‘Casey at the Bat’ given new twist by New Jersey historian

From Dave D’Alessandro at the New Jersey Star-Ledger on May 29, 2013, with mention of longtime SABR member Lawrence Hogan:

It is a piece of Americana from a bygone era — the Gilded Age, an age of steam engines and gingerbread gothic — but it’s still about heroes and failure. And though we define failure differently nowadays, it remains the first poem to capture the mystic bond between fans and their baseball teams. As Albert Spalding, the game’s great Augustus, put it more than a century ago: “Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its sombre story in measured lines. Baseball has ‘Casey at the Bat.’ “

“It is an iconic piece, which arrived precisely when baseball became our pastime,” said Lawrence Hogan, a baseball historian and history professor at Union County College. “And through the years, it captured everyone’s fancy because it’s like the game itself: We think we know the outcome, but there’s a surprise at the end when Casey strikes out. Everyone relates to it.”

Yet Hogan, one of the country’s preeminent experts on black baseball before integration, realized that there was an aspect of Casey’s broad cultural appeal that was never really explored — even as it spawned so many sequels and parodies.

The original poem was clearly written for a white audience, as if this pastoral 19th-century game was theirs alone, and only their teams had majestic sluggers who struck out.

Put it another way: We integrated baseball 66 years ago, so why hasn’t anyone ever conceived of a more multicultural Casey?

“It seemed to be a natural,” Hogan said. “I’ve been immersed in black baseball for so long, I’m always looking for different ways to tell its stories, and the time was right for this.”

Read the full article here: http://www.nj.com/yankees/index.ssf/2013/05/new_jersey_baseball_historian.html?utm_source=feedly

Originally published: May 29, 2013. Last Updated: May 29, 2013.