A baseball team from the fictional town of "Mudville" (implied to be the home team) is losing by two runs in its last inning. Both the team and its fans (a crowd of 5,000, according to the poem) believe they can win if Casey, Mudville's star player, gets to bat. However, Casey is scheduled to be the fifth batter of the inning, and the first two batters (Cooney and Barrows) fail to get on base. The next two batters (Flynn and Jimmy Blake) are perceived to be weak hitters with little chance of reaching base to allow Casey a chance to bat.
Surprisingly, Flynn hits a single, and Blake follows with a double that allows Flynn to reach third base. Both runners are now in scoring position and Casey represents the potential winning run. Casey is so sure of his abilities that he does not swing at the first two pitches, both called strikes. On the last pitch, the overconfident Casey strikes out swinging, ending the game and sending the crowd home unhappy.
The text is filled with references to baseball as it was in 1888, which in many ways is not far removed from today's version. As a work, the poem encapsulates much of the appeal of baseball, including the involvement of the crowd. It also has a fair amount of baseball jargon that can pose challenges for the uninitiated.
This is the complete poem as it originally appeared in The Daily Examiner. After publication, various versions with minor changes were produced.
Thayer said he chose the name "Casey" after a non-player of Irish ancestry he once knew, and it is open to debate who, if anyone, he modeled the character after.
One candidate is National League player Mike "King" Kelly, who became famous when Boston paid Chicago a record $10,000 for him. He had a personality that fans liked to cheer or jeer. After the 1887 season, Kelly went on a playing tour to San Francisco. Thayer, who wrote "Casey" in 1888, covered the San Francisco leg for the San Francisco Examiner.
Thayer, in a letter he wrote in 1905, mentions Kelly as showing "impudence" in claiming to have written the poem. The author of the 2004 definitive bio of Kelly—which included a close tracking of his vaudeville career—did not find Kelly claiming to have been the author.:9
A month after the poem was published, it was reprinted as "Kelly at the Bat" in the New York Sporting Times. Aside from omitting the first five verses, the only changes from the original are substitutions of Kelly for Casey, and Boston for Mudville. King Kelly, then of the Boston Beaneaters, was one of baseball's two biggest stars at the time (along with Cap Anson).:9
In 1897, the magazine Current Literature noted the two versions and said, "The locality, as originally given, is Mudville, not Boston; the latter was substituted to give the poem local color."
Sportswriter Leonard Koppett claimed in a 1979 article that the published poem omits 18 lines penned by Thayer which change the entire theme of the poem. Koppett said the full version of the poem takes the pitch count on Casey to full as his uncle Arnold stirs up wagering action in the stands before a wink passes between them and Casey throws the game.
DeWolf Hopper gave the poem's first stage recitation on August 14, 1888, at New York's Wallack Theatre as part of the comic opera Prinz Methusalem in the presence of the Chicago and New York baseball teams, the White Stockings and the Giants, respectively; August 14, 1888 was also Thayer's 25th birthday. Hopper became known as an orator of the poem, and recited it more than 10,000 times (by his count—some tabulations are as much as four times higher) before his death.
On stage in the early 1890s, baseball star Kelly recited the original "Casey" a few dozen times and not the parody. For example, in a review in 1893 of a variety show he was in, the Indianapolis News said, "Many who attended the performance had heard of Kelly's singing and his reciting, and many had heard De Wolf Hopper recite 'Casey at the Bat' in his inimitable way. Kelly recited this in a sing-song, school-boy fashion." Upon Kelly's death, a writer would say he gained "considerable notoriety by his ludicrous rendition of 'Casey at the Bat,' with which he concluded his `turn’ [act] at each performance.":229
During the 1980s, the magic/comedy team Penn & Teller performed a version of "Casey at the Bat" with Teller (the "silent" partner) struggling to escape a straitjacket while suspended upside-down over a platform of sharp steel spikes. The set-up was that Penn Jillette would leap off his chair upon finishing the poem, releasing the rope which supported Teller, and send his partner to a gruesome death if he wasn't free by that time. The drama of the performance was taken up a notch after the third or fourth stanza, when Penn Jillette began to read out the rest of the poem much faster than the opening stanzas, greatly reducing the time that Teller had left to work free from his bonds.
On July 4, 2008, Jack Williams recited the poem accompanied by the Boston Pops during the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular at Boston's 4 July Celebration.
On July 14, 2013, the jam rock band Furthur performed the poem as part of a second-set medley in center field of Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York.
The first recorded version of "Casey at the Bat" was made by Russell Hunting, speaking in a broad Irish accent, in 1893; an 1898 cylinder recording of the text made for the Columbia Graphophone label by Hunting can be accessed from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
DeWolf Hopper's more famous recorded recitation was released in October 1906.
In 1946, Walt Disney released a recording of the narration of the poem by Jerry Colonna, which accompanied the studio's animated cartoon adaptation of the poem (see below).
In 1973, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra commissioned its former Composer-in-Residence, Frank Proto, to create a work to feature Baseball Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bench with the orchestra. The result "Casey At The Bat – an American Folk Tale for Narrator and Orchestra" was an immediate hit and recorded by Bench and the orchestra. It has since been performed more than 800 times by nearly every major and Metropolitan orchestra in the U.S. and Canada.
In 1980, baseball pitcher Tug McGraw recorded Casey at The Bat—an American Folk Tale for Narrator and Orchestra by Frank Proto with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.
In 1996, actor James Earl Jones recorded the poem with Arranger/Composer Steven Reineke and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
In 2013, Dave Jageler and Charlie Slowes, both radio announcers for the Washington Nationals, each made recordings of the poem for the Library of Congress to mark the 125th anniversary of its first publication.
A rivalry of sorts has developed between two cities claiming to be the Mudville described in the poem.
Residents of Holliston, Massachusetts, where there is a neighborhood called Mudville, claim it as the Mudville described in the poem. Thayer grew up in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts, where he wrote the poem in 1888; his family owned a wool mill less than a mile from Mudville's baseball field.
However, residents of Stockton, California—which was known for a time as Mudville prior to incorporation in 1850—also lay claim to being the inspiration for the poem. In 1887, Thayer covered baseball for Daily Examiner—owned by his Harvard classmate William Randolph Hearst—and is said to have covered the local California League team, the Stockton Ports. For the 1902 season, after the poem became popular, Stockton's team was renamed the Mudville Nine. The team reverted to the Mudville Nine moniker for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The Visalia Rawhide, another California League team, currently keep Mudville alive by playing in Mudville jerseys on June 3 each year.
Despite the towns' rival claims, Thayer himself told the Syracuse Post-Standard that "the poem has no basis in fact."
The poem has been adapted to diverse types of media:Ralph Andreano's 1965 book, No Joy in Mudville, laments the dearth of heroes in modern baseball.In the book Faithful by Steward O'Nan and Stephen King, describing the 2004 season of the Boston Red Sox, a chapter contributed by King is named "The Gloom is gone from Mudville".Wallace Tripp illustrated a popular 1978 book of the poem.Kurtis Scaletta's 2009 children's novel, Mudville, is about a town where it has been raining for 22 years, delaying a baseball game between two rival towns.Christopher Bing's 2000 children's book, an illustrated version of the original poem by Thayer, won a Caldecott Honor for its line drawing illustrations made to look like newspaper articles from 1888.Marvel Comics published a spoof in August 1969, in the 9th issue of "Not Brand Echh", featuring parodies of their popular heroes and villains, and the Bulk (parody of the Hulk) as Casey.DC Comics' series Fables from the Vertigo imprint featured an adaptation titled "Out to the Ball Game", which features a similar baseball match, with Weyland Smith playing the part of Casey against a team of goblins.In 1922, Lee De Forest recorded DeWolf Hopper reciting the poem in DeForest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process.In 1927, a feature-length silent film Casey at the Bat was released, starring Wallace Beery, Ford Sterling, and ZaSu Pitts—the first film adaptation of the poem.Walt Disney produced an animated short adaptation of the poem for the film Make Mine Music (1946) and uses the original text, but is set in 1902 according to the opening song's lyrics, instead of 1888. This version is recited by Jerry Colonna. It was later released as an individual short on July 16, 1954.The poem is cited in Frederic Wiseman's documentary High School (1968) by a teacher in a classroom.In 1986, Elliott Gould starred as "Casey" in the Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales and Legends adaptation of the story, which also starred Carol Kane, Howard Cosell, Bob Uecker, Bill Macy and Rae Dawn Chong. The screenplay, adapted from the poem, was written by Andy Borowitz and the production was directed by David Steinberg.In The Dream Team (1989), Michael Keaton's character announces that "there is no joy in Mudville" after giving a fellow mental patient three "strikes" for psychotic behavior.A reference to the poem occurs in Short Cuts (1993).In the film What Women Want (2000), Mel Gibson's character tries to block out his daughter's thoughts by muttering the poem under his breath.The poem is briefly cited in the revised version of Bad News Bears.Jackie Gleason in his "Reginald Van Gleason III" persona (in full Mudville baseball uniform) performed a recitation of the poem on his And Awaaaay We Go! album.Season 1: Episode 35 of The Twilight Zone, "The Mighty Casey", concerns a baseball player who is actually a robot (June 17, 1960).In the Northern Exposure episode "The Graduate", Chris Stevens gains his Master's degree in Comparative Literature by subjecting his assessors to a spirited re-enactment of the poem.An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures features a retelling of the poem with Buster Bunny in the title role. However, instead of striking out at the end, he hits a walk off home run.An episode of Animaniacs entitled "Jokahontas/Boids on the Hood/Mighty Wakko at the Bat" includes a parody of the poem, featuring Wakko Warner as the leading role, and Yakko as the narrator. Instead of missing, he strikes the ball out of the park and wins the game.An episode of the television series The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius entitled "Return of the Nanobots" has Cindy Vortex reciting a poem that ends with the lines: "But there is no joy in Retroville, 'cause Jimmy is an idiot."In the fourth season of Garfield and Friends the episode entitled "Mind Over Matter/Orson at the Bat/Multiple Choice Cartoon" features Wade Duck narrating a parody of the poem as Orson Pig experiences it in a dream sequence.A third-season episode of Storm Chasers was titled "Sean Casey At Bat". The episode featured Casey (a chaser) intercepting a tornado for the first time in TIV 2.In How I Met Your Mother, the episode "Bedtime Stories" (which is done entirely in rhymes) features a subplot called "Mosby At The Bat". The start of that section of the episode begins with "The outlook wasn't brilliant for poor Ted's romantic life", a line based on the opening of the original poem.In One Tree Hill, the episode "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" was a flashback-heavy episode revolving around a baseball game with Jamie Scott narrating the poem throughout.On an episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, magician Rick Lax recites the entire poem while performing a card trick.Containment (TV series) episode He Stilled the Rising Tumult owes its title to and the text of the 10th stanza was used in the opening sequence.Art-song composer Sidney Homer turned the poem into a song. Sheet music was published by G. Schirmer in 1920 as part of Six Cheerful Songs to Poems of American Humor.William Schuman composed an opera, The Mighty Casey (1953), based on the poem.The song No Joy in Mudville from Death Cab for Cutie's album We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes directly references the poem.The song "Centerfield" by John Fogerty includes the line "Well, I spent some time in the Mudville Nine, watchin' it from the bench. You know I took some lumps when the Mighty Case struck out."The song "No Joy In Pudville" by Steroid Maximus is a reference to this poem."Casey at the Bat" was adapted into a 1953 opera by American composer William Schuman.Allen Feinstein composed an adaptation for orchestra with a narrator.An orchestral version was composed by Stephen Simon in 1976 for the US bicentennial; Maestro Classics' has recorded it with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Stephen Simon conducting with Yadu (Dr. Konrad Czynski) narrating.An orchestral adaptation by composer Frank Proto has been recorded by the Cincinnati Pops orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel with baseball star Johnny Bench narrating.The Dallas Symphony commissioned an arrangement of "Casey" by Randol Alan Bass in 2001, which he later arranged for concert band.A version for wind band and narrator by Donald Shirer based on the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" had its world premiere in July 2008.
For a relatively short poem apparently dashed off quickly (and denied by its author for years), "Casey at the Bat" had a profound effect on American popular culture. It has been recited, re-enacted, adapted, dissected, parodied and subjected to just about every other treatment one could imagine.
"Casey's Revenge", by Grantland Rice (1907), gives Casey another chance against the pitcher who had struck him out in the original story. It was written in 1906, and its first known publication was in the quarterly magazine The Speaker in June 1907, under the pseudonym of James Wilson. In this version, Rice cites the nickname "Strike-Out Casey", hence the influence on Casey Stengel's name. Casey's team is down three runs by the last of the ninth, and once again Casey is down to two strikes—with the bases full this time. However, he connects, hits the ball so far that it is never found.In response to the popularity of the 1946 Walt Disney animated adaptation, Disney made a sequel, Casey Bats Again (1954), in which Casey's nine daughters redeem his reputation.In 1988, on the 100th anniversary of the poem, Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford constructed a fanciful story (later expanded to book form) which posited Katie Casey, the subject of the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", as being the daughter of the famous slugger from the poem.In 2010, Ken Eagle wrote "The Mudville Faithful", covering a century of the Mudville nine's fortunes since Casey struck out. Faithful fans still root for the perpetually losing team, and are finally rewarded by a trip to the World Series, led by Casey's great-grandson who is also named Casey.
Of the many parodies made of the poem, some of the notable ones include:Mad magazine republished the original version of the poem in the 1950s with artwork by Jack Davis and no alterations to the text. Later lampoons in Mad included "'Cool' Casey at the Bat" (1960), an interpretation of the poem in beatnik style, with artwork by Don Martin; "Casey at the Dice" in 1969, about a professional gambler; "Casey at the Talks" in 1977, a "modern" version of the famed poem in which Mudville tries unsuccessfully to sign free agent Casey[the last line of which is "Mighty Casey has held out"]; "Baseball at the Bat", a satire on baseball itself, "Howard at the Mike", about Howard Stern; "Casey at the Byte" (1985), a tale of a cocky young computer expert who accidentally erases the White House Budget Plan; "Clooney as the Bat", a mockery of George Clooney's role as Batman in Batman and Robin; and in 2006 as "Barry at the Bat", poking fun at Barry Bonds' alleged involvement in the BALCO scandal, and in 2001, "Jordan at the Hoop", satirizing Michael Jordan's return to the NBA and his time with the Washington Wizards. Another parody is set in the USSR, and ends with "Kasey" in a gulag prison. A "Poetry Round Robin" where famous poems are rewritten in the style of the next poet in line, featured Casey at the Bat as written by Edgar Allan Poe.Foster Brooks ("the Lovable Lush") wrote "Riley on the Mound", which recounts the story from the pitcher's perspective. Radio performer Garrison Keillor's parodic version of the poem reimagines the game as a road game, instead of a home game, for the Mudville team. The same events occur with Casey striking out in the ninth inning as in the original poem, but with everything told from the perspective of other team.An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures featured a short titled "Buster at the Bat", where Sylvester provides narration as Buster goes up to bat. The poem was parodied again for an episode of Animaniacs, this time with Wakko as the title character and Yakko narrating.In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "Return of the Nanobots", Cindy's poem is identical to the ending of "Casey at the Bat" but replaces Mudville with Retroville and the last famed line with "cause Jimmy is an idiot!"An episode of the show U.S. Acres was titled "Orson at the Bat".The New York Times published a parody by Hart Seely and Frank Cammuso in which the poem was narrated by Phil Rizzuto, a New York Yankees announcer who was known to veer off on tangents while calling the game. The poem was later published in Seely and Cammuso's book, 2007 Eleven And Other American Comedies.Issue #92 of the comic Fables employs a paraphrased version of "Casey at the Bat" appropriating the character names to those of the Fable players. It is preceded by a mock apology to Ernest Thayer for the mangling of "his beloved poem".David Pogue penned a parody version titled 'A Desktop Critic: Steven Saves the Mac' for Macworld magazine that ran in their October 1999 issue. It tells the story of Steve Jobs' triumphant return to a struggling Apple Inc and his early efforts to reverse the company's fortunes.Dick Flavin wrote a version titled Teddy at the Bat, after Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams died in July, 2002. Flavin performed the poem at Fenway Park during the night-long tribute to Williams done at the park later that month. The poem replaced Flynn and Blake with Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky, the batters who preceded Williams in the 1946 Red Sox lineup.In 2000, Michael J. Farrand adapted the rhyming scheme, tone, and theme of the poem—while reversing the outcome—to create his poem "The Man Who Gave All the Dreamers in Baseball Land Bigger Dreams to Dream" about Kirk Gibson's home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The poem appears at the Baseball Almanac.Norman Jackman wrote a reversed-outcome version in 1951 called "Bobby Thomson at the Bat," which went unknown for over 60 years until the San Francisco Giants published it in 2012. It's about Thomson’s famous home run in a 1951 Giant-Dodger playoff game. In 2016, the poem was accepted into the poetry files of the National Baseball Library and Archive of the Hall of Fame.
There are three known translations of the poem into a foreign language, one in French, written in 2007 by French Canadian linguist Paul Laurendeau, with the title Casey au bâton, and two in Hebrew. One by the sports journalist Menachem Less titled "התור של קייסי לחבוט" [Hator Shel Casey Lachbot], and the other more recent and more true to the original cadence and style by Jason H. Elbaum called קֵיסִי בַּמַּחְבֵּט [Casey BaMachbayt].
Casey Stengel describes in his autobiography how his original nickname "K.C." (for his hometown, Kansas City, Missouri) evolved into "Casey". It was influenced not just by the name of the poem, which was widely popular in the 1910s, but also because he tended to strike out frequently in his early career so fans and writers started calling him "strikeout Casey".
The poem is referenced in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System game EarthBound, where a weapon is named the Casey Bat, which is the strongest weapon in the game, but will only hit 25% of the time.
A one-time character in the Pokémon anime, a girl who is a very enthusiastic fan of baseball, is named "Casey" in the English version in reference to the poem.Casey's Corner is a baseball-themed restaurant in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, which serves primarily hotdogs. Pictures of Casey and the pitcher from the Disney animated adaptation are hanging on the walls, and a life-size statue of a baseball player identified as "Casey" stands just outside the restaurant. Additionally, the scoreboard in the restaurant shows that Mudville lost to the visitors by two runs.A hot dog restaurant featuring the Disney character can be found at Disneyland Paris' Disneyland Park since its opening in 1992, under the name Casey's Corner.A game called Casey at the Bat is in the Games of the Boardwalk at the Disneyland Resort's Disney California Adventure.
On July 11, 1996, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp depicting "Mighty Casey." The stamp was part of a set commemorating American folk heroes. Other stamps in the set depicted Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Pecos Bill.