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szdaily -> Speak Shenzhen -> 
‘Casey at the Bat’
    2021-11-29  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

James Baquet

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.

Ernest Thayer’s classic ode to baseball, “Casey at the Bat,” was written in 1888. It brilliantly captures the joys and sorrows of sports fans everywhere, in just 52 lines.

The poem starts with the Mudville team two runs behind, and the game is nearly over. Two men are “out”; if one more fails, Mudville will have lost the game. Some fans are already leaving in despair, but a few still hope that the team’s heavy-hitter — a man named “Casey” — might get to bat and save the day.

And so it comes to pass — almost. Although the two men scheduled to hit before Casey are notoriously weak hitters, both manage to get on base.

A homerun by Casey will win the game 5 to 4. The crowd goes wild! The poet describes Casey’s supreme confidence as he steps up to bat: his benevolent smile to the crowd, his defiant sneer to the pitcher. But on the first pitch, Casey chooses not to swing. “That ain’t my style,” he says. And the umpire says that’s a strike. (The first two times a batter doesn’t swing, it counts as a strike, as though he had missed.)

Upon hearing this very reasonable decision, the crowd is outraged, one member yelling, “Kill the umpire!” But Casey, “with a smile of Christian charity,” raises his hand and signals the game should continue. And again he ignores the pitch, and the umpire says, “Strike two!”

The “maddened thousands” are beside themselves! But Casey stills the tumult once more, and steels his resolve. The crowd is sure he won’t miss a third time. If he does, he will “strike out” and the game will be over, with Mudville losing. He clenches his teeth and beats the plate with his bat — and here comes the pitch!

The last stanza reads:

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.

Vocabulary:

Which word above means:

1. kindness

2. chances, possibilities

3. the noisy disturbance made by a crowd

4. indicates

5. famously, in a negative way

6. gloominess, dark covering

7. a poem written in tribute to someone or something

8. customers

9. the “judge” in some kinds of sporting event

10. doesn’t give attention to

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