16 April 2009


April is National Poetry Month and Major League Baseball began its regular season last week (Go Rays! [sorry…]), as a salute to both today we’ll take a look at Casey at the Bat through the eyes of the Magic Kingdom.

Along the edge of Main Street U.S.A. sits a small dining establishment called Casey’s Corner which offers a variety of ballpark fare. Casey’s Corner is sponsored by Coca-Cola and opened on May 27, 1995, replacing the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner. The name of Casey’s corner is derived from the Ernest L. Thayer poem, Casey at the Bat, which tells the story of an all-star slugger who is set to win the game for his team, only to step up to the plate and strike out. Casey connection to Disney begins in 1946, with the Casey at the Bat short debuted as a part of Make Mine Music!

Casey’s team, the Mudville Nine, is obviously fictional, as is the town they live in. And yet pennants and other memorabilia from the team’s hometown permeate this corner dining establishment. Though no true Mudville exists, and Thayer himself insists that the poem has no basis in the reality, three towns have repeatedly claimed to be Mudville: Marshalltown in Iowa, Holliston in Massachusetts, and Stockton in California. Though each have strong evidence to back up their claims, I will be content to marvel at the Mudville Nine, and their not so stellar accomplishments, from the grandstand on the corner of Main Street U.S.A.Below you can view the 1946 short, narrated by Jerry Colonna, or read the original text as it appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 3 June 1988.

A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer (Phin)

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 sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy 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 Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon 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 while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed 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 a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they'd a-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 bade 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 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 that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence 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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