“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.