by Craig W. Turner

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

As many watched from mobile phones, with some signed on the web
From young to old and east to west, the excitement could not ebb.

And then when Cooney popped to third, and Barrows took a “K,”
Fantasy owners checked their teams and cut the two away.

A straggling few got up to go distressed with Mudville’s fate
But many stayed though beer’d been stopped by end of inning eight.

They thought, “if only Casey’d take the game into his able hands.
He’d surely put the pitcher’s best into the right-field stands.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake;
and the former fresh from rehab, while the latter on-the-take.

With two high-priced hacks before him – and a compliment at that
there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But once Flynn singled sharply, Blake took one on the chin.
(A retaliatory plunking for a recent scuffle he’d been in).

And before there was a chance to breathe, and what was done was done
Their hero’d been given his rightful chance to win it by home run.

Then a rowdy, raucous cheer rose quickly from the streets;
The kind that keeps the corporate sponsors upright in their seats;

The Mudville fans erupted and completely lost control;
Their cheers broadcast in twenty tongues, including Espanol.

They knew it didn’t matter, whichever pitch the pitcher hurled,
That Casey’s bat was just so hot, he’d knock it from this world.

But Casey’s home run output hadn’t come in one fell swoop
In fact, he’d hit just 13 out his first time ’round the loop.

Twenty more in campaign two, then back to seventeen,
It wasn’t until his fourth year that he joined the power scene.

No one knew from where he’d found his Herculean strength,
As homers flew from Casey’s bat with nauseating length.

Some called it growth, some called it luck, or tight strings on the ball
But from then when Casey swung his bat the records they would fall.

Fifty-seven homers one year and sixty-three the next
Tater after tater kept the sportswriters perplexed.

When some suggested Casey’d dipped into performance drugs
He shunned the accusation with complacency and shrugs.

Now, here was mighty Casey, bottom nine with two men gone
His swollen biceps showing off accentuated brawn.

The writers pecked their laptops, the fans snapped picture phones
A mass of Mudville jerseys formed a sea of Casey clones.

And with the fervor and the chaos that would not soon dissipate
No one in their right mind doubted who was at the plate.

Undeterred, the closer took the pellet in his hand
A tall, flame-throwing chucker with unnatural command.

As Casey tensed, the pitcher wound and rocked and cocked and heaved
Sixty feet, six inches more, and the crowd would be relieved.

Casey leaned in toward the pitch with his distinguished stride
And watched it pass beyond his reach – at least a foot outside.

Clearly his opponent had no intention to permit
Mighty Casey to end the game with one majestic four-base hit.

People in the stands they jeered this cowardly device
As if they’d earned their hero’s quest within their ticket price.

“That’s bush!” they screamed, and “You’re a bum,” and other rancid rants
And dared the yellow-bellied wimp to give him just one stinkin’ chance.

The next pitch came – a curveball – and it bounced before the plate
Which forced the clamant, rabid crowd to a new brand of irate.

But Casey calmly stepped aside and took a practice swing
He adjusted both his batting gloves and fiddled with his bling.

In spite of Casey’s peacefulness, the boos began to rain
A creative slew of slurs rang out, from exotic to mundane.

Mudville knew that if their man could get his bat on just one pitch
He’d do the thing they’d grown to love – the thing that’d made him rich.

Casey stepped back into the box and glared out toward the mound
The crowd harassed the pitcher with the most vociferous of sound.

Casey razzed the hurler with three waves across the zone
The collective rued his helplessness to win it on his own.

The pitcher wound and tossed a looping slider high-inside
But too close to the plate, and mighty Casey’s eyes grew wide.

He gripped his bat and took a cut – a mammoth gallant hack
The runners sprinted at full speed from the echo of the crack.

But Casey’d only caught the ball at the handle of his bat
The fans they gasped in disbelief that he’d connected fat.

The crowd arose though when the ball took off into the air
But with how pitifully he’d struck the thing, the hope just wasn’t there.

The man in right retreated, settling underneath the fly
Then sadly gazed into the seats as the ball waved him goodbye.

For most, the tired looper would’ve meant a fly ball out
But with Casey’s added macho it became a home run clout.

When Casey’s mistimed, paltry swing fell deep beyond the fence
It spurred the baseball purists to indict the man’s pretense.

His plaque will someday be enshrined within the Hall of Fame
And no thinking man would clear deny his impact on the game

But there will always be the wonder for each home run he did produce
Was Casey playing by the rules, or was Casey on the juice?