Final Thoughts: Casey at the Bat

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

Casey at the Bat, Ernest Lawrence Thayer

I grew up in a baseball household and have a deep affection for the game and for it’s history. So of course, I am extremely familiar with the most famous baseball poem in history and many of the variations that exist of it. This poem is, of course, Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888 by Ernest Lawrence Thayer and was published first in 1888 in a San Francisco newspaper. There are many different illustrated versions of this poem, but one of my favorites is by Patricia Polacco.

Instead of the usual muscle-bound, mustachioed ballplayer, Polacco makes Casey a red-headed kid in a Little League game, playing for the Mudville Meadowlarks. He starts out true to form, but not on a great foot, when he arrives arrogantly late for the game. Still, his teammates and the crowd watching the game welcome him as their hero and the poem’s familiar story begins…

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 pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

Casey at the Bat, Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The details of this book are fantastic. I love the expressions on the kids’ faces (dejected and maybe nauseated when they are losing, excited when it looks like things are turning around, etc.). There are also crazy things happening in the background. For some reason, Casey’s sister (Connie) has a goat draped in the Mudville colors on the sidelines! I even love the illustration where Blake (tongue sticking out the side of his mouth) literally hits the cover off the ball and the cording inside is trailing out as it flies away.

This book is just fun and cute and does a great job of portaying the excitement and emotion of the poem. It may never take the place of the poem actually being performed aloud by a talented reader, but it’s a fun interpretation of the poem and I definitely enjoyed it!

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