"Casey @ the Bat" (Subtitled "A poem for baseball in the modern era") is the latest addition to the "Casey" canon! This masterful take on the time-honored legend appeared in the Washington Post on October 1, just in time for the post-season. And beneath the levity is concealed a poignant message regarding the way the "modern era" game is both played...and digitally displayed.
The author is Mitchell Nathanson, a faculty member of the Charles Widger School of Law at Villanova University, a well-established baseball scholar, writing at the "intersection of sports, law, and society" according to his impressive bio. Nathanson is the author of A People's History of Baseball (University of Illinois Press, 2012) and of a forthcoming biography of the pitcher and author Jim Bouton, among other works..
Mitchell J. Nathanson, Villanova University, author of The People's History of Baseball and of "Casey @ the Bat"
Martin Gardner, who became known as the "keeper of the Casey canon" for his well-annotated editions of the many successive versions of "Casey at the Bat" in 20th century American culture, would have been very proud to add this to the collection. For now and the foreseeable future, keep your eye on Caseyatthe.blog for every new interpretation of the ancient legend!
Also, for those not familiar with the specialized sabermetric lingo BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and WAR (wins above replacement) you may want to click on these terms as displayed in this paragraph. As for PitchTrax, this is the technology by which we are able to view the exact trajectory, speed, movement and plate arrival of every pitch seen on TV.
And without further introduction, but with appreciation for Mitchell Nathanson's creativity, please enjoy "Casey @ the Bat!" (And kudos to Nathanson for following the original 13-stanza format of Ernest Thayer's original!)
Casey @ the Bat: A poem for baseball in the modern era
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 whiffed again, the eighteenth K that night,
A sickly silence fell, for somehow baseball wasn’t right.
A straggling few got up and left, annoyed they even came;
And most who stayed were kind of drunk or wagered on the game.
Yet still to come was Casey, whom the fans had long extolled,
Though at the age of 31 the metrics deemed him old.
But first ahead of him was Flynn, a player much accursed;
Another guy came up as well, his name recalled by few;
Confusion sowed by double switches made in hour two.
But Flynn defied the numbers, making contact with the ball;
And sent it on a mighty arc — it caromed off the wall.
“The guy should be on third,” a salty graybeard spat and cursed,
As Flynn removed his batting gloves, a jogger still at first.
The other guy? A double by the waiver-wire addition;
(His former owner dumping salary without contrition);
And when the blaring music stopped, fans noticed what occurred,
Instead of crossing o’er the plate, young Flynn was still at third.
As Casey stepped into the box, the scoreboard roared “Make Noise!”;
The crowd most surely would’ve done, if not for all their toys.
About 5,000 hometown fans were checking in on Twitter;
So most remained oblivious to Casey as the hitter.
"...about 5000 fans were checking in on Twitter..." (Fans at Diamondbacks game)
Ten thousand eyes were somewhere else as he scratched upon the dirt;
And Velcro-strapped his gloves and touched six places on his shirt.
And kissed his bat, then tapped the plate nine times or maybe 10;
Then from the box did Casey step, and start it all again.
The pitcher’s antics on the mound were also quite a show;
Whole seasons seemed to pass before he hinted at a throw.
Yet here it came, the cowhide sphere, arriving at great speed;
“Strike one,” the umpire firmly called. But PitchTrax disagreed.
The fans who watched upon their phones could see it plain: outside;
Unless their phones had zero bars, or batteries had died.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” the fans all stood and roared;
At least so roared the older ones, the younger ones seemed bored.
Two strikes remained. The oldsters, stressed, began to wring their hands;
While younger fans, in hour four, sped toward concession stands.
Then Casey dug in once again; the second spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike Two.”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened few at the blue-clad, rule-bound fools,
While waving off the heady clouds sent up from nearby Juuls.
Now, Casey’s face grew stern and cold, the fans all rose as one;
As midnight neared their hope was clear: just let the game be done.
As Casey runs the metrics, and adjusts his swing for lift;
The fielders check their little cards, and drift into a shift.
And now the pitcher fires a rocket off, despite his ample gut;
And now the air is shattered by great Casey’s uppercut.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sport's as it used to be;
And fans still hang on Casey’s fate, not exit velocity.
But that era’s gone — don’t cry into your $15 beer;
While all the laughing children shout, “Football season’s here!”
--Mitchell J. Nathanson, in the Washington Post, October 1, 2019
Bernard Maisner artwork from the series "Casey at the Bat" commissioned by the National Pastime Museum
Thanks to Tom Szeczerbowski and his blog "SewerBall" for the cover image.
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