“Casey at the Bat” — baseball’s second best poem — was published 125 years ago

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Well, 125 years ago this coming Monday. Today, however, Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger has a remembrance of baseball’s most famous poem, as well as some background on those who have tried to update “Casey at the Bat” for a more modern, more integrated game in past century and a quarter:

We integrated baseball 66 years ago, so why hasn’t anyone ever conceived of a more multicultural Casey?

“It seemed to be a natural,” [Lawrence] Hogan said. “I’ve been immersed in black baseball for so long, I’m always looking for different ways to tell its stories, and the time was right for this.”

So Hogan decided to apply one of baseball’s great pieces of fiction to the African American tableau, and the results will be shared over the next three nights at a symposium at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Sounds cool.

But it’s certainly not the first time efforts have been made to place baseball’s changing racial and ethnic face into poetry. Indeed, my favorite baseball poem is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Baseball Canto,” which is at turns hilarious and revealing as it describes an inning featuring the heavily black and Latino San Francisco Giants of the 1960s. It’s even better when heard aloud in Ferlinghetti’s own voice:

Just another example of baseball — an inherently conservative institution — serving as a vehicle for change. Or, at the very least, a reflection of it.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.