for the Columbia Graphophone label by Hunting can be accessed from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.

DeWolf Hopper's more famous recorded recitation was released in October 1906.

In 1946, Walt Disney released a recording of the narration of the poem by Jerry Colonna, which accompanied the studio's animated cartoon adaptation of the poem (see below).

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.

In 1980, baseball pitcher Tug McGraw recorded Casey at The Bat—an American Folk Tale for Narrator and Orchestra by Frank Proto with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.

In 1996, actor James Earl Jones recorded the poem with Arranger/Composer Steven Reineke and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.[13][14]

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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

Mudville

A rivalry of sorts has developed between two cities claiming to be the Mudville described in the poem.[18]

Holliston, Massachusetts – Mudville Village, Statue and Plaque Dedicated to "Casey" of "Casey at the Bat"
Holliston, Massachusetts – Mudville Village, Statue and Plaque Dedicated to "Casey" of "Casey at the Bat"
Holliston, Massachusetts – Mudville Village, Welcome Sign
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.[citation needed]

Despite the towns' rival claims, Thayer himself told the Syracuse Post-Standard that "the poem has no basis in fact."[1]

Adaptations

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Tim Wiles, former Director of Research at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, frequently dresses as Casey to recite the poem.
Tim Wiles, former Director of Research at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, frequently dresses as Casey to recite the poem.

The poem has been adapted to diverse types of media:

Books

Comics

Film

Radio

Television

Music

Theatre

Derivations

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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.[1]

Sequels

Parodies

Of the many parodies made of the poem, some of the notable ones include:

Translations

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],[35] and the other more recent and more true to the original cadence and style by Jason H. Elbaum called קֵיסִי בַּמַּחְבֵּט [Casey BaMachbayt].[36]

Names

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".[37]

Contemporary culture

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Video Games

Television

Theme parks

Postage stamp

On July 11, 1996, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp depicting "Mighty Casey." The stamp was part of a set commemorating American folk heroes. Other stamps in the set depicted Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Pecos Bill.[40]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Gardner, Martin (October 1967). "Casey At The Bat". American Heritage. 18 (6). Retrieved October 20, 2012.
  2. ^ "Casey at the Bat". Baseball Almanac.
  3. ^ Armenti, Peter (June 4, 2013). "The First Publication of "Casey at the Bat"". From the Catbird Seat. Library of Congress.
  4. ^ O'Donnell, Edward T. "The Origins of the Mighty Casey". In The Past Lane. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  5. ^ "Casey at the Bat". Joslin Hall. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  6. ^ Gardner, Martin (October 1967). "Casey At The Bat". American Heritage. 18 (6). Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  7. ^ Canale, Larry (November 6, 2012). "Casey Might Have Struck Out, But Related Memorabilia Does Not". Sports Collectors Digest. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Rosenberg, Howard W. (2004). Cap Anson 2: The Theatrical and Kingly Mike Kelly: U.S. Team Sport's First Media Sensation and Baseball's Original Casey at the Bat. Tile Books. ISBN 0-9725574-1-5.
  9. ^ "Ernest Lawrence Thayer and "Casey at the Bat"". Joslin Hall Rare Books News List. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  10. ^ Moore, Jim; Vermilyea, Natalie (1994). Ernest Thayer's "Casey at the bat" : background and characters of baseball's most famous poem. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. p. 2. ISBN 9780899509976.
  11. ^ "Casey at the Bat". Current Literature. 21 (2): 129. February 1897.
  12. ^ "Furthur Live at Doubleday Field on 2013-07-14". July 14, 2013.
  13. ^ "Casey At The Bat". Casey at the Bat – James Earl Jones. YouTube. Archived from the original on September 3, 2012. Retrieved June 3, 2011.
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ "Casey at the Bat (Voice)". YouTube.
  16. ^ "Casey at the Bat". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 24, 2021.
  17. ^ Osterberg, Gayle (June 3, 2013). "A Special Recording to Celebrate Casey's 125th". Library of Congress Blog.
  18. ^ Zezima, Katie (March 31, 2004). "Mudville Journal; In 'Casey' Rhubarb, 2 Cities Cry 'Foul!'". New York Times.
  19. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: Casey at the Bat". Silent Era.
  20. ^ Wilson, John, Casey at the Bat (Animation, Short), Fine Arts Films, retrieved December 30, 2021
  21. ^ Grams, Martin (February 27, 2008). Radio drama : a comprehensive chronicle of American network programs, 1932-1962. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 9780786438716. OCLC 188535974.
  22. ^ "How I Met Your Mother Episode Bedtime Stories Scripts". springfieldspringfield.co.uk. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  23. ^ Casey at the Bat, poem by Ernest L. Thayer, a setting for concert band and narrator by Randol Alan Bass. Alfred Publishing Co., Inc., 2008
  24. ^ Gardner, Martin (1995). The Annotated Casey at the Bat: A Collection of Ballads About the Mighty Casey. Dover Publications. p. 38. ISBN 0-486-28598-7.
  25. ^ McDonald, Clarence. "CASEY - TWENTY YEARS LATER BY CLARENCE P. MCDONALD". p. [1].
  26. ^ Deford, Frank (July 18, 1988). "Huge Commotion in Mudville". Sports Illustrated. Vol. 69, no. 3. Time, Inc. pp. 55–75. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  27. ^ Koppett, Leonard (August 4, 1979). "Casey at Bat? He Was Fraud!". The Sporting News. p. 16.
  28. ^ "For A Guy Who Struck Out 100 Years Ago, Mighty Casey Is Still". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  29. ^ "Hrbek at the Bat by Phil Bolsta on Baseball Almanac".
  30. ^ Keillor, Garrison. "Casey at the Bat (Road Game)". Baseball Almanac.
  31. ^ Pogue, David (October 1999). "The Desktop Critic: Steven Saves the Mac". Macworld.
  32. ^ MLB.com/blogs (February 2, 2012). "Bobby Thomson at the Bat". SF Giants Photos. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  33. ^ "Gordon Hayward is in the NBA". April 5, 2017.
  34. ^ "Opinion | 'Casey @ the Bat,' a poem for baseball in the modern era - The Washington Post". The Washington Post.
  35. ^ הספורט הגדולה מכולן! Archived July 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Elbaum, Jason H. "Casey at the Bat in Hebrew".
  37. ^ Stengel, Casey; Paxton, Harry T. (1962). Casey at the Bat: The Story of My Life in Baseball. New York: Random House. p. 11.
  38. ^ "Casey (anime)". Bulbapedia.
  39. ^ "Transcript of The One with the Prom Video". friends.tktv.net.
  40. ^ "Mighty Casey". US Stamp Gallery.