Casey at the Bat: Summary, Poem Analysis & Author

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Want to learn more about the poem 'Casey at the Bat?' Read a short summary of the poem followed by analysis of the poem and some information about the author.

Summary of 'Casey at the Bat'

'Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in 1888' is the full title of an American poem written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. The poem tells the story of the final half-inning of a baseball game. The home team of Mudville is losing four to two. The first two batters for Mudville quickly strike out, but the following two get on base safely so that a home run will win the game for Mudville. The next batter is the team's star hitter Mighty Casey, whom the crowd believes will pull through.

In the poem, Mighty Casey gets two pitches right down the middle of the plate, but he passes them up, waiting for an even better pitch to hit. The crowd is in a frenzy because one more strike means that Casey is out and the game is over.

Mighty Casey sneers at the pitcher with determination, and the pitcher makes the third pitch. Casey swings incredibly hard, and the author notes that in other places in the country, people are happy and smiling -- but not in the ballpark because Casey has struck out to lose the game for Mudville.

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A man dressed up as the title character of the poem.


Let's analyze this poem. First, we can take a look at the meaning.

The poem is a dramatic re-telling of a final at-bat in a baseball game. The drama of sports is an exciting one that many people can relate to (check out the popularity of the World Cup or the Super Bowl, for example).

Beyond that, Thayer titles this poem a ballad, or a love song. Not only is it a love song to the dramatic sport of baseball, but it is a ballad to 'the Republic in 1888'. In other words, it sings the praises of United States culture.

Baseball is known as an American game. Ever heard the common phrase that some things are as American as baseball and apple pie? This expression shows just how big a part of our culture that baseball is. Even though some sports, such as American football and basketball, are more popular now, baseball has been known as our national pastime for over one hundred years. The United States is a young country that grew up with baseball as its early and culturally-significant sporting event.

Now, let's discuss the style of the poem.

The poem follows a simple AABB format where each verse has four lines. The last word in the first two lines of the verse rhyme with each other, and the last words in the last two lines of the verse also rhyme. For example, in the first verse:

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

The simple rhyming pattern makes the poem easy to recite and somewhat sing-song, which fits with the idea that it is a ballad of sorts.


Ernest Lawrence Thayer, the author of the poem
Ernest Lawrence Thayer, the author of the poem

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