I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem, “Casey at the Bat.” Published on June 3, 1888, the poem is considered a classic piece of American literature as much as it is a part of baseball lore. One might ask why I’m referencing a poem that, while propping up baseball as America’s pastime, is also about a hero failing in his endeavor. Well, going into the 2013 season, the outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Baltimore nine. Most national pundits expected the Orioles to fall back to Earth. If the first week or so of the season is any indication, that hasn’t happened.
However going back to the poem, I would mention that Casey has a sequel poem called “Casey’s Revenge,” which was written in 1907 by Gartland Rice. I always felt that the mighty Casey was given a raw deal in the sense that he was labeled a choker based on one at-bat. It was a high-profile at-bat for sure, but should a man be condemned to baseball ignominy forever as a result of one play?
Chris Davis has been the story of the Orioles and perhaps even of Major League Baseball through the first week. In Friday’s home opener, Davis became the fourth player in big league history to hit four home runs in the first four games of the year, joining Nelson Cruz, Willie Mays, and Mark McGwire. That’s pretty good company if you ask me.
However, it isn’t so much the homers themselves which stand out to me, it’s when he’s hitting these homers and batting in the runs. If your team is up 10-0 and you hit a three-run homer, that certainly still counts for three runs. However, is it really as clutch as hitting a grand slam in the home opener with the score tied in the last of the eighth?
That aside, similar to the mighty Casey, there’s ease in Davis’ manner as he steps into his place, and pride in Davis’ bearing and a smile on Davis’ face. Yes, I’m kind of paraphrasing the legendary “Casey at the Bat” and inserting Davis’ name. Again, you might ask why someone would do that given the way he’s started the year. We all know the end of that story:
“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.”
I’m not suggesting that Davis is Casey. However, perhaps the Orioles are. Let’s not forget that this is a franchise and a fan base that suffered - and I mean suffered - through 14 consecutive losing seasons. Game after game and season after season, the Orioles would find a way to strike out in the tradition of Casey. Remember the blown four-run lead in the last of the ninth at Fenway? Remember the 30-3 game against Texas? How about losing that game a few years ago to the Florida Marlins where the Orioles couldn’t execute a pitchout and the batter hit the ball, driving in the winning runs? Those are the Casey-like moments to which I’m referring. And it took mentally strong guys such as Davis, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis to finally say “Enough!”
Which brings me back to poor Casey, who always earned my sympathies. Talk about fickle fans - they guy strikes out once and suddenly he’s a bum? As I said, if you’ve never read nor heard of that poem’s sequel piece, “Casey’s Revenge,” look it up. It’s a story of redemption, similar in fact to the Orioles. This is obviously something that was started last year (or perhaps even in the final weeks of 2011), and it’s continued.
“O, somewhere in this favored land dark clouds may hide the sun,
And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun!
And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall,
But Mudville hearts are happy now, for Casey hit the ball.”
I truly believe that we all deserve a second chance; while nobody can erase the years between 1998 and 2012, the O’s now have a chance to put that period far into the rear-view mirror. The Orioles are getting their redemption, just as the mighty Casey got his.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.