In a recent segment for NPR’s Curiosity Desk, Edward O’Donnell, associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, offered some insight into the famous poem “Casey At the Bat.” The poem, written by Worcester native Ernest Thayer and celebrating its 126th anniversary this year, is about a great Mudville slugger who strikes out at the bottom of the ninth inning to lose the game. “It has that wonderful vaudevillian character to it,” O’Donnell offers. “And it has such great overwrought wording, too: ‘the leather bound sphere.’ It has that sort of melodrama.”
For many years, no one knew who wrote the poem. “Once it reached a certain level of national notoriety, all kinds of people looking to make a buck fame forward and said, ‘I wrote it! I wrote it!’” says O’Donnell. After it was attributed to Thayer and the real Casey was revealed to be a student who had bullied Thayer in school, the mystery turned to the location of the real Mudville. Although Thayer had said that Mudville wasn’t based on any specific place, many towns still wanted the claim; Stockton, CA, and Holliston, MA, put up the biggest fight, one which is still ongoing today. Considered one of the most well-known poems in America since it was written in 1888, “Casey at the Bat” remains an active topic of conversation. O’Donnell asserts, “For what it is—a humorous, 52 line poem—it’s as close to perfect as you could possibly get.”
This is a “Holy Cross in the News” item by Evangelia Stefanakos.
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