Apr 25, 2011

"Casey At The Bat," James Earl Jones, Winding Down on Baseball

Isn't this what cities are supposed to look like?

Two visitor comments plus my neighbor mentioned "Casey at the Bat," so I'm posting the link to it as well as a six-minute James Earl Jones reading of it. It's innocent fun, but I'm not ready to call it great or important poetry.

YouTube - Casey At The Bat - James Earl Jones

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer : The Poetry Foundation [poem]

This scrappy teen got down on the concrete to wrestle a foul ball away from other, larger contenders. I was impressed. She's wearing a Curtis Granderson jersey; he was a fan favorite, so we traded him to the Yankees last year.

Keep your eye on the ball!


Barbaro said...

Great and important are pretty loaded words. But if we don't take Casey seriously why should we take banjo music seriously?

Banjo52 said...

Many would say we shouldn't take banjo music seriously, at least compared to jazz or classical. But my real response is that Earl Scruggs or Tom Adams or Bela Fleck or Steve Martin picking a five-string are a helluva lot more complex than "Casey" and Casey are. Ditto for banjo frailing.

I could also probably argue that the songs' stories and emotional range also plumb greater human depths than "Casey" or Casey. Traditional bluegrass melodies MIGHT be as simplistic as the meter in "Casey," but I'm not even ready (or musically qualified) to concede that yet.

In what way is "Casey" more subtle, complex, beautiful or profound than "An arrogant jock strikes out." Good. "The sycophantic, fickle town is first angry, then sad." They need a hobby. And isn't the poem's music VERY hickory dickery dock?

This could be one of the funner debates we've had here at Banjo52.

Banjo52 said...

P.S. Aren't we also comparing apples and mangoes?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Oh, yet when Casey at the Bat is read, cannot you see the big guy at the plate as a combination Nietzschean übbermensch
and emblem of American manifest destiny?

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, that's deep! Thanks.

I'm not prepared to disagree, but I do ask this: on the continuum from N's superman to, say, Spiderman (as one cartoonish example), where does Casey stand?

And is Manifest Destiny more complex than "I got here first"? Or neighborhood bully? Or Green Light to Imperialism? Or let’s be REALLY provocative: why couldn’t “Manifest Destiny” have been Hitler’s rallying cry? How would the Lakota Sioux feel about it?

How should I know whether I’m pulling for Casey? He might be Stalin.

So, back to more literary matters, what is there in the poem’s characterization of Casey that makes us sympathize with him, rather than simply fearing or obeying or resenting him? And therefore isn’t part of us glad to see the braggart fail so publicly?

What are Casey’s physical ailments? Where does he hurt? How do his love interests feel about him and he about them? Where is he vulnerable? How will he respond to the setback portrayed in the poem? What are his politics? How is his morality? His compassion? Has he done anything kind lately? Thought about anyone but himself? What would it be like to have lunch with him? What is his presence in the clubhouse like? Does he receive respect from teammates or just gratitude for his ability?

Know what I mean? Why should I care about this guy? And I’d probably say the same about N’s superman (though I’m not sure how specifically I remember his . . . ingredients). First, stop or control him. Then later, MAYBE we’ll ask if he’s at all interesting. But first, stop him; strategize about how to survive him.

Whaddya think?

Brenda's Arizona said...

What do 'we' think of Casey? Ya really want to know???

Casey is the savior who fails to save. Casey is the kid in 3rd grade who brought to class the 64-Crayola box with the sharpener in the back. You thought he'd be the best kid in the class. You thought he would stand up and say "Anyone want to borrow my "atomic tangerine"? My 'burnt sienna'?
Only instead, your Casey flashed his crayolas to the whole class, walked up and down each aisle of desks, showing them all to each seated student... and then... he left. He didn't share. He didn't come through. He just dropped hints, hope and excitement. Then the door slammed shut and he was gone.
Maybe Casey is the anti-socialist? I have it and you can't. It's mine, I can produce anytime I want - but once you start getting greedy and thinking you WANT what I have, what I can produce - you can't. And let me (Casey) just show you how disappointing it is to not earn your own.

Is that it?
Or is it Armando Galarraga's near perfect game, destroyed? (Thank you, Tigers, for sending him to us!).

Hope is an essence of life. Hope has to be self-based, not dependent on someone else. But it sure is exciting to have monumental hope!

Banjo52 said...

Strong stuff, Brenda. And I see what you mean. The hotshot in the classroom is a fascinating analogy. In your closing note on hope, you sound as if you're not much of a team player (anymore?). I'm reluctant to say it, but that might fit me too. And America?

I forgot it was your Dbacks who got Galarraga. That guy seemed loaded with character and class here, esp. after his heart-breaker. I really worried about him for a long while (days? weeks?) afterward. How does one make peace with that? Hope he does great for you--and himself.

Lovers' Lane