This month – the 125th anniversary of the publication of Ernest Thayer’s poem “Casey at the Bat” in the San Francisco Examiner, and mere weeks after the Cubs “swept” the White Sox in interleague play – is a perfect time to recall Garrison Keillor’s alternate perspective, first produced for “A Prairie Home Companion” in 1994: “Casey at the Bat (Road Game)” –
It was looking rather hopeful for our Dustburg team that day:
We were leading Mudville 4 to 2 with an inning left to play.
We got Cooney on a grounder and Muldoon on the same,
Two down, none on, top of the ninth- we thought we'd won the game.
Mudville was despairing, and we grinned and cheered and clapped.
It looked like after all these years our losing streak had snapped.
And we only wished that Casey, the big fat ugly lout,
Could be the patsy who would make the final, shameful out.
Oh, how we hated Casey, he was a blot upon the game.
Every dog in Dustburg barked at the mention of his name.
A bully and a braggart, a cretin and a swine –
If Casey came to bat, we'd stick it where the moon don't shine!
Two out and up came Flynn to bat, with Jimmy Blake on deck,
And the former was a loser and the latter was a wreck.
Though the game was in the bag, the Dustburg fans were hurt
To think that Casey would not come and get his just dessert.
But Flynn he got a single, a most unlikely sight,
And Blake swung like a lady but he parked it deep to right,
And when the dust had lifted, and fickle fate had beckoned,
There was Flynn on third base and Jimmy safe at second.
Then from every Dustburg throat, there rose a lusty cry:
"Bring up the slimy greaseball and let him stand and die.
Throw the mighty slider and let him hear it whiz
And let him hit a pop-up like the pansy that he is."
There was pride in Casey's visage as he strode onto the grass,
There was scorn in his demeanor as he calmly scratched his ass.
Ten thousand people booed him when he stepped into the box,
And they made the sound of farting when he bent to fix his socks.
And the fabled slider was hurled, spinning toward the mitt,
And Casey watched it sliding and he did not go for it.
And the umpire jerked his arm like he was hauling down the sun,
And his cry rang from the box seats to the bleachers:Stee-rike 1!
Ten thousand Dustburg fans raised such a mighty cheer,
The pigeons in the rafters crapped and ruined all the beer.
"You filthy ignorant rotten bastard slimy son of a bitch,"
We screamed at mighty Casey, and then came the second pitch.
It was our hero's fastball, it came across the plate,
And according to the radar, it was going ninety-eight,
And according to the umpire, it came in straight and true,
And the cry rang from the toilets to the bullpen: Stee-rike Two.
Ten thousand Dustburg fans arose in joyful loud derision
To question Casey's salary, his manhood, and his vision.
Then while the Dustburg pitcher put the resin on the ball,
Ten thousand people hooted to think of Casey's fall.
Oh, the fury in his visage as he spat tobacco juice
And heard the little children screaming violent abuse.
He knocked the dirt from off his spikes, reached down and eased his pants
"What's the matter? Did ya lose 'em?" cried a lady in the stands.
And then the Dustburg pitcher stood majestic on the hill,
And leaned in toward the plate, and then the crowd was still,
And he went into his windup, and he kicked, and let it go,
And then the air was shattered by the force of Casey's blow.
He swung so hard his hair fell off and he toppled in disgrace
And the Dustburg catcher held the ball and the crowd tore up the place.
With Casey prostrate in the dirt amid the screams and jeers,
We threw wieners down at him and other souvenirs.
We pounded on the dugout roof as they helped him to the bench,
Then we ran out to the parking lot and got a monkey wrench
And found the Mudville bus and took the lug nuts off the tires,
And attached some firecrackers to the alternator wires.
We rubbed the doors and windows with a special kind of cheese
That smells like something died from an intestinal disease.
Old Casey took his sweet time, but we were glad to wait
And we showered him with garbage as the team came out the gate.
So happy were the Dustburg fans that grand and glorious day,
It took a dozen cops to help poor Casey get away,
But we grabbed hold of the bumpers and we rocked him to and fro
And he cursed us from inside the bus, and,gosh, we loved it so!
Oh, sometimes in America the sun is shining bright,
Life is joyful sometimes, and all the world seems right,
But there is no joy in Dustburg, no joy so pure and sweet
As when the mighty Casey fell, demolished, at our feet.
Bill Knight’s newspaper columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com