Baseball returned this week, only two teams of which have been continuously operating from the original, charter teams in the National League in 1876 — the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. The Braves began in Boston that year as the Red Stockings but in 1883 assumed a name referring to Boston’s famous beans e.g., Beaneaters. The franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1953 then on to Atlanta in 1966.

Baseball returned this week, only two teams of which have been continuously operating from the original, charter teams in the National League in 1876 — the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves. The Braves began in Boston that year as the Red Stockings but in 1883 assumed a name referring to Boston’s famous beans e.g., Beaneaters. The franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1953 then on to Atlanta in 1966.

Irish immigrant Michael Joseph Kelly (1857-1894) joined the Boston Beaneaters as catcher-coach in 1887 and by 1890 led them to the pennant in the only season of the Player League’s existence. He played around for various teams for 16 seasons — retiring with a .308 career batting average and probably the record for the colors of “sox” and “stockings” he wore. In 1887, he stole 84 bases including six in one game, invented the hook slide, and was an innovator in using a glove and chest protector. With only one umpire to see him in some games, he sometimes skipped a base — earning fame and name as “King” Kelly.

It was San Francisco newspaperman Ernest Thayer who in 1888 wrote the fictional poem “Casey at the Bat.” In the original poem, the game was played in “Mudville,” but it soon was changed to “Boston” following its popular association with Kelly.

Thayer wrote his poem in his hometown of Worcester, Mass., near the small town of Holliston, which had a neighborhood called “Mudville.” But, he was covering baseball for the San Francisco Examiner owned by his Harvard classmate William Randolph Hearst in 1887. Nearby Stockton, known as Mudville until 1850, soon lay claim to being the inspiration for the name. Thayer always maintained that the poem was fictional.

Next week: “Casey’s Revenge”

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Casey at the Bat

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer

It looked extremely rocky for the Boston nine that day;

The score stood two to four, with but an inning left to play.

So, when Cooney died at second, and Burrows did the same,

A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest,

With that hope which springs eternal within the human breast.

For they thought: “If only Casey could get a whack at that,”

They’d put even money now, with Casey at the bat.

But, Flynn preceded Casey, and likewise so did Blake,

And the former was a pudd’n, and the latter was a fake.

So on that stricken multitude a deathlike silence 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 the much-despised Blakey ‘tore the cover off the ball.”

And when the dust had lifted, and they saw what had occurred,

There was Blakey safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell—

It rumbled in the mountaintops, it rattled in the dell;

It struck upon the hillside and rebounded on 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 Case 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 when the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,

Defiance glanced in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurling 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 the stern and distant shore.

“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” Shouted someone on the stand;

And it’s likely they’d have 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 made 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 the 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 the ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lips, his teeth are clenched in hate,

He pounds with cruel vengeance 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 Boston: Mighty Casey has struck out.