Hill: Chasing ‘Casey at the Bat’ in Stockton

From SABR member Benjamin Hill at MiLB.com on September 13, 2016:

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day; the score stood four to two, with but one inning left to play.

Thus begins Ernest Thayer’s comic ballad “Casey at the Bat,” the most well-known poem to have ever been written about the sport of baseball. Stockton, California, was commonly known as “Mudville” at the time of the poem’s 1888 publication; that same year the city’s baseball team won the championship while competing in what was an early incarnation of the California League. Furthermore, Thayer was living in San Francisco. In those days, there was regular steamboat traffic between these two bustling cities, and it’s certainly in the realm of possibility that Thayer attended games at the Stockton ballpark known as “The Baseball Grounds at Banner Island” (or some permutation thereof).

Today’s California League was established in 1941. Stockton was a charter member and has fielded a team during every season in which the league has been in operation (the team’s current stadium, built in 2005, is situated within the same Banner Island location where the 19th-century club played). Throughout the vast majority of the team’s current incarnation, they have been known as the Ports. In 2000 and 2001, however, they went by the name of the “Mudville Nine.” Thayer, presumably, would have been proud.

But was Stockton really where the action took place in Thayer’s poem? Where Casey, an enduring symbol of hubristic folly, stranded Flynn and Blake in scoring position via the most well-known strikeout in baseball history? Holliston, Massachusetts, begs to differ. That city had also acquired the “Mudville” nickname during the latter half of the 19th century, and Thayer grew up in neighboring Worcester.

Read the full article here: http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20160913&content_id=200973578&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb

Originally published: September 13, 2016. Last Updated: September 13, 2016.