This piece is a parody of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey At the Bat” that I stumbled upon, and it’s a pretty good one. Adam Morris Garfinkle does a really good job of maintaining the rhythm and spirit of Thayer’s piece while capturing the story of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 season. I found this poem published in tandem with a piece, also written by Garfinkle, titled “In Lieu of Opening Day: The Poetry of Baseball.”
[in gratitude, to Ernest Lawrence Thayer]
The prospect wasn’t bright at all for the Washington Nats in May;
Their record stood at 19 and 31, with 112 gruesome trials to play,
Turner he got injured, and ‘ol Zim he turned up lame;
Despondency settled upon the hometown fans, again and again and again.
A faithless few their precious season tickets went to pawn,
But most just sighed with wistful longing, their hopes cruelly smashed and torn,
They thought that if only their pathetic bullpen could finally come around,
The pall of desperation would at least be lifted from the mound.
They blew so many saves we despaired of keeping track,
Of hit-and-run and sacrifice bunts there certainly was a lack.
They bobbled grounders, overthrew first, and dropped innocent pop flies,
You’d have thought the guys were trying to play the game with ‘baca plugs glued upon their eyes.
Our heroes stumbled through a maze of ghastly springtime torpors;
At one point losing five games straight, even getting swept by them New Yorkers;
“Fire the manager!”, the disgusted minions insistently demanded.
As if that would have made any difference, to be perfectly candid.
At last faint embers of diamond life slowly began to glow,
In early June they finally managed to win four games in a row;
The bats all at once seem to jump, their Louisville sluggers did thrive,
The pitching improved significantly with a revised rotation of five.
Little by little they strove to turn their season right around,
By the All-Star Break they’d mostly healed and felt pretty gosh darn sound,
Before long they passed up the Mets, then swiftly dropped the Phillies,
Waving back to Bryce as they gave chase for Atlanta willy-nilly.
They never did catch ‘em, their goofy tomahawk chop to still,
But they played good enough to climb high enough upon the standings hill,
To wild card their way into the lustrous postseason playoffs,
Finishing the regular season with a win streak that handsomely paid off.
So it was that the Nats came face-to-face with the Milwaukee Brewers,
In a winner-take-all single game, fans’ nerves jangling as if on skewers
Scherzer fell behind early, three big runs to zip,
The lineup looked utterly punchless, not one batsman connected with a rip.
Strasberg came in to relieve Max, for his very first relief stint ever,
And shut down Milwaukee’s mighty crew in a masterful endeavor;
Then with but six outs between them and cursed oblivion,
The eighth inning became at last a friend, and started us a-singin’.
For Taylor got plunked (maybe), and Zim cracked a solid single,
Rendon then walked to fill the bases, and Soto solidly delivered ‘em.
Three runs came home before the dust had settled, their first lead of the game,
Then Hudson came in to shut the door, and the town went totally insane.
“Beat LA!” the crowd then chanted, but that demanded gallantry;
The mighty Dodgers had won 106 games, and the Nats a mere 93,
The first game was a six-zip shutout, things did not look at all good.
But the Nats won the second 4 to 2, they knew in their hearts they could.
Game 3 was an unmitigated full-frontal home field disaster,
LA scored ten runs and our faces turned to alabaster,
Now down two games to one in a short best-of-five series,
Our breathing went giddily shallow and our attitude turned quite leery.
The guys pulled out game four 6-1, to even the series two and two,
But back to LA they had to go for the crucial deciding set-to.
They fell behind again, three-nothing after two,
Exactly as in the Brewers game; hmm, could that be a clue?
They tied it in the eighth off Kershaw, the poor bedraggled fellow,
Rendon and Soto dinged him back to back, and we felt oh so mellow.
Then Howie Kendrick slammed the Dodger door shut in the tenth,
After which Mr. Excitement Sean Doolittle one-two-threed a breathless heaven-sent.
Then came Saint Louis for to joust the coveted NL Pennant,
This was to be no ordinary series, and we really truly meant it.
For oh how cruelly had the Cardinals crushed us back in 2012,
Erasing a 6-run Nats lead in game six, dropping us straight down into hell.
The Nationals were taking no prisoners this time around,
They chewed up the Red Birds, flung them hard down on the ground,
Plucked them but good they did, winning four games in a row;
No one believed the Nats could sweep ‘em; it only goes to show.
And so came the World Series, the Nation’s Capital exploded
With joy and rapture and mirth; some folks even got loaded.
Off to Houston the victors then made for to travel,
As serious underdogs surely, most thought, bound quickly to unravel.
But we whooped ‘em twice in Texas, ‘twas hard even to conceive!
Our spirits were buoyant, you bet your sweet life we believed.
Houston was supposed to be down in the great state of Texas, doc.
But the Nats left that city reeling in a total state of shock.
Not so fast countin’ your chickens, said the Astros, we ain’t done yet.
Then they won three straight in DC; d’ya think we got upset?!
Now down three games to two, and facing two more on the road,
The odds-makers smirked, the Nats’ll flush right down the hall-of-shame commode.
But we pulled out the first one 5 to 4, forcing a deciding game seven,
On the day before Halloween no less, we were jumpier than a flea in denim.
The guys got down two zip with but a measly nine outs to give,
It seemed that maybe, just maybe, the boys had finally run out of fizz.
But that’s not how it ended, I’m oh so glad to tell,
The guys sliced clean through the Astros bullpen pell-mell;
Howie lined one off the right-field foul pole; Houston sunk down in pain.
How he even hit Harris’s low outside sinker at all, no one could explain.
In the baseball dome of heaven dugout angels rejoiced on high,
The Big Train looked down on where Griffith used to be and plaintively cried,
Huzzah and hosannah, shouted Saint Kenesaw Mountain Landis,
Not since Calvin Coolidge was President have I seen anything so marvelously outlandish.
So hats off to the Nationals, true champions of baseball lore,
Bringing the Nation’s Capital its first Series win since 1924.
We even booed the President, and some held out snotty hankies.
The only way it could have been better? Had the Astros been the goddamn Yankees.
During a routine several years ago, Bernie Mac performed his own version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and I really like it. This rendition would be a bit tricky for a stadium of fans to sing along to during the seventh inning stretch, but I do love how this crowd gets into his performance.
When I was a young boy I used to play baseball in my back yard or in the street with my brothers or the neighborhood kids. We used broken bats and plastic golf balls and played for hours and hours.
The 1957 Cy Young award was accorded on November 28th to Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves. Spahn was voted the league’s best pitcher almost unanimously, as the only competition for the award that year was White Sox hurler Dick Donovan, who received one vote. Spahn finished the 1957 season with a 21-11 record and a 2.69 ERA.
When you can’t decide which sport to play. Poor guy. At the very least, let the man have a glove.
Maybe kickball would have been a more appropriate compromise.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers. With a little luck and good behavior on all our parts, next year’s Thanksgiving will turn out better than this year!
I don’t feel right unless I have a sport to play.
On November 24, 1953, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley announced that Walter Alston would be the new manager of the Brooklyn team, replacing Chuck Dressen. The announcement came as a shock to reporters, as the leading candidate for the job had been the fan-favorite Pee Wee Reese. Alston would go on to win seven pennants and four World Series during his 23 years with the team.
I really enjoy reading this poem. It talks about two Yankee greats, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, but even better than that, it talks about life and love. Baseball frequently serves as a metaphor for both, and Kittell really does hit it out of the park with this one.
On the scorecard you gave me, I find
the difficult scratchings, the notes and stats
you ask me to read looking
for something about success
Twenty-three times, Lou Gehrig
came to bat for the Yankees
with the bases loaded
and hit a grand slam.
Then I see you’ve added: Shouldn’t love
be that way? Shouldn’t love be
a grand slam every time?
Lou Gehrig played baseball
for seventeen years and everyone knows
he played in most every game. Everyone knows
he played only for the Yankees.
But up in the stands, maybe–like you–studying a program,
sat his wife, sat Eleanor
who watched Gehrig carefully enough
to see when his step
began to falter, to notice how
ground balls hit
him in the chest and his long-armed swing
barely dribbled out
a single. Eleanor Gehrig watched
the Iron Horse dwindle
to ninety pounds and never stopped to say:
“You’re not the man
you used to be,” never told him she saw
the end of the game.
I imagine she only held him
closer at night
and went on.
Joe DiMaggio reached the Show
two years before Lou Gehrig
left, two years before the Iron Horse began
to fade. And what you and I remember first
about Joe was his once
ridiculous coffee ad, or maybe his once
failed marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Just like
we never saw Gehrig play, we never saw
DiMaggio, every day of your life
and more, send roses to a grave, or imagined
her fingers dialing his number, her voice calling
Joe, Joe into the dead air. Joe,
she told him once, you’ve never heard
such cheering! Yes, I have, he said to her quietly.
Yes, I have.
My husband Ron was born in 1951 and 1951
was the last year DiMaggio played. By seventeen,
Ron was the best player in Idaho, the fastest
in the outfield, most solid at first base, and sometimes
wild but always hard
when he took the mound. But our life, it seems,
has turned far from glamorous. We take
our turns, Ron and I, in the stands. I watch him
with you, throwing rocks across a brook and know
the next day his arm
will throb from trying. He watches me
try to toss a good metaphor, one that will zing
and flash at your center. I say:
look deeper into the game, friend. I say:
look deeper into a life, a love.
To make anything last, there’s got to be more
than a grand slam.
There has to be a good coach
to draw the line-up and good men
already on base. There have to be players
in the minors and wives
in the stands. There has to be someone
to say that love
ain’t always perfect, that love
doesn’t always win the game, that love
might not be lots of cheering or a neatly blackened square
on a scorecard.
No, Sherman, love
might be quiet–a fire crackling, birds reappearing
on the edge of lawn, the center of you knowing
that once you slip it on and oil it up,
that old worn glove will feel
than when it was new.
While the message of this song is ultimately a sad one, as we head into the cold, dark days of winter, it mostly makes me miss warm weather. It may get too hot for golfing, but one can always take in a ballgame from the climate-controlled comfort of home.