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Summary Casey at Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in 1888 is the full title an American poem written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. The poem tells the story of the final half-inning of a baseball game. The home team of Mudville is losing four to two. The first two batters for Mudville quickly make outs, but the following two get on base safely so that a home run will win the game for Mudville. The next batter is the team's star hitter Mighty Casey, whom the crowd believes will pull through. In the poem, Mighty Casey gets two pitches right down the middle of the plate, but he passes them up, waiting for an even better pitch to hit. The crowd is in a frenzy because one more strike means that Casey is out and the game is over. Mighty Casey sneers at the pitcher with determination, and the pitcher makes the third pitch. Casey swings incredibly hard, and the author notes that in other places in the country, people are happy and smiling -- but not in the ballpark, because Casey has struck out to lose the game for Mudville.
Meaning The poem is a dramatic re-telling of a final at-bat in a baseball game. The drama of sports is an exciting one that many people can relate to (check out the popularity of the World Cup or the Super Bowl, for example). Beyond that, Thayer titles this poem a 'ballad,' or a love song. Not only is it a love song to the dramatic sport of baseball, but it is a ballad to 'the republic in 1888;' in other words, it sings the praises of United States culture. Baseball is known as an American game. Ever heard the common phrase that some things are 'as American as mom, baseball, and apple pie?' This expression shows just how big a part of our culture that baseball is. Even though some sports, such as American football and basketball, are more popular now, baseball has been known as our national pastime for over one hundred years. The United States is a young country that grew up with baseball as its early and culturally significant sporting event.
Theme If we look at theme this way for “Casey at the Bat,” we have to consider what the crowd at the baseball game expects from Casey and what actually ends up happening. It is obvious from the poem’s description of Casey that he is considered to be a great hitter: “If only Casey could but get a whack at that— We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.” The fans at the game who haven’t left yet are watching, hoping that Casey will get a chance to hit. They clearly believe that he has a good chance to win the game for the home team. Keep in mind that in baseball, hitters fail more often than they succeed, even the great ones. So to be willing to put up “even money” on a hitters’ chances is to express great confidence in that hitter. However, as is often the case in baseball, the best are likely to fail, and the poem ends this way: But there is no joy in Mudville—Mighty Casey has struck out. Themes should be universally true, so we cannot confine our theme to just baseball—we need to make it a little more general. A statement that encompasses the ideas presented in the poem in a universal way could be: Even the best, despite the expectations of others, are liable to fail sometimes. This is a viable theme (although not the only possible theme) because it makes a statement about human life that is universally true—it applies to all people, everywhere, all the time. YOU CAN ALSO THIS AS A THEME Baseball is the main theme, of course, in Ernest Lawrence Thayer's (1863-1940) famed poem written in 1887. It tells the story of the legendary Mudville hitter, Casey, and his chance to further extend his popularity and myth when he comes to bat with the bases loaded, two out, and the game on the line. There is a wonderfully unexpected though sad ending to the poem, and this is one of the aspects which has made it so popular for more than a century. It is full of 19th century baseball phraseology, and Thayer builds the tension by creating hope for the fans (and reader) in what begins as a lost cause. Before the final surprise ending, nothing but the greatest expectations appear to be headed Casey's way.
Conflict: The conflict of the story is that the team is losing the baseball game 4-2, with only one inning left in the game. The spectators are afraid that Casey won't make it up to bat, and they feel that he is their only hope of winning.
Characters: Casey Flynn and Jimmy Blake The crowd