THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: A new twist on a classic baseball poem

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We’re edging closer to the World Series, baseball’s Holy Grail.

That will be serious stuff.

So while we’re still winding through the various rungs of playoffs, I thought maybe we should have some fun being slightly irreverent toward the National Pastime.

What put that in my mind was a conversation between two national baseball reporters who must remain anonymous.

This pair are veterans of the sport and generally knowledgeable guys.

The subject they were kicking around was the lack of truly useful pitchers in this current era, and both agreed that, yes, baseballs were juiced — but terrible pitching was also significant factor in the historic flood of home runs.

To make his point, one of reporters asked: “What you think Ty Cobb would have hit this year?”

His pal responded: “Oh, about .275.”

The first guy was shocked, and said: “Ty Cobb? You’re saying Ty Cobb would only hit around .275 against the level of pitching we see now?”

The answer: “Well, yeah, a little under .300 sounds right — but remember that Ty would be 133 years old.”

NOW WE come to another item which is so clever, I have to share it.

I’m nervous some of you might not get this, but if you don’t, I promise not to print any more poems.

This offering was published in the Washington Post, and the author is Villanova professor Mitchell Nathanson.

It’s a version of the famous poem, Casey at the Bat, updated to the modern era.

And I sure hope you’ve read Casey at the Bat — but for baseball fans, that’s a pretty good bet.

The new title:

Casey @the Bat…

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;

The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney whiffed again, the eighteenth K that night,

A sickly silence fell, for somehow baseball wasn’t right.

A straggling few got up and left, annoyed they even came;

And most who stayed were kind of drunk or wagered on the game.

Yet still to come was Casey, whom the fans had long extolled,

Though at the age of 31 the metrics deemed him old.

But first ahead of him was Flynn, a player much accursed;

His BABIP was atrocious, and his WAR was even worse.

Another guy came up as well, his name recalled by few;

Confusion sowed by double switches made in hour two.

But Flynn defied the numbers, making contact with the ball;

And sent it on a mighty arc — it caromed off the wall.

“The guy should be on third,” a salty graybeard spat and cursed,

As Flynn removed his batting gloves, a jogger still at first.

The other guy? A double by the waiver-wire addition;

(His former owner dumping salary without contrition);

And when the blaring music stopped, fans noticed what occurred,

Instead of crossing o’er the plate, young Flynn was still at third.

As Casey stepped into the box, the scoreboard roared “Make Noise!”;

The crowd most surely would’ve done, if not for all their toys.

About 5,000 hometown fans were checking in on Twitter;

So most remained oblivious to Casey as the hitter.

Ten thousand eyes were elsewhere as he scratched upon the dirt;

And Velcro-strapped his gloves and touched six places on his shirt.

And kissed his bat, then tapped the plate nine times or maybe 10;

Then from the box did Casey step, and start it all again.

The pitcher’s antics on the mound were also quite a show;

Whole seasons seemed to pass before he hinted at a throw.

Yet here it came, the cowhide sphere, arriving at great speed;

“Strike one,” the umpire firmly called. But PitchTrax disagreed.

The fans who watched it on their phones could see it plain: outside;

Unless their phones had zero bars, or batteries had died.

“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” the fans all stood and roared;

At least so roared the older ones, the younger ones seemed bored.

Two strikes remained. The oldsters, stressed, began to wring their hands;

While younger fans, in hour four, sped toward concession stands.

Then Casey dug in once again; the second spheroid flew;

But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike Two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened few at the blue-clad, rule-bound fools,

While waving off the heady clouds sent up from nearby Juuls.

Now, Casey’s face grew stern and cold, the fans all rose as one;

As midnight neared their hope was clear: just let the game be done.

As Casey runs the metrics, and adjusts his swing for lift;

The fielders check their little cards, and drift into a shift.

And now the pitcher fires a rocket off, despite his ample gut;

And now the air is shattered by great Casey’s uppercut.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sport’s as it used to be;

And fans still hang on Casey’s fate, not exit velocity.

That era’s gone — don’t cry into your $15 beer;

While all the laughing children shout, “Football season’s here!”


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Steve also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball once monthly during the offseason.

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