Though “Casey at the Bat” was a great poem it didn’t end right. In 1906 sports writer Grantland Rice writing under the pseudonym James Wilson righted this wrong with “Casey’s Revenge.”
Baseball doesn’t teach “revenge,” however. Far from it, baseball teaches virtues enacted within a framework of the rules and norms of civilized people well-described by Steve Lipsher, writer for the Denver Post. “It [baseball] teaches us to deal with failure by giving us another chance, and it teaches us to deal with success by reminding us that a slump is just a bad at-bat away.” Both Casey and his nemesis pitcher were guilty of hubris and both got the prescribed cure for it in failure and humiliation. Baseball confers many opportunities for do-overs. Christianity does also e.g., Peter and Paul got second chances and both wrote Scriptures offering us similar opportunities.
There is no indication that the real-life Casey, King Mike, ever lost his swagger or hubris, but posterity rehabilitated his legacy. In only the second vote since its creation in 1939, the Old Timers Committee elected Kelly to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945. America officially recognized Kelly’s place in history in 1996 by including his visage among four American Heroes honored in commemorative stamps issued by the USPS.
By Grantland Rice
There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more;
There were muttered oaths and curses—every fan in town was sore.
“Just think,” said one, “how soft it looked with Casey at the bat!
And then to think he’d go and spring a bush-league trick like that.”
All his past fame was forgotten; he was no a hopeless “shine,”
They called him “Strike-out Casey” from the mayor down the line,
And as he came to bat each day his bosom heaved a sigh,
While a look of hopeless fury shone in mighty Casey’s eye.
The lane is long, someone has said, that never turns again,
And Fate, though fickle, often gives another chance to men.
And Casey smiled—his rugged face no longer wore a frown;
The pitcher who had started all the trouble came to town.
All Mudville had assembled; ten thousand fans had come
To see the twirler who had put big Casey on the bum;
Page 2 of 3 - And when he stepped into the box the multitude went wild.
He doffed his cap in proud disdain—but Casey only smiled.
“Play ball!” the umpire’s voice rang out, and then the game began;
But in that throng of thousands there was not a single fan
Who thought that Mudville had a chance; and with the setting sun
Their hopes sank low—the rival team was leading “four to one.”
The last half of the ninth came round, with no change in the score;
But when the first man up hit safe the crowd began to roar.
The din increased, the echo of ten thousand shouts was heard
When the pitcher hit the second and gave “four balls” to the third.
Three men on base—nobody out—three runs to tie the game!
A triple meant the highest niche in Mudville’s hall of fame;
But here the rally ended and the gloom was deep as night
When the fourth one “fouled to catcher” and the fifth “flew out to right.”
A dismal groan in chorus came—a scowl was on each face—
When Casey walked up, bat in hand, and slowly took his place;
His bloodshot eyes in fury gleamed; his teeth were clinched in hate;
He gave his cap a vicious hook and pounded on the plate.
But fame is fleeting as the wind, and glory fades away;
There were no wild and woolly cheers, no glad acclaim this day.
They hissed and groaned and hooted as they clamored, “Strike him out!”
But Casey gave no outward sign that he had heard this shout.
The pitcher smiled and cut one loose; across the plate it spread;
Another hiss, another groan. “Strike one!” the umpire said.
Zip! Like a shot, the second curve broke just below his knee—
“Strike two!” the umpire roared aloud; but Casey made no plea.
No roasting for the umpire now—his was an easy lot;
But here the pitcher whirled again—was that a rifle shot?
A whack! A crack! And out through space the leather pellet flew,
Page 3 of 3 - A blot against the distant sky, a speck against the blue.
Above the fence in center field, in rapid whirling flight,
The sphere sailed on; the blot grew dim and then was lost to sight.
Ten thousand hats were thrown in air, ten thousand threw a fit;
But no one ever found the ball that mighty Casey hit!
Oh, somewhere in this favored land dark clouds may hide the sun,
And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun;
And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall;
But Mudville hearts are happy now—for Casey hit the ball!