Casey at the Bat

Some readers may remember this poem by Ernest Thayer from an old Disney cartoon–or maybe have heard it referenced or parodied in one of a thousand other places, as it is simply the most popular baseball poem ever written. (Not that all that many poems have been written about baseball.) It is written in iambic heptameter, an ideal form for telling a story in poem, as it allows for longer phrases and more variation than tetrameter or pentameter. It is also an excellent example of metrical construction, in that it requires no particular effort from the reader to generate the rhythm: the rhythm is the product of natural speech, supporting rather than distracting from a story that might be told [less effectively] in prose.

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood two to four, with but an 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 that springs eternal within the human breast.
For they thought: “If only Casey would get a whack at that,”
They’d put even money now if Casey were at bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, and likewise so did Blake,
And the former was a pudd’n, and the later was a fake.
So on that stricken multitude a deathlike silence 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 occurred,
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 tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then when the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance glared 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 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, they 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 vengeance 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.

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