“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.

Alex Wood to try pitching out of the stretch

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Pedro Moura of The Athletic reports that Dodgers starter Alex Wood plans to pitch out of the stretch throughout the 2018 season. Wood got the idea when he watched Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg pitch against the Dodgers.

Wood, 27, finished last season 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and a 151/38 K/BB ratio in 152 1/3 innings. That’s a mighty fine season, one in which many pitchers would not dare to mess with something that isn’t broken.

Interestingly, Wood indeed has had better results with runners on base — when he would pitch out of the stretch — as opposed to the bases being empty, with a respective OPS allowed of .523 versus .684, respectively. Over his career, he has allowed a .617 OPS with runners on and .706 with the bases empty.

In response to Moura’s tweet about Wood, retired pitchers Dan Haren and Jered Weaver took the opportunity to burn themselves. Haren tweeted, “I pitched a few seasons completely out of the stretch actually, just not by choice.” Weaver responded, “Sometimes I would just step off and throw the ball in the gap myself because I knew the hitter would do it anyways.”