The game had not yet started, but Mudville had a reason
To be gloomy already, though it was just mid-season;
If they couldn’t hit more balls and get more strikeouts thrown,
They would have to watch the playoffs from La-Z-Boys at home.
The Manager suppressed a sigh, glancing at the roster
For what he saw there could hardly give him cause to foster
New hope for Mudville’s chances to win this crucial game
For if they faced one more defeat, he sure would be to blame.
This pitcher injured, that hitter hitting less than promised
This catcher’s latest piss test showed him to be dishonest.
Then one name near the bottom caused his face to tighten
Maybe from a darkness, maybe because it brightened.
The manager from before had forced the old star to retire
But once the new regime came in, he’d begged to be rehired
Perhaps because he missed the fame, perhaps he needed dough
He swore on his favorite bat, this chance he wouldn’t blow.
“You won’t be starting,” the player was warned, to which he agreed
Even from the bench, he felt, he could help his team succeed.
Though the Manager felt that surely he would rue the day
He saw that he had no choice but to ask Casey to play.
When Casey stepped out of the dugout to take his place at bat,
The whispers buzzed around his ears: “He’s too old and fat!”
He tried to ignore them as at the first pitch he swung,
But they hissed even louder as the umpire called, “Stee-rike One!”
He was no stranger to pressure, he knew he could collect
Himself, despite the noisy crowd, and make the bat connect
With the pitcher’s speedy fastball – his bat he aimed true
But the ball flew high and back; the umpire’s call, “Stee-rike two!”
The Manager grabbed a kerchief to wipe at his forehead
The top of the first inning, and the game already put to bed!
For if this gambit failed, the GM had made quite clear,
The Manager’s contract would not be renewed next year.
Casey, in the hot spot, paused to give himself a breath.
He’d heard rumors before of his career’s impending death.
Yet here he was, at bat again, his flame not yet burned out,
He’d revive Mudville too, restore the team’s former clout.
There was a fire in his eyes as he returned to the plate,
A renewed smoothness to his swing, a spring in his gait,
When the pitcher loosed the ball, it was locked in Casey’s sight,
His bat hit it dead-on, and it screamed into the night.
The crowd erupted as one voice; they either stood or swooned
“Hey-la, our Casey’s back!” they cried, but alas, all too soon
They silently retook their seats. Every noise had stopped
As they stared upon the plate on which their star had dropped.
The Manager stepped over. “He’s breathing,” he announced.
“But the way his teeth are clenched in pain, his night has been trounced.”
The crowd stood up again as the hitter was hauled away,
And after a short silence, the umpire called, “Resume play!”
* * *
So Mudville lost, down ten to zip, and without a chance
For playoffs, the Manager began the interview dance.
There was no joy in Mudville that season or one after.
In fact, the next ten years would inspire opponent laughter.
Now Casey did not quite regret his return to the field
A job like his, he’d always known, was sure enough to yield
The permanent limp he now had. He only wished dearly
He’d had that last home run before the collapse of his knee.
For those who are wondering, this post was inspired not at all by the recent World Series and totally by the damn Denver Donkeys’ – er, Broncos’ – bumbling efforts against the majority of teams they have played (and will play) this season. Alas, there are no classic poems about pathetic football teams, so Mudville’s misery will have to stand in for my own.